SpaceShipTwelve, Government Zero!

“When a place gets crowded enough to require ID’s, social collapse is not far away. It is time to go elsewhere. The best thing about space travel is that it made it possible to go elsewhere.” –Robert A. Heinlein

The free market race for space is heating up. People being able to explore “the final frontier” on private spacecraft is clearly the most encouraging development for those in the freedom movement who have a sense of imagination. While SpaceShipOne was certainly exciting, the better news is now they have a lot of competition. From the AP:

Two years after the first privately financed space flight jump-started a sleepy industry, more than a dozen companies are developing rocket planes to ferry ordinary rich people out of the atmosphere.

Several private companies will begin building their prototype vehicles this summer with plans to test fly them as early as next year. If all goes well, the first tourist could hitch a galactic joy ride late next year or 2008 – pending approval by federal regulators.

Unlike the Cold War space race between the United States and Soviet Union that sent satellites into orbit and astronauts to the moon, this competition is bankrolled by entrepreneurs whose competition could one day make a blast into space cheap enough for the average Joe.

“This time, it’s personal. This space race is about getting ‘us’ into space,” said space historian Andrew Chaikin.

Of course it’s expensive — at the moment. Right now, we’re developing aerospace equivalents of the Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren, Porsche Carrera GT, Rolls-Royce Phantom, Lamborghini Murciélago, Aston Martin Vanquish and the Ferrari 612 Scaglietti. From this technology I’d expect to see the Fords and Chevys, as well as the Saturns, Hondas, Hyundais and Kias, rolling off assembly lines as the technological kinks get worked out followed by streamlining the manufacturing process. One additional advantage of the aerospace industry is they can supersize those cost-effective subcompacts to DC-10 or 747 size (or larger) vehicles.

Unfortunately, the government’s still in the mix:

Before tourists can lift off, several federal hurdles must be cleared. Federal regulations that will govern human space travel and spell out safety and training requirements are expected to be wrapped up this summer.

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta last month told a gathering of space entrepreneurs that the government would move swiftly to grant space travel licenses to companies that can prove they can operate safely.

That’s good news for people like Chaikin, the space historian.

“I’ve been hoping and dreaming all my life to go into space. Now I actually have a shot of doing it.”

We won’t be truly free until we have privately funded totally space-based operations located out of the reach of every terrestrial government. It’s truly a shame that Heinlein didn’t live long enough to see this day, but many of us may see the day when his dreams begin to become a reality.

7 Comments
  1. How long before the Almighty FedGov puts an offical slap-down on private space travel, citing “terrorist threats” and other bugaboos, in a vain attempt to curtail competition for NASA?

  2. Kinetic energy, dudes! Anything that can fly into space and get back is going to have the potential to cause a lot of damage. Apply 1/2 m v**2 to a reasonable sized vehicle. Compare that number to the value of bombs. This is pretty interesting at escape velocity of 25,000 miles/hour.*
    Robert Heinlein did this in “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.” A hefty rock tossed from the moon is the equivalent of a nuke.

    Expect people to continue to vote for preemptive safety oversight — just like they do for nuclear power plants.

    *Such calculations get REALLY interesting as you approach light speed, even if you ignore relativity. Using Newtonian physics, a human body travelling at light speed has the kinetic energy equivalent to a lump of anti-matter of half the mass of said body. Who needs a Death Star? Just ram you near lightspeed spacecraft into the planet and really bad things happen.

  3. Ah yes, nothing like government to make sure everything works properly.

    When I was a little kid in the old USSR, I’ll tell you what, we never EVER had safety problems. Our workers had zero industrial accidents and there was virtually no pollution to speak of.

    Unlike those evil capitalist pig bosses in the west who didn’t care about workers or the environment, only their fat lazy greedy selves.

  4. I loved your little libertarian adolescent fantasy…perhaps from watching Startrek re-runs all day long. Yes, dearie. And capitalism always gives us freedom,….duh, except the fastest growing capitalist countries are communist and totalitarian. Grow up, and get acquainted with the real world. Uh, America isn’t capitalist, it welfare for capitalists, and the rest of us have to subsidize it. Grow up, and get acquainted with the real world.

  5. And capitalism always gives us freedom,….duh, except the fastest growing capitalist countries are communist and totalitarian.

    You can’t have capitalism and communism at the same time, they are both economic systems.

  6. Joe — I don’t use the word capitalist when describing libertarian economic solutions. I prefer to break economic systems into three general categories: free market, fascist, and socialist.

    Most libertarians opt for a true free market system, which is in opposition to corporate welfare.