“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.:
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 MurciÃƒÂ©lago, 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.