Category Archives: Space

Tomorrow’s Festivities

On the morrow will occur the first flight to win the Ansari X-Prize. It will be live streamed on the web, and here’s a Free Republic thread that will follow it with great interest.

As an aside, and for what it’s worth, I doubt if there will be a similar one at Democratic Underground (perhaps the first time I’ve ever linked to anything there), though I have to admit that I don’t want to wade through the moral and intellectual swamp at that site to look for one.

Hamburger Imperialism

Via email, Clark Lindsey points out a column by Philip Ball at Nature, citing (but not deigning to actually link) yours truly, that is both amusing and sad:

There is no point in being coy about the role of military incentives in the advancement of science and technology. After all, it has a history far older than that of aviation and space science. But this does not suit the narrative the X prize needs, and so the foundation has transformed the story into one of private (yet populist) enterprise battling public (yet elitist) prevarication.

As an example of where this reasoning leads, aerospace engineer Rand Simberg suggests in The New Atlantis that the commercial space age would be further accelerated if the United States were to withdraw from the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, because it “bans declarations of national sovereignty off-planet, and makes the defense of private property rights in space problematic”.

How otherwise can McDonalds colonize the Moon (or should that be the Moon

The Space Tourism Kettle Continues To Boil

I was told (by someone who should know) at the Return To The Moon Conference in Las Vegas in July, that Futron would soon be releasing their proprietary space tourism market research study (based on research by the Zogby polling organization), that they’d previously only been selling for twenty-five hundred bucks.

Well, the day before tomorrow’s initial Ansari X-Prize attempt, they’ve done it. I’ll try to read it in the next few days, and provide some thoughts.

[Via Clark Lindsey, who does a much better job that I possibly could in keeping up with this kind of thing]

Looking For Answers In All The Wrong Places

As Clark Lindsey says, why oh why do the media think that just because someone is a scientist, even a space scientist, he would know anything about space transportation or space tourism? There are many people who do understand this subject, but it’s apparently too much work to go seek them out. Instead, they think that they can just go down to the local observatory, or university astrophysics department, and get the opinion of someone that’s worth printing. Instead, they often get nonsense, and they don’t even know it.

“The idea is great, I like the idea, but I am very aware that even people like NASA find it a challenge. Eventually it will come. Whether it will come in Richard Branson’s time, and in his way, remains to be seen,” he said.

“I take it as a declaration of intent, to look into it, rather than to take bookings straight away.”

What does this mean? If it’s a “declaration of intent” (which indeed it is, and a quite forthright one by my reading), then it’s more than “looking into it.” All of the pieces are in place, now that the technology has been demonstrated by SS1, and Branson is going to put up the money (or raise it from others, which he’s fully capable of doing). I suspect that he will be taking bookings, if not “straight away,” then certainly within the year, with all the concomitant marketing hoopla and tie-ins.

But it gets worse. He’s supposedly a scientist, but he can’t even get the science right:

The space tourists would not be completely weightless, he added.

“You can’t have an orbit at that altitude, so you could not be totally weightless. It would be probably fairly close to it, but it is not an orbit, it is still within the upper atmosphere.”

This is simply false, on two levels. You don’t have to get out of the atmosphere to be weightless (though these flights do leave the atmosphere, for all extents and purposes), nor do you have to be in orbit to be weightless. And in fact, as I’ve pointed out, a suborbit actually is an orbit–it’s just one that intersects the planet’s surface, so it can’t be sustained for long. The passengers will in fact be truly weightless, in free fall, for several minutes.

Of course, part of the problem, and reason that stories like this get published, is that Space Daily doesn’t have an editor. It just has a publisher who thinks that it’s more important to have quantity of content than quality.