October 31, 2014

"A witness says Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo exploded during a test flight over California’s Mojave Desert."

"Photographer Ken Brown says the space tourism craft was released from the plane that carries it to high altitude, ignited its rocket motor and then exploded."

I've always been against space tourism. I'm sorry to hear of the death and the injury, but this is not a good way for rich people to try to find fulfillment in life.

137 comments:

Drago said...

Althouse: "I've always been against space tourism. I'm sorry to hear of the death and the injury, but this is not a good way for rich people to try to find fulfillment in life."

No, by all means let's just sit around and wait for the government to do everything.

They never lost anyone in accidents involving leading edge technologies.

damikesc said...

The US Space program has had similar kinds of incidents. The Soviet one did as well but covered them up nicely.

I hope things are worked out to make this a possibility.

PackerBronco said...

To quote Q (geeks and nerds will know who I mean):

"If you can't take a little bloody nose, maybe you ought to go back home and crawl under your bed. It's not safe out here. It's wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross. But it's not for the timid."

Tibore said...

Why is space tourism not a good way for rich people to try and find fulfillment in life?

Ann Althouse said...

"No, by all means let's just sit around and wait for the government to do everything."

Do what? Take rich people on a joy ride. I don't want government doing that either.

StoughtonSconnie said...

Ann, I'm curious to know why you are against private space travel. How is it wrong for wealthy individuals to use their own money to fulfill a desire to slip the surly bonds of earth, but OK for astronauts to do so using tax dollars taken from rich, poor and in-between? Does space belong to government? Should early aviation pioneers, most being private individuals using their own money, have been prevented from flying?

Ann Althouse said...

We middle and lower class people are asked to conserve and be careful about our carbon footprint.

I think most travel is self-indulgent from the environmental perspective. But space tourism is clearly the worst.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Do what?

Develop the technology. Which means someone has to pay for it. That's either taxpayers or customers.

PackerBronco said...

Blogger Ann Althouse said...
I think most travel is self-indulgent from the environmental perspective. But space tourism is clearly the worst.

10/31/14, 2:47 PM


D. D. Harriman disagrees. (more geek-dom, I know.)

Anonymous said...

This isn't just 'space tourism', silly professor. Once the tech is developed, it will be used for many things That's how the market works.

Clearly, you don't know the history of space flight. Remember when the Space Shuttle was going to be the greatest thing EVAR, reusable, putting satellites in orbit, fixing them, yada yada?

Well, it blew up in 1984, the US opened up rocketry to private industry, and now we have many, many satellites.

Private industry is why space is successful. Government has been a disaster.

Oh, and it's someone's own business if they want to risk their life. It's not your business.

Ann Althouse said...

I think the genuine advancement of science justifies some space exploration, and I support private institutions engaging in that if they can and I may support government spending in that area.

I would closely scrutinize whether it's truly valuable from a scientific standpoint and not simply people having fun, getting and keeping jobs, and making it look like there's a space program.

I think robots should be used to explore Mars and so forth, not human beings. Not at this point in human civilization anyway.

This isn't a game to amaze and amuse geeks and kids.

Shanna said...

someone has to pay for it. That's either taxpayers or customers.

And since the government has decided to back off space travel, this kind of thing makes sense.

Prayers for the injured and dead.

Ann Althouse said...

"Develop the technology. Which means someone has to pay for it. That's either taxpayers or customers."

I don't accept the raising of money by taking rich people on space rides.

Ann Althouse said...

"Oh, and it's someone's own business if they want to risk their life. It's not your business."

They endanger the environment. That's everyone's business.

richlb said...

Althouse: "I've always been against space tourism."

Haven't you always been against tourism in general?

Carl Pham said...

But space tourism is clearly the worst

Oh no. On a per person basis charcoal grilling is by far the worst. Gobs of CO2, plus nasty partially-burned hydrocarbons, many of which are so toxic that if a factory emitted them at the same rate per pound of product the EPA would have the place blown up with dynamite and the owners sent to prison for 100 years.

Wait...you weren't thinking on a per person basis? Then how does 20 rocket flights a year (optimistically speaking) compare to several billion car-trip miles?

Ignorance is Bliss said...

I don't accept the raising of money by taking rich people on space rides.

What business is it of yours to or to not accept it? How would you react to someone saying that they didn't accept you and Meade driving a car to Austin?

Anonymous said...

