“Build A Star Ship”
100 Year Starship & the application of Messaging, Audacity, Timelines and Deliverables
towards Interstellar Accomplishment
First presented at
Les Johnson’s Tennessee Valley Interstellar Workshop
NeXolve at ManTech
Tuesday, February 4, 2013
My name is Mike Mongo and I’m an astronaut teacher. Are there any other astronaut teachers in the room? [hands] Good good. Ok ok. What makes me an astronaut teacher is that every chance I get I encourage kids, primarily kids 8-12, to pursue pursue careers in the field of astronautics.
It’s a great gig. In addition to working with kids, I get to work with people who are a lot smarter than I am. And that’s inspiring.
But as it turns out, after working with plenty of kids and plenty of adults and talking about space and space travel and now interstellar accomplishments, somewhere along the way I gained some insight worth sharing.
You see, I know a secret. And I’m going to share it with you. After we’re done here, you won’t remember exactly what it is I’m going to share with us all here today but I’m going to leave everyone here with a solid and tangible reminder of what we discussed that will click with you again and again at a later date.
But first I want to share a video. It’s a piece of a larger ongoing video blog called Starship Vlog. The person who is doing the talking in the video is a project manager methodologist named Buck Field, which I think is a really great name.
Buck Field is the person I call the smartest person in the room. It’s not that he’s smarter that anyone here–there are some really smart people here–but it’s my opinion that he’s got the right idea about the necessary methodology to go about getting to another star. It is my opinion that Buck Field has the best plan about how to go about building a starship.
I’m about to press play but I want to forewarn you. Buck Field is a very unusual person. The video is less than 2 minutes long but it’s the rare individual who has the capacity to follow his line of thinking for that long. After all, some otherwise intelligent people shut down at the mere mention of the expression Faster Than Light.
I overheard a very insightful joke at the Orlando 100 YSS. It was told by Dave Neyland. It’s a physicist joke. See physicists understand that getting to another star is easy. It’s the engineers that have the problem with it.
See, getting to another star using our present relationship with physical reality is tantamount to attempting to get to the moon in 1865. 1865 is the year that Jules Verne published From Earth To The Moon. It was approximately 100 years later we actually produced a lunar accomplishment. Thus, the inspiration for the 100 Year Starship program. Dave Neyland And Pete Warden figured that that was a perfectly good framework to produce an interstellar accomplishment and one thing led to another and suddenly we have a timeline and 100 Year Starship.
And perhaps the whole point of 100YSS was not to produce specific results other than to engage minds upon the challenge of interstellar travel in order to trigger some other significant events which would produce tangible results.
And if that is the case than it worked.
At 100 YSS Orlando–aka 100 Year Starship 0–presenter Luke Blaize and I connected. Luke, who discussed developing interstellar interest using video games as a vehicle for messaging, connected with Icarus Interstellar. Now interestingly I connected with Icarus at this time through Pat Galea. He and I were avidly tweeting about 100YSS and we started following one another during the Orlando symposium.
After that Symposium, Icarus and Luke began working on precisely what Luke discussed in his presentation. A committee was formed and headed by Andreas Tziolas. And while that committee eventually went into standby, a large body of significant groundwork and foundation was created.
At last year’s 100 Year Starship in Houston, the official first 100YSS, I ran into Richard Obousy in the buffet line and we discussed for a mere moment how to engage with kids. Icarus it turns out had allowed Hailey Bright to produce some sample skateboards and to showcase them at the Icarus booth in the expo portion of the event.
Those skateboards piqued my interest. I’m very sensitive about messaging. My background which enables my work as astronaut teacher is in Brand messaging and guerrilla marketing. I own a very successful web development company called Wodu Media. That’s Wodu but it’s pronounced would you, as in would you go to space? How I came about being in the field of branding, messaging and guerrilla marketing is through an project I co-founded called OBEY.
My partner for my 13 years producing OBEY was Shepard Fairey. You may recognize the name because Shepard went on to produce this very recognizable image.
How OBEY became HOPE has to do with one of the most influential grassroots campaigns of the 20th century.
At OBEY we started by hand silk-screening stickers and wheatepaste poster which we personally passed out and put up, a process which we applied two decades later and wound up being more than a little responsible for the election of a US president first by using the same gorilla marketing methodology we used at OBEY.
So Richard’s and my brief discussion at 100 YSS Houston led to my discussing those skateboards with Luke, which led to Luke connecting me and Andreas Tziolas, which led to our swapping NDAs and working together on …something. Not on anything specific and not even as a bona fide committee. More like a splinter cell, a splinter cell but still under the auspice of Icarus via Andreas, working on something to do with combining video gaming, guerrilla marketing, and the fostering of interstellar aspirations into something tangible, provocative, and unexpected.
It’s noteworthy that in the video I showed of smartest-guy-in-the-room Buck Field that he mentions pyramids. Buck and I shared the same presenters track at 100YSS in Houston where we were both presenters. My presentation and the accompanying paper was titled Childen: The Future of Space is Presently 8-12 Years Old.
Pictured: The Exploration Experience exhibit at the Marshall Space Flight Center during a previous “Take Your Children to Work Day.” The exhibit showcases NASA’s accomplishments and goals, from the benefits of space exploration here on Earth, to the technologies NASA develops to explore our solar system.
