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Space Science

First Flight For SpaceShipTwo 190

mknewman writes "Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo rocket plane took to the air for the first time this [Monday] morning from California's Mojave Air and Space Port. The craft, which has been christened the VSS Enterprise, remained firmly attached to its WhiteKnightTwo carrier airplane throughout the nearly three-hour test flight. It will take many months of further tests before SpaceShipTwo actually goes into outer space. Nevertheless, today's outing marks an important milestone along a path that could take paying passengers to the final frontier as early as 2011 or 2012."
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First Flight For SpaceShipTwo

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  • by socceroos ( 1374367 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @12:03AM (#31579312)
    Being in a space suite is as close as we'll ever come to enjoying a 1 on 1 with good ole father space. I would say that even though you're merely an observer from an enclosed capsule, any travelers would indeed be enjoying the closest possible encounter with space.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @12:05AM (#31579326)

    How far we've fallen.

  • by MyLongNickName ( 822545 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @12:11AM (#31579366) Journal

    Nonsense. The problem with the space race is that it was unsustainable. There was no way any nation would maintain that kind of spending for an extended period of time. We were spedning around three percent of GDP... for something with intangible payback.

    Now, we have the chance at sustainable flights into space. If this actually succeeds, and we have many flights going up every month... and if we actually get more than one company in this game... we will see gradual improvements. Instead of being a money pit, it will be a money generator. And that is where real progress is at.

  • by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @12:14AM (#31579388) Homepage Journal

    I wonder what the probability is that a passing spacecraft would rescue you after 30 seconds exposed to vacuum?

  • by afidel ( 530433 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @12:24AM (#31579442)
    The Louisiana Purchase took quite a while to pay off, it was still quite a deal and the right thing to do. A nation which stagnates is a nation which is slowly dying. Since Imperialism here at home doesn't look to have a net positive payout I say we should focus a bit more of our finances on something that is at least likely to advance human knowledge if not material wealth.
  • by KalvinB ( 205500 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @02:17AM (#31579998) Homepage

    The whole point of funding Columbus was to see if they could open up a new line of trade which would prove very lucrative. It was an investment. If Columbus made it to India, Spain would get back far more than they paid.

    Where is the big financial payoff for going into space? If we get to Mars, how is that going to provide a financial windfall for the country that does it?

    We don't spend a lot of money on space exploration because the potential ROI is near zero. We should be dumping money into exploring Earth. We know more about space than we do about the depths of our oceans.

  • by Dollyknot ( 216765 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @06:38AM (#31581130) Homepage

    The high cost to the human race's colonization of space is caused by the complexity and danger of reaching and leaving escape velocity within the earth's atmosphere.

    The Space Shuttle turned out to be an expensive dangerous white elephant, the reason the Shuttle was so expensive is, because of its complexity with millions of different manufactured parts and the requirement to drag the fuel needed to reach escape velocity up from the surface of the earth.

    There is another route, we can reach the vacuum of space no problem, Burt Rutan proved this with Space Ship one, when he won the 'X' prize by reaching over 100 km twice in one week.

    Yes the Shuttle was 'reusable' but in name only. They could not have turned that around in a week.

    One idea could be to create rocket fuel on the moon, with robotic technology operated from earth, there is lots of water on the moon, use solar energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen which makes very good rocket fuel.

    Use the rocket fuel to fuel a space tug, use the space tug to accelerate and decelerate Space Ship Two, to and from escape velocity in the safety of a vacuum.

    The moon is the door to the solar system.

  • by talcite ( 1258586 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @07:43AM (#31581524)
    I was actually having an interesting conversation with a research policy advisor in my country last night about this topic.

    In her opinion, government research grants should be spent on fields which do not have immediate commercial value, because companies are likely unwilling to pursue it themselves and also because the future value of a technology is difficult to gauge.

    For example, when the transistor was invented, it was impossible to tell that one day they would be miniaturized to the point where handheld computers were available. Any attempt to place a value on the invention of the transistor would have massively undervalued it. Companies in the past may have pursued the approach of funding research for giggles, but the business model today has changed and almost everything needs to have profit making potential.

    Now there's no way to definitively determine whether a research field will be valuable in the future, but space exploration is probably one of the ones with a large potential. I say this because of the overlap with the rest of the aerospace industry, applications for telecommuncations and materials research.
  • by khallow ( 566160 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @09:02AM (#31582188)
    Alternately, you can look at SpaceShipTwo as the first serious attempt to put people into space. Before now, there's been plenty of stuff that people are willing to spend a trillion or two of Other Peoples' Money. But over the past 60 years, few have risked their own money on manned space flight. My view is that we are seeing the start of the real Space Age.
  • by dwarg ( 1352059 ) on Tuesday March 23, 2010 @11:46AM (#31584556)

    It does actually depend on what the money gets spent on. If a person uses it to buy Japanese cartoon porn then the only local stimulation is to the delivery guys and represents a small percentage of the overall cost--assuming you buy your cartoon porn in sufficient bulk. On the other hand if those tax dollars went to lay the first fiber optic lines, then it was a good investment.

    Secondly, this idea that private companies are so much more efficient than government really needs to be proved. I've worked in or with 5 Fortune 100 companies and the amount of wasted money and man-hours I've seen boggles the mind. I'm sure government waste is at least as bad, but the difference is when public money is used they are under obligation to give detailed spending reports so you know when it's wasted. Private companies, even publicly traded ones, only have to show a profit and loss sheet. And they do a good job burying those losses as various expenses in order to protect their own asses.

    Think of it like open source software. Government, at least in theory, is supposed to be transparent so you can see all the flaws and you are free to try and fix them. Companies tell you to trust them. That they know best and everything is great so you should give them your money (401k). Personally I think they're both good for different things, but if you don't like the government or taxes so much then either get constructive and fix it, or move to a different country.

Perfection is acheived only on the point of collapse. - C. N. Parkinson