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FAA Setting Up Commercial Spaceflight Center

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the to-the-moon-with-you dept.

Space 113

coondoggie writes "The FAA this week took a step closer to setting up a central hub for the development of key commercial space transportation technologies such as space launch and traffic management applications and setting orbital safety standards. The hub, known as the Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation, would have a $1 million yearly budget and tie together universities, industry players, and the government for cost-sharing research and development. The FAA expects the center to be up and running this year."

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113 comments

The Hub? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32024648)

Hello, my name is Fez.

Obligatory toilet humor (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32024660)

Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation = CECST = SEXED

Re:Obligatory toilet humor (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32025438)

Phew! Good thing you posted that as AC. The results on your karma could have been disastrous.

1 miilion?? (4, Insightful)

spiffmastercow (1001386) | more than 3 years ago | (#32024720)

Do you know how far 1 million dollars goes in a government project? They won't even have a building for 30 years at that rate.

Re:1 miilion?? (3, Insightful)

pspahn (1175617) | more than 3 years ago | (#32024916)

They had to get their paws on a new industry ahead of time. Think of it like Microsoft buying WebTV back in '97. Well, except I suppose that nobody actually ever used WebTV.

Re:1 miilion?? (3, Insightful)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 3 years ago | (#32024942)

A rather apt analogy, actually.

Re:1 miilion?? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32025264)

No, the proper syntax is:

apt-get install analogy

Re:1 miilion?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32025412)

correction:

sudo apt-get install analogy

Re:1 miilion?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32026226)

What if I always run as root? (You insensitive clout)

Re:1 miilion?? (1)

Wolvenhaven (1521217) | more than 3 years ago | (#32025294)

WebTV is unfortunately still around, their users like to join IRC networks and act like uniform asshats and idiots. They jump in the room, ask a/s/l and then proceed to attempt to insult and curse everyone in the room. It is very similar to the way AOL users used to act. A normal WebTV user's comment will be something along the lines of "53/m/ny, lking 4 strt bi cyber, whisper me" and when told to go away they will use their stunningly high IQ of 80 to mock the person. They are a cancer of the internet and unfortunately aren't going away anytime soon, hell they now offer broadband for webtv users, which is really pathetic considering it's a non-storable single task version of windowsME.

Re:1 miilion?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32026218)

Sounds like a normal slashdot poster except it would be from some 3 year old myth tv hack built with mom's old 486 PC in the basement. Don't forget the the 1 TB or porn collected on the machine...

Re:1 miilion?? (1)

Seakip18 (1106315) | more than 3 years ago | (#32025122)

True story:

When Florida's new accounting software project, http://www.docstoc.com/docs/18152104/Auditing-Large-and-Complex-IT-Projects/ [docstoc.com](slide 26) Aspire, failed due to an ungodly amount of incompetence, it cost the state $89 million.

This includes the nearly $10 million already paid out, plus the unknown amount of money in lost productivity of the various agencies, etc. who paid folks to attend meetings, plan stuff, gather requirements.

So $89 Million could easily have actually been $100 Million+.

And they think $1 million will get them far into space?

Re:1 miilion?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32035966)

Sure it will...at least to the nearest black hole.

Re:1 miilion?? (4, Interesting)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 3 years ago | (#32025196)

Maybe, but they had already slated Edwards AFB to be the American spaceport for commercial ventures. There's no mention of Edwards in the article nor the associated pages, so this may be yet another great waste of time, where one department didn't realize that they had set aside resources towards their goal already.

    Edwards has been the defacto second space center in the US, with many space shuttle landings there. White Sands is a third US landing site, but from what I understand the dust made the shuttle rather messy.

    There were a whole bunch of other emergency landing sites too [globalsecurity.org].

    Ya, $1 million won't buy enough land and the first construction trailer, much less a spaceport. $1 billion would be a good start, but that isn't even enough. It sounds like they're hoping to get other companies and universities to foot the bill. Good luck with that.

Re:1 miilion?? (1)

reub2000 (705806) | more than 3 years ago | (#32025346)

And that is a bad thing? When I read "setting orbital safety standards" in the summary, I was thinking that was the end of private spaceflight.

Re:1 miilion?? (1)

slick7 (1703596) | more than 3 years ago | (#32026188)

And that is a bad thing? When I read "setting orbital safety standards" in the summary, I was thinking that was the end of private spaceflight.

Another reason to clean up the orbital spaceways. Lots and lots of money in doing so.

Re:1 miilion?? (1)

Bodhammer (559311) | more than 3 years ago | (#32026234)

No, it is taxpayer dollars and a government government program. They are talking about orbiting Uranus and preparing to land...

Re:1 miilion?? (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#32026832)

Well you have to put your pinky up to your lips when demanding it. Then, of course your assistant will discretely inform you about diminished value of the dollar.... You know the rest of the story. It did result in a launch though. I guess that means it was successful.

Re:1 miilion?? (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 3 years ago | (#32029216)

This budget is probably to hire someone to coordinate the goodwill and efforts of people who are already funded by other means. 1 million means a 5-10 people team to do the work that no partner wants to do. That is not nothing. This is not the main gear, this is the grease that will make them turn. And sometimes, a big multi-billion project fails exactly for the lack of these small drops of grease.

Re:1 miilion?? (1)

DadLeopard (1290796) | more than 3 years ago | (#32032578)

From reading the Article I got the idea this was going to be another Federally mandated not for profit organization on the lines of http://www.itsa.org/ [itsa.org] ! They get a lot of their funding from the dues that members pay to have access to all the info they collect! Basically a clearing house for all the technical info for Space like ITSA is for highways!

The Amazing Future of Travel and Energy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32024726)

Floating sky cities, New York to Beijing in minutes, Earth to Mars in hours. That's the future of energy and transportation. Soon we'll have vehicles that can travel at tremendous speeds, negotiate right angle turns without slowing down and without incurring any damage due to inertial effects. A new analysis of the causality of motion reveals that Aristotle was right to insist that motion is caused. As a result, we are immersed in an immense lattice of energetic particles. Lots and lots of clean energy. Read Physics: The Problem with Motion [blogspot.com] if you're interested in the future of travel and energy production. Welcome to the 21st century.

The Amazing Future of Ignorance (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32025572)

Where not understanding energy means you can spout off whatever you like about it! Where philosophical aesthetics trumps empirical observation! It's a wonderland where any thing is possible, as long as it remains but a possibility!

$1 Million? Wha? (4, Insightful)

johnthorensen (539527) | more than 3 years ago | (#32024740)

$1 Million dollar budget? It's a nice gesture, but it seems pretty small for the responsibilities they're claiming this center to have. Seems more like a 'token' gesture made to *look* like they're doing something than taking real action to make things happen. That said, I'd rather see them save that money and get out of the way altogether...

Re:$1 Million? Wha? (2, Insightful)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 3 years ago | (#32025290)

$1 Million dollar budget? It's a nice gesture, but it seems pretty small for the responsibilities they're claiming this center to have. Seems more like a 'token' gesture made to *look* like they're doing something than taking real action to make things happen.

Sounds like someone's nephew needed a job that didn't require him to actually do much other than pick up his paycheck.

$1 million will about cover office space & equipment and salaries for someone's nephew, his secretary, and the office manager for the two of them....

