Comparing the state of American society today with the declining Roman Empire of the First Century B.C., the newly formed Harvard Committee for a Space Economy is pressing for a more active use of outer space.
Jeffrey L. Grossman, the president of the month-old organization, said yesterday that the purpose of the committee is to "save the space program from extinction by taking a new approach." Grossman, a third-year graduate student, called the present U.S. space program badly mismanaged and proposed a series of alternatives.
Both Grossman and Mark M. Hopkins, a second-year graduate student, said that America was currently faced with a choice between isolation and expansion into space.
"The problem with earth," Hopkins said yesterday, "is that it's sort of limited." Zero growth, he said, is the only way in which the problems of population and pollution can be solved without the use of outer space.
Grossman said that he fears the consequences of such a policy. "I wouldn't want to live in a world dead of imagination and new horizons," he said. "Our program would give needed meaning, purpose, and direction to life."
The committee, which is seeking associate members, has written to prominent political figures offering its advice.
The members of the committee believes that the cost of sending a space shuttle into Earch orbit can be reduced to $20 per pound. President Nixon's proposed shuttle will cost $100 per pound, Hopkins said, although it does have cheaper research and development expenditures.
Hopkins called Nixon's shuttle a "crummy plan," and said that their committee hopes to convince legislators of the superiority of its own program.
With costs so low, Hopkins said, industries could be convinced to move their production sites to outer space. Certain materials, such as electric components, ball-bearings, vaccines, and high strength fabrics could be best produced in low-gravity, vacuum environments. The industries are expected to be self-supporting, he said.
Hopkins dismissed the pollution of outer space as not a potential problem. "So what if you pollute a portion of space," he said. "You just move some other place."
For the price of $10 billion per year--1 per cent of the Gross National Product--a continuing program of space shuttles could be instituted, Hopkins said.
Even the Hilton hotels have expressed an interest in a shuttle of their own, Grossman said. "You could go up and see the earth and have a great vacation," he added.