Monday, June 02, 2008

Let's get this space race started

Here's a link to the Register's editorial on the landing of the Phoenix Mars vehicle. While there's excitement and coolness in this, we argue that the real excitement is the fact that Burt Rutan and Virgin Intergalactic have a viable competitor in the space tourism business. To be sure, space tourism in its first phase might be thought of as rather pedestrian: sending rich folk just to the edge of outer space for relatively short rides. But as Burt Rutan noted in a talk I saw him give a few years ago, the point is to do it, to have fun and play, and learn about potentialities as you go along. He pointed out that for the first years of the Internet becoming available to the public, the main thing it was used for was precisely playing games. Then people started seeing other possibilities and even chances to make some money, and eventually it expanded exponentially (through spontaneous order) until it became increasingly useful and valuable. Especially with competition, the main incentive for organizations not to get too bureaucratic and sclerotic, as NASA has, commercial space travel could be in for exciting times.

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