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> Is Space Travel Worth It?, Headed for a New Industrial Revolution..
Is Space Travel Worth It?
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Piper Plexed
post Feb 17 2004, 01:46 AM
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In light of NASA's present research in Nano Technology, I say Yes!
QUOTE
-    Advanced miniaturization is a key thrust area to enable new science and exploration missions
-    Ultrasmall sensors, power sources, communication, navigation, and propulsion systems with very low mass, volume and power consumption are needed
-    Revolutions in electronics and computing will allow reconfigurable, autonomous, "thinking" spacecraft
-    Nanotechnology presents a whole new spectrum of opportunities to build device components and systems for entirely new space architectures
-    Networks of ultrasmall probes on planetary surfaces
-    Micro-rovers that drive, hop, fly, and burrow
-    Collection of microspacecraft making a variety of measurements
http://www.ipt.arc.nasa.gov/nanotechnology.html


The way I understand it Nano Technology will impact life as we know it in ways we are only beginning to fathom.
Some Examples:
QUOTE
The first products made from nanomachines will be stronger fibers. Eventually, we will be able to replicate anything, including diamonds, water and food. Famine could be eradicated by machines that fabricate foods to feed the hungry.

*    In the computer industry, the ability to shrink the size of transistors on silicon microprocessors will soon reach its limits. Nanotechnology will be needed to create a new generation of computer components. Molecular computers could contain storage devices capable of storing trillions of bytes of information in a structure the size of a sugar cube.

*    Nanotechnology may have its biggest impact on the medical industry. Patients will drink fluids containing nanorobots programmed to attack and reconstruct the molecular structure of cancer cells and viruses to make them harmless. There's even speculation that nanorobots could slow or reverse the aging process, and life expectancy could increase significantly.

*    Nanotechnology has the potential to have a positive effect on the environment. For instance, airborne nanorobots could be programmed to rebuild the thinning ozone layer. Contaminants could be automatically removed from water sources, and oil spills could be cleaned up instantly. Many resources could be constructed by nanomachines. Cutting down trees, mining coal or drilling for oil may no longer be necessary. Resources could simply be constructed by nanomachines.
http://science.howstuffworks.com/nanotechnology2.htm


Another interesting .gov link.
http://www.nano.gov/

Questions for Debate:

In light of this, Do you support Americas present focus on Space travel?


If not, How will we as a nation be able to retain our technological status in the world?
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logophage
post May 26 2004, 07:29 PM
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QUOTE(Vermillion @ May 26 2004, 12:12 PM)
Continue R&D absolutely. Continue unmanned space flight, absolutely. But manned space exploration is suilly, wasteful and incredibly expensive for little to no gain.

I have to disagree here, Vermillion. Traditionally funded (i.e. government funded) manned spaceflight has been very expensive; this doesn't mean all techniques of manned access to space must therefore be expensive as well. Tourism is proving to be a viable money-making proposition. It would behoove government space agencies to get in on the action. It is certain that tourism is the driving motivator for privately funded manned space ventures. If acess to space is made to be cheap, then most of the arguments against manned spaceflight are effectively rebutted.
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Vermillion
post May 26 2004, 08:13 PM
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QUOTE(logophage @ May 26 2004, 07:29 PM)

I have to disagree here, Vermillion.  Traditionally funded (i.e. government funded) manned spaceflight has been very expensive; this doesn't mean all techniques of manned access to space must therefore be expensive as well.  Tourism is proving to be a viable money-making proposition.  It would behoove government space agencies to get in on the action.

Firstly, I think you massively overestimate the potential viability of Space Tourism with current technology. A single shuttle launch costs $280 million dollars or more. A single Soyuz launch costs $75 million dollars, but offers significantly fewer options in space, and is about 3x more dangerous.

(EDIT: Odd statistic drawn of NASA homepage, considering there has never been a disaster with the modern Soyuz module, and there have been 2 shuttle explosions: furthermore there have been MORE Soyuz launches than shuttle launches...)

Anyways...

