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John Carmack To Cut Space Tourism Prices 50% 185

An anonymous reader writes "Looks like John Carmack, through Armadillo Aerospace, will be battling Burt Rutan and Richard Branson to make space travel affordable. From the article: 'Space Adventures is going to use an Armadillo Technologies rocket to launch amateur astronauts 62 miles into the sky. Nothing new, except that they will do it at half the price of Virgin Galactic's ticket, and in a real rocket!' Perhaps I'll visit space, after all."
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John Carmack To Cut Space Tourism Prices 50%

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  • by newdsfornerds ( 899401 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @08:06PM (#32188124) Journal
    As soon as I sell my Fijian island.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Cryacin ( 657549 )
      Yeah, you'd have to be a real space cadet to fall for this.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Hmm. 5 minutes up in the space and 100k. Make it just a tad longer and a wee bit cheaper and I guarantee you that it won't take long for us to see the first porn clip to have been filmed in space.

      Anyways, 100k is obviously still too expensive for us regular folk but I wonder what is the price tag at which we'll consider it affordable. 50k is unlikely. 20k? still probably not... 10k? I don't know. For that amount, I might want to visit the space before I die. (Hopefully, not *just* before I die, though)

      • by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @08:46PM (#32188408) Homepage Journal

        No, 5 minutes seems about right to me...

        • 5 minutes? Boy, that's a long time! The 1 minute in space is perfectly fine for me!
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by zmollusc ( 763634 )

            Hah, you are pathetic, I last twice as long. Well, including getting undressed before and the wheezing fit afterwards. And getting dressed again.

      • by sznupi ( 719324 )

        Hey, if *just* before you die...you won't have to pay for reentry.

  • by __aaclcg7560 ( 824291 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @08:08PM (#32188138)
    You're paying for a one-way ticket to go up into space. Coming down from space will be free [threepanelsoul.com].
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      You're paying for a one-way ticket to go up into space.

      Clearly a space terrorist then, make sure his name gets put on the no launch list.

    • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @08:38PM (#32188362) Journal
      Hush, don't spoil their business model. The ticket is one way... but when you get into space they'll sell you a return ticket. If you don't want one, they'll let you get out and walk home.
      • Hey, this is a suborbital trip. So, given a pressure suit and a parachute, you could get out and walk home.
        • Pressure suit and a semi-wearable gliding wing would be so SO much more epic.

          Remember not to open the 'chute until you're down below about 15,000 feet or you'll freeze to death before you hit the ground.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by loraksus ( 171574 )

            Unless you end up in an uncontrollable spin, pass out and die.

            But yeah, that would be fun.

    • Reminds me of an old saying I heard a lot when I worked in the aerospace industry...

      "Takeoff is optional, landing is mandatory"

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @08:12PM (#32188174)

    Most of the difficulty lies in accelerating up to orbit and decelerating from it. Currently, only Space Adventures is offering that by reserving seats on Soyuz spacecraft. Sub-orbital shots require neither powerful rockets nor massive heat-shielding.

  • Huh (Score:3, Funny)

    by khallow ( 566160 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @08:16PM (#32188212)
    I see that it's Space Adventures not Armadillo Aerospace that's boosting this particular advertising payload. While I applaud the optimism and enthusiasm displayed here, I must add that I'll believe it when I see it. It also seems to me that they missed a chance to have a flight to space for $99,999.99.
    • by QuantumG ( 50515 ) *

      Armadillo Aerospace is a rocket company, not a ticket selling company. Just like Scaled Composites is a plane company, and Virgin Galactic sells the tickets.

      And yes, I too will be waiting until I see it.. to see it I guess I'll have to do that :)

  • Doesn't Mark Shuttleworth feel like a sucker now?
  • Video (Score:3, Informative)

    by QuantumG ( 50515 ) * <qg@biodome.org> on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @08:18PM (#32188226) Homepage Journal

    Crappy picture in the article, here's a video of the concept vehicle [youtube.com].

    At Space Access, after the grumblings about being trumped on the LLC, Carmack made the pledge [kluft.com] that this year they'll be doing something new. Here's hoping it involves *people*.