Yes, we middle and lower class people are asked to conserve and be careful about our carbon footprint. And you implicitly tell those doing the asking to go fuck themselves each time you strike out for the West in the Audi TT. Which is exactly what they need to be told; VG is telling them the same thing.

Steve Uhr said...

Space tourism is the first step toward 30 minute flights from Madison to Tokyo.

rhhardin said...

Vinegar and baking soda releases environmentally destructive CO2, if you're thinking of substitute propellants.

Quaestor said...

Althouse made it clear she objects. So what's the objection... carbon footprint.

So what makes you think Virgin Galactic's spacecraft contributes to (dramatic fanfare) Global Warming?

Hyrocarbon-based fuels are generally not the best choice for SI:M

Rumpletweezer said...

There have been extinction events in the history of this planet. We need to get some breeding stock off of this rock and onto another rock or rocks.

Revenant said...

I've always been against space tourism. I'm sorry to hear of the death and the injury, but this is not a good way for rich people to try to find fulfillment in life

On the surface, that seems like a really silly thing to say. I wonder if there's a rational explanation for the dislike.

The "rich people" in question are helping to fund research that all of us will ultimately benefit from. Compared to, say, vacationing in Monaco or buying art, this seems like an excellent way for the rich to find fulfillment in life.

Revenant said...

There have been extinction events in the history of this planet. We need to get some breeding stock off of this rock and onto another rock or rocks.

Unfortunately there are no candidate rocks in this solar system. Given the available options, people concerned about extinction-level events should focus their efforts on habitats in Earth orbit.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

All in all, space tourism seems a far less destructive way for the rich to spend their money than giving it to college endowments.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Unfortunately there are no candidate rocks in this solar system.

Obviously there are other candidate rocks. Why do you think none of them ( such as Mars ) are good enough candidates?

The Drill SGT said...

Absent Companions!

Christy said...

I find it a clever way to raise money for a project. Certainly our president has found entertaining rich Hollywood celebs a fine way to raise money.

Roger Sweeny said...

"This isn't just 'space tourism', silly professor. Once the tech is developed, it will be used for many things That's how the market works."

Earth sits at the bottom of a deep gravity well. You will always--always, always, always--need lots of energy to "slip the surly bonds of earth." Which means it always will be expensive--unless we can develop something like cheap fusion.

If there were something valuable out there--say, dilithium crystals--it would make sense to go even at a high cost. But there isn't. Markets don't pay high prices for things that can be done cheaper on earth.

Space tourism is the one thing that can't.

Mike said...

My belief is that we should encourage exploration of new frontiers, and if we get "rich people" to pay for it through tourism then great. I believe the USA should HAVE a viable and vibrant space program, but we don't. Not a manned one anyway, and it seems we rely on 1960s era Russian rockets to keep the small participation we have going.

How's THAT working out?

So by all means, let's mourn the lost souls from today and urge VG and SpaceX to keep at it. Expand our frontiers and go where...well you get the idea.

garage mahal said...

There have been extinction events in the history of this planet. We need to get some breeding stock off of this rock and onto another rock or rocks.

Send every rich person on earth into space and let them do the exploring. Win-win.

Quaestor said...

I find it a clever way to raise money for a project. Certainly our president has found entertaining rich Hollywood celebs a fine way to raise money.

It's axiomatic that billionaires will do less harm by blowing their wads on space tourism than by contributing the same amount to a political candidate.

Mike said...

And this whole "carbon footprint" concern trolling by the enviro-wacko left is not something sane people should worry about. God knows THOSE people aren't really worrying about their stooopid footprint.

Larry J said...

Blogger Ann Althouse said...
I think most travel is self-indulgent from the environmental perspective. But space tourism is clearly the worst.


Just because you don't like to travel, it doesn't mean the rest of us have to bow to your preferences. I don't grant you that power over me. As for the so-called environmental impact, it uses less fuel than a long transoceanic flight.

Revenant said...

Obviously there are other candidate rocks. Why do you think none of them ( such as Mars ) are good enough candidates?

The only way another planet serves as protection against extinction events is if it can be terraformed to be more habitable than a post-ELE Earth. No planet in the solar system qualifies, nor can any be terraformed to qualify.

Michael said...

Garage:
"Send every rich person on earth into space and let them do the exploring. Win-win."

Cool. You work for a poor guy. Unusual. How is he on the pay front?

MikeDC said...

We middle and lower class people are asked to conserve and be careful about our carbon footprint.

