March 30, 2005
Space Opera, Here We Come?
In science fiction novels, there is often a company that becomes fabulously wealthy--almost a government in itself--profiting from the commercialization of space. In the real world, this has been slow to happen, with space flight the exorbitantly expensive province of the U. S. and Russian governments for almost half a century. Now
(1) many governments are realizing the value of a presence in space and are launching space programs, and
(2) at last, private companies are wading into the fray, seeking to cut launch costs to affordable levels.
Tonight's Science-News feature articles deal with
(1) NASA's new offers of specific annual prizes for specific accomplishments, and
(2) the LiftPort Group is proposing to build upon practical, near-term terrestrial applications for space elevator technology as a stepping stone to the future. I
I'm hoping that this really is the beginning of the exploration and exploitation of space by the masses. Will venture capital be thrown at this?
Note that the low-cost launching of cargo is the most important link in this chain. Most of the mass that we need to put into space is inanimate equipment and supplies, and with cargo, we don't need to be as concerned about safety, acceleration, pressurization, etc., as we do with the relatively light human passengers. Freight launch into orbit should be our major focus.