Re: [Mpat][michael@xxxxxxxxxxxxx] SpaceShipOne
I'd like to take up a couple of points you make.
"Are we to expect that flights into space will be as common as commercial airflights?
That would be nice... but I doubt it - the scale of the job is just too immense."
I think they will - because when asked, MOST people say they'd like to take a trip
to space, and because the most careful studies to date - such as that by the Japanese
Rocket Society - show that the cost could come down to about $20,000/passenger.
And at that price, eventually most people will go, I guess. I don't think the job is
"too immense" - it's a direct extension of air travel, which is nearly $1 trillion/year
worldwide. I don't see anything that aerospace companies can't do - orbital hotels,
zero-G sports centres, stadiums on the Moon, the lot. But if governments won't even
give passenger space travel the help they give to passenger air travel, even more
decades are going to be wasted. Spending $20 billion/year on "any space activity
except passenger travel" as space agencies do today, is a double-standard, and is
economically very wasteful.
You also write:
"NASAs' job has always been to be the technology front-runner and they've done
that pretty well. Are they to blame if private enterprise hasn't taken up the
challenge up until now?"
Nasa is required by its founding legislation in 1958 to: "...encourage, to the
maximum extent possible, the fullest commercial use of space."
Nasa has used about $1 trillion of US taxpayers' money so far (measured in
current values) - and it has NOT done that, nowhere even near. Most US
citizens have no idea of how badly they've been let down - they still
believe what Nasa says - like that ". . .a small tourist module might be
conceivable in 2040" (!!) In that case Nasa would get another $600 billion
before US citizens would get to go (!!)
I've tried to catalogue this problem in a number of papers, including
referencing the direct lies by Nasa administrator and deputy
administrator etc, but for various reasons most journalists don't seem
to like to "tell it as it is" when it comes to space.
If the US government were to insist that Nasa does what it is legally
required to, then space tourism would boom - not through Nasa operating
"spacelines" of course, but by helping it to happen in the many ways it
could - and as recommended in detail in Nasa's own report on the subject:
But Nasa hides that - it's only the most economically valuable report Nasa
has ever published! :-)
> Friends -
> What is in question?
> That SpaceShipOne has won a competition by reaching a defined height using
> private finance and new technology that they have developed at a fraction of the
> cost of the government sponsered space programmes?
> No. You can't take that away from them. What Burt Rutan and his team have
> done is a remarkable, amazing triumph and they deserve all the pats on the back
> they are getting.
> But is the new blueprint for human exploration of space? That is the real
> Using the X Prize analogy to Lindeburghs' prize-winning trans-Atlantic flight
> doesn't exactly hold water. The conquest of the air has always had private
> enterprise pioneers in fact they have made nearly all the early breakthroughs
> from the Wright brothers onward. Are we to expect that flights into space will
> be as common as commercial airflights?
> That would be nice ... but I doubt it - the scale of the job is just too
> immense. Perhaps a better analogy is the Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch & English
> exploration of the world. Just about all of these were bankrolled by their
> respective governments - remember how Columbus had to get the Queen to finance him?
> In this case they did it to expand their political & trading empires and
> private ventures followed, like Sir Walter Ralieghs expedition to Virginia.
> NASAs' job has always been to be the technology front-runner and they've done
> that pretty well. Are they to blame if private enterprise hasn't taken up the
> challenge up until now? In my opnion that is what we are seeing now. NASA has
> done the "Proof Of Concept" work - they have shown that man *can* get into
> space and work there. What Burt Rutan has done has been to show that a private
> Research & Development programme can develop and build a vehicle that can do
> the same thing as Alan Shepherds' Redstone ...
> ... and do it again within weeks
> ... and do it cheaper!
> The next step? America's Space Prize ...
> ... Does this mean the rest of the world is not included? That seems rather
> short-sighted. Another spin-off is the WTN [The World Technology Network] X
> PRIZES ...
> America's Space Prize is *not* a replacement for NASAs' manned space
> programme - but it could be the start of commercial and private space travel to orbit.
> You *can* have both.
> Kirok of L'Stok
Hi - just to add some thoughts.
For me, much the most important point about SpaceShipOne
is its LOW COST. Space Agencies have spent $1 trillion since
Gagarin's flight - but his rocket, developed 50 years ago,
is still the cheapest way to get to space.
This amazing fact has at least two major implications:
1) space agencies have made no effort to reduce the cost
of getting to space - they're largely busy with government
2) with 40+ years' of fast technology development since
Gagarin, it MUST be possible to reduce the cost a LOT.
"Just theory" say all the space agency people. And then
along comes SpaceShipOne and shows that the same flight
as Alan Shepard did at a cost of tens of millions in 1961
now costs about 1/1,000 of that - since the cost/flight
of a reusable vehicle is a tiny fraction of an expendable.
The total project cost - which could have been done 30
years ago if space agencies were serious about contributing
to the economy, as they are legally required to - was what
Nasa spends every day before lunch.
This is a first bit of real evidance about how much costs
could come down due to 2) above. About 99.9% it seems.
Whether the same factors will apply to orbital vehicles
remains controversial - with space agency people of
course saying they won't and taxpayers should go on
paying $20 billion + per year for them to continue doing
what they want.
I incline to the other view, that the same factors will
apply - and orbital flight costs can indeed come down to
tens of thousands of dollars/head - as those who have
designed passenger vehicles - like the Japanese rocket
society - conclude.
Where the money will come from, and what role governments
will play are the big questions. But I consider SpaceShipOne
to have played a massively important role in putting some
facts on the table that space agencies have obscured for
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