Re:$1 Million? Wha? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32025518)

They're just being efficient. One million dollars pays for exactly one CEO with nothing left over, but we all know that a CEO is a superhuman worker who can do hundreds of times what a normal worker can do, why else would they be paid so much? So this is really a cheap way of having an office staffed with hundreds without the hundreds.

Re:$1 Million? Wha? (1)

usul294 (1163169) | more than 3 years ago | (#32025994)

$1 million is probably enough to handle 6 or so people working in an office. If they are there to facilitate the cross-pollination of ideas, writing and maintaining a couple hundred page piece of FAA regulations, and another document to explain how to manage the airspace involved, that's probably the right amount of money to get started.

Re:$1 Million? Wha? (1)

warGod3 (198094) | more than 3 years ago | (#32028108)

Let's see... it looks like they will use an existing structure, probably part of either NASA's donation or a universities. Researchers will probably be from universities and NASA working on some kind of team with someone from the FAA either overseeing the whole operation or having significant input.

Here is one part I just wonder about -

3.3 CRITERION 3: THE ABILITY OF THE APPLICANT TO PROVIDE
LEADERSHIP IN MAKING NATIONAL AND REGIONAL CONTRIBUTIONS TO
THE SOLUTION OF LONG-RANGE AND IMMEDIATE AIR TRANSPORTATION
PROBLEMS.
The applicant must demonstrate the following:
  Significant experience with industry and/or government agencies related to
commercial space transportation. A proposed plan might include the establishment of
an advisory board comprised of leaders in the field and written commitments from
their organizations to be actively engaged in the COE.
  High standing within the national and international arena of commercial space
transportation research as evidenced by presentations at national and international
conferences, publications in popular and peer-reviewed periodicals, etc.
  Evidence of ability to obtain matching funds and potential sources, i.e. letters of
commitment.
  If the applicant proposes as a member of a team of universities, it must provide a
comprehensive strategic management plan. This plan should articulate proposed
management and oversight of fiscal and technical activities, and detail how the
universities will coordinate research efforts, how research teams will be selected and
evaluated, and how the costs of administering the Center will be apportioned and
funded.

Do they plan on having Virgin-whatever help them out?

CECST (2, Funny)

mmmmbeer (107215) | more than 3 years ago | (#32024790)

Won't that be pronounced "Sext"?

Re:CECST (1)

slick7 (1703596) | more than 3 years ago | (#32026022)

Won't that be pronounced "Sext"?

It seems to me, it should be pronounced "punked"
First it's announced that the shuttle is retiring. Then it's announced, "commercial spaceport".
The same people involved in the shuttle (and support systems) are now involved in the commercial aspects.
Sure doesn't sound like Virgin Galactic to me. What is replacing the shuttle? When will it be operational?
1 million $ buys how many politicians? Who's doing the investment portfolio, Goldman-Sachs?
This really sounds bogus. When this too fails, will the taxpayers be suckered into bailing this out also?

Re:CECST (1)

urusan (1755332) | more than 3 years ago | (#32026216)

An alternative is to pronounce it "cest" like in "incest".

Re:CECST (1)

D Ninja (825055) | more than 3 years ago | (#32026368)

This is how I hear the meetings at various conference happening now:

Defense Contractor: "Why hello! My name is John and I work for Big Defense Contractor. Who might you be?"
CECST Employee: "My name is Mike."
Defense Contractor: "Sorry, Mike, I didn't catch where you work..."
CECST Employee: "In CECST"

Re:CECST (1)

halcyon1234 (834388) | more than 3 years ago | (#32028548)

I see it pronounced as "SezST". As in:

"Thank you for flying US Space. We'll be making our landing incest in two and a half minutes..."

We get the warhead and hold the world ransom for (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32024818)

One million dollars! *Pinky to mouth*

From what I understand... (4, Interesting)

MZeora (1707054) | more than 3 years ago | (#32024852)

I understood it as using 1M to gather up groups (unis and such) to gather together and use the joint gathered funding to build the place and get it running.
So yeah, 1M to gather groups together to work on it MIGHT maybe. Get 2 Big Unis with some clout. Or 4 or 5 smaller Unis together to help. But still 1M in comparison to the Ivy League Schools that might actually have some powers to make it happens to mean little to nothing.

Re:From what I understand... (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 3 years ago | (#32025652)

I understood it as using 1M to gather up groups (unis and such) to gather together and use the joint gathered funding to build the place and get it running.

Pretty much the impression I had, though I ask "build what place"? From what they describe in the article, they can just rent some office space, or set up a few "temporary" office trailers around existing FAA offices if they don't have room. It sounds like gathering the research groups together is most of all the actual work they'll be doing, acting as a central hub for information, not a place where actual research is done. They'll also be discussing safety procedures and regulations with these groups and will ultimately decide what is licensed to launch or not, but the FAA already does that. Setting up a dedicated office for approving private space travel may, in one of those perverse turns of events in government, actually streamline things.

What the US Federal government gets for $1M/yr (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 3 years ago | (#32026572)

A web page with a form. One poor nerd to sit in a dimly lit cubicle feebly attempting to respond to the 35,000 submitted forms per day, the IT infrastructure to support him (an exchange cluster, an AD + file&print server and bandwidth, a leased pair of IIS servers backed by a two-node MS-SQL Server server cluster). A filing cabinet he steals office supplies from every day.

A "consultant" in Bangalore that sets up said single web page ready to exploit with various viruses.

It does not even begin to pay for serving the inevitable FOIA requests submitted the nerds who thought their submitted forms might actually reach someone useful and irate they've received no response.

All that, and some mentions in the press for "trying" to preserve US manned spaceflight when we all know it's over. What a deal.

This is how the world ends... (1)

stevegee58 (1179505) | more than 3 years ago | (#32024862)

...Not with a bang
but a whimper.

Well! (4, Funny)

Un pobre guey (593801) | more than 3 years ago | (#32024870)

Yep, gotta handle all that space traffic. Yessiree Bob! No more waiting in line, no more congestion in the TSA security line, no more risk of getting bumped off your spaceflight. Yeah, times have changed, what with all the commercial space flight going on.

FAA? DONOTWANT (1)

sohp (22984) | more than 3 years ago | (#32025200)

Honestly, and I'm certainly no libertarian, I don't want the FAA to have anything to do with space or commercial space travel AT ALL. OK, they do manage to keep the air travel in the US somewhat stable, but really they move so slowly and are so co-opted by they airlines they are supposed to regulate. Just ask anyone involved with trying to get the FAA to implement Direct and other flight path changes to improve on-time performance and fuel usage. Or anyone who has ever worked on any project to upgrade air traffic control computer systems.

Re:FAA? DONOTWANT (4, Insightful)

selven (1556643) | more than 3 years ago | (#32025360)

I, for my part, am a libertarian, but that is a little extreme. The FAA should definitely have nothing to do with what goes on above 100km, but there are some aviation concerns that the FAA might need to handle. Things like discarded stages falling on people's heads, rockets crashing into (or at least spraying exhaust onto, or destabilizing the flight path of) planes flying through the rocket's launch trajectory and spacecraft landing (most designs involve making the craft into an airplane). There should be no regulations in space, but things going up and down are still passing through everyone else's airspace.