Even ignoring the above stats, those are for orbital launches, which mankind has more or less perfected. For any kind of further venture, the cost muliplies by several factors.

Manned flights are always FAR more expensive, as people are fragile, have to be kept alive and most importantly have to be recovered. Unmanned probes are hardy, do not require atmosphere food or water, and can be left on the target.


For serious exploration space tourism is obviously not an option:
-Firstly bringing tourists along on a first-time exploration is incredibly dangerous and foolhardy, and increasesthe cost in space, food water abnd safeguards for what is essentially a useless crewmember.
-Secondly, given the VAST prices of manned space travel, even at $10 million dollars a head, you would still need a school-bus full of people to even defray a part of the cost, and half of that 'profit' would be spent keeping them alive and expanding the vehicle to take more than a core team.

Conservative estimates of a trip to Mars are between $5 and $15 billion dollars for a single trip (nobody is sure yet). Round trip would be close to 2 years long. Space tourism could not hope to cover even just that one trip.

Thats just a guess. The last actual cost estimate of a trip to Mars was done in 1989, and it produced a cost over 10 years of $400 billion dollars. Obviouslym that was 15 years ago and technology has improved, but nobody really knows how much a manned mission to Mars will cost.


Eventually, I can see space tourism making a small difference in costrs for local trips, but extra-orbital travel is not viable for tourism and is FAR more expensive.


Unmanned exploration: safer, FAR cheaper, faster and with far less risk to life, is the only viable alternative right now. Manned exploration at our current level of technology is national posturing descended from the Cold war.
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logophage
post May 26 2004, 08:47 PM
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QUOTE(Vermillion @ May 26 2004, 01:13 PM)
QUOTE(logophage @ May 26 2004, 07:29 PM)

I have to disagree here, Vermillion.  Traditionally funded (i.e. government funded) manned spaceflight has been very expensive; this doesn't mean all techniques of manned access to space must therefore be expensive as well.  Tourism is proving to be a viable money-making proposition.  It would behoove government space agencies to get in on the action.

Firstly, I think you massively overestimate the potential viability of Space Tourism with current technology. A single shuttle launch costs $280 million dollars or more. A single Soyuz launch costs $75 million dollars, but offers significantly fewer options in space, and is about 3x more dangerous.

(EDIT: Odd statistic drawn of NASA homepage, considering there has never been a disaster with the modern Soyuz module, and there have been 2 shuttle explosions: furthermore there have been MORE Soyuz launches than shuttle launches...)

I don't believe that I've overestimated anything. I think you've underestimated the viability of cheap orbital access. I do agree that what we have today is very expensive. It is mostly derived from ballistic missle technology motivated largely by military applications.

I strongly recommend you read some of the links I've given. Access to space doesn't have to be hugely expensive (just moderately so). Tourism is the primary motivator for cheap, manned space access. There are other motivations, such as science or manufacturing, but these do not have immediately tangible returns.
QUOTE
Even ignoring the above stats, those are for orbital launches, which mankind has more or less perfected. For any kind of further venture, the cost muliplies by several factors.

Manned flights are always FAR more expensive, as people are fragile, have to be kept alive and most importantly have to be recovered. Unmanned probes are hardy, do not require atmosphere food or water, and can be left on the target.

I agree that manned space flights will always have the life support issue to factor in. On the other hand, unmanned probes are not as versatile. And some types of operations require versatility. Probes do exactly what they're told even if it means crashing into a planet rather than landing softly. There are trade-offs. I don't disagree, however, that for exploration purposes unmanned space probes have the advantage.
QUOTE
For serious exploration space tourism is obviously not an option:
-Firstly bringing tourists along on a first-time exploration is incredibly dangerous and foolhardy, and increasesthe cost in space, food water abnd safeguards for what is essentially a useless crewmember.
-Secondly, given the VAST prices of manned space travel, even at $10 million dollars a head, you would still need a school-bus full of people to even defray a part of the cost, and half of that 'profit' would be spent keeping them alive and expanding the vehicle to take more than a core team.

