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Burt Rutan Is Not God
Dale wants me to comment on yesterday's entertaining but unconstructive rant from the sage of Mojave. I know it will sound like heresy to some, but the post title is all I have to say at this time, for those commenters at his post who seem to think the opposite. He won the X-Prize because he got funded, not because he's the only person who could do it, or even had the best way to do it. The fact that he doesn't know how to get to orbit means nothing, except that he doesn't know how to get to orbit. There are smart people who do, given sufficient funds, and there is more than one way to do it.
[Update a couple minutes later]
I just noticed that Sam had some other thoughts on one of Burt's other unuseful and illogical comments.Posted by Rand Simberg at May 05, 2006 08:47 AM
Finally.Posted by meiza at May 5, 2006 09:14 AM
Indeed he is not. I've never seen God before, but I'm pretty sure he doesn't have 70's era engineer mutton-chops. And I kinda hope he doesn't...Posted by John Breen III at May 5, 2006 09:16 AM
Were you previously under the misapprehension that I ever deified Burt?Posted by Rand Simberg at May 5, 2006 09:23 AM
Nah, not you, just that he has generally always been mentioned when there has been talk about "Having a news crew on the moon to greet the Apollo 2.0 landings" or some other dreaming.
I agree with you on many things, like that rocket racing could improve aspects of engines that would eventually be useful for Earth to orbit flight. (Not that it is useful per se.) Also multi-faceted development by multiple companies doing hardware to test their approach to cheap spaceflight could yield good results at this point of technological development, compared to "one committee designing an optimal rocket".
I for one am glad that Constellation is a modernized Apollo - a ship that has plenty of newer but still off-the-shelf technology.
The Shuttle was as much an X-vehicle as Venturestar, full of hopes that the unproven technologies would not only work, but work well.
Keep developing X-vehicles, but Constellation should NOT be an X-vehicle.
I'm fascinated to see that Burt Rutan is the second successfull space entrepeneur to be slammed here. And simply for saying some of the same things that others have said about the CEV. Mind, I disagree with the premise that it's NASA's job to build the hardware that opens up the space frontier. I think it's the job of people like Rutan.Posted by M at May 5, 2006 12:52 PM
I'm fascinated to see that Burt Rutan is the second successfull space entrepeneur to be slammed here.
Just out of curiousity, Mark (and not that I've "slammed" any space entrepreneurs, except in your mind), are space entrepreneurs, successful or otherwise, supposed to be beyond criticism? I knew that was your position with NASA, but I didn't realize that all were infallible gods to you.Posted by Rand Simberg at May 5, 2006 01:01 PM
And Rand accuses me of using strawmen? Amazing that in a post in which I respectfully disagree with Rutan, Rand Simberg accuses me of regarding him as a god. The mind boggles.
I've, of course, never suggested that anyone is beyond criticism. I think I've been a more effective critic of NASA because I've actually steered within objective reality, not gone off into the sort of idealogical tomfoolery exhibited by the Internet Rocketeer Club.Posted by Mark R. Whittington at May 5, 2006 01:51 PM
I came here hoping to read a synopsis of what you guys thought was the "right way" to do orbital spaceflight. Instead it is more of the same quibbling and squabling with no insight or vision.Posted by Tony Rusi at May 5, 2006 02:36 PM
Not only isnít Rutan a god heís annoying and perhaps the most conceded person on earth. He wonít even acknowledge that the all he has done is repeat a 50 year old stunt using more modern technology. Itíd be like me flying across the Atlantic then pretending that what I did was equal to what Limburg did.
I also noticed in the transcript of his talk heís already preparing to blame his impending failure to achieve commercially viable space flight on government.
ďThere remain several sticky, red tape rules that may well cripple experimental research and development of passenger-carrying space planes.Ē
No Burt it wonít be governments fault, itíll be because itís too expensive and too dangerous.
Oh, yippee, Mark and Rand are bickering again!Posted by Bill Shroeder at May 5, 2006 04:29 PM
Bill, I prefer to think of it as a frank exchange of views (g). While Rutan is certainly not God (and I wonder whoever claimed him to be one), he has done something that no private person before or since has done. Flown people into space. I think that buys a little understanding of certain eccentricies.Posted by Mark R Whittington at May 5, 2006 08:09 PM
I notice that no one seems interested in debating the original point Rutan makes, attacking the man instead. Which is likely a good idea since Rutan has a damn good point. The space tourism "business" will be history right after the first ship goes "pop!". Even if it's some idiot who blows himself up, the rest will go down right behind him. We aren't living in the days of the barnstormers anymore. The media will eat the industry alive.Posted by K at May 5, 2006 09:17 PM
The space tourism "business" will be history right after the first ship goes "pop!".