In my presentation which proceeded Buck’s I shared a secret then as well. I explained that in order to build a star ship in 100 years we must approach building a starship as we did when we built the pyramids. And then I explained how we built the pyramids. Not the mechanics of the building but how we gained the mindshare necessary to sustain their building to completion.
As it turns out most people are unaware how long it took to build the great pyramids. Not coincidentally it took 100 years. That’s 3 generations it took. Us, our kids, our grandkids.
Which still doesn’t explain how the Great Pyramids got built. And that’s the secret I shared then that I’ll share also with you now. It’s a bonus secret:
It was not the people who came up with the idea of building the pyramids who built the pyramids. What they did was foster the next generation for their role as the builders of the pyramids and then their grand-children as the finishers of the pyramid.
Now I’m going to frame it terms of a starship.
You see, we are not the ones who will be riding the starship. We are not even the ones who are going to be building the starship. We are the living ancestors of the builders of the starship.
Our job, our role in this most glorious endeavor is to explain to our kids what they’re job and role is, and that’s to build the starship. While they are getting ready to step into their roles, our job is to do the math, to do the science, to do the research that is going to enable this endeavor and focus the dream of 100 year starship until it becomes so refined it becomes reality.
Our job is to flesh out the dream. And while the Centauri dream is to be transmitted in a way that reaches across lines of culture, class, geopolitics, religion, and self-identity, our responsibility nonetheless is to disseminate a viable version of the dream that connects with humanity and sticks.
So the first thing Andreas, Luke and I did was we looked back in time to see where was the first mention of such aspirations in science fiction. Specifically we looked for the first conscious, intentional use of the term “starship” so we could pay homage to the human author who pointed out the interstellar path we all have set out upon. And we found Olaf Stapledon’s Star Maker.
Anyone here heard of Olaf Staplepdon’s Star Maker. Ok, good. [people raise hands, look around] This is one of the most influential yet widely unknown pieces of popular literature in the science fiction genre. It is appropriately described as seminal. The seed.
Since our Icarus splinter cell group’s overt goal was to somehow encourage content creators such as video game developers to take up the banner of interstellar accomplishment we clicked with the Star Maker reference. We consider it most appropriate that today’s inventors and kitchen-sink geniuses self-identify as makers. So with a nod to Stapledon’s Star Maker, and also to this century’s makers, builders, creators, and designers, and with the objective of engaging the next two generations to build and complete an interstellar accomplishment, we formed FarMaker and we named our selves FarMakers.
Lastly, through a process of lengthy dialog, endless emails, and somehow almost no hick-ups, speed-bumps, or delays we crafted a solid piece of agitprop to use to spread our version of the viable but somewhat abstract 100 Year Starship mission that as a message encapsulates the audacity of the mission, a generational timeline and most importantly deliverables…
…ah yes deliverables. See, with the 100 Year Starship there is a mission, there are no defined deliverables. It’s a grand plan but it’s missing something. It’s sort of like the episode of South Park where the gnomes were stealing Cartman’s underwear with the intent of profiting. In the episode, it’s a beautiful 3-step plan. A grand plan except for one thing: The gnomes stealing the underwear have the premise–phase 1–and the conclusion–phase 3, profit!–but for phase 2 all they have is ???. They have a plan and an outcome but deliverables are relegated to secondary status, a negligible concern.
In our variation of the interstellar plan–one with deliverables–the deliverables are math, science, and the fruits of research. Our variation of the plan focuses the message, sticks with the audacity and the timeline, and introduces deliverables.
Our plan is: Promote the next generation to build a starship while in the meantime we use our–and by our I mean this room, our peers, our peer’s peers of this generation–to fund and foster and pursue the funding and fostering of research and study.
Our plan’s deliverables are hard math and hard science that in revealing can be used in any number ways that are beneficial rewarding and even profitable.
And here is our multi-generational message:
“Build A Star Ship”
See, 100 years ago we did not have airplanes, automobiles, electricity, or radio. By 1910 all that had been invented, and while it took 3 months to get news of discovery from one place to another, by 1920 we were using all of these inventions in industry, in war, in the open.
Now jump forward 100 years to now. Instead of 3 months it takes 3 seconds to get news of a discovery or breakthrough from one place to another.
And breakthroughs are happening at a pace that is unheard of. All we need is a breakthrough in energy, in materials, in physical science and suddenly everything changes all at once. Which is why I encourage kids everywhere I go to pursue careers in astronautics. Because astronauts are not going to be like they are now. As a job astronaut is no longer going to be the exception, it is going to be the rule. The opportunity for the next generation of astronaut is going to be for the many rather than the few. I call our next generation of astronaut the Humannaires. Like legionnaires or millionaires. Kids get all that.
Which leads me to my secret. The one I am sharing today. The one I am sharing with you.
The secret is that all of us in this room are astronaut teachers.
That’s the takeaway. And though I know many will forget it as soon as I’m off stage, I promised a solid, tangible reminder of this. Something that will remind you why we were here to day and what our job is as astronaut teacher. Here it is.
[reveal BUILD A STARSHIP “Huntsville 2013” wristbands]