Umm....I don't think I've mentioned manned exploration being the driving force behind manned spaceflight. And I agree that manned space exploration is pretty much a non-starter at this point. However, manned outposts for tourism, manufacturing, mining and so on, could be viable economically. It is really too soon to tell. Once access to earth orbit is sufficiently inexpensive, then we can continue the debate.
QUOTE
Conservative estimates of a trip to Mars are between $5 and $15 billion dollars for a single trip (nobody is sure yet). Round trip would be close to 2 years long. Space tourism could not hope to cover even just that one trip.

Thats just a guess. The last actual cost estimate of a trip to Mars was done in 1989, and it produced a cost over 10 years of $400 billion dollars. Obviouslym that was 15 years ago and technology has improved, but nobody really knows how much a manned mission to Mars will cost.

Eventually, I can see space tourism making a small difference in costrs for local trips, but extra-orbital travel is not viable for tourism and is FAR more expensive.

Yes, I think a manned trip to Mars while having a high cool factor has a low return value. If there is sufficient evidence of Martian life and our political/social/scientific will is great enough, then I could see where a manned science mission to Mars may be worth it. I think it is too soon at this point.
QUOTE
Unmanned exploration: safer, FAR cheaper, faster and with far less risk to life, is the only viable alternative right now. Manned exploration at our current level of technology is national posturing descended from the Cold war.

You mentioned the Mars stuff. Manned spaceflight into Earth orbit does not equal a mission to Mars. Nor is the only justification for manned spaceflight exploratory.

This post has been edited by logophage: May 26 2004, 08:55 PM
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Bill55AZ
post May 27 2004, 07:54 PM
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QUOTE(unabomber @ Apr 28 2004, 02:36 PM)
QUOTE(Bill55AZ @ Apr 27 2004, 10:47 PM)
There are plenty of better ways to spend our money.  True space travel is pure fiction.

you know, they said the same thing about flying 100 some-odd years ago. people KNEW in columbuses day that the earth was flat and sailing around the world was pure fiction.

truthfully, they don't know that there isn't someplace to go to. every extra-solar planet that's been found was because it an effect on it's star. 50 years ago extra solar planets were pure fiction as well, yet now we know there are at least jovian type planets outside our solar system.

while we do have problems here that need solving (such as enrgy and pollution) we shouldn't stop exploring. we CAN'T stop exploring, it's an inherient part of being human!

We DO know that there are no inhabitable planets in our solar system, with the exception of Mars possibly sustaining a small colony. A year of high radiation exposure during space travel to Mars could seriously impact the longevity and reproducibility of the travelers. And that is just getting to Mars, going further means having a colony on the ship that has to be sustained and protected until a suitable planet is found. The incredible cost of getting to Mars and providing support for a colony there could be better spent on educating our children. Once they get a good understanding of physics, chemistry, biology, etc. they will be less likely to believe in these far fetched dreams and then they could apply themselves toward more meaningful endeavors. How about exploring ourselves?
A good study of human psychology applied to the history of mankind might make us better understand why so many of us want to escape reality instead of facing up to it and making better use of our individual lives here on earth.
Space travel will remain fiction a lot longer than did flight, or traveling to the other side of the world.
If we ever get the chance to dictate to our leaders how our tax dollars are spent, I suspect it would then be up to voluntary donors to support the research on space travel.
Just because something is achievable doesn't necessarily make it worthwhile doing. hmmm.gif
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logophage
post May 27 2004, 09:28 PM
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QUOTE(Bill55AZ @ May 27 2004, 12:54 PM)
We DO know that there are no inhabitable planets in our solar system, with the exception of Mars possibly sustaining a small colony. A year of high radiation exposure during space travel to Mars could seriously impact the longevity and reproducibility of  the travelers.