1. You are NOT a member of the middle class (LOL).

I think most travel is self-indulgent from the environmental perspective. But space tourism is clearly the worst.
...
I think the genuine advancement of science justifies some space exploration, and I support private institutions engaging in that if they can and I may support government spending in that area.

I would closely scrutinize whether it's truly valuable from a scientific standpoint and not simply people having fun, getting and keeping jobs, and making it look like there's a space program.


In other words, you want the government to do it, because they're good at taking the fun out of everything and you don't want groups you don't like (rich and/or geeks) having any fun.

PB Reader said...

I'm not against space tourism. I'm for it. If rich people want to spend money that way, fine. That money goes to employ a lot of people who aren't rich AND we advance civilization.

Mistakes get made. Insist things are perfect and absolutely safe means we don't learn anything.

Michael said...

Blogger Ann Althouse said...
"I think most travel is self-indulgent from the environmental perspective. But space tourism is clearly the worst."

I don't think you care much for travel from any perspective. The environmental angle is simply bullshit. I don't know what the perspective of the environment is and suspect it cares not one shit that I am hopping on a plane this evening for London.

I only wish I was going in my own plane with just two pilots, my wife and me. A big plane.

Revenant said...

Earth sits at the bottom of a deep gravity well. You will always--always, always, always--need lots of energy to "slip the surly bonds of earth." Which means it always will be expensive--unless we can develop something like cheap fusion.

Your argument seems to depend on the idea that technology used to send people into orbit can only be used for that purpose.

Exploring other planets and/or sending people into orbit will almost never make economic sense, sure. But improved launch/recovery capabilities would make satellites cheaper, which in turn make telecommunications cheaper, and so on.

Ralph Hyatt said...

When ever the subject of travel comes up the professor's demeanor gets downright puritan.

It's as if she is afraid that someone, somewhere is having fun and she means to put a stop to it.

Bryan C said...

The modern world is made possible by products once made exclusively for rich people on a joy ride.

Adventure is dangerous and sometimes people die. Grieve, fix the problem, try again.

Gahrie said...

I don't accept the raising of money by taking rich people on space rides.

No borrowing money from the Chinese that our grandchildren will have to pay back is a much better idea.

If we don't exploit space, the Chinese, Russians or Indians will, and he who controls the orbitals controls the planet.

Using Althouse logic, air travel, steamships, automobiles and railroads would not exist.

Quaestor said...

Ironically today's crash may well be linked to a change in fuel. Originally Branson's spaceplane used hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene (HTPB), which is a well-established fuel for solid rocket motors. This stuff looks like pink bubble gum, but smells like foam rubber. I've worked with HTPB in an undergrad chem lab. Heat catalyses it to release gaseous O2, so once it get started it burns like a m'fer.

HTPB is also remarkable stable. It can be stored for decades and remain potent and safe. Consequently it's the fuel of choice for most US ballistic missiles.

Just recently VG changed the fuel to a hybrid -- partly solid, partly liquid. The solid component is thermoplastic polyamide pellets, which are bits of plastic similar to nylon and about the size of sand grains. The liquid portion is LOX. By having a separate oxidizer that can be throttled or cut off the motor is more controllable -- at least in theory.

buwaya said...

Early aviation developed largely because it was fashionable among wealthy adventurers. Santos-Dumont for instance, but he had a lot of company.

Besides being some of the early experimenters, they were the principal market for the early aircraft makers, more so even than government, at least until perhaps 1912-1913.

This was an extremely dangerous hobby and had no practical utility at that time.

Gahrie said...

They endanger the environment. That's everyone's business.

Both of these statements are bullshit.

RecChief said...

Cars were a toy of the rich for a long time before Henry Ford introduced the Model T

Gahrie said...

Unfortunately there are no candidate rocks in this solar system.

Sure there is. humans could survive on Mars and the moon now using current technology, and a thousands years of terraforming would produce a Mars very similar to Earth.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Revenant said...

The only way another planet serves as protection against extinction events is if it can be terraformed to be more habitable than a post-ELE Earth.

I don't see that as the case. A colony on Mars, even if it was underground, would allow people to survive, and later repopulate the earth. And Mars would have an advantage over earth orbit in that some ELEs could also take out items in earth orbit. Mars would also contain many more natural resources if it took earth a while to settle from the ELE.

No planet in the solar system qualifies, nor can any be terraformed to qualify.

