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Monday, October 08, 2007


I had the following letter published in last Thursday's Guardian (4th Oct anniversary of Sputnik & also in the Metro. It went out to most of the national newspapers though only these 2 somewhat different papers used it. However since it got the prime place (top lefthand corner) in the Guardian I am rather pleased - this is the first time i have appeared in that paper - perhaps they aren't keen on letters on economic success, the need for nuclear or indeed the undesireability of our genocidal Nazi allies. Since the Guardian is the paper of choice of our ruling bureaucrats & the Metro is a free paper distributed on trains 7 buses in Glasgow I doubt if there is much crossover though the Metro probably has the higher readership.


Today (4th Oct) is the 50th anniversary of Sputnik, the first time human beings put anything into space orbit. 12 years later men walked on the Moon.

A comparison with aircraft, where 50 years after the first flight we had achieved twice the speed of sound & passenger jet airlines were in service, is instructive. Today NASA promises to be able to return to the Moon in 13 years, & has been promising this or more for 30 years. The problem is not so much a shortage of money but of how it is used. NASA with a budget of £8 billion has been described as a jobs creation programme for bureaucrats & the southern states which occasionally does some stuff in space. By comparison with Europe, whose combined budget is £5 billiion & has not yet allowed them to launch a human they look positively animated. Russia, on the other hand, with a budget of £650 million actually has a greater launch capacity than even the US. Britain's budget of £210 million, largely given to ESA, is aimed fairly openly not at going anywhere but at ensuring a share of ESA contracts.

The good news is that a $10 million "X-Prize" awarded for the first independent launch has virtually created Virgin Galactic & the space tourism industry - that is what NASA spends every 5 1/2 hours or Europe in 10. Experts have said that an X-Prize of only £1 billion would produce a shuttle capable of at least weekly launches. This is what Britain already spends on space every 5 years. By comparison with what we spend on wars or windmills this is chickenfed (& as for what we spend on farm subsidies)!. With even a little vision humanity could get back on that 50 year track that aircraft builders pioneered.
Yours Faithfully
Neil Craig
Various space budgets
UK budget of £210 million could be achieved by X-Prizes

Absolutely right. Although I respect the past achievements of NASA, ESA and the former Soviet space programmes, it's the private sector which will eventually open up the space frontier. Small to medium sized business will have more flexibility (and imagination) and no money to waste on paper studies. Have you heard about the new Lunar X Prize?
Thanks - I hadn't actually seen it:

"The Google Lunar X PRIZE is the largest prize the X PRIZE Foundation has ever offered; and is in fact the largest international incentive prize in history (even if you convert old prizes like the Longitude Prize or the Orteig Prize to present value). $30 million in total prizes await private teams that can land robots on the surface of the Moon and explore the lunar surface by traveling at least 500 meters (about a third of a mile) and sending back lots of high definition video and still imagery. The contest is open to any team—young or old, large or small, aerospace engineers or anything else—from anywhere in the world, so long as they are at least 90% privately funded."

Once again, by the standards of NASA the money is chickenfeed. It is not that dissimilar to the proposal I made to the Scottish LibDems to put£20 million for a Scots company soft landing on an asteroid. This caused considerable amusement among the dinosaurs running the party.
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