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NASA Wants To Fund Space Taxis 136

Posted by samzenpus
from the would-you-like-a-trip-to-the-stars dept.
NASA plans on using $50 million in stimulus funds to seed development of a commercial passenger transportation service to space. Potential space taxi inventors have 45 days to submit their proposals. The proposals will be competitively evaluated and the winners will be announced by the end of September. It is unclear what other Commodore 64 games NASA plans on making a reality, but I hope Arkanoid makes the short list.

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NASA Wants To Fund Space Taxis

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  • Re:uh-oh (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jedidiah (1196) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @12:38PM (#29026085) Homepage

    Nevermind the NeoCons.

    Space tourism seems to be a thing best left to the robber barons. They seem to be doing a better job of it.

    50M is a pittance and NASA needs all it can get for it's own R&D type projects.

    How about a lets-triple-NASAs-budget stimulus package?

  • by hellfire (86129) <(deviladv) (at) (gmail.com)> on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @12:47PM (#29026237) Homepage

    First, engineers and scientists get jobs, and practice their craft. And do you think the scientists and engineers assembled the rockets with Erector sets in their own private labs? No, they had manufacturers build the parts and the craft. You have small manufacturers building the parts, and large ones assembling the pieces, with distributors in the middle moving the material and making sure it's all on time and available when needed.

    And then those people go home and spend their money on stuff...

    The best kind of stimulus is the kind of stimulus that puts people in jobs. And if you think space taxis are nothing but an idea for the very rich to go into space, just realize that the next thing we need to figure out in space is how to get people into space both safely and cheaply. Hey, get people safely and cheaply into space? That means more satellites, more repairs, more tourism for the common man, more economic opportunities.

  • Re:Once again ... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by GameMaster (148118) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @01:21PM (#29026773)

    Of course, 99% of the middle class won't see it. $50 million is a drop in the bucket considering, both, the size of the US budget and the population of the country. Even if it were divided evenly, a dollar each, there wouldn't be enough to go around. However, there is a good chance that, assuming you aren't too old, this might boost your 401k in time for your retirement.

    The US, simply, can't compete against much of the rest of the world at most of the traditional industries. Our quality of life is too high and would have to nose-dive to make us competitive. The places that we've always dominated, since WWII when we really first developed a middle class with above average quality of life, have been high-tech such as computers, pharmaceuticals, materials science, etc. As we move forward, it's inevitable that other countries will start to catch up in some of those places and out population will continue to grow.

    In order to stay competitive we need to continue to advance our most competitive industries and seek out new ones that revolutionize life enough such that they become the next "semiconductor industry". One example is the development of new/economical energy generation/transport methods such as Nuclear/solar/wind/"clean coal"/bio-fuel/wave/geothermal/fuel cells/batteries/etc. Another example, more applicable to this discussion, is commercialized space travel.

    We've reached a point where the price of space travel is withing "spitting distance" of being cheap enough for commercial ventures to develop their own vehicle/stations. There are already a number of start-ups that are flirting with it such as Virgin Galactic developing a sub-orbital vehicle and Bigilow Aaerospace designing fractional size prototype space stations but implementing vehicles capable of re-entry and full size/fully functional stations will be much, much more expensive. Government grants are a way to accelerate the development of this technology and, potentially, open up the field to a broader market faster in the same way the plumitting cost of semiconductors in the 80's made it possible for everyone in the country to have a computer on their desk within a decade or so instead of just big companies/colleges having expensive supercomputers.

    Right now, the only, practical, uses for space travel are communications satellites, military, GPS, and pure research. Sure, there have been a few tourist that have been lucky enough to go to the ISS, but even at the high prices they've paid, they don't represent a realistic "industry". If we could get the cost of entry to drop by an order of magnitude (which is realistic to expect when you take it out of the hands of a military-like organization like NASA, implement the most modern tech, and increase the number of flights to take advantage of economies of scale) then it should open up all sorts of other growth markets for things like tourism, power generation/transmission, commercial materials science development/production, and the mining of things like the moon and asteroids for rare materials.

    So, sinking a mere $50 million (mere in government terms as well as relation to what it takes to get anything of significance done in today's world, of course) is a small price to pay if it can help someone like Burt Rutan produce a low cost vehicle that opens up a revolutionary new industry to help re-grow the economy.

  • Dragon (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Tuesday August 11, 2009 @01:39PM (#29027063)

    Seems like SpaceX's Dragon capsule is a good start in that direction already. It's intended to carry seven to/from the ISS.

    And it has the advantage of being under development already, and under construction already.

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