If You Had Wings


Reuters runs a mostly optimistic batch of speculations about the future of flight in the Amazing World of Tomorrow, hooked to the Wright Brothers centennial. An excerpt:

Space tourism is around the corner, says Peter Diamandis, an aviation visionary who created the X-Prize, a $10 million bounty offered in 1996 for the first people to privately build and launch a spaceship capable of carrying three people to a 60 mile altitude, bring them back safely and repeat the launch, with the same craft, within two weeks.

Two dozen teams are competing for the X-Prize and Diamandis believes it will be won next year, bringing a "paradigm shift" in the way people view space flight, now the exclusive domain of governments with multibillion-dollar budgets. He sees regular sub-orbital commercial flights by 2013.

"We're on the verge of what you might call the golden age of space flight, where it will be possible for the general public to fly into space on a routine basis," he said.

I vaguely remember being promised all this back at the 1939 World's Fair or even in a late '20s issue of Air Wonder Stories, but it is good to know it is still all on its way. (And I am sincerely certain, and fabulously pleased, that it is.)

NEXT: Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone

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  1. And it would be here if it weren’t for the stifling effects of litigation. There’s no profit in bringing a “flying car” to market if you’re going to get sued everytime some idiot smacks one into a moutain. That and the fact that the FAA can’t/won’t/hasn’t upgraded their capacity enough to handle millions of extra aircraft.

  2. …or a mountain.

  3. A libertarian complaining about the lack of capacity in a government agency sounds like someone griping that “the food is awful and the portions are too small.”

  4. When the space shuttle was built, it was sold as a project that could pay for itself, and NASA estimated that they could launch a shuttle every one to two weeks. Even 6 or 7 years into the shuttle (just before the Challenger disaster), NASA still believed it would soon get to the point where it could launch 40+ missions a year.

    I really hope privatization will fix all of the problems that we have had with space and the difficulty and expense we have had in getting up there with regularity, but I think the rosy predictions ignore how hard it is.

    In our lifetimes (particularly for those of us that are under 30) for sure, but by 2013? Seems pretty darned optimistic.

    That being said, I really hope they are right and I can go into space before I’m too old to appreciate it.

  5. funny. this is my second just like that economist article post in two business days. although it focuses mainly on UAV technology it mentions the possibilities of personal air travel, as well as some ideas about upgrading the FAA’s tracking capacity.

  6. People think that doing space is hard because NASA can’t get it right. However, we’ve got amateurs putting up their own high-powered rockets, a renowned game programmer building his own suborbital craft with a few other folks for less than a million bucks, a toy inventor who is putting his own vehicle together in his back yard with the royalties from his inventions, a famous aviator whose spacecraft just today broke the sound barrier, and many more folks making things happen. The fact is that it just isn’t as hard or expensive as NASA makes it out to be. To see the free market making it a lot easier than NASA has, check out some of the companies making it happen and see what they are actually achieving:



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