  • If you do this, be careful - you may get paired up with a partner named Bitterman who is a Marine ... and end up fighting the Strogg

  • by FleaPlus ( 6935 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @08:29PM (#32188304) Journal

    I linked to this is a previous slashdot submission, but for the curious you can see video of some of Armadillo's launches in the past year here:

    http://www.armadilloaerospace.com/n.x/Armadillo/Home/Gallery/Videos [armadilloaerospace.com]

    Youtube version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GsdpB6UmrAw [youtube.com]

    There was also a rather cool news update back in January describing in great detail what they've been up to for the prior 8+ months: http://www.armadilloaerospace.com/n.x/Armadillo/Home/News?news_id=369 [armadilloaerospace.com]

    Also, I disagree with the summary/gizmodo's claim that Armadillo has a "real" rocket while SpaceShipTwo isn't a real rocket. Armadillo has a VTVL (vertical take-off, vertical landing) while Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo is an air-launched HTVL (horizontal take-off, vertical landing). Both are "real" rockets.

    Finally, NASA recently put out a request for proposals for a testbed for lunar lander demonstrations, which I think will be right up Armadillo's alley. They'll probably be competing with companies like Blue Origin, Masten Space Systems (Lunar Lander Challenge winner, currently working on their "Xogdor the Meltinator" vehicle), and Unreasonable Rocket:

    http://spaceprizes.blogspot.com/2010/05/shoulda-had-tfftb-prize.html [blogspot.com]

    ETDD is for smaller technology development and demonstration projects. Expected subjects for ETDD include in situ resource utilization, autonomous precision landing, advanced in-space propulsion, closed-loop life support systems, advanced EVA, radiation shielding, human-robotic interfaces, efficient space power systems, EDL (entry, descent, and landing) technologies, high-performance materials and structures, and participatory exploration.

    The new ETDD RFI is for several technology demonstrations. The subjects of these demonstrations include:
    * In-Situ Resource Utilization: This is to demonstrate a prototype ISRU system in a vacuum chamber that can simulate lunar temperatures and that can contain lunar simulant. Later, there would be a flight demonstration at the lunar surface on a robotic precursor mission. Of course this plan brings to mind several lunar space prizes: the Regolith Excavation Challenge, the MoonROx Challenge, and the Google Lunar X PRIZE.
    * High-Power Electric Propulsion System for human spaceflight
    * Human Exploration Telerobotics: This involves ISS-to-ground telerobotics, ground-to-ISS telerobotics, and large-scale participatory exploration
    * Fission Power Systems Technology
    * Autonomous Precision Landing: This involves demonstrations on Earth of autonomous landing and hazard avoidance technologies. The long-range plan is to use the technology on a robotic lander on the Moon or other large body. The technology "Must be capable of flying on a variety of lunar lander precursor missions". The two major parts of this demonstration are the Terrestrial Free Flyer Test Bed and the Hazard Detection System.

    The Terrestrial Free Flyer Test Bed deserves special attention. This test bed needs to be able to carry 100 kg of sensor/electronics payload as well as supporting mass for other subsystems, fly up to 1 km, translate horizontally, land at various angles ending in the last 30-50 meters with vertical landing, and fly for at least 210 seconds with the payload. I didn't see anything in the RFI about propulsion, but I imagine rocket-powered vehicles would have a bit of an edge.

  • "and in a real rocket" as opposed to.... what?

  • Carmack will offer to bring back creatures from hell at half the price from other competitors. I always wanted my very own pet Baron of Hell [wikia.com].
    • by blair1q ( 305137 )

      Whoa. I just sense-memoried pulling the trigger twice on a double-barrelled shotgun.

    • by yanyan ( 302849 )

      No they won't, but i hear they're planning to acquire this dinky little startup called UAC that's going to handle the space creatures side of the business. Should be cool! :-)

  • it makes you wonder about nasa prices for each missions... and also wonder why this has not happened before

    • it makes you wonder about nasa prices for each missions... and also wonder why this has not happened before

      NASA don't fly these missions at all unless you count unmanned sounding rockets.

      • by FleaPlus ( 6935 )

        NASA don't fly these missions at all unless you count unmanned sounding rockets.

        And curiously enough, those unmanned suborbital rockets generally cost $1 million or so per launch. Reusable suborbital rockets like Armadillo's, which charge only a small fraction of the typical price and can launch pretty much as often as a scientist wants, are totally going to change the way suborbital, microgravity, and atmospheric sampling science is done.

        • At 200KUSD per seat a flight on SS2 is worth about 1 million. Armadillo's vehicle may be half the price but its still in the same ballpark. The you have integration costs for instrumentation and customising the trajectory.

          I don't see huge cost savings yet.

