7 August 2003
Media - Tourism (Good)
Spaceflight Revolution by David Ashford
A book review
by Carol Pinchefsky
By Carl Roberts

The pages of Spaceflight Revolution by David Ashford affirm again and again that affordable space tourism is within our grasp.

Ashford, the brains behind Bristol Spaceplanes, details the history of space plane development, a history that has been hijacked by Cold War obsession with the space race. Why current ballistic technology can never be reliable, and therefore affordable, is explained fully with just enough detail to help you understand without sending the lay reader (me) into either mental contortions or to sleep. The aspiring rocket scientists or debunkers can either accept Ashford’s well-argued conclusions or sift through all the equations and statistics in the appendices to puzzle it out themselves.

We see how development of a fully reusable spacecraft may have led to the development of a major profitable industry rather than the current drain on resources that have typified the obsession with ballistic technology. This focus would have led to an improved safety record which is one of the main requirements for an economically viable market.

The book delves into the economical potential of the industry, a road map describing the best route to a $30billion industry. Useful technology already exists that may realise this potential.

Author Ashford describes in detail the many disciplines and hurdles to create a major industry that will be space tourism: the technology, the economics, and even the politics. It seems the countries with the biggest stake in space are hindered by their existing structures and past obsessions; the newer entrants who have a more capitalistic outlook may fare better.

Why the book is entitled “revolution” rather than “evolution” may point more towards a revolution in attitudes and perceptions—a requirement to change the direction and emphasis of the future of space, rather than plough the same old furrow. Thus the author manages to hold your attention with his arguments, because he is not writing a history but trying to make a point: These challenges may be overcome in order to turn potential into reality.

The book is well researched and well explained, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist like Ashford to understand it. The style and content of the book is thorough and well thought out, it is academic—which is what this topic deserves—without being esoteric.

As a future industry, space tourism will draw on many disciplines, spacecraft design, economic and business, physiology, etc., Ashford has plumbed these topics and not just focused on his own speciality of spacecraft design. However when he discusses this topic it is immediately obvious where his passion lies.

The discussions centre on the hurdles that have been overcome and the hurdles that have yet been jumped, in safety, in thinking, in perceptions. The technology is within reach, and the market is ready and waiting. If we don’t want the story to continue as a tale of wasted opportunities, we need to pry the fingers of the government and pseudo-governmental groups off the prize that is within our grasp. This, as history and David Ashford has shown us, is the most difficult task of all.
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Carol Pinchefsky 7 August 2003
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