Re: SPACE: Beyond Apollo

From: Technotranscendence (
Date: Mon Apr 03 2000 - 23:04:09 MDT

Sunday, April 02, 2000 5:53 PM Greg Burch wrote:
> You're right, Daniel, that people in general lost interest in visionary
> technological programs and, for years I thought that was the only reason
> "the space program" ran aground in the 1970s. But I've come to a
> conclusion now. The truth is that space didn't pay and with 20th century
> technology it never could. I've yet to see a good economic justification
> the kind of truly massive public spending required to do anything outside
> LEO with that kind of technology and, believe me, I WANT to see such a

Not completely true. Space access would have been cheaper under a free
market regime from the start. Recall where Goddard got his funding from.

But be that as it may, the problem is not that space access is expensive,
but that the governments subsidize space programs to begin with. This made
private launches untenable. Surely, government programs cost more, BUT the
whole cost is not passed on to Hughes or other users of government launch
vehicles. Instead, the taxpayer funds that.

> I'm no rocket scientist (but I play one when I take people down to MSC for
> tour), but I think simply reproducing the Saturn V would get you nowhere
> fast. It was designed on the premise of non-reusability and LOTS of
> money. I think you agree that that design philosophy is NOT the way to

The main point is: it's a proven technology. Ergo, you don't have to spend
lots on R&D to come up with your super special design. A secondary point
is: reusability does NOT guarantee efficiency. The American Space Shuttle
is proof that reusable vehicles can cost more to fly and maintain. Remember
also, if you're making a disposable launch vehicle, then you need not worry
about a lot of maintenance problems.

> Daniel, if you're going to ask Earth to support an extraterrestrial
> I think you have to come up with an economic rationale. I'm waiting . . .

I don't mean that at all. What I mean is that the Biosphere concept has got
to be put into the context of merely one plan to colonize and exploit space.
I would rather look for a way to get the resources that will be spent in
other ways, such as, e.g. (and this is just an example; I'm trying to break
people out of the Biosphere idea), oxygen from Moon rocks, than worry about
a delicate ecosystem recycling my oxygen.

As for economic rationales, there are plenty. Power from orbiting
satellites is an oldie. Manufactured goods from space is another. Moving
pollution creating industries to space is another. Moving dangerous biotech
and nanotech research off the Earth. Tourism. Etc.


Daniel Ust

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