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« Don't Protest War - Protest THE War The RantsDon't Blame the Game »

Brother, Can You Spare $100 Million?
2005.08.14 (Sun) 19:44

We stumbled across this space-related story over on ABC News:

The company that pioneered commercial space travel by sending "tourists" up to the International Space Station is planning a new mission: rocketing people around the far side of the moon. The price of a round-trip ticket: $100 million.

The first mission by Space Adventures could happen in 2008 or 2009 and is planned as a stepping stone to an eventual lunar landing by private citizens.

"For the first time in history, a private company is organizing a mission to the moon," Space Adventures CEO Eric Anderson said at a Manhattan news conference Wednesday, a day after space shuttle Discovery safely returned to Earth. "This mission will inspire countries of the world, citizens ... our youth."

So, if any of you have a spare $100M burning a hole in your pocket, we'll gladly take it off your hands. To make it worth your while, we promise to write about the experience right here on our site. Such a deal! If you have the cash and for some reason want to go yourself instead of giving us the opportunity (you heartless bastards), you can read about it at Space Adventures.

In addition, we recently read about Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites and Richard Branson's Virgin Group forming a new firm whose purpose is to construct next generation space vehicles for commercial use. From Space.com:

Called The Spaceship Company, the new entity will manufacture launch aircraft, various spacecraft and support equipment and market those products to spaceliner operators. Clients include launch customer, Virgin Galactic—formed by Branson to handle space tourist flights.

The Spaceship Company is jointly owned by Branson's Virgin Group and Scaled Composites of Mojave, California. Scaled will be contracted for research and development testing and certification of a 9-person SpaceShipTwo (SS2) design, and a White Knight Two (WK2) mothership to be called Eve. Rutan will head up the technical development team for the SS2/WK2 combination.

All in all, it's an exciting time for private sector pushes to space.

For our part, we'd love to someday be able to take a vacation in space. Obviously, the price would have to drop significantly for us to afford it, and that price drop would have to happen before we were too old to make the trip. And, sorry, we aren't interested in the suborbital flights like the one made to claim the X Prize. While that was a great achievement, it isn't something for which we'd be willing to shell out a lot of cash. For us, if would have to be a trip to a space station at a minimum — or, better yet, a trip to the moon. The odds of all of this happening in time for us are, in our opinion, about even. Well...maybe we're just being optimistic. Can you blame us?

With all of this going on, we can't help but feel sad about NASA. Sure, they got the shuttle launched and home safe, but the news that the foam problem isn't solved means that they have once again grounded the fleet pending further investigation.

Hey, we love NASA, and they've done a lot of exciting things. The Mars Rovers were fantastic (and still are), and the trip to Titan was absolutely incredible. But it seems to us that, going forward, the manned exploration of space will, of necessity, be done in the private sector. It would be great to ride NASA's coattails until the private space industry catches up, but sadly that doesn't seem to be possible. Our guess is that before too long, NASA will be specializing in robotic missions (at which they excel), and leaving the more dangerous manned missions to those who are willing to take the risks. Given the proper profit incentives, there will be no shortage of private sector companies willing to aim for space.

And about that $100M — we'll gladly take cash, checks, or PayPal. Just let us know.

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[  Filed under: % Science & Technology  ]

TrackBack URL for this entry: http://www.twopercentco.com/rants/tpc-trkbk.cgi/200

Comments (8)

Grendel, 2005.08.14 (Sun) 22:50 [Link] »

Unmanned missions are the way to go if scientific gain is the goal.

Jeff from the Two Percent Company, 2005.08.14 (Sun) 23:02 [Link] »

I think we agree from a rational viewpoint, Gren; but emotionally, we would really just love to get out there!

And sure...unmanned missions are the way to go, for now, if scientific gain is the goal. Of course, at some point our unmanned missions will only be able to tell us so much before we really need more manned missions.

S.T.R., 2005.08.15 (Mon) 11:16 [Link] »

When I first read this article I finally figured out what I would do if I won the powerball, and that is go to the moon.

