I have been thinking about writing several posts about space flight for a while now. I have hesitated, not really knowing where to start. Probably that’s because I am not an expert in any particular field of this vast subject. I want to talk about the mechanisms of getting space ships into space, getting space ships to other worlds, about the finance for doing this, the international cooperation needed for this work, the ethics of populating other worlds, the alternatives of not doing so, and probably other things as well.
It has been said that if you are not sure where to start, on a project, then just begin and see where you go with it. It has occurred to me that a reasonable place to begin is in the newspapers.
This week, 1st March 2017, the i newspaper had a front-page sub-headline “Tourists to the Moon by next year, promises Musk”. Elon Musk owner of SpaceX will be using a Dragon Crew Capsule and a Falcon heavy rocket, launched from NASAs former Moon pad in Florida. SpaceX will send two, paying, space tourists on a week-long trip around, and 300,000 to 400,000 miles beyond, the Moon. There won’t be a Moon landing though.
These space tourist will be paying a hefty sum of money for their trip. SpaceX has not released the amount involved. Nor has it revealed whether the fee to the passengers will cover the costs of the trip.
There is a comment in the i newspaper by Andrew Griffin who takes issue with the re-distributing of the technical ideas brought about by NASA over the years: ” . . Elon Musk’s company steal the very founding ideals of space travel and sell them to the highest bidder.” My own thoughts on this are that (A) NASA is publicly funded, by the American tax payers, so, not withstanding any security issues, the technology ought to be shared with companies such as SpaceX and (B) Space travel really is going to be an expensive enterprise for the foreseeable future so that we, mankind in general, ought to be grateful to these very rich people who help fund the development. It may seem that SpaceX is using a “standard” rocket and a “standard” capsule but there still needs to be a lot of thought going into the preparation of both the hardware and the actual trip itself. So, in a way, these rich tourists are giving something back to the community, in the long term. Anyway, Andrew Griffins comment will have been read by several tens of thousands of people and my little website may make a couple hundred, so he wins 🙂 .
I take up the issue of financing space flight in another post.