Category Archives: Business

Branding In Space

There seems to be a lot of concern in the science journalism community about Bridenstine’s potential proposal to allow sponsorship of missions:

Bridenstine’s proposal would set a dangerous precedent for NASA’s future. By suggesting that commercial partnerships could help fund NASA’s missions, it implies that the agency is not worth funding through the usual means—annual budgets carefully negotiated and ironed out by lawmakers. And their constituents believe that the space program is important; according to a study from the Pew Research Center in June, 72 percent of Americans say it’s essential for the United States to continue to be a world leader in space exploration. If Nike is ready and willing to drop millions of dollars to sponsor the next mission to Mars, why should lawmakers bother spending any taxpayer money on it? The world’s premier space agency shouldn’t have to resort to brand sponsorships in the absence of political will. And even if brands could float the first few years of a mission, they might not have the stomach for the years, or even decades it sometimes takes for NASA’s most ambitious missions to come to fruition. [Emphasis added]

There is a false assumption here that a) the purpose of NASA spending is “space exploration,” and that the negotiations and “ironing out” have much to do with “space exploration” as opposed to zip-code engineering. The sooner that we recognize that there is in fact an absence of political will, and accept that space exploration should be privatized, the way it was until the end of WW II, the sooner we’ll start to make more progress.

[Update a few minutes later]
More from Ken Chang.

Sextortion

I got two of these types of emails last night. While I have occasionally viewed a raunchy video, it was pretty clearly hinky, for numerous reasons (misspellings, fact that the password is not associated with either my email of Facebook, and I don’t even have a Messenger account, I rarely allow a webcam to see me, etc.). If it was a serious threat, they’d send a sample video.

This is a federal felony, but I find it kind of amazing that if you want to report it to the FBI, you do it by phone, instead of forwarding to an email address. The country’s in the very best of hands.

Reusability

Jeff Foust writes about the unheralded 25th anniversary of the DC-X flights, and what has happened in the past half decade to see the promise that it offered a quarter of a century ago finally coming to fruition. I attended the 20th anniversary, but the only thing happening this year is a dinner in LA later this month.

I would note, per the criticism of the “purists,” that SSTO is highly overrated. Two-stage systems are much more flexible and efficient, particularly for off-nominal missions (e.g., high inclination or high altitude). SSTO would make sense only for a large traffic model to a single destination, probably equatorial.