Category Archives: Space

Political Tourism Barriers

Here’s an interesting article, on a couple of levels.

With demand waning for its traditional service – clearing Arctic shipping lanes – the Murmansk Shipping Company, which operates the world’s only fleet of atomic icebreakers, has started offering tourists a chance to chill out at the top of the world for $20,000 per head.

The business has outraged environmental groups such as Friends of the Earth Norway, which is urging would-be ticket buyers to consider the damage a nuclear accident can do to the pristine region’s fragile ecosystem…

… The green group has found an unexpected ally in the Russian Audit Chamber. Parliament’s budgetary watchdog, after investigating partially state-owned Murmansk Shipping’s finances earlier this year, urged the government to revoke the company’s license to operate the fully state-owned icebreakers because it had “improperly used $79 million worth of state property and cheated the state out of $7.3 million in revenues,” auditor Yury Tsvetkov said June 29.

The superficial (i.e., obvious) one is the issue of whether or not we’ll let environmental groups object to tourism on grounds either real or spurious (and in particular, the notion that it shouldn’t be allowed because it’s a nuclear-powered ship is extremely spurious, and one that we should expect to confront in the future as we start to use nuclear reactors in space).

But the other one is that the Russian government itself is opposed to such tourism. That indicates to me that some there are starting to figure out what things actually cost, and that the tourist dollars don’t actually cover the operating costs.

While popular legend has it that Dennis Tito paid twenty millions bucks for his ride into space, reality is that such things are extremely negotiable, and that he actually paid much less (perhaps a little over half) of that amount. The Russian space program has survived largely on the basis of its prestige (one of the few things that Russia can surpass the US at, at least by some criteria). If they discover that tourist flights (and NASA payments) aren’t covering the true costs, will that continue?

Better Late Than Never (Or Even On Time)

The latest issue of The Space Review is up a day late (I assume due to the holiday yesterday) but it was worth waiting for. I’m too busy to post much, but go read about Oklahoma spaceports by Jeff Foust, an old study on asteroid deflection by Dwayne Day, a cautionary note to space entrepreneurs about patents from Sam Dinkin, and a report from Taylor Dinerman on the prospects for a new space military service to supercede the Air Force.


I’m headed to Boca Raton. We don’t have internet connectivity there yet (and as of the last few hours, we don’t even have a land line), so I don’t know when I’ll be logging on again, but hopefully by early in the week.

Until then, congratulations to the Cassini team. Sometimes, amidst all of the ongoing disaster of our space policy (for instance, check out this bit of micromanagement foolishness by Congress), it’s easy to get jaded, but if someone had told you thirty-five years ago (the first moon landing) that there would be a satellite in orbit around Saturn sending back such spectacular close-up pictures of its rings and its many moons (most of which we were unaware at that time), you would have been amazed, even in the face of the manned moon landings. This is one of those moments (which are happening ever more frequently) in which I finally feel like I’m living in the twenty-first century.

An Overall Perspective On The Reagan Space Legacy

A couple weeks ago I published a eulogy to Ronald Reagan at National Review on line, with respect to his legacy for space. It wasn’t the original piece I submitted–the original submission was longer and more comprehensive in terms of his overall space policy.

The piece that they published was better, partly because it was tighter and more succinct, and partly because, in the interests of the old saying of de mortuis nil nisi bonum, it was uncritical of his failures in space policy.

Now that he’s been interred, and it’s time to reflect on his presidency in its entirety, I’m republishing the original piece here. It will follow when you click on the “read the rest” link (unless you’re coming directly to the permalinked post, in which case it follows after the next couple paragraphs).

I’m prompted to do this for two reasons. First, because it has some perspective on the Reagan space policy that is relevant today, but also because Dwayne Day had a piece at The Space Review today that I think is too kind to Bill Clinton in that regard (and by the way, there are a lot of interesting pieces at that site today, so don’t restrict yourself to that one).

Thus, I’m providing what I hope is a relatively objective perspective of Reagan’s space policy, which was by no means completely laudatory, in anticipation of a similar one on Mr. Clinton’s, which was yet another decade-long setback, and one that the current administration is not addressing in many important ways.

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