Elen sila lumenn omentielvo!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Explodey Spaceshippy Badness

Here's what the Antares launch site looks like, post-disaster.

When I refer to "explodey spaceshippy goodness", I'm talking about the actiony bits of a good piece of space opera fiction. In real life, exploding spaceships is not a good thing!

And remember, let's not make fun of this failure or use it as ammunition to mock our space program, OK? There's a reason we use the phrase "Hey, this ain't rocket science", so let's show a little respect to the people who are actually doing rocket science.


Quince said...

An entity with a profit motive (Virgin) will advance space travel at the speed of light compared to the government.

Kelly Sedinger said...

Mmmm...no. Not really, no. The profit motive is not some all-powerful thing. There's a reason it's pretty much taken until the present day, after sixty-plus years of government being the main action in town, for there to be any kind of reasonable profit to be made in space, and what profit there is to be made is mainly in low-earth orbit. Historically, it's been the case for centuries that the profit motive is often too short-term to allow the kind of deep development that can take decades to unfold. That's where governments come in. What would have been the profit motive in the lunar missions, with their staggering developmental spinoffs? Would profiteering companies have spent DECADES developing heavy-payload launch vehicles for satellites, even IF they had realized how satellites could revolutionize communications? Highly unlikely, because profiteering companies simply don't think in terms of decades.

Space exploration will almost certainly follow the same track: the government will be on the frontiers, with the profiteers setting up camp in government's wake. The idea that we should just shut down NASA and let the corporations take over space exploration might be a pleasant one for libertarian free marketers, but it's a nonstarter in the real world. The government has done FAR more real development of space travel in comparatively less time than the Virgins of the world put together. (Which isn't to say I don't admire Virgin and other space companies, because I do, and we need more of it -- and we WILL see more of it -- but thinking that could possibly be the only game in town is dreaming. It would never happen.)

David Evans said...

A sufficient disproof of Quince #1 is that the Soviet Union led the space race in the early years. SpaceX is a great outfit with a promising future, but they are not yet much ahead of where the Soviets were in the 1960's

Kelly Sedinger said...

That does go both ways, though. I think the lack of a vibrant market economy is a factor holding the Russians back. We need both!