As NASA Sleeps

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As NASA begins its countdown to (yawn) showing that it can once again put the shuttle into space for who knows what reason and god knows what real cost, cozy up for a chat with space entrepreneur Burt Rutan, winner of the Ansari X prize for successfully putting a reusable craft in suborbital flight and the second coming of the Wright Brothers, Eddie Rickenbacker, and Elvis Presley all wrapped up in one. Reason caught up with him earlier this year and the Q&A with him is still well worth reading. A snippet:

"For decades informed adults have taken treks to the top of Everest, even though more than 10 percent of those who've reached the summit have died on the mountain.

"Now I don't object to that. I think that's fine. There should be freedoms. That people know that they have a one in 10 chance of dying by doing this and they still want to do it anyway, I'm the first one to say, hey, let them. However, I don't feel that that's the right thing to develop and sustain [for] a private space flight industry. Our goals are much more aggressive than that. Our goals are to have the same level of safety that the early airliners enjoyed, and a lot of people don't realize, but those early airliners 1927, 28, 29, 1930, 31, and so on, those were the first regularly scheduled commercial airliners. They were dangerous as hell compared to airlines today, however they were a hundred times safer than all of manned space flight. Not 10 times, 100 times safer."

Whole thing here.

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  1. cooool, no title…

  2. damn, too quick…

  3. The shuttle’s kill rate is around 1/100. Hmm, so a tall mountain is more deadly than 100 miles over the top of a tall mountain.

    Moral: Fear the yeti.

  4. What a revolutionary!

    Not satisfied with just berating the state for waste, fraud, and abuse, Rutan actually plans to substitute a non-state solution with a higher standard of achievement.

    Yelling, “You suck!” is fun, but yelling, “I can do better…get out of my way!” is magnificent.

  5. What’s funny is how the NASA types don’t generally even seem to acknowledge the existence of Rutan and Spaceship 1.

    Yelling, “You suck!” is fun, but yelling, “I can do better…get out of my way!” is magnificent.

    Not everyone can be John Galt. 😉

  6. John Galt would build a space elevator.

  7. John Galt would build a space elevator.

    Nah, that would be Howard Roark’s job… if he can find the time between raping Dominique Francon and blowing up someone else’s building.

  8. “Yelling, “You suck!” is fun, but yelling, “I can do better…get out of my way!” is magnificent.”

    Hey, if I had Paul Allen backing me I probably would be doing something besides coming to H&R and saying “you suck” everyday as well. But right now, it’s about all I can do.

    (This isn’t meant to disparage Rutan. I like and respect the guy a lot for what he’s done.)

  9. The Space Shuttle is so irrelevant. NASA should trash the Shuttle, abandon the space station, and limit themselves to smaller missions such as the probe that intercepted the comet.

  10. MP

    Like a lot of things the Shuttle and the space station satisfy the National Pride crowd which is a lot bigger than I like. Unmanned flights and probes produce a lot more in the way of useful information but they lack the heroic narrative of manned flight.

  11. And the launch is off.

  12. And actually building a space elevator is more engineering than architecture.

  13. I don’t like the idea of a space elevator. If there is electricity in space (plasma theory – don’t skewer me too bad, Jeff), then a space elevator would be like a giant lightning rod sticking out of the earth.

    More experimentation is needed, of course, but that’s one of my concerns.

    I wish Mr Rutan all the success in the world. I very much would like to be a space tourist at least once before I die.

    But I do understand the allure of manned space flight.

  14. A space elevator is, by its nature, grounded. Read Clarke’s Fountains of Paradise for countless other methods of dispersing electricity.

  15. Does anyone know what if any Very Important Research is being done on the space station? They seem kinda quiet up there…

  16. mediageek: Someday I have to read Rand, if only to understand the accusations I sometimes suffer. 🙂

    Isaac: I believe that “National Pride” has an economic value which could be exploited by a shrewd non-state visionary. I would rather buy a heat tile on a private shuttle than a brick in a sidewalk on my alma mater’s campus.

  17. Only the U.S. government would continue to fund 1970s technology as it were state of the art.

  18. Isaac Bertram,

    And of course the only profitable thing about space remains the launching of satellites. That’s likely why ArianeSpace is more successful than NASA; they actually have some profit motive involved.

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