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Private Company First to Take on Lunar X Challenge

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  • Productivity... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Slashidiot (1179447) on Friday December 07, 2007 @08:05AM (#21610685) Journal
    I'm eagerly waiting for this to develope. It's all stuff that has been done by a government agency, but a private company is certainly bound to be more efficient and productive, lowering the costs of lunar travel. This is serious fuel for a new space war, when prices go down, and it ends up becoming something normal for the people. Let the free market do its thing.

    It is following the exact path of civil aviation. I have high hopes of it developing in the same way.

    Sorry, a bit of daydreaming is good for me... let the SciFi lover in me have a bit of fun.
  • Re:What a joke. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Loke the Dog (1054294) on Friday December 07, 2007 @08:10AM (#21610703)
    Well, what do you think it should be then? 100 million? If you have 100 million, I'm sure no one would mind of put that up as a prize as well. If you don't have 100 million, you can only be happy that someone with a lot of money is willing to put it up as a prize, rather than complaining that the prize is too small.

    Besides, someone is apparently willing to do this, and that means the reward is good enough.
  • Re:Productivity... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mutant321 (1112151) on Friday December 07, 2007 @08:29AM (#21610777) Homepage
    Some people thought there'd be a world market for about 5 computers, for similar reasons. Wasn't even that long ago either.
  • Re:Productivity... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Loke the Dog (1054294) on Friday December 07, 2007 @08:48AM (#21610877)
    No, its not following the path of aviation. See, aviation competed with trains and boats, and eventually won. The space industry isn't competing with any other industry. While there are many reasons to go from London to New York, there are few reasons to go from some pacific island to the moon, other than research or publicity.

    Now, as long as there are no reasons to go into space, the Free Market is getting nowhere here. All these projects you see are funded on charity. People with too much money pay to do something mostly to keep the industry alive.

    Space exploration is actually following the path of polar exploration. Many people got both private and government funding to go to the poles, and some of the succeeded. But very few things except for science came of it, and that was the government funded kind of science.

    Sure, some fishermen had semi permanent settlements on the the south pole, but they have mostly been replaced by scientists now. It's possible we'll see mining or oil drilling on the poles, but this hasn't happened yet, partly for legal reasons but also actually for practical reasons. There is some tourism too, but its pretty insignificant, and it will be the same for space. Once the hype fades, interest will drop. After all, a private island in the pacific is nicer than orbit around space.

    Don't get me wrong, I think this is exciting too, but don't get too optimistic. Comparing it to aviation doesn't make sense at all. There is no brave new world here, just barren wastelands. Obviously, one day it will become profitable to bring platinum and other really expensive metals back to earth, and at that point the free market will take over, but I'd say that's atleast 100 years away. Deep sea mining will happen long before that, for example.
  • by Yvanhoe (564877) on Friday December 07, 2007 @09:08AM (#21611019) Journal
    This should be in every interplanetary hitch-hiker guide : Delta-V budget [wikipedia.org]

    The energy budget to go from Low-Earth Orbit to the moon is half of the one to go from earth to LEO. So I would say that the reward is surprisingly on-spot. Of course this is not taking into consideration the fact that the weight of a spacecraft increase exponentially the closer it comes to escape velocity, and the fact that lunar landing, lunar-earth telecommunications, space travel are a different kind of challenge than in the Ansari X-prize, but I think that 15 millions are quite fair for this.
  • Missing the point. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by untree (851145) on Friday December 07, 2007 @09:44AM (#21611387)

    You don't need to recoup all the winner's costs. You just need to give the company a bit of a reward to help them get back out of the red more quickly.

    Take the $10M prize, as an example. It is estimated that the winning team spent around $25M to win that $10M. But they now have a contract with Virgin Galactic to build many more vehicles, because they have the know-how and a workable basic design.

    The goal is to stimulate, not to reimburse all costs.

  • Re:Productivity... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by LWATCDR (28044) on Friday December 07, 2007 @01:42PM (#21614611) Homepage Journal
    True but I don't think most people would really enjoy a ballistic arc.
    Now for next day or same day ship cargo this could be useful.
  • Re:Productivity... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by khallow (566160) on Friday December 07, 2007 @01:43PM (#21614625)

    No, its not following the path of aviation. See, aviation competed with trains and boats, and eventually won. The space industry isn't competing with any other industry. While there are many reasons to go from London to New York, there are few reasons to go from some pacific island to the moon, other than research or publicity.

