Hi Rick, this doesn't seem to excite the level of interest in paying customers if all that happens is a couple of minutes of "floating" experience. Can't one do the same in something like NASA's KC 135 vomit comet at a much lower tab?
Our author kept refering to Space Station 1&2, I think he ment Space Ship 1&2,unless he knows something different.
KC135 is an old converted airliner, (replaced by KC10 a converted DC10) and the float time is only a few seconds, 20 - 30, at a time. Then climb again and drop. I've experienced that on a P3, it's neat, but 4 minutes gives a nice piece of time to experiment (depending on the freedom alowed).
This is the luxury money can get. There is a famous advertisement for Mastercard and Visa card "There are some things money cant buy but for everything else there is a Mastercard". People who have enough money to setlle daily expenses and enough secure investments for life tme, going to space is really nice to have. Soon more and more people will go.
As in the post of Divacar, I cannot see the value for $250 000 just to float in midair for only 4 minutes and then say you've been in space. Yuri Gargarin I reckon had a better experience that this. Now let's make it a full two or three orbits of earth, that would be worth it, yes....
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 don't want to be such a naysayer, but am I the only person who is weary about "commercialization of space trips"?
I do get the excitement for the rich to go to places they have never been before. But, seriously, for what purposes, other than the bragging rights to say "I've been there"? What will space travellers be learning from this experience?
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.
@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?
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.
Having missed the sci-fi reading frenzy when I was a teen, I've recently have been "catching up." The book "the moon is a harsh mistress" really opens up some possiibilties for nearer term space flight. Of course, the Ender series really argues for super light speed or a hibernation mode during flight. In any event, none of any of this is conceivable with out nuclear power. I haven't seen much of that in space flight, as of yet...
Only half said in jest, Junko. Striving for the unknown is essential to being human. It would be a crying shame if the human race were ever to give that up. IMO, this is what Adam eating the apple is all about. The quest for knowledge defines us, risks and all. The ancients even wrote a story about it.
Back to the warp drive. Assume you're a tiny mite, crawling along a curtain. It would be a really long journey to travel the width of that curtain. In your mite's mind, the world is this flat and wide surface, and you can only reach the other end so fast.
On the other hand, if you can get beyond this 2-D representation of your space, and hop between the folds in the curtain, your journey would be way shorter.
We need a way to jump between those folds in space. What we perceive as our 3-D space (plus time) is not all there is to it. So, warp drive, finding wormholes, call it what you will, we need to get moving faster than the effective 3E8 meters/sec in our perceived 3-D space.
Math has no problem whatever dealing with multiple dimensions. Albert Einstein worked his theories of relativity based only on math and intuition. Some of his predictions were only demonstrated decades later. So, who's to say?
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.]
I think that astroid mining will be something that will really be a viable thing, though there are things that could fall out from it that are not expected. There arer technologies that will fall out of this that will advance other areas. Already they have been working to get high temperature composite advanced for re entry control surfaces. This will find applications in turbine engines and other high speed aircraft. Already it has brought about the fabrication of the largest single composite piece ever manufactured.
As to other things that have been invested in, but had no apparent value might be understanding the atom. For many, this was a waste of time and money, and yet this very research is what allows us to use many of the electronics we have today. There are many other examples of things that were "rich peoples" play things that today are common place items.
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.
@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?
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.
Exploration is just that: you don't really know what's out there unless you go out and look. Bert speaks upstream about warp drives. Who knows, maybe someone left an old teleporter on the far side of the Moon and if we set up a Moon colony and started doing some serious exporation we'd find it. More practically, maybe there are huge stockpiles of minerals on the Moon that are hard to get on Earth because of various factors. We just don't know, and won't know unless we act like mongooses and "run and find out" [Kipling].
y_sasaki mentions the high cost of getting things into Earth orbit or worse, escaping it. Well, many people have proposed a self-sustaining Moon colony as solving this problem by taking advantage of the Moon's weaker gravity to blast payloads of useful stuff to Earth and to act as a platform for exploring the cosmos. Unfortunately, after that terrible accident in 1999 there's been no political will to continue with a Moon colony :-) Maybe the Chinese will do it.
Bottom line: Every time humans try to solve hard technical problems they always learn useful things that can be applied elsewhere. Sometimes the useful things are misused -- it's unfortunately that the social advancement of humankind is so much slower than technological advancement.
@Y-sasaki: I don't spend near as much time in a plane as say, Junko, here. But' I've spent enough to know ow cool it would be to get to Asia or Europe from Silicon Valley in an hour or so--and maybe get a view of space on the short trip.
Question: How do we cost effectively handle the navigation needs and the heat of re-entry of such a flight?
I saw a Discovery Channel program of X-Prise projects several years ago. There were many interesting ideas of cheap-and-safe re-entry methods, instead of proven but expensive burn-out heat shield. I don't remember them all, but I recall one used parachute, one use autorotating blade (powerless hellicopter). I understand Rutan's method is also utilizing atmosphre drag. The idea is not new - there is striking similarities between SpaceShipOne and NASA's X-20 Dyna-Soar lifting body re-entry vehicle back in 1960s.
I think navigation issue is not very difficult until enter to atmosphere. Unless we have enough thrust to launch the vehicle to circular orbit, the flight path is actually ballistic trajectory (like extremely powerful cannon shell) so the entry point is deterministic at launch. We have no control to choose entry point at all.
Once in atomosphere, we have to navigate the fast-decending, powerless vehicle to landing spot safely. In the case of parachute or autorotating method, they have very little (if ever) control so they have to choose ocean or dessert as anding location. Not very convenient destination for traveling :-)
Rutan's glider method have some control and it lands on conventional runway, but FAA (or any air-safety authority) will not easily allow such vehicle entering busy commercial airport traffic. I don't think it is good idea neither - the spaceship might have to execute forced landing (or worse, crash) when it missed the landing spot by any reasons, and there are not many place you can crash spaceship around commercial airport.
Drones are, in essence, flying autonomous vehicles. Pros and cons surrounding drones today might well foreshadow the debate over the development of self-driving cars. In the context of a strongly regulated aviation industry, "self-flying" drones pose a fresh challenge. How safe is it to fly drones in different environments? Should drones be required for visual line of sight – as are piloted airplanes? Join EE Times' Junko Yoshida as she moderates a panel of drone experts.