23 January 2001
- Tourism (Good)
2001 - On The Brink of the 'New Renaissance'
Space Future's Unique Vision Gaining Ever-Wider Acceptance
by Patrick Collins
In the blizzard of media discussion of what the 21st Century will be like, the number of journalists who recognise the role that passenger space travel will play in the world economy is vanishingly small. Yet passenger space travel will bring about a transformation of the world economy in the 21st century as significant for human development as the European 'Renaissance' in the 15-16th centuries.

No other near-term activity in space has even one tenth of the potential for both motivating and financing the economic development of space, which will be the genuine culmination of the Copernican Revolution that lay at the heart of the Renaissance:

As Copernicus explained, the truth is that we humans live in space.

We are not limited to the surface of the little planet where we were born.

There is no limit to the resources and living space that are available to us.

But, as part of the hangover from the Cold War, governments have created monopolistic space agencies and pour US$25 billion into them every year. Yet they use none of it to realise passenger space travel. This is despite the fact that no other near-term space activity will grow to even a small fraction of the potential scale of passenger travel.

The good news is that 2000 was a better year than ever for spreading recognition of this amazing fact -- details of progress made during the year are in the story so far 2000. Nevertheless, as a sign of how badly misinformed the world's media are, space tourism was overlooked in the majority of articles about predictions for the 21st century.

Consequently Space Future restate our predictions about what we will see in the coming half-century. The reason for the lack of more detailed information is that space agencies use nothing of the US$25 billion/year of taxpayer's money that they receive to perform the needed research, including market research -- that is, not 1/25,000th part (US$1 million/year). Not even 1 millionth. ZERO. Yet it is clearly absurd to suggest that the current work of space agencies is that many orders of magnitude more valuable than researching what NASA has admitted in print will grow to be the largest commercial activity in space.

Government space agencies should certainly not provide passenger travel services. However, it would economically benefit taxpayers if governments were to play the same role they do in relation to aviation -- funding a wide range of research and infrastructure development to facilitate and improve passenger travel.

It is time for governments to recognise the failure of their space agencies to earn economic benefits for taxpayers comparable to the resources they consume every year (as a Select Committee pointed out recently to the British government). Measured in economic terms, it is clear that space agencies do not create new employment or new industry, and they do not contribute to economic growth. They merely keep people busy performing unprofitable activities, with little economic value.

But this is not because there is nothing economically valuable to do in space, as demonstrated by the following facts:

  1. Sub-orbital passenger space travel services, comprising 5-minute flights to space and back, could start within 3-5 years; demand for such a service could grow to more than 1 million passengers/year, with the price falling to a few thousand dollars/person. This would require investment of perhaps US$100 million/year -- less than 1% of the amount that taxpayers pay for government space agency activities which are not contributing in any significant way to realising this economically and socially very desirable outcome.

  2. Orbital passenger space travel services could start by 2010. Starting with short orbital flights and stays in accommodation comprising simple modules, these services will develop rapidly into a large-scale activity involving fleets of passenger vehicles and orbital hotels. This would require investment of perhaps US$1 billion/year -- just 4% of the amount that taxpayers currently pay annually for government space agency activities which contribute in no significant way to realising this economically and socially very desirable outcome.

  3. Lunar passenger travel services could start by 2020. To start this would require further investment of perhaps US$1 billion/year from 2010 through 2020 -- just 4% of the amount that taxpayers currently pay annually for government space agency activities which contribute in no significant way to realising this economically and socially very desirable outcome.

    All this could be achieved with development investment of less than a single year of government space spending today -- just 4% of what taxpayers would pay for the activities of government space agencies over the same 20-year period on current budgets.

  4. Orbital traffic could reach 5 million passengers/year by 2030. This would require total investment of several hundred billion dollars -- almost all of which would come from private companies -- and which would be far more commercially valuable than the US$750 billion of taxpayers' money that government space agencies would spend over the same period (assuming current budgets are maintained).

    2030 Space Business Scenario

  5. Passenger space travel could grow to US$1 trillion/year by 2050 -- the economic scale that aviation reached after about 100 years -- 89 years from Gagarin's first flight. [The world economy is about 10 times larger in 2001 than it was in 1901, and there is much greater potential for rapid investment in promising new fields.]

This scenario is extremely desirable economically, culturally, educationally, socially, internationally and in other ways for encouraging the continuation of peaceful world development. And Space Future confidently predicts that, a century from now, this will be widely considered to be the most important, positive, and beneficial development of the 21st century.

Rare Vision

Space Future has described at length how economically desirable this is. This wonderful opportunity is beginning to be recognised in the aviation industry, notably by the FAA and by airline companies in Japan. But this cuts no ice with government space agencies; sadly, it is unrealistic to expect them to act with any concern for the economic interest of taxpayers.

Policy Advice

However, once economic policy makers understand the scale of this lost opportunity, they will implement policies to make the space industry profitable. They will be able to make rapid progress in turning this financial 'black hole' into a popular and successful new commercial industry by restructuring space agencies to perform services similar to government's role in aviation research. In this case, it would clearly be most effective if they were to take advice from those who have been explaining the correct direction to take for the past 15 years already. Space Future Consulting is ready and willing to play its part in helping governments design and implement policies to help bring about the New Renaissance from which the people of the world will benefit so greatly.
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Patrick Collins 23 January 2001
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