Nonsense. There is zero basis, or history, to justify this strange belief.Posted by Rand Simberg at May 6, 2006 12:28 AM
I notice that no one seems interested in debating the original point Rutan makes, attacking the man instead. Which is likely a good idea since Rutan has a damn good point. The space tourism "business" will be history right after the first ship goes "pop!". Even if it's some idiot who blows himself up, the rest will go down right behind him. We aren't living in the days of the barnstormers anymore. The media will eat the industry alive.
It seems to me that if one really believed that, then if one were building a suborbital vehicle one would be careful to design it so that it had multiple uses besides tourism, and could handle multiple types of payloads.
Unless you define the main part of the vehicle as the carrier aircraft, the SS1 design doesn't do this, and the SS2 design probably won't.
I'm not involved in any "alt.space" company, but this seems to be a problem with a lot of the proposed or under-construction vehicles. The only way I can see it as not being a problem for SS2 is if one thinks of the carrier aircraft as being most of the "system," _but_, even if the rocket stage is relatively cheap, it's the major element that needs to be proven.Posted by Phil Fraering at May 6, 2006 08:14 AM
There is zero basis, or history, to justify this strange belief.
Ah, the world famous Simbergian logical retort!
Rand, there's lots and lots of basis for this belief, that you don't accept the arguments is utterly irrelvent. As is, frankly, much of your output these days.Posted by Daveon at May 6, 2006 01:01 PM
At the very worst, a crash and fatalities would mean a move offshore. It would be a loss to the country but the industry would handily survive.Posted by Mike Puckett at May 6, 2006 08:30 PM
Burt Rutan might not be God but he's certainly done things no other company has ever accomplished. The level of ingenuity that he and his crew have soon is extrodinary. Some may not like him for whatever reason but Scaled Composites' creativity and revolutionary thinking, as opposed to most companies evolutionary thinking, is extremely refreshing and extrodinary. And if you think his comment about government red-tape is an excuse for future failure, then you've never dealt much with the government and you might as well join Brian Sibrel in telling Buzz Aldrin he never made it to the Moon.Posted by Kevin at May 6, 2006 09:44 PM
...there's lots and lots of basis for this belief...
Then surely you'll be providing it, if you want the rest of us to accept this. So far, you've given us zip.Posted by Rand Simberg at May 7, 2006 06:11 AM
And if you think his comment about government red-tape is an excuse for future failure, then you've never dealt much with the government
Burt is demanding more, not less government red tape.Posted by Rand Simberg at May 7, 2006 06:12 AM
The space tourism "business" will be history right after the first ship goes "pop!".
I dont know if you have been paying attention, but a few contestants ships already went "pop" well before X-Prize itself was claimed. Some went "pop" at last years X-Prize Cup. Nobody particularly cared and it certainly has not put the stop to industry, because its the part of normal evolutionary process.
Posted by kert at May 7, 2006 02:08 PM
I've actually been through many many times. Naturally you reject the argument for a variety of, frankly, "illogical" grounds.
But that's all you seem to be able to do these days.Posted by Daveon at May 7, 2006 11:25 PM
Nobody is God, but in my religion Burt is a Major Prophet.Posted by Robin at May 8, 2006 02:23 AM
Naturally you reject the argument for a variety of, frankly, "illogical" grounds.
Still waiting for an "argument" to "reject," Dave. Surely if there's so much historical evidence for a single accident single-handedly destroying an entire industry, you can show us just a little (and no, the Hindenburg doesn't count--dirigibles were on their way out anyway)?Posted by Rand Simberg at May 9, 2006 08:17 AM
The Hindenberg is a good example, though, of how a large but fragile industry can be dealt a death blow by a single P.R. disaster. Are there any prospects of space tourism becoming a popular pasttime in the foreseeable future, like flying on an airliner or taking a train (or even dirigible passage back in the day)? No. If it were, BR's point about the need to maintain the veneer of safety would be a good one, so as not to scare off the average traveller.
But space tourism can certainly aim at evolving from being a niche industry serving a few very wealthy adventure-seekers, like Everest guiding, to becoming something generally available to those who seek risk and have the resources to engage in extreme activity, like skydiving or some of the riskier forms of skiing. Worrying about mass popularity at this time is way premature IMHO.Posted by tagryn at May 9, 2006 05:39 PM
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