Re:FAA? DONOTWANT (1)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 3 years ago | (#32032216)

*facepalm*

I know you mean well and that's fine, but there is something you need to understand. All orbital spaceflights originating in the US have very strict requirements that a large portion of their initial launch trajectory ground traces over open ocean. This is done specifically so that you don't have rockets or fuel crashing down on your populace. Now, I don't know what kind of restrictions are being discussed by the FAA, but commercial launches already have to adhere to these guidelines (The Atlas V and Delta IV are commercial launches and do, often, launch purely commercial payloads). I am not sure exactly how involved the FAA is in these current regulations but I just figured you should know that many of the launch restrictions and regulations you are discussing are already largely in place in the US. Now as for other countries, that's a different story. China is particularly fond of dropping shit on their populace.

Re:FAA? DONOTWANT (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 3 years ago | (#32030572)

Too late. The FAA is already heavily involved with commercial space travel through the Office of Commercial Space Transportation [wikipedia.org]. They've been doing this since 1984 under the Reagan administration, although this particular commercial spaceflight office has jumped around between several different agencies before finally getting put under the head administrator of the FAA. The FAA-AST head reports directly to the chief administrator of the FAA, who in turn reports directly to the President. That is a rather short chain of command and not bad in terms of a federal program.

For myself, I sort of like having the FAA involved here as it sort of diffuses the authority over regulating what goes one in space into many more hands and keeps the authority over who actually runs operations in space as a committee reporting to many people who have different objectives and goals in mind. Ideally I would love to see a complete elimination of any government oversight on spaceflight as well, but if you have to have something to satisfy the statists who love to control all aspects of our lives, you could do much worse than the FAA running the show.

For a government agency, at the moment they are very small and lean, as well as fiercely protective of their turf (as most agencies are). More significantly, the FAA-AST (the AST because of historical roots for that acronym) looks after the commercial interests as their number one priority and have been known to move heaven and earth to get the other branches of the federal government to go along with some commercial spaceflight project.

The other alternative is to leave this to NASA and let NASA run commercial spaceflight activities.... something NASA has a truly abysmal record of supporting and indeed can be said that repeatedly NASA has been involved with explicitly killing off commercial spaceflight ventures in the past as they have been perceived as direct competition to NASA rather than something to cooperate with. Better yet, should this be something done via the military, such as having it become part of the Air Force or worse yet the National Reconnaissance Office? By treaty (signed by all of the current and near-term potential future space faring nations on the Earth) it is the responsibility of the national governments to regulate how their citizens get into space and the consequences of interactions with other vehicles that may happen in space or what happens when the stuff starts to come back down to the ground.

Again, if not the FAA, what branch of the federal government should be involved here?

Re:FAA? DONOTWANT (1)

MikeBabcock (65886) | more than 3 years ago | (#32030724)

How do you propose those space flights get to space? I'm betting its through civilian airspace.

The FAA should definitely have something to do with that.

There will never be commercial spaceflight (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32025276)

There are several problems in the way of this eternal fantasy:
1) There is nothing in space. Where would you go? In other words, once the novelty-seekers got their thrills, what's the motivation?
2) There is nothing in space. What would you eat, drink, breathe? In other words, this will be EXPENSIVE, extremely so.
3) ON this planet we can barely keep commercial AIRLINES going profitably. What is the profit motivator for space flight? Who's gonna go, with what money?
4) We can't even make supersonic air travel profitable on Earth, what makes you think we'll do space travel?

And the final nail in the coffin: energy. It takes a lot of it. And since I believe in reality and not Star Trek, it's all about the oil.

You want to see the curvature of the Earth? Make commerical "Man High" balloon flights like Kittinger did. It's a proven technology, much less energy intensive and will get you the same result as all the overly hyped and never heard from again sub-orbital private space flights.

Re:There will never be commercial spaceflight (4, Informative)

SteveFoerster (136027) | more than 3 years ago | (#32025356)

There is nothing in space. Where would you go? In other words, once the novelty-seekers got their thrills, what's the motivation?

Precious metals and other mineral resources [bbc.co.uk], for one.

Re:There will never be commercial spaceflight (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32025772)

So go get them Do it. Now. Show me, don't tell me.

1) We have all the metals and minerals we need right here on Earth. Short of atomic blasts, it didn't disappear. It is cheaper to recycle and reclaim right here on Earth instead of shipping up specially-built space-mining equipment at 12000$/pound.
2) The volume of space is enormous. The average density is about 1 atom per cubic centimeter. I repeat, there is nothing in space. The volume of the Earth is enormous. Everything you need is right under your feet, supplied with free gravity (so your body can keep working), air, water, and food. Which aren't free, but a hell of a sight cheaper than what you need in space.

So dig in the planet, my friend, it's all there. I know, a shovel is not as sexy as a rocket.

But since you seem to have all the answers, riddle me this
"ON this planet we can barely keep commercial AIRLINES going profitably. What is the profit motivator for space flight? Who's gonna go, with what money?"

I'll wait right here. On Earth.

Re:There will never be commercial spaceflight (1)

countertrolling (1585477) | more than 3 years ago | (#32026868)

Everything you need is right under your feet...

No joke.. We've dug...how deep? 5 miles? I'll be generous, 10 miles.. Cool we got 3,990 more to go.. approximately? Please, all you chicken littles... What are we gonna run out of next? Air? Oopsy daisy, you might have a point there. Meh, can't get that from space either... But there's plenty of that underground too actually..

Re:There will never be commercial spaceflight (1)

SteveFoerster (136027) | more than 3 years ago | (#32029420)

But since you seem to have all the answers, riddle me this

So you think I'm wrong about this throwaway comment I made about why people might have reason to go into space. Fair enough, and maybe you're right; I'm a layman in the hard sciences, definitely not a rocket scientist or a geologist. But why the hostility? Why can't the goal of the conversation be progress rather than victory?

Re:There will never be commercial spaceflight (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32031066)

Because no progress is possible in space. It is a dead end with our technology. Nothing more than dream fodder for overgrown children who ate a steady diet of sci-fi while growing up.

This Space Nuttery sucks up valuable brain power on Earth that could be used to bring real progress to the 7 billion or so people who live in reality-land.

Re:There will never be commercial spaceflight (1)

DadLeopard (1290796) | more than 3 years ago | (#32032780)

Have you ever come across the fact that one small asteroid has more iron in it than all the iron mined in the history of mankind? That the nickel mine in Sudbury is mining the remains of a meteorite? Another fact that slipped your mind is that it will be a lot cheaper to build something in space from materials already out of the earths gravity well than it would be to boost the same thing into orbit from earth! Though you are perfectly correct, if all we plan to do is sit here and wait for the next, Megavolcano, comet, asteroid strike or some other mega natural disaster to wipe us out!

Re:There will never be commercial spaceflight (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 3 years ago | (#32034222)

I don't think that the AC poster really has thought through his comment very well. Nice comment there about the role meteors have played in terms of mining.... which offers some excellent thoughts on the topic.

One of the problems with heavy metals is that most of them have sunk into the center of the Earth over time, and that it is only rare exceptions.... usually due to volcanism or meteor landfalls mentioned above.... that you find deposits of the heavier elements in even modest quantities. Going to an asteroid you don't have to worry about trying to dig down a couple of miles or more to get at the ore.... because going a couple of miles you have already shot past the center and are coming out the other side.

