Category Archives: Business

Augustine Report Perspectives

Popular Mechanics has rounded up some thoughts from some panel members, and others, including John Carmack. I haven’t had time to read them yet, myself, but may have more comments when I have.

[Update a few minutes later]

OK, I’ve skimmed them. Bob Park has nothing of interest to say, as usual. I think that Scott’s comment is the most interesting. I think that the answer to both questions is yes. We already can see the economic justification — if nothing else, there is a market for wealthy people who simply want to go. If the price can be brought down, that market is extremely elastic (look what happened to the cruise industry…). The way to bring the cost down is to build an affordable infrastructure, and start living off the land. The great tragedy of human spaceflight is that we have squandered tens of billions over the past decades redoing the unaffordable Apollo model of centralized bureaucracy. Had we not been diverted by the need to beat the Soviets to the moon half a century ago, I think that a NACA that had evolved into a technology agency for space as well as aviation might have had us much further down that road by now.

The Masten Success

Alan Boyle has the story of yesterday’s flight. This is a key point:

Graham said that if Masten and his team could maintain the kind of accuracy they achieved today during their upcoming Level 2 flight, “they’ll beat Armadillo” for the million dollars. The best thing about today’s outing was that it proved there’s more than one prizeworthy competitor out there.

Armadillo hasn’t won first place for Level II yet, or even (for that matter) second place. If two other teams fly a better profile, they could still be shut out. Which would be tough for the Carmack team, but great for the industry.

[Update a few minutes later]

Clark Lindsey wishes that there were more prizes than just first and second:

Shame there are no 3rd prize purses for either Level. Quite possible that one or two of the four teams will complete their flights successfully and still go away with no money.

They may, or may not. I think that anyone who succeeds has established their credentials for getting contracts, private or government, in related technologies, so it’s worth competing even if you don’t come away with a purse. Not to mention the psychic income. I’m sure the Masten people must be stoked, even without the money, and if Paul Breed succeeds, he’ll have something in which he can justifiably take great pride.

[Noon update, Pacific time]

A lot of congratulations over at the Arocket list, including this comment from John Carmack on the issue of third prizes:

This puts Paul in a very tough situation — it will be hard to beat Masten’s landing accuracy for level 1, but level 2 is a lot harder to complete successfully. I argued for a split-the-purse-among-the-qualifiers approach instead of determination based on accuracy, which I thought would have been more encouraging of successful flights.

That might be good, but an even better refinement would be a split purse with the proportion based on accuracy (e.g., if there were three competitors, and one was one inch, one was two inches, and one was three, you might divide it by six, give half to the closest, a third to the second closest, and the remaining sixth to the third. That would give everyone something, but still encourage accuracy.

In general, I was struck by the collegiality on the list from the competitors:

Date: Wed, 7 Oct 2009 12:11:23 -0700
From: David Masten
Subject: [AR] We Qualified!
To: Arocket List
Message-ID: <>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii; format=flowed; delsp=yes

Looks like 15 cm average accuracy. Good luck to Unreasonable and Bon Nova.

From: “Brian Feeney”
Subject: [AR] Congratulations to the Masten Team!
To: “‘David Masten'”
Cc: ‘Arocket List’
Message-ID: <879E1B28642C41B08062C785D136BA7F@UNA>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=”us-ascii”

Congratulations to the Masten Team – proof once again that hard work and persistence (lots of developmental testing) pays off!

Best of luck on the Level 2.

Brian Feeney
DreamSpace Group

This industry knows that it’s still at a stage at which it has to hang together, or surely they will hang separately.

The Hypocrisy Of Senator Shelby

Clark Lindsey points out the difference between the senator’s view of the space industry, and that of other industries. Somehow, I suspect that his views would be (or at least appear to be) more consistent if he were a Senator from some other state. But as is, the disparity is jarring.

[Wednesday morning update]

Here’s more on the latest nonsense from the senator, at the Orlando Sentinel, and Space Politics. Note the comments.

The latest mantra from the Ares defenders is apparently to pick up on Doug Stanley’s comment that the committee didn’t have enough time to properly evaluate it. The response to this, of course, is that if they didn’t, then Doug didn’t have enough time to select it, either, because he had about the same amount of time, if not much less. The Augustine panel worked this for most of the summer. ESAS only took sixty days.



…and accountability:

To be clear, this lack of accountability is not a feature on this specific administration but is, instead, a reflection of the inherent uncertainties associated with macroeconomics. The administration, however, has not been particularly forthright in admitting to this lack of accountability. Indeed, the act of releasing quarterly reports on how many jobs have been “created or saved” gives the illusion of accountability without the reality.

The country is in the very best of hands. If you like having it run by thieves and charlatans. The press certainly doesn’t seem to mind.