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Gagarin photo
The spirit of Yuri Gagarin might live on in the form of a foundation that brings the space community together to support key projects.

Establishing a global space lobbying organization: Yuri’s Foundation

In a recent article, Frank Stratford looked at CERN and ruminated on how they were able to raise billions globally to fund the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) when the space community cannot raise even a fraction of the cost of the LHC for any of its many worthy ventures (see “CERN and Mars”, The Space Review, February 16, 2009). Frank Stratford put forward the idea that because the global particle physics community had a unity of purpose the space community lacks, they achieved consensus in their aims and had the LHC built. In this article I will propose Yuri’s Foundation, a way the global space community can create a peak lobby group to push the case for space to the governments of the world as CERN did with the LHC.

Yuri’s Foundation is a way the global space community can create a peak lobby group to push the case for space to the governments of the world as CERN did with the LHC.

Yuri’s Foundation is named after Yuri Gagarin, the first human being to travel into space. The first function of Yuri’s Foundation will be to issue a medal to each person to orbit the earth. It is intended that only 999 Gagarin Medals will ever be issued. 000 will never be struck and represents Yuri himself, 001 is in memory of Gherman Titov the first person to follow in Yuri’s footsteps and so on until the 999th medal is presented to the 1,000th human being to orbit the earth.

The first 490 will be awarded to those human beings who have already orbited the Earth; in some instances the award will be made posthumously. The remainder will be awarded to the next 510 or so to orbit this beautiful planet, the 1,000th to do so receiving the final Gagarin Medal, number 999. After the awarding of 999th the Gagarin Medal is never again awarded.

The membership of Yuri’s Foundation will be made up of those people who have received the Gagarin Medal and the handful of members of the establishing committee. This body of people will serve a number of functions. First, each year on April 12th they will award the Gagarin Prizes for services to the development of human expansion into space. There will be perhaps a dozen categories such as space medicine, space propulsion, space habitat design innovation, spaceship design, space journalism, and astrobiology. The Gagarin Prize will be a small statuette of Colonel Gagarin looking up at the sky, perhaps cast from nose cone grade titanium alloy.

Nominations for the Gagarin Prize are made by the membership of Yuri’s Foundation. Any member can nominate anyone in any category, as long as the nomination is supported by at least ten other members. A brief outline of the nominee’s particular contribution to humanity’s expansion into space is circulated to each member; they are each entitled to one vote in each category. The prize in each category is awarded to the nominee with the most votes from the members of Yuri’s Foundation. In the event of a tied vote the prize would be jointly awarded.

Winners of the Gagarin Prize become members for life of Yuri’s Foundation. With its core of the living holders of the Gagarin Medal, the members of the establishing committee and the replenishment delivered by the Gagarin Prize winners, Yuri’s Foundation has a solid group of members who are completely dedicated to the expansion of humanity in to space. The organization will be self-perpetuating because every year on April 12th a dozen or so new members are inducted to replace those original Medal holders, establishing committee members and former prizewinners who have sadly become deceased in the preceding year. Any member of Yuri’s Foundation could propose a new member be admitted (some one who did not meet the usual criteria but would be a worthy member, e.g. a CEO of a space-related company) provided their nomination is supported by forty other members and accepted through a ballot by two-thirds of the members.

Once established, Yuri’s Foundation can then act as a single lobby group. Made up of citizens of dozens of nations (who are often high profile citizens in their own countries) Yuri’s Foundation will be perfectly situated to lobby the governments of the world for what the space community deems the most appropriate and significant objectives. Through its highly motivated members and their collective intellect Yuri’s Foundation will be able access the corridors of power the world over.

Yuri’s Foundation will be perfectly situated to lobby the governments of the world for what the space community deems the most appropriate and significant objectives.

Any member of Yuri’s Foundation can propose any project, for consideration of support by Yuri’s Foundation, provided the proposal has the backing of at least ten other members. Once a year all the members vote on the proposals that have been put forward. Any proposal that secures more than two thirds of the votes then gets the wholehearted support of Yuri’s Foundation. Any non-member or organization can lobby the members to take up a proposal, but for the proposal to be considered it must first be championed by a member and then endorsed by ten others. Thus consensus on the projects to be advanced can be achieved.

Each year, on April 12th, when the winners of the Gagarin Prizes are announced, Yuri’s Foundation would also announce the projects or proposals securing a two thirds majority member support, the projects Yuri’s Foundation will be supporting or continuing to support with lobbying efforts for the coming twelve months. Perhaps major projects requiring support for ten or more years would require a four-fifths majority and less grand ones a simple 50 percent plus one.

Where Yuri’s Foundation would be physically located would not matter much. A neutral place such as Strasbourg, Bruxelles, Canberra, or Reykjavik might be best, but it might also be a good idea to locate it in Mojave, the cradle of NewSpace, or in an international city such as Paris, London or New York. Ultimately, its physical location is unimportant because almost all of its activities would be conducted in cyberspace. The annual Gagarin Prize ceremony could be held in a different place each year (I look forward to the day when the prize ceremony is held in low Earth orbit for the first time).

The sooner Yuri’s Foundation can be launched the better, for we have wasted too much time already.


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