Reason.tv: Let the Private Space Race Begin!

So the space shuttle Discovery has flown its last mission. It's been towed over the nation's capital like a bruised Chevy after a demolition derby before being deposited at the Udvar-Hazy air and space musuem in northern Virginia.

Other space junkers - Atlantis and Endeavour - are being retired like Brett Favre in a pair of Crocs, too, bringing to end an underwhelming three decades of fruitless and tragic exploration of low-earth orbiting patterns.

Let's face it: Once we beat the Russians to the moon, the national rocket grew limper than Liberace at a speculum convention. NASA has been dining out on a single 1969 hit longer than Zager and Evans.

The good news is that amateur hour is now over and the private space race has begun. Where two Cold War superpowers failed, let a thousand business plans bloom!

The future of space is in the hands of the guys behind Amazon, PayPal, and Virgin. The force of competition will create endless possibilities and unimaginable technologies. No more talking about how the space program brought us Tang and Tempur-Pedic mattresses. We're going to Mars, baby, in business class.

Virgin's Richard Branson has already signed up more stars than there are in heaven and his regular press releases read like the headlines at TMZ: Ashton Kutcher, Katy Perry, and Angelina Jolie have all reserved space on the first civilian flights to the great beyond.

The International Space Station will continue as a government run intergalactic DMV, but at least the spaceships shlepping materials and mouthbreathers to and from it will soon be operated by private vendors - at an expected 90 percent discount. That should put plenty more celebrities - and civiliams - in the mood to join the 30-mile-high club.

The founder of BudgetSuites, Robert Bigelow, has already launched experimental modules and is dreaming of putting affordable hotels - complete with bedspreads soaked in alien DNA - in orbit and PayPal's Elon Musk has said he wants to die on Mars. Preferably in a colony established by SpaceX, his company that's hell bent not just on leaving Earth but getting to the Red Planet in style.

Nobody knows exactly how private space exploration and entrepreneurship will play out. But's its a lock that the next 30 years won't resemble our government-run space program's decades-long failure to launch anything more inspiring than Josie and the Pussycats in Outer Space.

Space out!

About 2:30 minutes.

Filmed by Joshua Swain and Jim Epstein. Edited by Meredith Bragg. Written by Nick Gillespie and Kennedy, who also hosts.

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  • Tim||

    A shame Robert Heinlein isn't here to see it.

  • Richard_KY||

    Sadly all the interesting developments in spaceflight are going to be coming from Beijing.

  • WTF||

    Just like all the fabulous high-speed super trains they built, amirite?

  • Richard_KY||

    Pretty much.

  • k2000k||

    So a jumble of mangled bodies and siphoned funds?

  • WTF||

    I can't wait for them to bring this to space!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I'm supposed to rely on Richard Branson to get oil rig workers to a meteor on its way to Earth? He can't even get data coverage to my house.

  • ||

    Don't do this, FoE. Just don't.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    But you understand what I'm saying. There could be an asteroid hurtling through space toward the planet, and who is going to keep it a secret from the people for their own good while assembling a crack - if misfit - team of deep core drillers to go on special military shuttles to blow it up after the president (who is also the president during an assault on Alcatraz) gives one of the most rousing speeches ever put on film? We did it, Gracie!

  • ||

    Fine. You want this? You want to bomb Pearl Harbor?

    "The truth is, we were never prepared for an atrocity of this magnitude, and I guess it all happened so quickly that we never had a chance. Even now, all these years later, it makes me sick just thinking about it."

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Years ago I bought my first ever surround sound system and you know what two movies came free with it? Planet of the Apes and Pearl Harbor. And not the Heston version of either! How's that for a kick in the teeth from all sides?

  • ||

    Couldn't have happened to a more deserving person. You know, in a different reality, I could have called you "asshole".

  • Loki||

    It's at this point that I would post a link to the Robot Chicken sketch where Harrison Ford and Aerosmith are sent to blow up an asteroid, but the fucking squirrels keep invalidating it.

    So you'll all just have to use your imaginations or search for it on youtube yourselves.

  • ||

    This?

    You people really, really need to learn basic HTML.

  • Loki||

    Nope, this

    Figured I might as well stop being lazy and look up how to do that, since that's the only way to post links now, apparently. Thanks, squirrels!

