It's a bit ironic for us Tripolitans who thought that we had gotten through all the
Y2K furor with hardly a ripple, to then be greeted by a sudden crush of launch
insurance woes. This was also layered on top of developing events with the joint
TRA/NAR civil complaint against the ATF. It certainly made for a hectic first
quarter of the new century, having nothing to do with expected consequences of
Unfortunately, events were in such flux - and changing almost daily - that producing the first Tripoli Report for 2000 (which could contain reliable information) was not possible. In fact, it wasn’t until the second week of April that the dust had settled with the various insurance issues. Happily, through all the doubt and worries, Tripoli has emerged with much stronger launch insurance coverage, and the problem of NAR losing its insurance has been resolved also.
During this troubling period, it was not surprising that one of Tripoli's founders, Francis Graham (TRA #0004), and I would find ourselves chatting about where Tripoli had come from, and where it is going. Beyond our shared gratification that Tripoli had survived some early crises and had made it into the new century, we pondered what agents were now driving organizational change. Ever the socially conscious one, Francis expressed some concern about how the cost of insuring our activities may be moving us into realms where the less financially secure among us may begin to view our activities as too expensive. This, he reasoned, could stifle creativity, knowing that the best minds aren't always the ones holding the cash.
It's a valid point, but one which I feel can be met squarely. It's true that covering our potential legal liabilities will have some cost impact. This is not unique to rocketry, but is found everywhere in our daily experience - is anyone really happy about how much it costs to insure the family auto? Sadly, we live in a litigious society, which can (and does) reward people with silly grievances - often the result of their own carelessness - with outrageous cash settlements. We won't be able to easily change this - only time and the inevitable societal evolution will do that, for better or for worse. But we must be prepared to continue to exist and thrive in such an environment, and regard this and other problems which we face as just another set of challenges to be dealt with. Yes, it's irksome and difficult to find ways to insure ourselves effectively, and in a manner which creates as little financial hardship as possible. But we have done this work, and will continue to do so. It's expensive and complex to pursue a just settlement with the ATF, but we will continue to do that work too. And as Francis and I agreed, for those enthusiastic, talented, but economically disadvantaged among us, there's nothing to prevent our local prefectures from finding creative ways to help sponsor their memberships, their projects, and their ideas.
All these things will create work for us, and our organization will continue to encounter roadblocks which must be overcome. Tripoli has faced them before and has found ways to survive and progress. The reason we have is that we always felt that Tripoli was worth the work. I think it's safe to say that we still feel that way - that is the reason we will continue to thrive in this new century.