Space

Angels and UFOs: I Believe I Can Fly

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68 percent of Americans believe in angels and 38 percent believe in UFOs. So what's not to like about a panel featuring early stage investors known as angel investors talking about strange new spacecraft?

XCOR Lynx

Remember the NewSpace nerds* from Las Vegas? This weekend, these scrappy commercial space entrepreneurs, investors, and engineers have gathered in Virginia's slightly-less-sparkly Crystal City and I stopped by to see if they're still up to their old tricks.

Having a conference in a down-at-the-heels commercial district just outside D.C. offers up a pleasing metaphor for an industry that has mixed feelings about its runt position at the government teat.

Asked about the impact of government money on a small space company, one panelist raised his crossed fingers in front of him, as if to ward off evil.  Another panelist, former venture capitalist Marco Rubin, said "Government money is the cheapest form of money. But I've seen it become crack cocaine for some serial entrepreneurs." Certain kinds of government contracts can be a "culture killer" for companies that value being "light, nimble, and entrepreneurial," says Andrew Nelson, COO of the space firm XCOR Aerospace. Nelson also suggested that government cash-dependent companies grow more slowly than their fully-private counterparts.

But then all the panelists acknowledged that most large, successful space companies eventually depend on government revenue to survive, at least in part. So public/private it is, at least in the long run. NASA doesn't seem to be selling tickets yet, but there's plenty of action if you have some spare cash and want to reserve your seat on a quickie space flight now.

More info on real Space Angels and NewSpace 2008 panelist Guillermo Söhnlein here.

Awesome retro cartoon Space Angel here.

*I use the term nerd with the greatest affection and approbation.

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  1. A simple assertion that government money is needed is not good enough. He doesn’t do a very good job explaining why exactly a small space travel company needs government money.
    For many companies, grants are a kiss of death. In fact, I’m pretty sure subsidies have been used as a tactic of oil companies trying to kill competing technologies, such as electric cars. Instead of buying out the small company, get them to receive government funding and their product will never hit the showroom.
    sorry if I sound like a conspiracy nut.

  2. Forget Space Angel. He could never have handled Brak and Zorak. Space GHOOOOOOOOOSSSSSST is da man. I trust all we citizens are getting enough oxygen.

  3. But then all the panelists acknowledged that most large, successful space companies eventually depend on government revenue to survive, at least in part. So public/private it is, at least in the long run.

    There’s two different kinds of government money. One, they’re a customer, in which case their money spends about like anyone else’s (although you may have to agree to a package of regulatory burdens like affirmative action and the like).

    Two, they’re an investor/partner. In that case, God help you.

  4. 68 percent of Americans believe in angels and 38 percent believe in UFOs.

    That is nothing compared to the percent who believe in AGW!

    So, just where were these guys hiding in my neighborhood anyway?

  5. So, just where were these guys hiding in my neighborhood anyway?

    Go to your local church.

    Stop by the local tavern or bar on the way home.

  6. UFO’s are far more plausible than angels.

    The US 68% gullible? Sounds about right.

  7. I foresee private companies doing more exciting exploration than NASA within the next few decades, and for a profit.

    http://www.spaceadventures.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=Lunar.Details

    This is funded by Jeff Bezos (of Amazon.com)
    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=BcHQgTTJboA

    Spaceship 2
    http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=WBo8t0B5NhM

  8. 68 percent of Americans believe in angels and 38 percent believe in UFOs.

    That is nothing compared to the percent who believe in AGW!

    Guy,
    So who’s most irrational? Those who listen to their ministers? media? talking heads? Al Gore/scientists? or you?

  9. OMG, I have offended the enviro-fundies. Better go into hiding and brace for the attack on any professional licenses they think I may posess.

  10. UFO = unidentified flying object

    Call me crazy, but I think they exist.

  11. enviro-fundies
    I love it…Way to go Guy!

  12. It’s a weather ballon.

  13. Better go into hiding and brace for the attack on any professional licenses they think I may possess.

    Do you possess professional licenses, Guy?

  14. 68 percent of Americans believe in angels and 38 percent believe in UFOs.

    That is nothing compared to the percent who believe in AGW!

    From the polls i have seen the number of people who believe in AGW is less then the number that believe in Angels but more then the number who believe in UFO’s.

    note: My use of a capital “A” for Angels does not denote belief….it just seems right.

    UFO = unidentified flying object

    Call me crazy, but I think they exist.

    Yeah yeah yeah….common usage of the term UFO denotes that they are of extraterrestrial origin.

  15. Instead of buying out the small company, get them to receive government funding and their product will never hit the showroom.

    Actually this is sort of brilliant.

    I mean how many products can you name that originated from government funding?