To be fair, "inhabitable" is a bit of a loose term here. Technically speaking, if you can survive somewhere -- with sufficient technological aids -- it is inhabitable. That said, you are absolutely correct that radiation exposure is a problem. There are solutions, but they really haven't been tested. My feeling is that if alot of taxpayer money is used for such a manned mission, there had better some darn good reasons (and not just: humans need to explore stuff).
QUOTE
And that is just getting to Mars, going further means having a colony on the ship that has to be sustained and protected until a suitable planet is found.

I don't think anyone was talking about Battlestar Galactica here wink.gif. Were we?
QUOTE
The incredible cost of getting to Mars and providing support for a colony there could be better spent on educating our children.  Once they get a good understanding of physics, chemistry, biology, etc. they will be less likely to believe in these far fetched dreams and then they could apply themselves toward more meaningful endeavors. How about exploring ourselves?

I find this line of reasoning fallacious. First, not all problems are solved by throwing money at them. Second, while some scientific/technological advancement can be done in parallel, it is just as often done serially, that is, it builds upon previous advances. Third, far-fetched dreams (such as personal communications devices) can and do occur with regularity. Fourth, education is often impacted by large endeavors. Fifth, history shows that money not being spent on education will continue to not go to education. Sixth, science != technology. Last, while I absolutely agree that education is very, very important, you're setting up a false dilemma as the crux of your argument.
QUOTE
A good study  of human psychology  applied to the history of mankind might make us better understand why so many of us want to escape reality instead of facing up to it and making better use of our individual lives here on earth.
Space travel will remain fiction a lot longer than did flight, or traveling to the other side of the world.

So, your position is that a desire for space travel is escapist? I suppose in the sense that one escapes into orbit and beyond it is. However, this again appears to be a false delimma you've employed. You need to show why space travel does not better one's life and, of course, why bettering one's life doesn't involve space travel.
QUOTE
If we ever get the chance to dictate to our leaders how our tax dollars are spent, I suspect it would then be up to voluntary donors  to support the research on space travel.

That's why private space ventures have so much promise. The "voluntary" donors are investors and paying customers.
QUOTE
Just because something  is achievable doesn't necessarily make it worthwhile doing. hmmm.gif

Couldn't agree more. I usually say, "Just because you can, doesn't mean you should."
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crashfourit
post May 28 2004, 10:21 PM
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I say that the government should incourage private/coprate ventures in space.

We must continue exploring our solar system.

Never retreat on being creative.

QUOTE
We DO know that there are no inhabitable planets in our solar system, with the exception of Mars possibly sustaining a small colony. A year of high radiation exposure during space travel to Mars could seriously impact the longevity and reproducibility of the travelers. And that is just getting to Mars, going further means having a colony on the ship that has to be sustained and protected until a suitable planet is found. The incredible cost of getting to Mars and providing support for a colony there could be better spent on educating our children. Once they get a good understanding of physics, chemistry, biology, etc. they will be less likely to believe in these far fetched dreams and then they could apply themselves toward more meaningful endeavors. How about exploring ourselves?

Have you seen the movie Core?
Could we use thermonucular warheads to get the core of Mars spinning or to help it spin better???

Could we use some of the astroid belt to inlage the mass of Mars???
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Cube Jockey
post May 28 2004, 10:48 PM
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Taking a voyage to Mars as an example, one of the important things to remember is that the destination isn't the most important aspect but rather the journey.

The technological advances for such an undertaking would be very substaintial in the applied sciences realm. There are some very complex problems that would need to be solved to make such a voyage possible, and we would have to make advances in several areas in order to solve them.

Space Travel/Colonization is our future, eventually the problems of over population, pollution, global warming, and depleted resources will be unmanageable on Earth. Will that happen in any of our lifetimes? Probably not, but if every government takes the position of "we won't worry about that, it is too long term", then eventually it'll be too late to do anything.
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logophage
post May 28 2004, 11:00 PM
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QUOTE(crashfourit @ May 28 2004, 03:21 PM)
I say that the government should incourage private/coprate ventures in space.

We must continue exploring our solar system.

Never retreat on being creative.

