Monday, July 16, 2018


The following is an up-dated version of a piece I wrote on another of my blogs two years ago. With Bezos rumored to be setting a prince for seats on New Shepard, I figured it was time to re-do this.

Private and commercial spaceflight will soon open the frontier of space to everyone… except you.

More than a decade ago we watched breathlessly as SpaceShipOne rocketed into space and won the X-Prize. Anyone paying attention celebrated because at last the day was here; “commercial” or “private” spaceflight was about to make space accessible to us all. No longer would the far reaches of space only be accessible to astronauts, and cosmonauts working for assorted governments. In the years leading up to the flights of SpaceShipOne, Bert Rutan himself had boisterously spoken of the fact that NASA had a lock on space travel. Speaking to crowds of aviation enthusiasts he often said, “… NASA is screwing you!” He looked ahead to the time when commercial, private spaceflight capabilities such as the vehicle he was designing, would open spaceflight to everyone in the crowd of his listeners. Now the flight of SpaceShipOne would surely change lock on spaceflight... right? And with the aid and sponsorship of billionaire Sir Richard Branson Bert began the development of SpaceShipTwo which would carry paying passengers beyond the boundary and into space. Of course, if you think that you are going to be one of those passengers, think again.

Ticket prices for a trip on Rutan and Branson’s magic carpet to open space to “everyone” are currently set at a quarter of a million dollars per seat. So, only the extremely rich and highly famous among us can possibly afford to make that little flight. The reality is now it’s not just NASA that is screwing you, but it is now also Bert Rutan- because what he has designed is not a vehicle to allow regular folks to visit space. Instead what he has developed is space yacht exclusively for the rich and famous to make space their private playground. Of course "anyone" can go... you just have to go out and scrape up a quarter of a million bucks... how hard can that be? I mean, Sir Richard probably spends that on a weekend getaway.

Yet, many of us look at other options toward spaceflight such as billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin project. This private/commercial venture utilizes a returnable booster and a suborbital capsule designed to take private individuals into space and return them to the earth by way of the capsule. The system has now been tested a growing number of times with amazing success. The company’s own animation depicting the future shows space tourists in flight suits aboard the capsule enjoying a once-in-a-lifetime experience of weightlessness in space with an exciting yet pleasant return to earth. Indeed every one of us would love to go on that trip. CNBC reports that, although the company has not yet set a firm figure, an insider at Blue Origin has leaked the word that a price for such an adventure will be… seats starting at… $200,000.  

Thus the odds are good that unless you’re in the economic category of individual who will arrive at the launch site by way of your own private jet, you are unlikely to be able to ever afford that experience.

And then there is SpaceX and their vision of private spaceflight to fantastic destinations such as Mars. Elon Musk and his fellow visionaries at SpaceX are currently drumming up enthusiasm for us earthlings to travel with them and colonize Mars for the permanent habitation of mankind. What true space enthusiast would not want to take that adventure and make it their personal trip of a lifetime. Perhaps you have dreamed about this and perhaps you’ve looked at SpaceX’s plans for Mars and said to yourself THAT is how I would like to end my life. That’s right... it is a one way trip to your grave and will only cost you about a quarter of a million bucks (kind of makes Branson and Bezos' options look a bit more inviting eh?) It’ll be pretty hard to get a personal bank loan to finance that one way Mars adventure… because you won’t be around to make the payments- yer’ going there to DIE.

(This is my morph of the movie logo... to keep me from getting sued)

Now, I hate to be the one to break it to you, but the odds of anyone reading this actually making that trip are not only dependent on SpaceX turning that hyperbole into reality plus you raising a quarter of a million bucks, but also it depends on you becoming the absolutely physically perfect specimen to go on that trip. Frankly unless you have won the genetic lottery and are the type of specimen that could meet the approval of Hugo Drax himself your chances are better attempting to win the lottery and fly with either Branson or Bezos.

The bottom line is that the development of private/commercial human spaceflight will likely never evolve the way the transportation of airline passengers developed. In the early years only the rich and famous could afford the fly aboard airliners, yet as time went on and the amount of seats available as well as routes available grew dramatically and the price began to become affordable. Do not expect that to happen with spaceflight in your lifetime. Certainly, the rich and the famous will soon have their chance to experience spaceflight and Leonardo DiCaprio and Taylor Swift will buy their astronaut wings just for kicks and cocktail party bragging rights. 

Thus it will be said that now space is open to everyone… except you and me, of course.

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