Also not mentioned..... there is a reason most mines only go at most a couple miles down: There is this pesky thing called "gravity" that we constantly have to fight here on the Earth. Trying to push up a couple miles of pure rock at 9.8 m/s^2 constant acceleration is an incredibly difficult task if you are trying to squeeze under that rock to get at a vein or ore body that happens to lay underneath that rock. The engineering requirements for keeping that rock suspended for at least the duration you are extracting the minerals is an incredible accomplishment that has spawned its own engineering discipline: mining engineering. If you have ever heard of some of the famous "A&M" schools around the country, notable a school like Texas A&M [tamu.edu], the "M" comes from the mining engineering school that was the very purpose for the establishment of the university (with biology programs related to agriculture being the other). I can point to a couple dozen universities across the USA that were established explicitly for this purpose. It isn't easy, and even today there are dozens of people in 1st world countries that die from mining accidents each year.... many more in developing countries like China where they die not by the dozens but by the hundreds or even thousands each year.

Another issue is that mining is an incredibly destructive process that causes incredible environmental damage, wiping out whole habitats and even ecological niches. One mine [mining-technology.com] that is close to my house grew to the point it took out a whole city and even an entire mountain in the quest to dig ever deeper down to obtain the ore. In this case, to avoid problems with the overburden of the rocks, the mine has simply moved the entire mountain down the road in an attempt to get at the minerals in the mine. Why not move this environmental damage to a place that has no "environment" to damage? Mining asteroids sounds pretty good to me on this issue too, where streams aren't filled with toxic metals or even entire climate zones are left alone. Heck, once a good asteroid has been hollowed out, it might just make a new environment that we could put stuff into to develop new environmental niches that until now have simply not existed.

Recycling is also never 100% effective as much as some people would have you think otherwise. You always need to have at least some input from raw sources to maintain any sort of supply of an element no matter how effective you have become at reusing the material.

Getting back to the AC poster above:

So dig in the planet, my friend, it's all there. I know, a shovel is not as sexy as a rocket.

No, it isn't all there, at least as easy as those would have you think. Easy spots to dig and extract ore from has pretty much disappeared from the Earth. On a rare occasion you might hear about another gold rush due to a mineral deposit in a generally previously unexplored area, but where exactly are the new frontiers for humanity right now? Oh, that is right, in space! As I tried to explain above, getting down to deeper and deeper pockets of minerals is an incredibly difficult task. Modern mines that operate on the scale of current production requirements now cost several billion just to get started. If you want to see the incredible lengths that some companies will go and the sacrifices that they will make just to obtain a mineral deposit on the Earth, this video about a mine in Indonesia [hulu.com] should show you and anybody else that there certainly would be companies with not only the cash but the personnel willing to make the journey into space in order to get easier access to a rich mineral deposit. Considering the difficulties in obtaining the minerals from this mining area, I think launching some diggers into space would have been as easy if not easier.

I'll ignore the airline comment for now, as the guy who made that comment was genuinely ignorant of capitalism and how people make profits.

Re:There will never be commercial spaceflight (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32034418)

"Easy spots to dig and extract ore from has pretty much disappeared from the Earth."

Not really. Dig deeper. And if yu think we can't do that, what makes you think we'll do it in space, where I repeat, there is nothing?

"I'll ignore the airline comment for now, as the guy who made that comment was genuinely ignorant of capitalism and how people make profits."

Right. So where is the commercial supersonic passenger transport on Earth? We can't even do that. What makes you think we'll do it in space?
*Regular* airlines are constantly going broke.

Oh, and gravity also keeps you and your tools where you put them... I really, honestly believe you Space Nutters are genuinely deluded, clinically.

Re:There will never be commercial spaceflight (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 3 years ago | (#32036510)

Dig deeper? Did you really read my post here? It is becoming increasingly more expensive and much more damaging to the environment to get much deeper. There certainly will reach a threshold that extracting minerals from space will be no just sort of cheaper but an order of magnitude cheaper than going down further. It sure isn't cheap to extract a pound of ore from a couple of kilometers underground, and takes a tremendous amount of capital to get that to happen. I've even heard that most mines expect it to take decades to recover the often billions of dollars that are spent on opening a mind before they finally break even from a fiscal standpoint.

Again, there is not "nothing" in space. I stand in my back yard and see a universe filled with stuff, of which I am standing in just one minor little corner.

Right. So where is the commercial supersonic passenger transport on Earth? We can't even do that. What makes you think we'll do it in space?
*Regular* airlines are constantly going broke.

Regular airlines are going broke because there is massive competition going on between them. They dare not raise fares because by doing so a competitor will undercut them. That still doesn't stop others, perhaps foolishly, from trying to start a new airline and trying to make a profit from this industry that the other airlines are going broke in.

Frankly, this isn't even a good argument at all, and certainly it can be shown that the commercial airlines are working with billions of dollars in revenue. Yes, I know that revenue is not the same as profits, but those airlines that figure out how to improve efficiency and are willing to offer customers those services which are requested at a reasonable price that those same customers are willing to pay for those services will make a profit... or they will go bankrupt like happens in any capitalistic society.

This is how capitalism works. The "too big to fail" argument simply falls flat for me and is something stupid as well, and a foolish place to throw government money to buy out those companies who fall flat on their face. I say let them fail, and let those who are smart to pick up the pieces afterward! It might be nice for a couple of major airlines to go bankrupt, as it might inspire a new round of entrepreneurial activity instead.

As for why there isn't supersonic passenger transport, there are a whole bunch of problems including how the government really screwed up the development of supersonic travel. Too much money was thrown at the problem back in the 1960's where it drove out private capital from even researching the problems involved in making that practical. It relied upon a monolithic solution that would work for everybody in exactly the same way.... just as all socialistic projects with government money end up. Rather than an incremental solution where minor problems could be tweaked and solutions found, the whole thing had to be built all at once and work correctly the first time it was tried. That is not a way to develop a technology, that is a way to kill off a technology.

BTW, I can name nearly a dozen different companies who have various levels of sub-orbital spaceflight projects capable of carrying passengers. Most of these are being built with private capital and are following an incremental approach to vehicles which will travel higher, faster, and carry more cargo or passengers safely. If you are really interested in supersonic transport, it is a sub-orbital vehicle that really is the solution, where you don't have to plow through all of that air to get to your destination. Hopefully the time will be quite soon when FedEx will start to promise that they can deliver a package to a spot yesterday with a 12 hour guaranteed delivery (for a premium price). I think that day is sooner than you think.

Re:There will never be commercial spaceflight (1)

lennier (44736) | more than 3 years ago | (#32026034)

Can you breathe aluminium? Or eat pure gold?

The scale of 'precious and valuable' changes a bit in space.

Yes, and I fart xenon! (1)

SteveFoerster (136027) | more than 3 years ago | (#32029296)

Okay, fine, no, I can't do those things, but that wasn't my point. My point was that the quantities of those things up there might make it commercially viable to invest the resources necessary to get personnel to near-Earth asteroids, or to orbit for processing.

Re:Yes, and I fart xenon! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32032128)

You have no concept of the scale of space or of the order of magnitude of the energy necessary to do any of those things. You also seem to forget that humans don't work well in space, or that space is indeed empty at any reasonable human scale.

You seem to have grown up on a steady diet of Star Wars, Star Trek and artist's impressions.

Time to grow up. Space Nuttery is deader than disco.