    • by blair1q ( 305137 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @09:00PM (#32188478) Journal

      NASA isn't doing "tourism", it's doing science. A big part of what it does is continuous improvement and modification of the mission capabilities of their systems. These guys won't be able to afford that. They'll have to do one or two rounds of refinement then lock it in place for several dozen "missions" in order to break even, because if they don't break even, they go bankrupt and stop flying. NASA breaks even by getting the science done, wowing the taxpayers, and getting approved for another year of funding.

      BTW, NASA invented almost all of the stuff that these guys are now using, but these guys don't have to pay NASA a nickel in royalties. If they did, these tourist flights would be an order of magnitude costlier. NASA's successes paid for Carmack's profit projections.

      • by 0123456 ( 636235 )

        NASA invented almost all of the stuff that these guys are now using, but these guys don't have to pay NASA a nickel in royalties.

        Not only did most of the basic research come from people like Goddard and Von Braun, and both Mercury and Gemini use rockets designed by the US military, but most of the NASA hardware was developed by private companies for NASA (does the name 'Rocketdyne' mean anything to you?).

        If NASA had never existed then we'd have skipped over the unaffordable boondoggle era of space travel and right now companies would be competing to be the first to put people in orbit and land them on the moon.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        M ... It's the other way around buddy. Carmack both personally and through his companies has been paying for NASA's research for a long long time.

        If you are paying for it with your taxes, you have (or at least you should have) the right to do whatever you want with anything your employees at NASA discover with your money without paying any royalties.

      • Its also important to note that most of our daily lives now is provided by products that came wholly or in part by NASAs work.

      • by Shihar ( 153932 )

        There is a pretty damn good reason to not give NASA royalties... we paid for the damn stuff, and we paid top dollar. For every tax payer dollar that went into discovering something awesome, another thousand was blown on congressperson XX's part for the shuttle-by-politician-and-committee or whatever bloat NASA was working on. Frankly, I like NASA much more these days. They are scaling back on that ISS nonsense, getting out of the man mission nonsense, and doing what NASA should be doing, research the pri

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Abcd1234 ( 188840 )

      it makes you wonder about nasa prices for each missions... and also wonder why this has not happened before

      Well, given Carmack's proposal isn't even in the same league as the average shuttle launch, I suspect the cost differential is pretty understandable. After all, last I checked, NASA didn't bother with piddly little missions to send people just barely past the boundary of space (which is 62 mi/100 km) and then immediately bring them right back again. The delta between that and a real orbital mission i

      • No, this is but a very tiny step toward real, commercial spaceflight. And the step from this to real commercial space flight is much much larger.

        I think you are not giving them enough credit. While this may be a small step for a space flight, it is a giant leap for non governmental funded commercial space flight. (thanks Neil)

        • I think you are not giving them enough credit. While this may be a small step for a space flight, it is a giant leap for non governmental funded commercial space flight. (thanks Neil)

          Did I say otherwise? No, I didn't.

          The OP asked, why is NASA so much more expensive? I answered, because what NASA does is far *far* harder. Does that belittle what Carmack, et al, are trying to do here? No. It simply gives NASA the credit that is their due.

          • Hah, actually, looking back at it, yes, I did.

            So I take that bit back. It's still a piddly step toward orbit, yes. But you're right, for commercial space flight, it's an impressive feat. It's just important to put this in perspective: getting up to 100 km is impressive, but the step from that to orbit is far bigger than the step from 0 to 100km in the first place.

            • No doubt there is still *lots* to do before we see purely commercial launches of GTO or even LEO orbit. And absolutely they are riding on the backs of NASA et.al. I still think it's awesome, and I also think my kids will have ~$100K less in their inheritance by the time I kick the bucket...

              Or seeing as I love JPMorganChase so much, maybe I'll finance several flights through them just before I kick the bucket and give my kids the cash up front for their inheritance. :)

    • The space shuttle flies ~300 miles higher than this ship. Not really in the same league.
    • it makes you wonder about nasa prices for each missions...

      Why would it? The comparison isn't even apples and oranges. These companies are kids on bicycles riding up and down the driveway, while NASA is driving a semi across the country.

      and also wonder why this has not happened before

      Because there hasn't been sufficient people with sufficient disposable income until recently.

  • by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @09:01PM (#32188482) Homepage

    I'm not rich (I'm a community college professor), but this is a price I could afford if I made it a priority in my life and planned my finances around it. Some people who make the same amount of money I do make it a priority to own a car that costs roughly this much.