Keep in mind that "exploring the solar system" must be tempered by realistic approaches. Unmanned planetary exploration has been very successful and will continue to be the main means of planetary science for the forseeable future. The main applications for Earth orbit, though, have been military and commercial. There is no reason to believe it will not continue to be the case for manned orbital access, particularly commercial applications.

QUOTE
Have you seen the movie Core?
Could we use thermonucular warheads to get the core of Mars spinning or to help it spin better???

Could we use some of the astroid belt to inlage the mass of Mars???

The Core movie was so unrealistic, unscientific and unphysically accurate as to make me cringe when I think about it wink.gif.
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Hobbes
post May 28 2004, 11:20 PM
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QUOTE
Taking a voyage to Mars as an example, one of the important things to remember is that the destination isn't the most important aspect but rather the journey.

The technological advances for such an undertaking would be very substaintial in the applied sciences realm. There are some very complex problems that would need to be solved to make such a voyage possible, and we would have to make advances in several areas in order to solve them.

Space Travel/Colonization is our future, eventually the problems of over population, pollution, global warming, and depleted resources will be unmanageable on Earth. Will that happen in any of our lifetimes? Probably not, but if every government takes the position of "we won't worry about that, it is too long term", then eventually it'll be too late to do anything.


I'm with CJ on this one. In fact, I can't think of a single program MORE worthy of expenditure than the space program. Two, three, four hundred years from now--you think they'll say anything about any of the various social programs in history books? I doubt it--but discover of new worlds, inhabititation of planets, discovery of alien life--that will certainly be noteworth. Not only are untold technical advances made in the achievement of these explorations (making it more of an investment than a cost), but the quest itself, learning about the universe we live in, how we got here, where we are going, who else is there?, cannot be answered in any other fashion. Some of this can be achieved with unmanned vehicles, some cannot. Judicious use of both would be best.
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Cube Jockey
post Jun 21 2004, 05:28 PM
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This morning spaceship one successfully reached the 100km mark, obtaining subspace orbit. I was watching CNN this morning and I'll have to say that I'm a little dissappointed in their coverage.

But, now that this has been done, it begs the question of what else is possible. The method in which this ship made it into orbit is new, and given the reduced cost maybe it is worth NASA taking a look right?

Shouldn't we focus more heavily on this project given that it has the potential to ease the barrier to entry into space and thus speed up further research and accomplishments?
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Aquilla
post Jun 21 2004, 06:01 PM
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I agree with your take on the news coverage of SpaceShipOne's remarkable flight this morning, CJ. I was switching around channels like crazy and found the best coverage to be the local LA Fox television station, KTTV. CNN, MSNBC, FOX News Channel were all horrible. mad.gif

However, this aircraft didn't actually go into orbit, far from it. It merely penetrated the 100 km altitude mark which has been agreed on by scientists around to the world to be the threshold of space, and it "only" reached speeds of around 2500 mph well short of the minimum speed of around 15,000 mph required to actually enter orbit. Still though, it was an impressive achievement for Burt Rutan and his folks. I don't know that it's going to lead to anything truly significant in the long term like actual commercial space travel, but it was still an impressive achievment for Rutan. I'll give him that even though I have some "personal issues" with him.

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post Jun 21 2004, 06:20 PM
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IMO opinion, this is the same moment as the birth of the airplane.
When they go for the X Prize I shall make the trek to see it. I wanted to be in Mohave for this but am still recovering from surgery.
I see this as the spark that gets things going. There are a great many business ventures that can realistically be launched from an independant wild cat set up.
I don't expect to suddenly be on mars by november, but you should all remember this moment. NASA is probably doomed but Hell they have more than earned their slide into museum history.
I admit I am jealous of the coming generations.
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Cube Jockey
post Jun 21 2004, 06:27 PM
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QUOTE(Aquilla @ Jun 21 2004, 11:01 AM)
I agree with your take on the news coverage of SpaceShipOne's remarkable flight this morning, CJ.   I was switching around channels like crazy and found the best coverage to be the local LA Fox television station, KTTV.  CNN, MSNBC, FOX News Channel were all horrible.   mad.gif

I'm glad I'm not the only one that found the coverage on all stations to be horrible. I can remeber when something like this would have been on every station, and I'm not even that old!