Re:Yes, and I fart xenon! (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 3 years ago | (#32034730)

You have no concept of the scale and energy needed to get things done in space either. The problem is really a fundamental factor of getting out of the basic gravity well that we call the Earth, as once you are in space life gets much, much easier. Sending up blueprints and data from the ground to space is trivial. Moving stuff around once you get into space is comparatively trivial. Seriously, do you know how much energy it takes to ship something from Austrialia to the UK? I would dare say that you can move a ton of freight from Mars to the Earth for a similar kind of energy in a roughly comparable time frame as well. I'm talking putting something from say Phobos to low-earth orbit in terms of energy costs.

The problem we are facing is really one like the chicken or egg question, when neither have been created yet. How do you make the initial leap to put the equipment into space and why build that stuff when there isn't a use for it yet? Once somebody makes the leap of the imagination and gets into space on a permanent basis, there will be a reason for others to follow and do likewise.

More importantly, who died to make you King of the Earth to dictate that nobody could head off into space on their own dime if that is where their heart wanted to go? This is a freedom issue too, where people should be allowed to follow whatever dreams they may have, no matter how nutty they may be. I would agree that spending tax money for such a foolish end might be argued, but that doesn't seem to be the argument here. This is more like sending a team of federal agents raiding would be rocket builders and making the construction of a space port much less building a rocket to be a felony instead. To me, that sounds even more nutty than trying to shut down those who would go into space and tell the people of the Earth to eff off.

Re:There will never be commercial spaceflight (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 3 years ago | (#32026736)

Well, hell, if you're going to go there... Entire moons made of hydrocarbons [wikipedia.org]. 1E68 times the solar energy that falls on the Earth each day. More water, oxygen and all of the other basic essentials of life than exist on the surface of the Earth, times a billion. Diamonds the size of eggs. Eggs the size of diamonds. More real estate than all the world. And perhaps, Life.

Once you leave Earth orbit, you've spent half of the energy necessary to reach the next star - Proxima Centauri is closer than a round trip to Cleveland.

We should want to go out there, not because of the stuff, but because it's new and we haven't been there yet. But if greed is what it takes: who owns the Asteroids owns the Earth.

Re:There will never be commercial spaceflight (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32028436)

Proxima Centauri is closer than a round trip to Cleveland.

You had me, then you lost me right there.

Re:There will never be commercial spaceflight (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 3 years ago | (#32034884)

Proxima Centauri is closer than a round trip to Cleveland.

You had me, then you lost me right there.

This is somebody who clearly doesn't get it. What is being said is that from a pure energy standpoint, sending a kilo of "stuff" into space; in other words like leaving the gravity of the Earth and in a position to go somewhere else like the Moon, Mars, or one of the asteroids; and then ploping it back onto the ground where you got that "stuff" in the first place is actually cheaper to ship it to another star like Proxima Centauri than it is to ship it back to the Earth.

In other words, Proxima Centauri is closer than a round trip to Cleveland. This is a true statement if you study celestial mechanics and understand the energies needed to get around and being able to do anything. It may take a century or two for whatever you are sending that way, but eventually it will get there and the energy requirements aren't all that great compared to simply getting away from the Earth in the first place.

This is also why "in-situ" resource development is so important for the development of space, as you get the materials where they are much more accessable rather than trying to bring things from a generally inaccessable place, like the Earth.

Re:There will never be commercial spaceflight (1)

KeensMustard (655606) | more than 3 years ago | (#32027266)

That idea is laughable. When we mine things on earth, we mostly use machines to do so - even though the conditions here are just about ideal for humans. Therefore, it is patently absurd to suggest that we would send humans into space to mine asteroids - asteroids without an atmosphere, exposed to vast quantities of radiation and most tellingingly of all, virtually no gravity. Why would we send a human to do a machines job?

Re:There will never be commercial spaceflight (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#32028150)

That idea is laughable.

And you laughed, I gather. Still doesn't make it an unrealistic. Humans after all do the control and repair on those machines on Earth.

Therefore, it is patently absurd to suggest that we would send humans into space to mine asteroids - asteroids without an atmosphere

Speaking of laughable, humans can't breath dirt either. But somehow, they manage to mine stuff underground. What's missing from your argument is the observation that humans can modify their environment extensively. So there's no need to try to breath vacuum when you can breath air in an environment you either made or brought with you.

The real obstacle is that any attempt to extract resources currently costs a large number of orders of magnitude more than the value of the resource mined. That has to go down a lot before it makes sense. It probably won't do so in the near future, but there is no inherent obstacle that keeps the price up.

Why would we send a human to do a machines job?

When the machine can't do the job. My view is that a few humans are a force multiplier for machines. If you're going to build a huge amount of infrastructure in space, then humans are a natural accompaniment.

Re:There will never be commercial spaceflight (1)

KeensMustard (655606) | more than 3 years ago | (#32030078)

That idea is laughable.

And you laughed, I gather. Still doesn't make it an unrealistic.

Most people would understand that the word laughable carries the same meaning as farcical, comical, ridiculous, any number of descriptors which indicate that not only is the idea unrealistic, it is piteously so. Like believing that animals talk and have human emotions because Disney says so. If a kid believes that animals talk, it's cute and we think they are funny. If an adult believes it, we think they are to be pitied.

Humans after all do the control and repair on those machines on Earth.

Sure, and 100 years ago, humans dug up coal with a pick and a pony cart. But now, they use gigantic draglines and longline face machines to dig out the coal in an essentially automated fashion. Sure, humans occasionally interact with those machines to repair them - but not because it is infeasible to have a machine do the repairs, but because it doesn't (currently) make the most economic sense. Entire cars can be produced on an assembly line with no human intervention. So if it made economic sense we would certainly do the same for mining equipment. In the asteroid example if a machine broke down, we would send another to take it's place, or send another machine to fix it. We would never send a human - because for one that would be a crap job, a return to to the type of working conditions we haven't seen in the west since the industrial age, for two, humans are crap at undertaking tasks in space, our bodies aren't designed for it, and for three, the killer reason, it doesn't make economic sense.

Speaking of laughable, humans can't breath dirt either. But somehow, they manage to mine stuff underground. What's missing from your argument is the observation that humans can modify their environment extensively. So there's no need to try to breath vacuum when you can breath air in an environment you either made or brought with you.

But again, why would we send a human to do such a crappy, unrewarding job, when it can be done more easily, more cheaply, and more safely by a machine? We wouldn't, anymore that we would return to mining by pick and shovel.

The real obstacle is that any attempt to extract resources currently costs a large number of orders of magnitude more than the value of the resource mined. That has to go down a lot before it makes sense. It probably won't do so in the near future, but there is no inherent obstacle that keeps the price up.

Which is basically you admitting we would never do it anyway. Because we don't have a shortage of resources, owing to the fact that we really aren't using any, with the notable exception of fossil fuels. All the metals we use go back into the environment, which means we could simply recycle - if it made economic sense to do so.

Why would we send a human to do a machines job?

When the machine can't do the job.

A circumstance which demonstrably does not apply in the case of mining. This isn't the 1960's. We no longer envision the future of space exploration to be ships filled with humans doing 1960's jobs BUT IN SPACE. Human beings recognise the limitations of our own bodies, and devise tools (machines) to cater for those limitations. This trait is one of our greatest strengths, and foundation of all our achievements in the last 300 years. We aren't going to throw that away because a small group of people is romantically attached to the way we THOUGHT the future would look like in the blinkered past.