No planet can be terraformed using current technology. That does not mean that we will never have that ability.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Ann Althouse said...I would closely scrutinize whether it's truly valuable from a scientific standpoint and not simply people having fun, getting and keeping jobs, and making it look like there's a space program.
Uh, fuck the free market, I guess? Are you being forced to pay for this in any way?

LYNNDH said...

"I think most travel is self-indulgent from the environmental perspective"

So Ann, no more road trips to Colorado?? Or anywhere else for that matter.

Paul said...

"I've always been against space tourism."

I'm all for it Ann. The only way we are gonna get off this planet is space colonization.

Not by governments but by individuals who want to go and be pioneers again.

And that takes business to make the 'wagons' to go across the sea (space that is.)

There will be deaths, there will be people and ships lost, but that is just apart of exploring new frontiers.

RecChief said...

Ann Althouse said...
We middle and lower class people are asked to conserve


I enjoy your blog, I enjoy your insights even when I don't agree with them, I enjoy your hospitality to put forth my views to other commenters, but this made me laugh out loud based on what I imagine a Law School professorship probably pays in annual salary. We middle class people? hahahahaha

Scott M said...

Do what? Take rich people on a joy ride. I don't want government doing that either.

Rich people always get to try out cool stuff first. Always have and likely always will. If there is a market for it, more will enter it and eventually it will be mundane enough for the average yokel to afford. By then, it won't just be tourism as the rich will have moved on. To the moon, most likely.

Scott M said...

Space tourism is the first step toward 30 minute flights from Madison to Tokyo.

This too.

Revenant said...

Sure there is. humans could survive on Mars and the moon now using current technology, and a thousands years of terraforming would produce a Mars very similar to Earth.

If by "survive" you mean "live in sealed habitats deep underground" then sure, they could survive. And they could survive in Earth orbit, much more cheaply, using the exact same technology. All that putting the habitats on the Moon or Mars does is make them more expensive.

As for the notion that a thousand years of terraformed could make Mars Earthlike, that's not a scientifically supportable claim.

Quaestor said...

Junk that climate-killer Audi TT! Huzzah for the zero-carbon Ford Nucleon!

Excelsior!

Zeb Quinn said...

We middle and lower class people are asked to conserve and be careful about our carbon footprint

You don't have to though. And you shouldn't if you reject the premise.

SteveR said...

Or in my case, as a citizens of Dona Ana County New Mexico. not a good way to use taxpayers to subsidize your fulfillment with your banks.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Let's all Google "early automobile criticism" just for fun. Just for the rich, environmentally damaging/noisy/dangerous?

Zeb Quinn said...

We may be gaining a little window into one reason why all the great explorers in HIStory were men, with the possible exception of Sacagawea.

Revenant said...

A colony on Mars, even if it was underground, would allow people to survive, and later repopulate the earth.

An underground colony on Earth itself would have the same effect, and be a lot easier to build and maintain.

One of the other things that supporters of the "we need space travel to preserve humanity" argument miss is that space *travel* is not just expensive, but totally unnecessary until we have a way to survive at the destination. Until we both have a way to terraform Mars (unlikely to ever happen, but who knows) AND have actually succeeded in doing so, the answer to the question "how can we transport people to Mars" is not important. We're centuries away from needing to worry about how to transport humans to other planets for any practical reason.

SteveR said...

The idea that Branson's space tourism is connected to the advancement of science and technology that ultimately serves all humanity is nice. That was certainly how they sold it, when cutting the deals with Bill Richardson, et al. Drive up to Upham, NM someday and tell me how that's working out.

Rumpletweezer said...

Revenant said:

"We're centuries away from needing to worry about how to transport humans to other planets for any practical reason."

I don't know how you can possibly know this.

KLDAVIS said...

Not sure I've ever disagreed with Althouse more than on this post...and that's saying something.

Hagar said...

Going into space is a guy thing.
Not liking it is a female thing. Wastes resources that could have been spent on them and the babies.

Quaestor said...

What about satellite TV? Is it worth the "carbon footprint" to launch and maintain the constellation of "birds" needed to permit those people of the land to watch Jerry Springer conduct his freak show? They could move to Madison where coax service is available, but that would present other problems, would it not?

How about your iPhone and your GPS app? Have you ever considered how deep your footprint may be? People got along just fine without cellphones 30 years ago, and the Web, and a thousands other things that directly or indirectly leave a "footprint." If one chooses to condemn someone's lifestyle choices based on fashionable green nonsense, then one ought to live in a windowless house.

