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Friday, August 22, 2008


An email from me, in response to his reduction of the size of prize needed, which Jerry Pournelle put in his blog:

If we can have orbit for $1 billion-$750 million then there are folk other than the US government able to put that up. Assuming a target range of about 4 years that means setting aside $200 million a year. which compares pretty favourably with an awful lot of public projects.

It would certainly be well within the resources of California or Texas. If Arnie is constitutionally debarred from becoming President, having funded the orbital X-Prize would be a pretty good epitaph, in fact an epitaph better than many presidents have.

Alternately could it go to popular vote as a citizen's initiative?

A variant on that would be for California to guarantee to match, $ for $ any donations to a California Orbital X-Prize up to $1 billion. That only costs the state $125M a year. There are quite a few local billionaires & indeed lesser mortals who could contribute to that.

Texas isn't short of billionaires either.

Or, just as states have negotiated water sharing treaties a number of them could get together to share a prize with money put in proportionately to GNP (with perhaps a slight loading for states nearer the equator). A foundation for the Confederate Space Force (probably not its official name) would appeal to some states & should end up costing less than $20m per state per year. This is 70 times the salary of Mrs Obama, a diversity inspector for the Chicago health service. I suspect New Mexico would then consider itself eligible to be in the Confederacy,

I think there is a high chance that some state outside the USA might put up such a prize. $200M is less than 0.1% of GNP to countries down to the size of Denmark or Singapore. Singapore, having already become the home of Space Adventures, being generally innovative & being almost exactly on the equator looks like a very likely candidate.

Again running it as a purely commercial treaty between nations would, I think, be feasible so long as it is kept simple.

As long as we had a good enforceable legal definition of what is a Californian or Texan or Singaporean company, or how the mixtures work without hiving off much of the work to states outside the agreement.

I suspect most economists would calculate that the extent to which such a prize would get brains to move to the states organising it would make it financially viable even if getting into space wasn't going to make money. This applies to having world class museums, opera, baseball teams, "iconic" architecture, etc. in the neighbourhood & should work the same way, or better, for engineers.

If it was done as an international commercial treaty I know somebody who should, if he wished, be able to persuade the Scottish government to chip in 5%.

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