  • o3||

    "Let's face it: Once we beat the Russians to the moon, the national rocket grew limper than Liberace at a speculum convention. NASA has been dining out on a single 1969 hit longer than Zager and Evans."
    _
    obviously unaware of NASA's continuing AI robotic missions which are way moar interesting than lifting fat 1%ers into cheezwiz, i mean gee-wiz orbits.

    >anyone wanna start a private-lift dead pool?

  • Tim||

    Washed up MTV spokesgirl is accusing NASA of being a one hit wonder?

  • o3||

    as soon as one of these private lifts blows-up sum cheesewiz 1%ers, the insurance for non-essential personnel will skyrocket!

  • ||

    Do you seriously think you don't sign away every conceivable type of liability claim when you ink the contract with any space tourism company, or that they aren't already insured to the hilt anyway because they know how US courts work?

  • ||

    That shuttle should be going to Hou... ah never mind.

  • Drake||

    Aren't there international treaties to make sure space isn't profitable?

  • R C Dean||

    There's been some interesting legal work on how to get around those treaties.

    And, of course, who exactly is going to enforce them?

    When my asteroid mining operation is getting started, how exactly is anyone going to stop it? And, with the promise of delivering trillions of dollars of metals and complex hydrocarbons, I suspect I will be able to buy all the politicians I need to keep the tranzis off my neck.

  • ||

    You're such an optimist. Be sure to use your trillions to overthrow the government entirely while you're at it.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Hey! This is America! We don't stand for coups. We're capitalists...

    Which means he should use his trillions to just buy the government outright.

  • Jeffrey Immelt||

    Worked out pretty well for me...

  • Auric Demonocles||

    I think the enforcement would have to occur at the launch point from Earth.

  • Drake||

    Or the return point. Once you have broken the law by mining the moon or an asteroid, how could you ever sell your materials?

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Fear will keep the treaty pushers in line. Fear of this asteroid launcher.

  • T||

    I've read The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress and played enough Traveller. The guy at the top of the gravity well usually wins the argument.

  • Drake||

    I like the way you think.

  • Pro Libertate||

    The really bad one--the Moon Treaty--wasn't signed by us or any other space power.

    The other major one--the Outer Space Treaty--prevents signatories from claiming territory, etc. But it really doesn't prevent private actors from claiming property rights.

    Frankly, I imagine that if a country like the U.S. is firmly in the lead of actually occupying bodies in the solar system, we'll just repudiate that part of the treaty and start claiming jurisdiction. That, or the people on those bodies will just declare their sovereignty.

  • ||

    As far as I'm concerned, I own everything on my parcel of land from the ground up to the end of the universe.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I'm with you, but that's probably not what you legally own, sadly.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    I remember some interesting old scifi (written before the treaties) that used that principle. Clearly there is an issue with that definition since the earth is rotating. The result is that the Moon was jointly owned by the countries near the equator. They got rich off of it for some reason that I don't remember.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Heinlein dealt with that by buying rights from countries that the Moon passed over in The Man Who Sold the Moon.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Yup. That's it! That was a good anthology.

  • ||

    Of course, it's probably about one pound worth of material, and the rest empty space, so nothing to brag about.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Nah, somewhere you probably cross a planet. Lots of mineral rights.

  • ||

    This reminds me of the old Piers Anthony series Bio of a Space Tyrant The solar system was populated in a way generally matching (at the time) national divisions on Earth, e.g. Jupiter was the U.S., Saturn was the U.S.S.R., etc. The two moons of Mars were hotly contested analogues of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

  • ||

  • Auric Demonocles||

    Not that I'm complaining, as I'm a space nerd, but I think this stream might be getting old for some of our less-astronautically inclined commenters.

  • Loki||

    ...first civilian flights to the great beyond barely the edge of what some scientists define as "space".

    FIFY

  • Muad'Dib||

    A cursory web search will reveal that Blue Origin, and more than likely the others, is already on the take. I've asked before. What is the distinction between a government agency (NASA) and a private organization (Lockheed Martin, Pratt Whitney Rocketdyne, etc) that draws the large part of its funding from tax dollars? I've never been a fan of VJ's no matter their political leanings, but I was shocked that no one asks this question.

  • Sevo||

    "What is the distinction between a government agency (NASA) and a private organization (Lockheed Martin, Pratt Whitney Rocketdyne, etc) that draws the large part of its funding from tax dollars?"
    Well, the first holds the gun while the second hopes to profit from the one holding the gun. The difference is the "hopes"; not guaranteed.
    What's a VJ?

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