23 October 1997
Media - Other (None)
Understanding Space Travel
Preview of Discovery Channel's space documentary
by Patrick Collins
"Understanding Space Travel" - Discovery Channel, November 23, 10pm. Produced by Cronkite Ward.

An ambitious program covering the whole of space travel - from its early history to interstellar travel. Each subject gets only a few minutes, but, good to say, there's some serious discussion of space tourism - still very rare in TV programs about space - so hats off to Cronkite Ward, the producers. Unfortunately despite earlier JRS involement, Kankoh Maru, the JRS VTOL reusable vehicle is not in the program as we had earlier reported.

The high point is surely the way LeVar Burton's voice and face LIGHT up as he says "I would LOVE to...... be able to be out there..." It says it all: what should space businesses be doing? Giving the people what they want!

Another good moment: Dan Goldin discussing space tourism. But, unfortunately, to tell the truth, he's still a bit confused: he says "Within 50 years, a space hotel..... is not out of the question." Now let's be realistic: flight-proven space stations are NOW ON SALE.

Warehoused "Salyut" stations (now named "Almaz") are available off-the-shelf "...at an affordable price".

Alternatively you could order a copy of the (much larger), also flight-proven US space station "Skylab" (without all the expensive scientific bits, but with somer extra windows, a sound system and a drinks cabinet!) for less than $100 million. And you could get Energia to launch it for some tens of $millions, and, for the same again you could block book some Vostok flights there and back. Now, short of an adventurous billionaire getting the urge, it's more likely to wait until a company like Rotary Rocket or Bristol Spaceplanes gets flying. But if they can keep to their schedules, passenger flights to orbit could start within 10 years.

So a space hotel is "not out of the question" within five years. They're a dead cert within 20 years, and a good bet within 10.

Apart from that small detail, it's a great program! Watch it, and tell Discovery Channel you enjoyed it, and maybe they'll realize there are plenty more interesting TV programs to be made about space tourism and how our real space future is going to come about.
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Patrick Collins 23 October 1997
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