To your point, they did make the distinction it wasn't a true orbit of earth. What I found the most interesting was their methods of getting to the orbit they achieved and also the landing method as well. If this were to work for a full orbit, it would have a huge impact on the space program I think due to reduced costs, this program thus far has only cost 1/25th of a single shuttle launch.

Scientists have said going into Low Earth Orbit is a whole 'nother ball game, but I only see that as an engineering problem at this point, not something insurmounatble.

QUOTE
When they go for the X Prize I shall make the trek to see it. I wanted to be in Mohave for this but am still recovering from surgery.


I think I plan on going as well, a group of friends and I were talking about camping out in Mojave Sunday night and going for this morning's launch, but it didn't work out. So instead we all met at my place at 6am to watch the news coverage and were subsequently very disappointed in it.

This post has been edited by Cube Jockey: Jun 21 2004, 06:28 PM
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post Jun 21 2004, 06:35 PM
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QUOTE(Aquilla @ Jun 21 2004, 06:01 PM)
I agree with your take on the news coverage of SpaceShipOne's remarkable flight this morning, CJ.  I was switching around channels like crazy and found the best coverage to be the local LA Fox television station, KTTV.  CNN, MSNBC, FOX News Channel were all horrible.  mad.gif

However, this aircraft didn't actually go into orbit, far from it.  It merely penetrated the 100 km altitude mark which has been agreed on by scientists around to the world to be the threshold of space, and it "only" reached speeds of around 2500 mph well short of the minimum speed of around 15,000 mph required to actually enter orbit.  Still though, it was an impressive achievement for Burt Rutan and his folks.  I don't know that it's going to lead to anything truly significant in the long term like actual commercial space travel, but it was still an impressive achievment for Rutan.  I'll give him that even though I have some "personal issues" with him.

The spirit beihnd the X-Prize is not to produce a commerically viable, reuseable, launch system. The goal is to prove that it can be done privately.

Its true that the 100KM limit suborbital, but it is high enough for rapid transit and Aerospace planes to operate in global travel, and it is high enough to eventually vastly reduce the cost of getting a sattelite into orbit via booster from a vehicle at that alititude.

The Ansar 1 X-Prize was established in the spirit of prizes such as the $25K Orteig Prize that Linburg won for the first non-stop transatlantic flight. Much of what we today know as the the "air travel industry" owes its existance to prizes like th X-Prize, given away for doing what was certainly unprofitable and impractical, and often thought of as impossible, until someone actually went and did it.

The X-Prize prize founders realize that to a certain extent, until it is proven that something can be done, no one will try it out.

No one is going to attempt a venture that is commercial from the word go, but they will find funding for and attempt something simply to be the first to do it. Once it has been done it becomes feasilble to do again.

I think that its too early to tell what the fallout from this will be. There are 26 different teams from all ove rthe world trying for the prize. That means there are 27 different designs being created. It stands to reason that many of these have their eyes looking past the prize knowing that even of they don't win it, once it has been done by someone, they have a great argument to continue developing their design for actual commercial purposes.

Say we lose 1/2 to 3/4 of all the competitors once the prize is won. That still leaves 10 or so different launch mechanisms. 10 different companies, worldwide, is HUGE in a market that only has 3-4 real players right now. Sure it will be outrageously expensive, but that will change. The most expensive and risky part of space vetures, at the moment, is getting something out of the atmosphere. Once the cost and risk come down, the sky is, in fact, the limit.
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post Jun 21 2004, 07:31 PM
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I am excited by the recent success of SpaceShip One as well. I foresee the commercialization of human space access to follow something like:

