NY Times Slams Walt Anderson, NASA, space activists

From Sam Coniglio <spaceman@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date Tue, 25 Jul 2000 00:41:04 -0700

"American Megamillionaire Gets Russki Space Heap!"

Sells Joy Rides to Fellow Tycoons! NASA Fumes!

In a bold article, augmented by humorous cartoons, the New York Times
Magazine looks at the world of Walt Anderson.  Making his billions in the
telecom industry, Mr. Anderson now invests heavily in various unusual space
endeavors.  His current venture is the funding of MIRCorp to convert the
Russian space station into a private commercial facility.

Elizabeth Weil, whom I met on several occasions while she was working on a
book about Gary Hudson and the Rotary Rocket company, crafts a mocking
image of Anderson, his partner Chirinjeev Kathuria, and their multi-mllion
dollar forays into the unknown.  Calling Anderson an anarcho-capitalist,
she follow him on his adventures in Amsterdam and Kathuria in Moscow. She
talks about his paranoia of the US governement and his dislike of NASA.

Ms. Weil also pokes fun at "space obsessives," making them seem out of
touch and fanatical as Anderson:
"His peers include men with Ph.D.'s from M.I.T. who have a hard time
holding down jobs. One in particular, a man obsessed with the "Star Trek"
-like "Babylon 5" remains haunted by a grandmother who shushed him to sleep
early on the night of the Apollo 17 landing, telling him he had school
tomorrow, and, anyway, we'd be landing on the moon every day when he grew

She attacks Rotary Rocket Company and its fellow space startup companies:
"Anderson's Roton has at least half a dozen rivals, but the dreaminess
required to attempt space travel without military-industrial backing, and
the discipline required to pull it off, appear to be intrinsically at odds."

She interviewed Dan Goldin, NASA's Administrator, and portrayed him as
whiny and put out:   "I'm not saying MirCorp shouldn't have done what they
did. I'm just saying I'm in the book, they've got my number and it might
have been nice if they called."

To her credit, Ms. Weil has done a lot of research and she got her facts
correct.  She describes in detail about the current status of MIRCorp, the
problems with the International Space Station, and incredible expenses
involved.  She is also a good writer, and I have to admit I enjoyed her
imagery.  The cartoons are a tour-de-force in satire.

What does this all mean?

1.  Do we have to stop taking ourselves so seriously?
2.  Is the outside world is laughing at us?
3.  If Walt Anderson needs to grow up, does that mean so do we?
4.  Is space travel a lost cause, or is NASA and Walt Anderson just making
it look that way?

I was hurt by what I read because a lot of it is true.  Yet on the other
hand, it was funny to see how we look from an outsider's perspective. Ms.
Weil was given full access to the space activist world, and this was part
of her travelogue.  I wonder what her book on Rotary Rocket will be like.

Sam Coniglio

Samuel Coniglio -- Technical Writer, Photographer, Space Activist
Email:  spaceman@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Home Page:  http://www.magicnet.net/~sam123/index.html
Space Page: http://www.magicnet.net/~sam123/space.html
Space Tourism Club:  http://www.spacetourismclub.org
Space Future:  http://www.spacefuture.com