This immoral consumption balliwyck is as old as civilization. Diogenes made it -- Look at me! I go naked and live in a barrel. If the rich lived like me there would be no poor. Wells, Shaw, and Keir Hardie used to sneer at wealthy men for being fat. Today's socialists sneer at poor people for the same reason.

AGW is just another fashionable angst. When the wealthy and powerful who thump their chests and bleat the received scripture so self-righteously whenever the opportunity arises actually behave in a manner consistent with the way they'd like to compel me to behave, then I'll reconsider.

viator said...

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air. . . .

Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or ever eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

by John Gillespie Magee, Jr., American pilot who volunteered for the Battle of Britain. On 11 December 1941 (and only three days after the US entered the war), Pilot Officer Magee was killed. The Spitfire V he was flying, VZ-H, collided with an Oxford Trainer from Cranwell Airfield.

Quaestor said...

"If you can't take a little bloody nose, maybe you ought to go back home and crawl under your bed. It's not safe out here. It's wondrous, with treasures to satiate desires both subtle and gross. But it's not for the timid."

I never said that.

But I wish I did.

Paco Wové said...

"Earth sits at the bottom of a deep gravity well. You will always--always, always, always--need lots of energy to "slip the surly bonds of earth.""

Coincidentally, I ran across this little Wikipedic factoid just yesterday:

To date, the Saturn V is the only launch vehicle able to transport human beings beyond low Earth orbit.

One of those things that is pretty obvious if you think about it, but is still humbling – all of that technology and effort, and it's still almost more than we can do to get off this rock.

Zeb Quinn said...

Paco Wové:

I hate kooky conspiracy theories, but it's getting to the point that I'm starting to wonder if it isn't on account of another reason, apart from rocket technology.

Quaestor said...

You will always--always, always, always--need lots of energy to "slip the surly bonds of earth.

Perhaps it would be wise to be less emphatic. History suggests caution and a "beats the hell outa me" shoulder shrug when speculating on the future.

For example, there is informed speculation about a technology that can reduce the cost of reaching orbit by a factor of 100 -- a space elevator. Check it.

Secondly, "lots of energy" is so slippery a term as to be meaningless. In 1492 it took Columbus 70 days to cross the Atlantic. Taking into consideration the cost of the ships and the crews, Columbus's voyage was extremely expensive -- so costly that only a great power like Spain could afford the gamble. Today almost anyone can fly from Lisbon to NYC in under 8 hours. If you made that trip your share of the energy used by the plane would exceed the entire energy budget of Spain in 1492.

chillblaine said...

"I've always been against space tourism."

Rules that permit space tourism are bogus. We need some new rules or we'll be bogus, too.

h/t Spicoli

Revenant said...

Quaestor, the basic energy requirements of exiting our gravity well are independent of the means used to do so. Some methods just waste more energy on things other than changing velocity, that's all. As for the idea of technological advancements making energy cheap and abundant, the original poster mentioned that (cheap fusion, etc).

Howard said...

Drago:

All lawyers do is just sit around and play word games. You cannot expect testosterone deprived office pogues to "approve" of MEN performing envelope busting experiments. Having rich thrill seekers funding R&D is a cool idea. Just think of the engineers, wrench turners and pilots employed by these folks.

Parasites don't respect the fallen giants on which they perch.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Revenant said...

An underground colony on Earth itself would have the same effect, and be a lot easier to build and maintain.

An underground colony on earth would not offer as much protection for as many possible events.

Until we... have a way to terraform Mars...

We don't need to terraform Mars in order to have a self-sustaining colony there. Once self-sustaining then the colony can grow and spread out over Mars, continually improving our odds.

Rusty said...

Ann Althouse said...
"Develop the technology. Which means someone has to pay for it. That's either taxpayers or customers."

I don't accept the raising of money by taking rich people on space rides.


Why? It's their money.

Environmentally it's less damaging that a coast to coast plane flight.
The volcano in Iceland releases more pollutants in one day than all of Europe for a year.
So a spaceflight is just a piss in the ocean.

Howard said...

Quaestor said...iPhone...

Exactly. I'm sure the families of all the forced abortions, suicides and cancer deaths in China are so glad that their family members made the ultimate sacrifice so rich Americans like Dr. Althouse can have the latest iPhone at a price that still allows a huge data plan, high speed internet, a new car, a remodeled palace, big screen TV's travel on vacation and daily slurps of mocha soy latte's.

