The latest mention of a space shuttle being flown to its final resting place made me want to note my thoughts in brief on where things are going in space.
Space policy is the only thing I can think of that Obama has gotten right as a policy. Carter had more things right than that! For instance, some privatization efforts, setting the stage for Reagan by appointing Volcker, and unlike my friend Tom, I thought perhaps he had the Panama Canal right. Which reminds me I want to write a post that picks on things several or more Presidents of all stripes did wrong (haven’t identified something wrong for Coolidge yet… could he be an exception?). But I digress, and time is limited by my unfortunate need for sleep.
Anyway, we are on the cusp of a new age of commercially provided and driven space flight, and I couldn’t be more delighted. In the late seventies, this is what I pictured, and for a long time was what I most wanted to be involved with as a business. When I realized I’d never be the entrepreneur or engineer who’d be able to work in that field or develop that business, I applied my imaginings to an unrealized (story of my life and I’m getting too old to keep doing that) fiction plot and a long lost initial several pages of writing. The hero is an entrepreneur in a range of businesses, some of which have in common the fine-tuning or development of technologies necessary to space flight, or flight of any distance, such as systems for sustaining people in a closed environment without resupply. Then he parlays his money and technologies into private launch services, ultimate goal terriforming Mars and beyond, but sets up a spaceport for this in a small freddom-loving country in South America,one that’s going in the opposite direction of most of the world, especially after the rise of charismatic, anti-technology figure who gains an increasing following and influence around the world. Our hero ultimately flees to Mars in the face of the world mostly falling into a sort of dark ages, with his the most wanted face of freedom and technology.
Pretty anticipatory, for the early eighties or so. Elon Musk was nowhere in sight. I was floored when a college literature professor introduced me to Heinlein via The Past Through Tomorrow, and I read the story The Man Who Sold The Moon. It was one of those “he stole my ideas… before I was born!” experiences. Not exactly the same, but I had given great thought to how one might finance a space launch company if not supplying one’s own capital, and how it might not fit neatly into what the SEC et al might allow, or at least overlook. Then again, in more recent years they seem to overlook most anything. Perhaps ascribable Ben could ease some quantities the right way and it could do some good before The Inflation hits and brings on, oh look, a dark age.
I do go on. Guess I have to remind people where the “verbosity” part came from now and then.
Getting to the point, we finally have private launch companies in operation and near-complete development. Plural! Competing! Perhaps it needed to wait for more of a market. Perhaps it needed to wait for the end of the pretty abomination that was the Space Shuttle Program. Thank you Nixon and the rest. Heck, thank you Kennedy, since what was Apollo but a less obvious wrong direction from what could have developed. At least Apollo and the buildup to it represented some form of R&D/testbed. It wasn’t a one size fits, well, not much compromise that was good for nobody and arguably set us back decades.
If I had money, space is one of the things I would invest in, however I could. There are others. There are specific technologies/game changers that will disrupt things for the better in the next few decades. That’s other post(s).
I cried over Challenger. I enjoyed seeing the things launch. I love the high points, like Hubble. I appreciated the idea, if not the reality, of the space station. But I will not lament the shuttle’s end, nor will I lament that there’s not an Apollo On Steroids following behind, as even people who should know better and are nominally free enterprise in outlook do.