Re: SPACE: Beyond Apollo

From: Technotranscendence (
Date: Mon Apr 17 2000 - 01:54:39 MDT

On Saturday, April 15, 2000 7:14 AM Robert Bradbury
[Greg wrote:]
> > > But I've come to a different 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 for the kind of truly massive
> > > public spending required to do anything outside of LEO with that
> > > kind of technology and, believe me, I WANT to see such a thing.
> Greg, it has "relatively" little to do with the technology and a lot
> to do with the volumes. I think there is a chapter in the Starflight
> Handbook that deals with the fact that you have to have a *lot* of
> people who want to go into space to make it work. The legacy that
> Iridium may leave behind is the fact that is created a volume launch
> requirement that may have permanently lowered the cost of getting
> things into space. Rockets don't have to be terribly more expensive
> than airplanes, they have to fly with airplane frequency however to
> distribute the development and infrastructure costs over enough
> seat miles to make such trips affordable.

But, as I've said elsewhere, a lot of the R&D stuff has already been done.
The infrastructure is not that expensive either. Some items are one time
investments, such as land for launch facilities.

> > LEO is a start. (Actually GEO appears to be where a lot of money is for
> > commercial satelites.) I think if the government space programs were
> > down and private launch companies used exclusively, we'd see a lot of
> > in LEO leading to action higher up. My guess would also be that this
> > build a true infrastructure for space colonization, rather than the
> > one NASA has built, abandoned, and rebuilt.
> I have my doubts. Tourism is the only application I could see that
> would demand volumes that would bring ticket prices down $100K-1K range.
> After you have your weather satellites, your multi-spectral imaging
> satellites, your TV satellites and some comm satellites (rapidly being
> displaced by fiber), *what* good is space? It doesn't have any resources
> that humans, as currently engineered, really need that can not be obtained
> for much less on the ground.

If the costs come down, there will be a market. Heck, scientists want to do
experiments up there.

> Now if you want to get creative, go for tele-operated no-holds barred
> robo-wars on the moon. Get Sony to adapt that little doggie into a
> robo-space-pit-bull and you would have dozens of teenagers saving
> their pennies just to buy one and enter the games.

Not a bad idea.:)

> > I DISAGREE! The problem is not reusable vs. non-reusable. The fact
> > people think in those terms only shows how much this locks up the space
> > mindset. Reusable rockets, like the Shuttle, have actually increased
> > costs, according to David P. Gump in his _Space Enterprise: Beyond
> It depends how you do the accounting. Reusable only decreases costs
> if the machines are reused as airplanes are, i.e. at high frequency.
> If the complexity or safety requirements prevent rapid turnaround
> times, then reusable is more expensive.
> If you take the 1975 quoted cost of Apollo ($39 billion) and divide
> it by some ~18(?) launches, that works out to something like $2 billion
> per launch. That is still a lot more than $400 million (in Y2K $)
> that a shuttle launch costs where you are putting up ~2x as many people.
> (Of course the shuttle can't get you to the moon, so there is some
> balancing that needs to be done.)

That's only if you figure in the R&D costs. We don't need to redo that with
Saturn V. And the Shuttle costs, without R&D, about $250 million per
flight. I bet we could build a throw away Saturn V for one tenth that.

> > > Daniel, if you're going to ask Earth to support an extraterrestrial
> > > economy, I think you have to come up with an economic rationale.
> > > I'm waiting . . .
> >
> > I'm not thinking that way, but I thought I answered this elsewhere.
> As I recall, Daniel, those arguments seemed *thin* to me. For example,
> you argue for space power with no comparative analysis of what a similar
> investment in agricultural and/or electrical or transporation industries
> would produce in terms of greater efficiencies that would eliminate
> the need for greater power resources. As I've argued in other letters,
> we are a *very* long way from the theoretical efficiency limits of
> our current ecology. [For example, even a few $10's of millions put
> into reversible logic designs would result in PC's in 10 years that
> consumed much less power than those currently becoming ubiquitous
> and consuming an ever increasing percentage of electricity produced.]

I've argued for other things too. My main point, though, is that we can
access space now for a lot less that it is being done. By "a lot less" I
mean by an order or two of magnitude less. Does anyone actually think NASA
is operating a peak efficiently here? Or even close?

If they do, then why don't we get NASA to design an OS and market it.:)
Maybe they can beat Microsoft and all the Linux makers combined.:)

Daniel Ust

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