I admit, I was impressed by the talk. I was also somewhat shocked by the $250k price tag. I was surprised that their was a wait list at that price.He seemed to think the price tag would drop into the low 5 figures with time (barring a hiccup). The ultimate Christmas present?
$250k quite a big money to go to space. I guess its for richest of richest. People who have enough money in the bank even after doing charity, its one such thing. Soon there will a list like Forbe's list of richest, list of most powerful..."list of people gone to space". Earlier it used to happen only in Fairy tales that someone goes to space.
I agree that in the current version, this may not offer such great benefits to the rest of society, but I hold back my jusgement on it. Similar judgements were placed upon the first versions of what would become the internet or the automobile, or even aircraft in general. I think that there are yet to be some developments that will go beyond the reach of the few. So if we applied your criteria, we would be without many useful technologies that are useful to the masses, but initially were only for the very select few.
When Louis Bleriot flew across English channel in 1909,many pepole might think "It is great, but I prefer ship to cross the channel". Airplane that time was expensive toy for rich adventureres. It took about 40 years until air travel became really commercialized.
It is not easy to predict if manned space travel will be commercialized in near future just like what happend to train, automobile or airplane. There has been endless discussion if manned space flight is worthful, because we have to add a lot of extra weight to protect fragile human body in harsh space condition (pressure cabin, air conditioning/circulation system, heat/radiation shielding...). It requires enormous amount of enegy to launch things to orbit. Human protection devices just eat up precious the useful mission paylod - unless the "mission" is launching human to orbit (and recover) itself.
Some people believe human flexbility is not replaceable by machines. Some pepole believe "being there" itself is destiny of mankind. Someday (not "near" future, obviously) we may habitat on Moon or Mars - or it is just SF dream. Who knows. One thing is clear however, it will never happen if we don't try.
In honest, I'm skeptic about value of manned space flight, but I don't say it is waste of money to challenge.
@Aeroengineer, I do see the wisdom in your holding back the judgment.
But here's the thing.
When we invented cars or airplanes, weren't there already good reasons why we should do it? For automobiles, we could travel the distance without depending on horses; gaining individual freedom; etc. For airplanes, travelling even faster for even a longer distance.
What would be the equivalent judstification for travelling to the space?
@y_sasaki, thanks for posting well argued view points here. As you noted in your comment, absolutely, you are right: we shouldn't say that it is waste of money to challenge.
My question is what exactly are we "challenging" by sending regular people to the space? To see the limits of human bodies? To see how we endure the trip? To advance our technology to the point that it is safe for regular folks to travel to the space? Or just the heck of it?
Well, you know Junko, people do all manner of inexplicable things with their money. It doesn't seem to stop them. Imagine how much money is spend by a huge percentage of the population, for example, watching overpaid mercenaries throw, kick, or bat spheres, or oblong spheroids, at one another. It's astonishing, when you think about it.
The young of all carniverous species play games, in training for the real business of survival to come, when they grow up. So maybe we need to see this infancy of space travel in that light.
I'm waiting on the warp drive. Space travel really doesn't make a whole lot of sense, except if seen as training for the real thing. We need to find a way to effectively go faster than c. Spending 75,000 years to get to the CLOSEST star system, at state-of-the-art speeds, is not exactly likely. And make that more like 150,000 years of travel (a "mere" 12 light-years), to get to the closest star system that appears to have an earth-like planet in orbit around its sun.
I think the challenge is to redeuce cost. How cheap can we send human to space without compromising safety. Being cheap means to use less energy, thus more efficent way of launch. It is something goverment-lead project is not focusing - even though they are constantly trying to reduce cost, it is secondery concern to primary scientific or militay misson.
Speaking for myself, I think the main attraction would be an incredible view that is literally "out of this world".
A lot of people like to play it safe, and limit their excitement to ordering "the special" instead of "the usual" at their favorite restaurant. Some people like to do more adventurous things, like skydiving (the closest thing to unassisted flying) and free diving to great depths with no equipment. Is there any practical use to doing these things? Not really, other than feeling truly alive.
[This is an obscure reference to the 1981 Tarzan, the Ape Man, a truly awful movie with Bo Derek as Jane. Richard Harris in his later years plays Jane's father, a seasoned explorer. He knows he's in a terrible movie, so he plays it for laughs. At one point he emotes to Jane: "Is your heart pounding? Can you feel the blood rushing through your veins? Ah, then you are truly alive!" Awful movie, but could be fun with the right friends and lots of alcoholic refreshment. I'm not sure, because I gave up on the movie shortly after Richard Harris' line, which is near the beginning.]