Re: End of an era? Or the Beginning of A Better One
Re the below and more recent comments, though I
certainly agree that tourism should and will be
performed by private companies, I can't agree
with the view that "Nasa (space agencies) can't
do any good, so just ignoring it (them) is best"
for several reasons:
1) They spend $14 billion ($25 billion) of our
money every year on a range of activities with
almost no economic value. This includes large PR
budgets which swamp the media with misinformation
about the feasibility of space tourism, among
2) Nasa has published a report -
NP-1998-03-11-MSFC - which admits
the feasibility and importance of space tourism
- making it the most economically valuable report
that Nasa has published in its 40-year history.
Yet, despite promising to put this report on the
Nasa web-site when challenged in public, Goldin,
Garver and colleagues refuse to do so. And they
spend ZERO out of their huge budgets on the
only activity that they themselves have admitted
in print has the potential to become a large new
commercial activity in space! This is a Cover-Up
and fraud - as I describe in Space Future Journal.
For me its importance is that it is a concrete
point on which Nasa is indisputably guilty,
in a way that is obvious to journalists.
There are of course tons of arguments about
'commercialisation' of space activities and
saying that Nasa is too expensive etc etc etc etc
- but it's all open to argument, which most
journalists are quite incapable of judging
- and so they tend to accept the cocktails
at Nasa's press conferences and write down
what Nasa says.
But if they are forced to think about Nasa's
concealing such a uniquely valuable report,
the issue isn't vague at all - it's
crystal-clear that it's wrong, and
greatly against taxpayers' interests.
But Goldin's Nasa WILL NOT make that report
readily available - because it blows their entire
policy to pieces. And so long as this situation
persists, cutting Nasa's budget and giving it to
those - including the FAA - who will work to realise
space tourism is indisputably in taxpayers'
3) While I don't agree with all the
recommendations in the Nasa/STA report,
it includes a number that could certainly
help to accelerate progress towards tourism.
I also believe a role like NACA played in
the development of passenger air travel
could be valuable for passenger space travel.
And it would need funding of just a few % of
space agencies' budgets.
Overall, while the space industry's continuing
resistance to tourism is a pain, there's a chance
that a new Nasa administrator will have more
interest in commercialisation, and the growing
interest of the aviation industry is also very
So I much look forward to developments in 2001.
Best to all,
Mark Reiff wrote:
> > Welcome to the end of an era.
> Or the beginning of a better one.
> > The window of opportunity for the aerospace startup company has closed.
> Actually we may finally have a confluence of events that enables an
> infinitely more favorable regulatory and market environment for
> commercial space businesses. Hopefully those new companies will learn
> from the mistakes of the pioneer space companies that gutted it out
> during this hostile period. Just like they benefited from earlier
> > It started around 1996, when the DC-X rocket proved that reusable rocket
> > technology was possible and practical.
> It started much earlier than this, but this was the point where it
> became obvious to even those who opposed it.
> > We (space advocates) tried the commercial route to space.
> Did you? I don't remember you ever working for a commercial space
> > Then we hit a huge bureaucratic and financial brick wall.
> Those obstacles were always there, the question is what are "we" doing
> to find routes around them or lower them significantly.
> > Let's face it: aerospace is too much under government control.
> Well then we'll just have to change that.
> > The computer industry, in contrast, has little or no government control.
> Not nearly as much, but it is there. The dirty little secret of silicon
> valley is that Microsoft, Intel, Sun, Cisco, Apple, etc. all have
> sizable government contracts. But those contracts pale in contrast to
> their commercial business, and regulations are vigorously fought back by
> these businesses and the consumer advocate organizations. The opposite
> is true in the space industry, and is precisely what is wrong with the
> space industry.
> > That is why we are still using 30 year old rocket technology, yet we have
> > computers that are 10,000 times faster than the ones during the Apollo era.
> Innovation is rewarded in the computer industry verses punished in the
> space industry. Sort of like the computer industry prior to upstarts
> started building computers (and companies) in their garages.
> > Wall Street does not understand space business because there is no business
> > in a field with near-total government control. Just ask Andrew Beale and
> > Gary Hudson.
> Well then we'll just have to change that.
> > What do we do now?
> > 1) Keep your day job, and make your millions somewhere else.
> Always a good idea. I seem to remember someone giving this advice a few
> years ago. :)
> > 2) Invest in long term research such as laser launch systems, and exotic
> > stuff such as fusion and gravity shielding. Maybe in 30 years a totally
> > different propulsion system will be available to get us to the planets in
> > hours, not months or years.
> And fairies will lift us heavenwards on command.
> This is nonsequitor and has nothing to do with commercial space success
> or failure.
> Piss your tax dollars away on such pipe dreams, but pardon me if I would
> rather do something a little more practical AND keep my money to use
> more wisely than keep harebrained scientists employed.
> > 3) Develop space entertainment and tourism. The public still thinks space
> > is "cool," because movies and TV shows glorify it. The reality will never
> > get as close as the movies until there some serious investment in long term
> > research.
> It still won't as imagination is always easier to do than reality.
> Don't have unreasonable expectations on what space tourism will be.
> Early aviation tourism wasn't an effortless 3 hour snooze from
> coast-to-coast, neither will early space tourism - just ask Denis Tito.
> > We can continue to build and test living spaces underwater, in
> > high altitude and at the poles.