    Arguments against:

    1. It's $100,000 for 5 minutes of entertainment.
    2. Related to point #1, it's possible that in 10 more years, you'd be able to pay the same amount of money to spend a week in space. A week in space would be a lot more fun. This is one of those risks you have to worry about when you're an early adopter: maybe with hindsight you'll have bought at the wrong time.
    3. It's probably impossible to quantify the risk of death. The risk would probably be considerably higher than the risk associated with a space shuttle launch and reentry ... which is actually quite high.
    • It's $100,000 for 5 minutes of entertainment.

      It's a five minute flight. However there will be loads of time before and after that are also included in the price. It's not like you show up at the launch site, step aboard the rocket and off you go. There will be training beforehand. Escape procedures, safety protocols, etc. Upon landing there will be champagne and after-parties.
    • Actually, the risk is probably going to be significantly lower (after some appropriate flight testing of course). This isn't because of any free market magic pixie dust or anything like that, and is not to disparage NASA or the shuttle -- its a matter of complexity and the levels of energy required.

      The amount of energy required to send a person into orbit is an order of magnitude higher than whats being considered here. Combined with simpler systems (fewer points of failure) this means that failures are le

    • by SEE ( 7681 )

      The risk would probably be considerably higher than the risk associated with a space shuttle launch and reentry

      Actually, it would probably be significantly lower. First, you'll be doing it with a design that uses modern materials technology, not 30-odd-year-old materials technology. Second, you'll be doing it on a vehicle designed solely for launching and returning humans on short flights, not one that had to also be designed for launching cargo and for supporting humans in space for a week. Third, you'll be going up a lot less distance, coming down a lot less distance, and doing both for a lot less time at signi

  • paying half-rate for a no-track-record was-video-game-developer who is excited to be using much more explosive to get me there...

    I would pay double for the Virgin Galactic vehicle. Rutan's Scaled Composites have made a few vehicles for a few customers, and have a long record of high-quality vehicles. With SpaceShip One, they actually flew into some definition of "space" on three occasions. So the Virgin Galactic vehicle program has a few successful flights to its record.

    I am not sure, but I don't th

    • Well vertical launch and landing was done on the moon in the 1960's. Soyuz is a variant of that idea. One could argue that the more conservative Carmack design benefits from experience elsewhere.

      The pneumatic variable geometry on Rutan's vehicle is pretty much untested. Sure, it has survived a few flights, but what happens if it fails during a launch. Will the vehicle break up on reentry?

      And then if you want to go into orbit the Rutan design is pretty much a dead end. The vertical launch rocket plus capsule

    • by tsotha ( 720379 )
      Spaceshipone was very nearly a catastrophic failure. I'd rather go with Armadillo, which has a much more elegant design.
      • by ppanon ( 16583 )
        True enough. But Spaceship One was also a prototype/proof of concept. You really shouldn't be surprised to lose, or nearly lose, one of them every now and then. Now when you lose something that's been billed as a reliable "space truck", there's some reason for consternation.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Nyeerrmm ( 940927 )

      The FY2011 budget doesn't intend for Armadillo or Virgin or any suborbital company to take the lead in HSF development. For the most part that money is going to be going to the same people it was before: Boeing, Lockheed Martin, SpaceX, Orbital Sciences and all of their various subcontractors. The big difference is in that NASA will be moving towards a system where they pay a fixed price for a service rather than using nebulous cost-plus contracts with variable accountability to build them to ever-changin

  • I don't know if that idiot at Gizmodo thought he was being funny or what, but that jazz about "real rocket launched vertically" was a waste of space.


  • Nickled and Dimed (Score:2, Informative)

    by Tablizer ( 95088 )

    "Whaddya mean oxygen is another 20 mil?"

  • by SeaFox ( 739806 )

    I don't think I want to go on a Martian vacation if John Carmack is planning it.

  • It's an insult to those of us that have grown on Science Fiction and on a dream of visiting other star systems.

    Really, space is huge. It's so huge, that going 62 miles above the surface is nothing. It's so insignificant, that perhaps we should stop calling related activities space-something.

    It can be called space tourism when we can at least visit the Moon.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by khallow ( 566160 )

      It's an insult to those of us that have grown on Science Fiction and on a dream of visiting other star systems.

      To those of us who have grown up on Science and Engineering, your words are a gross insult. It's too bad that actual space travel isn't sexy enough for the Star Trek crowd (or whatever fantasy you prefer to reality), but we shouldn't diminish genuine accomplishments (well, *cough* when those accomplishments happen).

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