Re:There will never be commercial spaceflight (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 3 years ago | (#32035112)

Entire cars can be produced on an assembly line with no human intervention.

I would love to see this supposed assembly line with my own eyes. I don't think it can be done, at least not without some humans working to maintain those machines which are making the cars. And who came up with these "machines" you are talking about? Is this some other machine?

I think not. Creative energies have to be expended, and these things are not happening on the Earth contrary to what other fantasies of watching Terminator or The Matrix that you have been watching lately.

Even when it is possible to fully automate a process, often there are people involved either because it takes time to automate a process, the automation equipment is only going to be used occasionally so is not purchased, or because people happen to like hand-crafted products. There is a certain quality to hand crafted items that can't be made by a machine no matter how hard you try.

I'm not saying there is no place for an automated factory, but please, give a good example next time and try to explain why people no longer are needed in this universe in some fashion that makes sense before you spout off this drivel.

I agree that when people start getting out into space there will be a high degree of automation for nearly everything that happens there. Labor shortages alone are going to require automated equipment, but I don't see an argument here that makes sense in terms of a complete prohibition of sending people into space, or that there will be zero need for having somebody on the ground on Phobos to take care of some machinery that can be repaired or dealt with easier there rather than having to have a team of several dozen try to come up with the programming necessary for the remote manipulator that is also broken down to repair that machine. Saying there is no need for people in space is just as nutty as saying everything will be done by hand and that we can walk to the Moon.

Re:There will never be commercial spaceflight (1)

KeensMustard (655606) | more than 3 years ago | (#32037736)

Entire cars can be produced on an assembly line with no human intervention.

I would love to see this supposed assembly line with my own eyes.

Well, google is you friend - if you are still not satisfied it would probably mean a plane ticket.

I don't think it can be done, at least not without some humans working to maintain those machines which are making the cars. And who came up with these "machines" you are talking about? Is this some other machine?

I think not. Creative energies have to be expended, and these things are not happening on the Earth contrary to what other fantasies of watching Terminator or The Matrix that you have been watching lately.

Even when it is possible to fully automate a process, often there are people involved either because it takes time to automate a process, the automation equipment is only going to be used occasionally so is not purchased, or because people happen to like hand-crafted products. There is a certain quality to hand crafted items that can't be made by a machine no matter how hard you try.

I'm not saying there is no place for an automated factory, but please, give a good example next time and try to explain why people no longer are needed in this universe in some fashion that makes sense before you spout off this drivel.

Good luck with that strawman. Try more kerosene, that usually helps.

I agree that when people start getting out into space there will be a high degree of automation for nearly everything that happens there. Labor shortages alone are going to require automated equipment, but I don't see an argument here that makes sense in terms of a complete prohibition of sending people into space, or that there will be zero need for having somebody on the ground on Phobos to take care of some machinery that can be repaired or dealt with easier there rather than having to have a team of several dozen try to come up with the programming necessary for the remote manipulator that is also broken down to repair that machine. Saying there is no need for people in space is just as nutty as saying everything will be done by hand and that we can walk to the Moon.

See previous post for the debunking of the 'humans are needed to repair the machines' myth.

Re:There will never be commercial spaceflight (2, Interesting)

Jarnin (925269) | more than 3 years ago | (#32025908)

1) There is nothing in space.

This is probably the stupidest argument against exploring space I've ever seen, and it keeps being repeated like it's a valid statement. Guess what? There was nothing on Antarctica prior to 1905 either. That's when the first research station was built there. Private industry has been sending cruises with tourists for the last 60 years.

There are hundreds of thousands of destinations out there, just in our system alone. Only a tiny fraction has been explored and as far as anyone can tell, it's all raw resources up for grabs. The big expense in space expeditions is the cost of sending everything up there. What we need is a place where we can start to manufacture things from the resources available, and that's not all that far off.
Things like 3-D printers and Fab-Labs are just the beginning when it comes to what we'll be able to do with manufacturing in the near-future. Sure, anything we build up there will still need regular supplies, but I would assume that a corporate sponsored space station or colony's "second order of business" would be to become as self sufficient as possible in order to cut expenses. Once we have the capability to manufacture things like station modules and space craft in space the costs will drop dramatically, just like they have for every industry before.

So yeah, there's not a lot of nearby cheap destinations right now, but they're coming and they'll continue to grow in number as long as there's a market for it.

Re:There will never be commercial spaceflight (0)

slick7 (1703596) | more than 3 years ago | (#32026122)

If you follow O'bama's thinking that there is no reason to return to the moon since we were already been there, it's like saying to Columbus there in no reason to return to the new world since we were already there. How lame can you get?

Re:There will never be commercial spaceflight (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32029830)

Thing is, Columbus went to the Earth, where there was land, gravity, air, water and food.

Imagine Columbus went to a place where (supposing he survived) he notes there is no
air
food
water
gravity
and lots of radiation
and everybody died in about 3 seconds

Would you go back? Wouldn't you also say "we've been there" and continue living where you are now?

Re:There will never be commercial spaceflight (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 3 years ago | (#32035520)

and everybody died in about 3 seconds

I don't get this one at all. Where in the solar system are you going that you live for a total of three seconds once you get there, and how do you get there in the first place? And you are saying that all places in the solar system other than on the Earth are this inhospitable? If most astronauts died three seconds after launch, there wouldn't be many folks who would be willing to make the trip in the first place. For many, they wouldn't have even cleared the launch tower if that was the case.

BTW, so far as I've seen, the Earth does not have a monopoly on Gravity, and it is there in rather abundant quantities if you really need to have it. What possible use do you have with gravity anyways, and why is it strictly necessary to your line of thinking?

Food: There is this amazing thing you might want to look at. They are called "plants" and take things from something called "soil" and turns it into "food". BTW, soil can be produced from the end products of the growing process and can be made into a closed cycle. All that is needed is energy..... which can be harvested from all that radiation you are complaining about. Plants do that directly from the radiation BTW, in the form of "sunlight". Maybe that is something you've never heard about either. I also wasn't aware that when you went to the dark side of the Moon that everything stayed in perpetual darkness there either.

Water: This is "out there" in massive quantities. Water is one thing that is certainly not lacking elsewhere in the Solar System, although it may be in lesser quantities than can be found in the middle of the ocean. The two elements that make up water, both oxygen and hydrogen, are the two of the most common elements in the universe and are found literally everywhere. Again, using all of this "dangerous radiation" to make a solar-powered furnace releases quite a bit of oxygen and hydrogen. Finding ways to combine those elements back together again isn't really all that hard of a problem, and the energy resulting from that recombination also has considerable uses. I should also note that on both the Space Shuttle and with the Apollo flights, water was a by-product from the fuel cells used to generate electricity. Most of the time astronauts are busy spending their time trying to get rid of the stuff rather than trying to find water in the first place. Shortages of water are certainly not a problem.

Air: I mentioned refining ore to release oxygen. Oxygen is incredibly abundant elsewhere in space and can be obtained through multiple means. In fact on the Earth one of the problems with most metal refinement is that the metal manufacturers want to get rid of the oxygen, where the oxygen in the atmosphere keeps interfering with the refinement process. Oxygen reduction is basic to most mineral extraction methods. So why not keep that oxygen instead if you need it to breathe? Seriously, I don't think this is a problem in space either. As for the other elements in the air, why are they needed? I'll admit that plants need nitrates in order to grow, so some nitrogen might be useful as well, and over time those of us made out of meat also end up producing carbon dioxide that can over time end up becoming poisonous. Oh, did I mention plants before? They do a pretty good job of removing CO2, and produce some useful stuff called food with it too.

