After the loss of Columbia and the crash of the Genesis capsule, some people have suggested that NASA should be re-structured. Others have said that
space exploration should be turned over to the public sector. The following link
explores some of these ideas. It uses the method of examining what the author believes are five myths of space travel:
Myth #1: Space flight, and particularly human space flight, is necessarily expensive and dangerous, and only major governments have the resources to
engage in it.
Myth #2: Space flight is intrinsically expensive because of the basic physics—it requires so much energy and power and fuel that we will never get the
costs down with conventional rockets.
Myth #3: There is little or no use for humans in space that can justify their expense.
Myth #4: Space travel by members of the public will only occur (if at all) after needed technological breakthroughs dramatically reduce costs and
improve reliability and safety. And this will only become possible (if at all) through continued government investment in space programs.
Myth #5: Reusable launch vehicles are technologically beyond us, and they wouldn’t bring low launch costs, anyway.
This is a subject that is open to many interpretations. However, I do think we are now at a crossroads. Shuttle technology is already quite old. Do
we keep patching it together, or do we move on to a new system? As we examine these issues, I think it is important to bear in mind a few basic
To What extent will space be used for pure research? And is there any incentive for private companies to do scientific research?
To what extent will space be viewed simply as a resource to be exploited? Tourism, mining, zero-G manufacturing, activities that have a cash return
are the ones most likely to be pursued by private companies.
To what extent will space be used by the military? Man has militarized every area of our environment we have been able to reach. Space is no
exception. It seems likely the government will want to maintain some space-launch capability even if only for military reasons.
The article linked suggests that space flight is not as difficult and expensive as we have been led to believe. But realistically I think it is fair
to say that it is currently challenging beyond the technology and the means of most private companies.
What do you think?