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I just got the following (registration required) from an aviation mailing list. There's certainly nothing hard to believe about it (though it would also be possible to do the same thing as a parody, I suppose).
The European Union's industry commissioner on Thursday blasted companies' plans to offer space flights to tourists, calling them a gimmick for the privileged elite.
Emphasis mine. With morons like this in charge of "Industry and Enterprise" in the EU, is it any wonder the place is such a stagnant economic mess?
This is so stupid and stereotypical, that one hardly even knows where to begin, and the arguments have been made (many times) before.
Yes, of course, at first, only the "privileged" will use the service. That's how one gets the price to drop so that the "non-privileged" can eventually afford it. But the point isn't (or shouldn't be) about subsidizing rides for the rich (assuming that subsidies are involved at all--this economic illiterate seems to think that even private funds shouldn't be spent on it--he knows better how to spend other peoples' money than they do, of course). The point is that by developing these kinds of vehicles, we can ultimately reduce the costs of getting into space for everybody and everything, including many things that presumably even our socialist bureaucrat might find to his liking, such as remote sensing satellites for environmental monitoring, etc.
As for the environmental issues, the amount of environmental damage caused by rocket planes, even if they burn hydrocarbons, is spitting in a hurricane compared to commercial and other jet traffic at any reasonable expected flight rate in the near future. In the far future, they may go to LOX/hydrogen, which will of course pollute the atmosphere with that deadly dihydrogen monoxide, which many think should be banned completely. But again, when it comes to the environmental effects, one has to look at the benefits as well as the costs. Most sensible environmentalists should want us to move as much polluting industry off the planet as soon as possible, and the only way to make this happen is to reduce costs of space access, which is only likely to happen from the competitive environment and economies of scale that a space travel industry will provide.
But then, "sensible" is not the first adjective that comes to mind in reference to people like Herr Verheugen. In fact, it's not even on the list. I have no fear of the EU as long as his type remain in charge.Posted by Rand Simberg at June 15, 2007 07:45 AM
which will of course pollute the atmosphere with that deadly dihydrogen monoxide,
Don't laugh! Pollution of the stratosphere by water is what will likely ultimately limit traffic rates to LEO. Right now, the water injection there from all causes is several hundred million tons per year. It's not out of the question that a very high launch rate down the road could exceed that.Posted by Paul Dietz at June 15, 2007 08:08 AM
I think it's more likely that we'll come up with some sort of mitigation, rather than limiting launch rates. Or maybe we'll market stratospheric water emission permits, and let the most efficient vehicles purchase them via auction. But given the bureaucratic mindset, they'll probably just establish CAFE standards for rockets.Posted by Rand Simberg at June 15, 2007 08:11 AM
It's a well known fact that dihydrogen monoxide is a powerful greenhouse gas, even more than methane.
Of course in droplet form it will also reflect solar radiation.Posted by Ed Nutter at June 15, 2007 08:58 AM
Of course it's only for the very rich. It's new. The same was true of automobiles, medical care, and enough food year round. Does his social conscience want to do away with those?Posted by triticale at June 15, 2007 09:18 AM
Enough traffic for upper-atmosphere emissions to matter is also enough traffic to justify some sort of accelerator system for launch, or eventually space elevators. Rockets for earth-leo transportation are a transitory solution.Posted by Jim Bennett at June 15, 2007 09:20 AM
Sympathy or not, he's on the right track with this:
"The EADS Astrium project will be mainly privately financed, and Astrium will not operate flights itself, but Verheugen made it clear that he did not believe it deserved assistance from governments or the European Union.
"I have no sympathy for this. It deserves no support.""
He's right - it deserves no government support - let it live or die on it's own capitalist merits.
But let's not turn "no support" into "active opposition" or "regulatory obstruction" either.Posted by Jeff at June 15, 2007 09:29 AM
...is it any wonder the place is such a stagnant economic mess?
No good at reading the news these days? Especially the data coming out of Germany. The UK has had its longest period of sustained economic growth in 200 years. Sweden is doing ok and has a couple of world leading tech companies. France is in a mess despite having the world's most profitable and sucessful car industry.
Sarkhozy might actually change that too.Posted by Dave at June 15, 2007 09:29 AM
That's pretty pathetic, David. Sweden is "ok" and has a "couple" of world-leading high-tech companies? Let's all move there! Germany is doing better under Merkel, but it still has quite rigid labor markets.Posted by Rand Simberg at June 15, 2007 09:32 AM
It's a well known fact that dihydrogen monoxide is a powerful greenhouse gas, even more than methane.
Water's much more abundant than methane, and contributes more to overall radiative forcing, but per molecule methane is the more powerful greenhouse gas.
Tropospheric water vapor (where most of the water vapor is) is controlled by evaporation/precipitation, not human emissions, since the residence time is so short. The stratosphere is a different situation, since the residence time there is longer and natural inputs much smaller than in the troposphere.
Some of the greenhouse impact of increasing methane is due to the water that is injected into the stratosphere by methane oxidation. About half the water input there is from this source, IIRC.
Of course it's only for the very rich. It's new. The same was true of automobiles, medical care, and enough food year round.
I can remember when a CD player or VCR cost $1000. I can remember early DVD players that cost over $500. Now, you can just about get one in a box of CrackerJacks. Airline travel used to be mostly for business travelers and the wealthy.
So the EU is going to take action against Monaco and the French Riviera as well? They're both playgrounds for the rich as well.Posted by rbj at June 15, 2007 12:20 PM
Here is an article titled "The Best of Times", in which exactly this concept of the costs of things dropping through initial use by the wealthy eventually makes everyone prosperous.Posted by Twok at June 15, 2007 12:53 PM
No good at reading the news these days?
There's a difference between 'good' and 'less bad'.Posted by rosignol at June 15, 2007 01:12 PM
There's a difference between 'good' and 'less bad'.
Yes. There's also the question that, if things are good, or even better, is it because of the EU and its socialist bureaucrats, or despite it?Posted by Rand Simberg at June 15, 2007 01:17 PM
"It's only for the super rich, which is against my social convictions,"
Hmm. I'll remember that, the next time I see a high-end luxury or sports car imported from any Western European country...never mind that their manufacture and sales pays salaries for a great many middle-class people.Posted by Frank Glover at June 15, 2007 02:31 PM
Hmmm, I think I have a fix here. If Verheugen were to adopt a better set of convictions, one in which it didn't matter if the super rich chose to fly in space or not, then the problem would go away.
Soylent Green is people.
CO2 is plantfood.Posted by AntiCitizenOne at June 15, 2007 06:49 PM
I attacked the space-tourism-is-only-for-the-rich ethic in the "Stuck in the Sixties" post.
Come to think of it, my metaphor for The Rich comes from a '60s sitcom...Posted by Alan K. Henderson at June 15, 2007 10:13 PM
As I said Rand, read some economic books, and Ericsson is a pretty serious player in mobile.
I go there a few times a year and have done for half decade and its hardly a hell hole.Posted by Dave at June 16, 2007 09:16 PM
On the subject of Sweden, IKEA and Inge Kampfe are doing rather well too.Posted by Dave at June 18, 2007 10:13 AM
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