Category Archives: Space

What Was Tito, Chopped Liver?

Via Clark Lindsey, here’s an article on the upcoming SpaceShipOne flight that’s more than just a regurgitation of Scaled’s press release. It helped that the author interviewed Jeff Foust about it. I only found one problem with it.

The pilot, who will become the first nongovernmental astronaut in history, then will fly the craft back to Earth after it reconfigures from rocket to glider plane.

Emphasis mine. Apparently he’s never heard of Charlie Walker, the Japanese news agency guy, Helen Sharman, Dennis Tito, Mark Shuttleworth…

It would have been correct to say that he was the first astronaut to fly on a non-government-developed vehicle, which is the real significance (particularly when one looks at the relative cost).

I also found this part interesting, because I hadn’t previously seen much of a hint about Paul Allen’s motives:

Crediting Rutan and the Scaled Composites team with accomplishing “amazing things” without government backing, Allen said SpaceShipOne proves that a privately funded space industry is possible.
“Every time SpaceShipOne flies we demonstrate that relatively modest amounts of private funding can significantly increase the boundaries of commercial space technology,” Allen said in a statement.

Foust said “modest” might be in the eye of the beholder, but Allen’s funding had shown that a relatively small amount of money — on the order of a few tens of millions — can fund development of a manned, reusable, suborbital spacecraft that could open new markets, such as space tourism.

It’s not clear if he has a business plan for follow-on developments, but it is clear that he’s been thinking about it. If he starts to compete with fellow Seattleite (Seattleinian?–are either of those correct, or even words?) and dotcom entrepreneur Jeff Bezos, things could get very interesting very quickly.

Private Space Discussion

An emailer points out a local NPR show airing at 1 PM Pacific today in Seattle, with Charlie Vick and Gregg Maryniak (of the X-Prize Foundation).

Here’s the promo:

The Conversation

Guy Nelson, in for Ross Reynolds

1 pm Pacific KUOW 94.9 fm

Listen to past shows in The Conversation archive

Call-in numbers 206 543 5869, toll free long distance 1-800-289-5869

The first space launch by a private investor will happen this month. The man behind the project: Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. His rocket, called SpaceShip One, is designed for short visits to space, and does not travel fast enough to be put into orbit. What do you think of space travel moving into the private sector? What can they accomplish that NASA can’t? What questions do you have for the designers of these new rockets? Would you like to travel to space on a vacation? On The Conversation today, we’ll discuss the future of space travel, the Ansari X prize competition and find out what Allen hopes to accomplish.

Join us at 1:00 on KUOW. Call in your thoughts before the show to The Conversation feedback line, 206 221 3663 or send e-mail to

Join us on the air by calling 206 543 KUOW or 1
800 289 KUOW.

GUESTS: (as of 12:00pm PACIFIC)

Dr. Charles Vick: Senior Fellow on Space Policy with with more than 40 years of experience

Gregg Maryniak: the executive director of Ansari X prize

The show should be available on the archive shortly after it ends, for those who aren’t local. I hope that this month’s event, and the eventual winning of the prize, causes a lot more public discussion of this topic.

Spreading the meme…

Over at RLV News Clark Lindsey writes:

Rand Simberg has been after to me to change the name of this page from RLV News to Space Transport News. Not quite ready to do that but I will promise to refer to the SS1 missions as “flights” rather than “launches”. I suggest that all you alt.spacers out there take the pledge as well. Time that we transition out of thinking of spaceflight as a series of one-offs and start thinking in terms of spaceship departures and arrivals instead.

Sounds good to me. Now that I’m done posting, I think I’ll shut down my reusable computation machine, get into my reusable wheeled transportation device, and head back to my reusable dwelling unit 🙂

Columbia Lessons Learned

There’s a piece up on Spaceref on the lessons from the Columbia accident. I don’t think there’s anything really new there, but it’s worth a read anyway.

One thing that stands out is this quote, from Aristotle: We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

The Date Is Set

SpaceShipOne will attempt the first flight to a hundred kilometers on the summer solstice, June 21, about three weeks from today, according to an email from Jim Oberg.

[Update on Wednesday afternoon]

Leonard David has the story.

Here’s the full press release (in response to a question that Duncan Young asks in comments):

Mojave, CA: A privately-developed rocket plane will launch into history on June 21 on a mission to become the world

Top 10 Reasons NOT to go into space

Via RocketForge, apparently one of the things that came up at the recent ISDC conference was 10 reasons not to go into space.

I particularly like #9 Space is “just another rich white guy’s playground”, kind of like the deep ocean is just another rich white guy’s playground, right? In the short term, space development will quite likely involve rich white guys getting their jollies. The RWGs will subsidize technology development that will get the rest of us up there. Sounds great to me – after all, joyrides into space will have a lot better impact on the long term future of humanity than an equivalent amount of money spent on a game fishing vacation.

Incidentally, it looks like there’s an NSS blog now, with Arthur Smith at the helm (or at least lurking in the pilothouse 🙂 I look forward to reading it.

Why The Government Won’t Get Us Into Space

Read Kevin Parkin’s excellent account of yesterday’s town hall meeting at JPL (in the comments section of Jeff Foust’s post announcing it), and weep:

From memory (expect lots of errors):

Estimated average audience age – 55 years
Estimated audience size – 250
Aprox. % of JPLers – 80%
Estimated people there my age (27) or younger – 10 (including the camera man, myself, and Derek Shannon (see earlier comment))

Sen. Brownback gave a 5 min intro to set the stage for the town hall meeting, making it clear that he was highly interested in innovative suggestions for how to structure the legislative architecture of the exploration initiative. Rep. Rohrabacher said a few words and was congratulated by JPL President Charles Elachi on having triplets this month. Also in attendance was Buzz Aldrin and Gen. Pete Worden.

– The first audience speaker spoke eloquently and extolled the virtues of prizes and industry collaboration. Sen. Brownback asked people who did/didn’t support prizes to raise their hands. Sen. Brownback asked the audience speaker how much the prize award should be. This seems to be a point of particular interest, since Sen. Brownback asked precisely the same question of Elon Musk at the launcher hearing a couple of weeks ago. Back then, Elon Musk said something like it should be 10% of the amount the government would otherwise spend on developing that capability. This time, the answer was “as much as possible” to which there was laughter and Sen. Brownback rephrased the question, how little can we spend on prizes? Nothing as good as Elon’s answer was put forward.

– The gentleman sitting on my left believed that the focus of NASA should not be on exploring Mars but rather on studying the dynamics of Earth, global warming, etc. Knowing of Rep. Rohrabacher