  16. Velcro, bitch!

  17. Velcro, bitch!

    The hook-loop fastener was invented in 1941 by Swiss engineer, George de Mestral[5][6][7] who lived in Commugny, Switzerland.

    The idea came to him one day after returning from a hunting trip with his dog in the Alps. He took a close look at the burrs (seeds) of burdock that kept sticking to his clothes and his dog’s fur. He examined them under a microscope, and noted their hundreds of “hooks” that caught on anything with a loop, such as clothing, animal fur, or hair.[3] He saw the possibility of binding two materials reversibly in a simple fashion,[6] if he could figure out how to duplicate the hooks and loops.[7]

    I am confused are you saying Switzerland subsidizes hunting or that burrs are a product of a government experiment gone wrong?

  18. I am confused are you saying Switzerland subsidizes hunting or that burrs are a product of a government experiment gone wrong?

    No, I was being flippant about an urban legend, but both of those things sound plausible…

    🙂

  19. I was watching WSOP 2007 the other day, and was struck by dueling players both praying to God at the same time, quite vociferously, for their needed hole card.

    As much as we like to shat all over the truthers in our midst, they almost seem rational to me over people who think God is guiding their poker hand.

  20. Do you possess professional licenses, Guy?

    Guy possesses a license to kill…a thread.

  21. Ron Bailey’s an enviro-fundie?

  22. I believe in Angels. I just don’t believe they’ll win the pennant.

  23. I mean how many products can you name that originated from government funding?

    Harry Potter

  24. No one believes in the Cubs… outside of Chicago at least!

  25. What makes Crystal City a “down-at-the-heels commercial district”? There are very few ritzier commercial districts and quite a few shabbier. I’d always disregarded it as “too rich for my blood”, but maybe I should give it a second look for something other than kebab shops.

  26. FWIW, the angels question is really unfair. Most of the Christians I know believe in *angels*, i.e. agents and messengers of God. You kind of have to, if you take the Bible at all seriously. On the other hand, very few of them would describe angels as dudes with bald heads, no genitals, glowy halos and feathered wings. That Middle Ages artsy shit is bullshit and most know it.

    Personally, I like the freaky horror-show descriptions of angels that you can find in Jewish commentaries and texts, or for that matter the Apocalypse of John. Six wings and sixty-six eyes will put the awe of God in some motherfuckers!

  27. Rimfax,

    What makes Crystal City a “down-at-the-heels commercial district”?

    Not sure what she means there either. Office space does not seem to stay vacant very long here. Buildings get gutted and rebuilt on what appears to be a proper rotation after long term tenants leave.

    Also, plenty of residential space in a wide quality/price range.

    If this meeting happened at the Americana Hotel, the Crystal City Motel or the Clark Street Playhouse, then I could see someone getting that impression.

  28. the Crystal City Motel

    You mean the Crystal City Restaurant, right?

    Here’s a former local’s take on the ‘seediness’ of Crystal City.

    Crystal City (and Rossyln) are the oldest high rise districts in Arlington (for that matter, in NoVa). IMO, they are not wearing their age well. Modernist architecture ain’t so pretty to begin with, and the rather outsized amount of gray/beige concrete gets rather dirty looking as the mold & mildew over the years builds up. The shade caused by tall buildings amplifies this aspect, and they look even more dimsal looking by tall on a cloudy/rainy day (which is most of them from Nov-Mar). And there are no curves or other ornamentation like in art deco or whatever the wolworth buidling style is called that causes the inevtiable aging process to make a building look ‘quaint’ or even ‘majestic.’ Rather they increasingly look as they always were: ‘eyesores.’

    And compared to the newly minted highrises along the Wilson Blvd / Orange Line cooridor, they are shabby looking indeed.

    The other aspect that Crystal city is somewhat of an ‘island’ You got the airport on one side the Pentagon on another. To the south, you’re in a not-so great part of Alexandria, to the west what used to be a not so great part of Arlington. Now a lot of this is changing: Potomac yards is starting to get it’s neighborhhod yuppified, as has already occured with Pentagon City and the neighborhoods (e.g. 23rd st) leading to Arlington Ridge (which was always high end). Even most of the old Jeff Hwy skid row (where Twin Bridges Marriott used to be) I think is getting bulldozed.

  29. 68 percent of Americans believe in angels and 38 percent believe in UFOs.

    I read in Weekly World News that our astronauts have had close encounters with angels. The MSM is ignoring these startling revelatiions.

  30. You mean the Crystal City Restaurant, right?

    Nope, I meant exactly what I wrote. CCR is about 21 address blocks south of the Crystal City Motel.

    Also, sounds like your source is a bit out-of-date on things.

  31. Oh, and they wear high heels at CCR, not low heels.

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