The problem here isn't that these items can't be found or made when you get "there" elsewhere off the Earth, but that you have to be more creatives about how you get them when you arrive.

This comment makes as much sense as somebody living in Africa about 100,000 years ago and complaining that you can't find zebras or lions to eat if you travel elsewhere. That sure didn't stop people from trying to get to other continents.

Re:There will never be commercial spaceflight (1)

lennier (44736) | more than 3 years ago | (#32026482)

The big expense in space expeditions is the cost of sending everything up there. What we need is a place where we can start to manufacture things from the resources available, and that's not all that far off.

And who are you going to sell them to, in large enough numbers (or high enough per-unit prices) to pay back the trillions of dollars of up-front infrastructure investment?

Are you going to be able to get them down to Earth's surface for less than their weight in gold? If not, why would your customers on Earth buy goods they'll never use? More to the point, why should they buy expensive space-built stuff when they can get cheaper Earth-built stuff?

It won't be because Earth becomes uninhabitable, because (hereby declared Cull's First Law of Space Colonisation) any technology capable of making space habitable is also capable of making Earth more habitable, for cheaper.

About the only thing you can get in space that you can't on Earth is sheer mind-bogglingly huge amounts of raw gas and rock. But if it's too big to ship down, you'll have to sell it to people already up there, which means they have to find something else to sell to the people downstairs who are selling them oxygen and water and food.

Re:There will never be commercial spaceflight (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32026996)

which means they have to find something else to sell to the people downstairs who are selling them oxygen and water and food.

Well that's why we need to get the materials to build the huge orbiting solar array(s) from the asteroid belt for. Then using beamed energy power plants, all electricity will eventually be very cheap and non-polluting. (Let's say even cheap enough to be un-metered, so the only utility cost is a fixed service and maintenance fee.) Then you don't have to worry about coal and nuclear or the real estate for wind farms etc. when powering cities and their electric cars.

For other science value, you could build some rather huge automated observatories. Instead of just looking at the spectra of a single pixel by some star, something built in space at a mega-project scale might even be able to resolve the planet and see things like clouds or continents. Might even help address some issues relating to life formation and SETI. Other projects may be comparable to the supercollider - perhaps they'll find something interesting like the effect of gravity on the results when compared to their Earth based counterparts.

These things take a couple steps and may not seem that obvious, but it's not like the applications aren't there. Also there's a nice side benefit. Once you figure out how to apply that level of technical knowhow, it's also easier to deal with potentially dangerous space rocks on a trajectory landing them where you don't want them to. And you could argue that history shows that the odds are fairly small. Yet I still think that it would be nice luxury to afford that the dinosaurs didn't have.

Re:There will never be commercial spaceflight (1)

Teancum (67324) | more than 3 years ago | (#32036082)

I'll be the first to admit that the cost of getting into orbit needs to drop substantially. That is really one of the major limiting factors for getting into space, where shipping up a 1-liter bottle of water costs $100k when it is delivered to one of the astronauts on board the ISS.

Unfortunately that is not something NASA has been actively trying to resolve either, except to drive that cost up. The folks appropriating money for this are more interested in the jobs for their states/congressional districts rather than trying to make access to space more affordable for the rest of us, and they'd rather keep the cost of spaceflight high to justify the billions being spent on those space industry jobs. The more people it takes to get somebody into space simply means more people have jobs that can get those congressmen re-elected. This also explains why the "replacement" vehicle to the Shuttle ends up costing nearly twice as much to fly with 1% of the cargo capacity and half of the astronauts. Yeah, that sounds like something improving the economics for getting into space, but perfect for "make work" projects that are just people running in circles not really doing anything but wasting government money.

As far as bringing something down from space, I would love to see how you determine those costs. While I know of some rocket developers who are making vertacle take-off and landing rockets, but I don't know of anybody who is seriously considering having a powered rocket that brings something from Earth orbit and landing it on the surface. You certainly don't see the Space Shuttle getting outfitted with a new refueled external tank just to land back on Earth.

Again, where is the cost for bringing stuff from orbit to the surface on the Earth? You may have to be creative in terms of how you get it down, but I would argue that it doesn't cost nearly as much as you think it does to take something already in orbit and to bring it down. The expense is getting it up there in the first place, not trying to figure out how to bring it back. I would dare to say that it may be possible to find a way to deliver cargo cheaper from low-earth orbit to a major space port cheaper than you can send a package from Los Angeles to New York. Please explain this if you think I'm wrong here, and I'm not talking the expense of getting something into orbit in the first place, which is a completely different issue. The engineering requirements is quite different for the two kinds of tasks.

As for the trillions of dollars worth of investment necessary to get the infrastructure set up in space, I'd say that sort of money will come when the trillions of dollars worth of income from that investment can happen. Again, it takes some creativity here, and it will take getting cheaper access to low earth orbit too so that it will bring down the initial capital requirements in the first place.

BTW, I'm with you in terms of what it is that is the "killer app" that can justify going into space in the first place. Space tourism certainly seems like at least one reason to put some people up there in the first place, and it has been proven that there are millionaires willing to part with a substantial fraction of their wealth to have the chance to spend some time in space and to literally "go where nobody has gone before". That at least provides a source of some income to sell stuff to somebody already up there as it puts somebody up there in the first place, but other sorts of projects in space do seem to be mostly uneconomical at the moment or the product of dreamers not grounded in reality. Space-based solar power sats are not economical at all with current launcher prices, and we certainly don't have the infrastructure necessary to drive that price down with materials mined from the Moon or asteroids. Helium-3 extraction sounds wonderful until you realize that fusion research is still decades to centuries away from a practical reactor that can use the stuff once you get it. I just don't see a sound reason other than to provide a playground for folks who are bored with being the 1000th person up to the top of Mount Everest and are wanting to do something a bit more unique and different. Saying that you are person #13 to step onto the surface of the Moon, and the first person in the 21st century certainly sounds much more appealing to those kind of adventurers.

Re:There will never be commercial spaceflight (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#32030310)

"Guess what? There was nothing on Antarctica prior to 1905 either. That's when the first research station was built there. Private industry has been sending cruises with tourists for the last 60 years."

Really? There was no gravity, air and water in Antartica? And there were fish and penguins there, hardly "nothing". You people seem to have a hard time grasping the concept of "nothing". Compared to space, every corner of the Earth is raining with resources.

So please, think your comment through before posting. You really show off your ignorance and naivete.

Re:There will never be commercial spaceflight (1)

slick7 (1703596) | more than 3 years ago | (#32026098)

what's the motivation...Who's gonna go, with what money...what makes you think we'll do space travel

Answer

Zero-G sex/ porn movies/ any deviant endeavor relating to the baser needs of humanity. There's money out there, lots of money. Whether the powers that be allow anyone (other than themselves) to go as well as remain is still questionable.

Excellence (1)

Mr Bubble (14652) | more than 3 years ago | (#32025666)

I can tell it's going to suck because it's a "center of excellence". Sounds like something from Office Space.

