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Monday, May 01, 2006

SPACE ADVENTURES - Letter Unpublished anywhere

A thousand years from now what is seen as the most important undertaking of our time will probably be something which has had almost no coverage in the world's media.

Space Adventures has moved to Singapore.

Space Adventures & Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic are the 2 biggest free enterprise space rocket builders. The fact that there are 2 real contenders makes the venture much more secure than if there were only one. An even greater worry has been that the US government might introduce environmental & suchlike regulations which would make the business effectively impossible. The fact that NASA is, understandably, unsympathetic to an organisation which is doing things they could, or would, not on less than 1% of their budget did not make things easier. Singapore's enthusiasm for new technology is legendary (that is how they got from being a 3rd world country to a world leader in the time it took NASA to go from being able to land on the Moon to not having a working shuttle) so we can be sure they will support it. The CEO of Space Adventures has said that there is "no shortage" of people willing to shell out £20 million for a suborbital flight. Any company with a product for which there is effectively unlimited demand can be expected to grow fast.

Between 1957 & 1969 humanity went from never having sent anything beyond Earth's atmosphere to putting men on the Moon. It is true that in the subsequent 37 years we have partly reversed the process but if space development is now commercially feasible development could be astonishingly swift. We are on the verge of a human development that will make Columbus look small.

The development of the upcoming free enterprise spacecraft was kick-started by a $10 million prize put up for the first such successful flight. the idea was taken from the prize Lindbergh won for crossing the Atlantic which kick-started commercial transatlantic air flight. I have no doubt some forward thinking government somewhere will put up similar prizes in future. After all while the route is clear only the very first steps have been taken. Perhaps one of the forward thinking governments will be ours. Any bets?
Yours Faithfully
Neil Craig

PS this is partly inspired by a piece by Dr Madsen Pirie on the Adam Smith Institute website today (you will have to go to the archive for 17th April)

PPS 4 years ago I proposed to the Liberal Democrats, of which I was then a member, that we debate putting forward a very small long term x-prize but they were not interested in talking about it. - see Dec 20th entry.
I am sorry this didn't get used. I had just recently had letters in the Scotsman & Herald so I can't blame them & may well cannibalise it for future use. The fact that the relatively respectable ASI are writing about this is a very good straw in the wind. Space travel may be the most important human activity since Man left Africa.

Space Adventures site

Original article the ASI piece was based on

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