1. more prize money to encourage infrastructure investment
2. sub-orbital tourism (up & down in 1/2 hour to an hour)
3. short-duration orbital tourism (< 1 day in orbit)
4. sub-orbital air transportation
5. long-duration tourism (multi-day stays)
6. orbital hostels (again tourism driven)
7. micro-g fabrication/manufacture

Subsequent lunar access will only be commercially feasible when 1-6 (and probably 7) are financially viable. As you can see, I believe that tourism is the only workable near-term strategy for commercial human space access. This is precisely what boot-strapped the commercial aircraft industry.
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GoAmerica
post Jun 21 2004, 11:18 PM
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QUOTE(Cube Jockey @ Jun 21 2004, 12:28 PM)
This morning spaceship one successfully reached the 100km mark, obtaining subspace orbit.

But, now that this has been done, it begs the question of what else is possible.  The method in which this ship made it into orbit is new, and given the reduced cost maybe it is worth NASA taking a look right?

I think NASA needs to look at me and consider investing in this new type of space vehicle because the current shuttles are outdated and cost too much to maintain. If NASA wants to look at oppurtunities to cut spending, scrap the current shuttles and buy a few of these new vehicles
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moif
post Jun 22 2004, 12:26 AM
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I think you'll find that the payload capacity of SpaceShipOne is considerably less that the of the Space shuttle.

Before people get too excited, they should recall that the first man America put into space in 1961 also made a short, sub-orbital flight in a very small, state of the art capsule reaching the altitude of 116 US miles.

The difference's between todays flight and Commander Alan B Sheppard's flight are not so great as might be imagined and it bears consideration that the power required to lift a small payload into space in 1961 is still the same as it is today.

Burt Rutan's success today is an admirable first step on a long and exciting journey, but it is not going to be a journey that replaces the technology we have to lift heavy payloads into space today.
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Cube Jockey
post Jul 8 2004, 09:37 PM
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Just a bit of a news update on SpaceshipOne, it appears they are ready to compete for the X-Prize.

QUOTE
X Prize contender Burt Rutan says his team has solved a control problem that threw its spacecraft off course during a historic flight last month and that the next time the ship flies it will be to capture the $10 million space jackpot.

Given the contest's requirement of 60 days' notice before a prize attempt -- and the lack of any notice so far -- the earliest Rutan or other teams could fly for the cash is now around Labor Day. The prize offer expires at the end of the year.
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kurisu
post Sep 21 2004, 06:02 PM
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I think it is important that there is continued investment in space-faring technology, because it's an excellent morale booster for the planet and goes some way to alleviate the constant focus on things like war and poverty. Everybody in the world is proud of Yuri Gagarin, Neil Armstrong, and everybody who made their voyages possible. There's very little in this world that you could say the same of.

And although the focus of space travel is now mainly on voyages to the moon an Mars (and beyond), the importance of journeys a little closer to home should not be underestimated - most likely this post will travel via a satellite at some point from client to server, as does many a television programme and news report. A fair few cars these days are fitted with satellite navigation - this just wouldn't have happened without the space programme.

It may sound a bit Star Trek, but my personal vision for space travel is the concept of maglev space elevators. The most hazardous part of any space journey is re-entry, and lift-off is no walk in the park either. Space elevators would allow us to bypass these steps, and while the initial venture would come at massive cost, all future space travel would be cheaper and much less hazardous. The only thing stopping us from disposing of nuclear waste in the sun at the moment is the danger involved in liftoff - an instant killer app. I know it sounds fanciful, but I think it's the kind of vision we need these days; one that goes beyond mere profit gathering.
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post Sep 29 2004, 05:52 PM
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I think I'll beat CJ to it this time. Looks like SpaceShipOne has completed the first of two flights for the X Prize $10 million purse though it wasn't without problems. The goal is to reach at least 100km twice within a two week interval with a reusable space craft and with private financing. This is way cool. Already another purse has been annouced for $50 million for the first privately financed team to reach orbit. The owner of Virgin Atlantic has created a new company called "Virgin Galactic" partnered with Scaled Composites (SpaceShipOne folks) to start suborbital tourist flights by 2006.
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