Re:Excellence (1)

slick7 (1703596) | more than 3 years ago | (#32026146)

I can tell it's going to suck because it's a "center of excellence". Sounds like something from Office Space.

Any venture that combines government and government contractors does not sit well with me.
I can already see Halliburton jockeying for space access.

Re:Excellence (1)

Coren22 (1625475) | more than 3 years ago | (#32032026)

Not all government contractors are like Halliburton or you would hear much more about it. Some government contractors actually employee competent people and get the job done on a daily basis.

Hi (-1, Troll)

hailfawebbe (1800304) | more than 3 years ago | (#32027068)

Maybe, but they had already slated Edwards AFB to be the American spaceport for commercial ventures. There's no mention of Edwards in the article nor the associated pages, so this may be yet another great waste of time. Brac Apartments [bolcroatia.com]

Wait... (1)

Plekto (1018050) | more than 3 years ago | (#32027468)

Exactly how is it "commercial" if the government forces everyone to jump through their hoops and use their services? And you wonder why everyone is moving to China.

Re:Wait... (1)

dontbgay (682790) | more than 3 years ago | (#32027510)

Yeah, because safety and quality are paramount to Chinese ideals? If you don't know what I mean, search for a couple YouTube Chinese automobile crash test videos.

Turns out, safety is profitable when the people who use your product are concerned about whether or not they'll die. Something tells me that regardless of peoples' ideas about how the FAA handles themselves with the commercial carriers in the US, they're keeping the skies as safe as necessary. When was the last time you had an aircraft tire crash through your windshield? Or the last time you crashed in a plane because someone left a wrench where it didn't belong?

You can thank the FAA. Or stop praising China for NOT having one.

Re:Wait... (1)

Plekto (1018050) | more than 3 years ago | (#32033188)

The FAA is completely different, though, in that it deals with air travel. It is now deciding that you have to deal with it when you decide to go into space? If I launched my spacecraft from Iceland, France, Japan, or pretty much anyplace else, I'd not have to deal with any of it.

While other countries have their issues, it seems as if the U.S. can't help but create miles of needless paperwork and agencies to control everything that they can. Now they are trying to control access to space. Just moving your company to Canada would save you from this added layer of bureaucracy. It's not just China - we're having a major brain-drain in all technical fields to countries that allow for less restrictions on your business and ability to create new products and technologies.

I was going to moderate on this article... (2, Interesting)

ibsteve2u (1184603) | more than 3 years ago | (#32027558)

...but then I realized that, while there were the predictable rants to the effect that government having anything to do with "commercial space flight" was a bad thing somehow, there were no observations on the irony of "commercial space flight" being reliant upon existing and massive taxpayer-funded infrastructure and the continued maintenance and improvement of same.

How "private" is a venture that depends upon the preexistence of a trillion dollar taxpayer investment to ensure that they don't get a free colonoscopy from a bolt or other bit of space debris that is traveling at 22,000 MPH??

I am still waiting for the "commercial space flight venture" that starts out in a truly "private" manner by building ground communications and tracking stations around the planet - to include a facility equivalent to the Air Force Space Command's tracking site at NORAD.

"Commercial space flight" is not so much a "venture" as it is a new and fascinating form of wealth transfer. Pat yourself on the back: If you have paid any Federal taxes in the last 50 years, you're helping somebody else explore the possibility of getting extremely wealthy through the use of the facilities you built.

Re:I was going to moderate on this article... (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 3 years ago | (#32031264)

How "private" is a venture that depends upon the preexistence of a trillion dollar taxpayer investment to ensure that they don't get a free colonoscopy from a bolt or other bit of space debris that is traveling at 22,000 MPH??

Roughly as private as a venture which depends on obtaining weather reports built using taxpayer investment. Or as private as a venture requiring the use of roads built using taxpayer investment. Etc... etc...
 

I am still waiting for the "commercial space flight venture" that starts out in a truly "private" manner by building ground communications and tracking stations around the planet - to include a facility equivalent to the Air Force Space Command's tracking site at NORAD.

In other words, for reasons unknown, you wish to hold commercial space ventures to a standard no other business venture must meet. I hate to break it to you, but we the taxpayers pay for a great deal of basic infrastructure for a wide variety of businesses. It's part of that "public good" thing.

Re:I was going to moderate on this article... (1)

ibsteve2u (1184603) | more than 3 years ago | (#32034358)

Roughly as private as a venture which depends on obtaining weather reports built using taxpayer investment. Or as private as a venture requiring the use of roads built using taxpayer investment. Etc... etc...

In other words, for reasons unknown, you wish to hold commercial space ventures to a standard no other business venture must meet. I hate to break it to you...It's part of that "public good" thing.

How much good is the public going to realize from these private space ventures? I somehow do not see the average American dropping $1x10e6 for a tourist ride.

If your response is that the private ventures will "someday" return something of value to the American people as a whole, then I would ask what is it? When will it arrive? How will these private ventures pay for the use of the American people's space facilities in the meantime?

To use the words that business uses to cut American jobs, ensuring that these private space ventures pay their own way rather than be subsidized is "just good business".

"I hate to break it to you", but business pays federal taxes on gasoline and diesel to reimburse the public for the use of our roads and highways, landing fees at our airports, and on and on; "for reasons unknown" you seem to want to exempt space ventures from being treated equally....

Re:I was going to moderate on this article... (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 3 years ago | (#32035562)

I was going to answer, when I realized that reading two clueless rants from you were enough.

Re:I was going to moderate on this article... (1)

ibsteve2u (1184603) | more than 3 years ago | (#32036468)

Just as well; I probably would have used the exact same words that you used in response again. This exchange should teach me one thing:
If you use somebody else's words, you inherit the clueless rant.

Re:I was going to moderate on this article... (1)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 3 years ago | (#32032280)

If you have paid any Federal taxes in the last 50 years, you're helping somebody else explore the possibility of getting extremely wealthy through the use of the facilities you built.

See, I look at it as:

If you have paid any Federal taxes in the last 50 years, you're helping invest in an industry that can open the door to incredible science, information, resources, and potential for the entire species.

That being said, this is one thing I actually like the idea of paying taxes towards. Well, this along with a standing army, a functioning power network, nice roads, etc...but that's all off topic. I guess what I am getting at is that this is helping a whole new industry blossom, just like cars blossomed in the early 1900's, and personal computers blossomed in the 1980's. That's something well worth investing in, in my opinion. Of course, your view may well (and certainly seems to) vary. ;)

Re:I was going to moderate on this article... (1)

ibsteve2u (1184603) | more than 3 years ago | (#32034172)

lolll...oh, I have no problem with this nation going into space; in fact, I figure that we either do that, or that we'll eventually collectively drown in the toxins so much American industry fled to China et al in order to freely produce. I do, however, have a problem with this nation subsidizing a few people's drive for wealth. What kind of fees are we going to charge the emerging "private" space industry to recoup our investment in infrastructure, for instance? People pay federal gas taxes, to use your road analogy...

Re:I was going to moderate on this article... (1)

BJ_Covert_Action (1499847) | more than 3 years ago | (#32037874)

Well I don't know about any taxes in particular, but I do know that private space industry development will help move along COTS component R&D which will certainly benefit NASA, NOAA, and most civilian customers in terms of technology developments and in-house R&D money saved. I can't pretend to have the economic expertise to even start figuring whether this will lead to the subsidies paying for themselves or not, but it is certainly a start.
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