> Which has been done for decades with no appreciable relevance to space.
> > Maybe we can get NASA to help with the
> > first space hotel (don't cringe: they are still the experts, and we might
> > as well use them).
> Hell no! I reject any involvement by NASA in anything directly related
> to space tourism. It ain't in their job description, nor should it be
> (sorry Patrick, but we part company on this issue.) NASA has little
> expertise in operating hotels, in space or elsewhere. Heck they're
> struggling with running an orbital laboratory.
> > A joint public-private partnership may be an option.
> Over my dead body! This is just asking for trouble. It lets the
> government pick favorites and makes the "lucky" partner company a client
> contractor, not a commercial space tourism company. It teaches the
> wrong lessons and keeps space closed to all but the politically select.
> > 4) Help NASA build that darn space station.
> Sorry but I don't see you bending tin on ISS. But I assume that you
> really mean that people should empty their wallets into the bottomless
> pit called ISS. Sorry but that isn't going to fly either.
> > Yes, we grumble at how long
> > ISS took to be built, but it is here now. Let's see if we can expand it
> > beyond NASA's original plans.
> Absolutely not. Let it die a natural death, with minimum additional tax
> dollars wasted on it.
> > Maybe even build another one using the same technology.
> Why repeat the same $100B mistake? Not even NASA is foolish enough to
> propose this nonsense.
> > Let's learn from their lessons.
> Sure, don't do such foolish things again with our tax dollars.
> > 5) Revise the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958. NASA needs
> > focus. Right now it is the be- all-and-end-all space organization.
> > Everyone in the world seems to accept this (except for us). I suggest the
> > Act refocuses NASA toward pure R&D: projects that are too long term to be
> > profitable, but are absolutely necessary for a future space-faring society.
> One of the first rational things that you have said so far. And this
> will be done under the Bush Administration, to the chagrin of much of
> NASA's management and their contractors. :)
> > Maybe then some real private industry can develop.
> Along with that refocus will be other reforms throughout the government
> that will create a much friendlier environment for space businesses and
> investment, as well as other areas of human endeavor.
> > 6) Revise or trash the 1967 Treaty of Outer Space. If you look at NASA's
> > budget during the 1960's, it actually dropped significantly right after the
> > USA signed that treaty. If the heavenly bodies are the domain "for all
> > mankind," and cannot be possessed by any nation or corporation, then why
> > bother going? The treaty stopped the Cold War from spreading to the moon.
> > Unfortunately. Imagine year 2001: leftover military bases on the lunar
> > surface, and corporations proposing to convert them into factories and
> > hotels? What the military does best (besides killing people) is building
> > infrastructure in the most inhospitable environments. For example, the the
> > US Calvary helped open the West with forts as safe bases for rest and
> > shelter for the adventurous settler. Spanish forts and missions were built
> > all over the Americas for the same reason. You need a toehold in a new
> > world.
> You nibble around the edges, but military space will expand for its own
> purposes, and hopefully it will be compatible with commercial space
> interests. But I wouldn't wait for abandoned Lunar forts to renovate
> into hotels any time soon. Even back here on Earth such things are
> expensive propositions and not worth the extra costs. Better to just do
> the hard work of building it with commercially available resources.
> > 7) Diversify the space movement. We have too many male space geeks and not
> > enough women, minorities, artists, bankers, athletes, musicians, travel
> > agents, and people of other walks of life. Being a computer geek is cool
> > because they are getting rich and are benefiting society with the new
> > technology. Space geeks are considered pathetic and living in the past. (I
> > count myself in this category). Space exploration started as an elitist
> > movement, and it still is, after 50+ years. We need to find a common
> > denominator that a person says "yes, this affects my life." Spinoffs are
> > not enough. There needs to be something more, that intangible "wow" that
> > changes people's lives.
> Leaders tend to be self-selecting and only discriminate on talent,
> initiative and capital brought to bear. Lead and all sorts of others
> will follow. No use worry about crafting a PC contingent of people who
> don't have their heart in the fight.
> During the California gold rush, all sorts of ethnicities/races/genders
> struggled to strike it rich. But those that made it big, where those
> that used their brain to profit from others impatience and laziness. A
> lesson for spacers.
> > Whew. I don't send email rants out often, so I hope someone actually
> > reads this.
> > Think of it as my New Year's resolution.
> Usually New Year's resolution involve a promise to actually do something
> concrete, rather than just rant about what's wrong with the World and
> what others should do about it. But then again real change requires
> real commitment, real action and real goals.
> > Welcome to the year 2001: our space odyssey.
> Odyssey's are more than just a wandering journey. They offer an
> opportunity to learn from one's trials and acquaintances encountered
> along that journey.
> > Oh, below is a copy of two news articles about Rotary Rocket Company's
> > assets in Mohave seized by the local authorities.
> Actually, it looks like Rotary has paid the taxes due and will avoid the
> auction block - this year. Lets hope that they find a way to turn this
> hard lesson into future profits.
> > --bummed out on life, but always looking to the future.
> Life stinks and then you die - so enjoy the misery, as it is better than
> the alternative. :)
> Go see "Cast Away" and pay attention to the details in the beginning and
> middle as they are necessary to understanding the end. If you do, you
> will understand why it is applicable to understanding why all is not
> lost in commercial space development.
> And cheer up dammit, it's New Years! :)
> Mark Reiff e-mail: markreiff@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
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