    Most of the business that airlines serve didn't exist when there were only boats and trains. I'd say most of the passenger traffic is short term business or tourism trips. Go somewhere else in the world by plane, stay a few days or weeks, and return. Airlines don't compete with anything else for that business. Same goes for cargo. Most of the cargo is probably urgent to some degree. In the absence of airlines, there is no "next day delivery" for example unless the destination happens to be near by. Also, let us remember that suborbital transportation would compete directly with airlines.

    Now, as long as there are no reasons to go into space, the Free Market is getting nowhere here. All these projects you see are funded on charity. People with too much money pay to do something mostly to keep the industry alive.

    Wait, you go from "few reasons" to "no reasons". Research and publicity are reasons to go into space. Further, you seem to confuse capitalism with charity. Most of the funding goes to businesses that have some expectation of turning a profit.

    Space exploration is actually following the path of polar exploration. Many people got both private and government funding to go to the poles, and some of the succeeded. But very few things except for science came of it, and that was the government funded kind of science.

    Sure, some fishermen had semi permanent settlements on the the south pole, but they have mostly been replaced by scientists now. It's possible we'll see mining or oil drilling on the poles, but this hasn't happened yet, partly for legal reasons but also actually for practical reasons. There is some tourism too, but its pretty insignificant, and it will be the same for space. Once the hype fades, interest will drop. After all, a private island in the pacific is nicer than orbit around space.

    When it's illegal to look for resources in the Antartic, then it doesn't make sense to consider the "practical reasons".

    And look we have another reason that you ignored above. Space tourism may be a flash in the pan. But it is interesting to note that many other tourist destinations have remained active for centuries, a few even for millenia (like Rome or Jerusalem). I see some level of long term interest in space. After all, its where the rest of the universe is.

    Finally, I don't know the price comparison of an island in the Pacific to a trip in space. But my take is that the former is more expensive even than the trips on the Soyuz. But maybe you can get an island and the necessary living arrangements for around 20 million dollars. At least with a space trip, you aren't paying for it years down the road.

    Don't get me wrong, I think this is exciting too, but don't get too optimistic. Comparing it to aviation doesn't make sense at all. There is no brave new world here, just barren wastelands. Obviously, one day it will become profitable to bring platinum and other really expensive metals back to earth, and at that point the free market will take over, but I'd say that's atleast 100 years away. Deep sea mining will happen long before that, for example.

    You need to come up with valid reasons why aerospace isn't comparable to outer space. Saying that their competitive environments are slightly different isn't really saying much.

    As you can see from the criticism, I don't agree with you. I think the problem with space development is a bit different. IMHO, there are a huge number of things that people would want to do in space. Visit Pluto, the furthest and coldest "planet" in the Solar System? Sure, I'd pay $5000 for a th

  • Re:Productivity... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning@n ... ro.net minus bsd> on Friday December 07, 2007 @02:50PM (#21615591) Homepage Journal

    True but I don't think most people would really enjoy a ballistic arc.
    Now for next day or same day ship cargo this could be useful.


    If it meant that I could travel from Chicago to Beijing in under 3 hours? Or London to Syndey in less than 5 hours?

    You had better believe that there would be demand for genuine ballistic arcs around the world. Indeed there is demand for sub-orbital flights right now.... if the equipment technology (read safety concerns) and the costs dropped to something a little cheaper than the current $1 Billion USD per flight that NASA does for Shuttle flights.

    Also, next day cargo is already being done by current air freight businesses. It is in fact a huge industry in its own right. "Previous day" shipment (crossing the international time line to travel to yesterday) suddenly becomes a reality when you include potential ballistic arcs for shipping cargo.

    A hard data point on what people are willing to pay for high speed travel can be found with the Concorde super-sonic flights between New York and London. People were routinely paying $10,000 per seat, and strong sales whenever it was available. Certainly there were some sound business reasons why you might want to send a salesman or corporate executive on one of these high-speed flights instead of a sub-sonic commercial flight.

    The reason the Concorde isn't flying any more had more to do with safety concerns and the age of the airplanes that were in service, rather than a lack of demand for something which could go that fast. The market certainly is there... if you can build the machine to make it happen.

    Not only would I, myself, be willing to "volunteer" to take one of these flights, there certainly is a price well above normal commercial air travel that I'd be willing to pay for the privilege myself. I could also calculate and demonstrate from a raw energy and physics perspective how you could eventually save money and make a ballistic flight through the vacuum of space cheaper than plowing through the troposphere in an airplane, especially for longer flights. In other words, even for point to point travel from different locations on the Earth and nowhere else, you can make a hard case for space travel being something eventually routine.

    And once you are already in space (essentially LEO), getting to the Moon is in comparison trivial. Or the rest of the Solar System. In fact, I've seen some good numbers that show it is easier to get to Phobos than to the Moon, but that is irrelevant to this discussion.

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