I should probably get on winning that thing, times a wastin'

Grendel, 2005.08.15 (Mon) 23:37 [Link] »

Thank GOD I live in North Carolina where the Baptist state congressional contingent makes darned sure we citizens will never suffer our hands, our hearts, nor our souls to be tainted by the filthy lucre of GAMBLING.

The North Carolina State Lottery Bill was voted down again this week, although the margin of loss gets smaller and smaller each time.

bigsis, 2005.08.18 (Thu) 14:36 [Link] »

Forget the lottery -- all you need is $980 a year to join the Spaceflight Club. Your annual dues are applied toward the price of a sub-orbital flight, and in the meantime, you get the club newsletter and invites to fabulous VIP events. Woo-hoo.

Yes, the private sector will be the vehicle (bad pun intended) by which mankind travels into space in the next decade. But for how long? For the forseeable future, it seems that the only commercial space enterprise capable of supporting itself will be tourism. Hell, it works for tropical island nations, but there ain't no beach-and-casino resort ten miles up. My guess is that the fickle public will quickly lose interest in sub-orbital jaunts and trips to the ISS. There's not much to do up there. You can only vomit in little globules or do HAL impressions so many times before the fun wears off.

Which leaves NASA in the pilot's seat again, with the focus where it probably belongs -- on scientific exploration. If we ever truly want to develop the capacity to leave this planet on a long-term or even permanent basis, we need space organizations that concentrate on something besides catering to rich day-trippers.

We need more guys like Fred Kavli (my hero). The Kavli Foundation is a group dedicated to research for the sake of knowledge and the betterment of mankind. It's MIT-based program is focused on tools for space exploration, including "optimiz[ing] overall human-vehicle system effectiveness and safety." (From the MIT Man Vehicle Laboratory website.) Not sexy, I'll admit, but it'll get us a lot farther in the long run.

One day, God willing (that's a joke, guys), there will be huge orbiting space stations with permanent populations and regular trips around the solar system. However, until there's something actually out there for the majority of us, profit-driven space travel is doomed to a brief existence.

jay denari, 2005.08.22 (Mon) 20:33 [Link] »

However, until there's something actually out there for the majority of us, profit-driven space travel is doomed to a brief existence.

That's probably true if the for-profit sector limits itself to tourism. But the real money in space isn't there... it's in mining -- more minerals are out there than we can possibly use in millennia, if someone can figure out how to get them. Once we do, we won't have to expend the vast amounts of energy it takes to boost materials out of Earth's gravity well.

Because of that cost, the physical risks, and the distances involved, spacefaring ultimately has to be self-sustaining, and before long, any Earthly claim to control over viable space colonies (even as close as the moon) will be little more than a legal fiction. Those issues also suggest space will never be a place for the majority of humanity; I suspect 99% of Homo sapiens will always reside on Earth (at least untilwe can get to earthlike worlds around other stars).

Of course, 1% of billions is a pretty healthy insurance policy for the human gene pool (especially since those that survive out there are likely to be the smart, rational, and adaptable ones). That's ultimately the biggest reason for going into space over the long term.

Grendel, 2005.08.26 (Fri) 17:01 [Link] »

There remain huge problems with humans tolerating weightlessness over protracted periods in space, so civilian efforts must be of very short duration, also necessary due to the costs. This pretty much leaves tourism and bragging rights among millionaires able to afford a quick trip through the troposphere.

MBains, 2005.08.30 (Tue) 10:56 [Link] »

(especially since those that survive out there are likely to be the smart, rational, and adaptable ones).

Initially this will have to be the case. As things roll along, you'll have more and more drones doing the human work. All such folk need is the intelligence to manually perform maintenance and security tasks. Research will continue to be done from the Ivory Towers and Profit will continue to motivate any actual engineering.

Still, I agree with the time-frame you're using and the fact of availability of materiel (especially from the asteroid belt) being a solid lure.

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