Apparently Daddy's little girl has forgotten those who shield her from the absolute rule of the reality jungle so that she can have her precious make believe rule of law waking dream.

I am become bimbo, destroyer of men

Edmund said...

@Roger Sweeney Earth sits at the bottom of a deep gravity well. You will always--always, always, always--need lots of energy to "slip the surly bonds of earth." Which means it always will be expensive--unless we can develop something like cheap fusion.

Nope. The energy needed to get a person to orbit it about the same as flying from NY to Australia. The expense is that we have been throwing away the vehicle every flight. SpaceX (and others) plan on building mostly reusable rockets and capsules that could bring the price down quite a bit.

Edmund said...

@Quaestor Just recently VG changed the fuel to a hybrid -- partly solid, partly liquid. The solid component is thermoplastic polyamide pellets, which are bits of plastic similar to nylon and about the size of sand grains. The liquid portion is LOX.

Nope. The engine has always been a hybrid. Both versions used Nitrous Oxide as the oxidizer. No LOX involved.

Joe said...

This whole thing is a joke which leverages an absurd dictionary definition of space (which was done entirely to accommodate X-15 pilots.) My definition is the common sense notion that you aren't in space until you can achieve a self-sustaining orbit.

Further, this makes Burt Rutan look like a bit of a dick for his arrogant and obnoxious statements about NASA a few years back. Of course, nobody remembers that.

Edmund said...

Robert Heinlein wrote an additional verse to the "Navy Hymn" (a.k.a. "Eternal Father, strong to save")

Almighty ruler of the all
Whose power extends to great and small,
Who guides the stars with steadfast law,
Whose least creation fills with awe -
Oh grant Thy mercy and Thy grace
To those who venture into space.

Some of us in the audience sang this at the memorial for Challenger, and again for Columbia.

Joe said...

Another point; Burt Rutan's arrogance and obsession with his "not invented here" syndrome, especially about the engine, keeps killing people (this is not the first and won't be the last.) The unfortunate irony is that Rocketdyne, XCOR and SpaceX all have proven engines--NASA went through the same thing with Vanguard and finally resorted to the vastly superior Redstone.

Rusty said...

Edmund said...
@Roger Sweeney Earth sits at the bottom of a deep gravity well. You will always--always, always, always--need lots of energy to "slip the surly bonds of earth." Which means it always will be expensive--unless we can develop something like cheap fusion.

Nope. The energy needed to get a person to orbit it about the same as flying from NY to Australia. The expense is that we have been throwing away the vehicle every flight. SpaceX (and others) plan on building mostly reusable rockets and capsules that could bring the price down quite a bit.


Think Space elevator.
The japanese are playing with the concept.

etbass said...

Professor, I don't know when you have taken so much near unanimous flack for an off the cuff, expression of your feeling.

Gotta give it to you! But is there a retraction in the works?

John Lynch said...

It's like mountain climbing for people who can't hack mountain climbing.

Drago said...

Howard: "Drago: All lawyers do is just sit around and play word games. You cannot expect testosterone deprived office pogues to "approve" of MEN performing envelope busting experiments. Having rich thrill seekers funding R&D is a cool idea. Just think of the engineers, wrench turners and pilots employed by these folks. Parasites don't respect the fallen giants on which they perch."

In the words of Count Tyrone Rugen (The Princess Bride): Well said.

Now seize him (Howard).

John Lynch said...

Space tourism, not test pilots. Best make that clear.

Ann Althouse said...

"but this made me laugh out loud based on what I imagine a Law School professorship probably pays in annual salary. We middle class people?"

You think I could call myself "upper class"?

Maybe upper middle class, but I'm firmly middle class and always was. I don't even think I know anyone whom I'd consider upper class.

Revenant said...

"An underground colony on Earth itself would have the same effect, and be a lot easier to build and maintain."

An underground colony on earth would not offer as much protection for as many possible events.

Earth-based underground bunkers would adequately protect against any disaster the Earth has experienced in the 4.5 billion years since the Moon was formed.

The other thing you need to remember is that your colonization plan requires that humanity have access to technology that is, itself, a greater existential threat to us than anything the universe is likely to fling our way.

Ann Althouse said...

"Professor, I don't know when you have taken so much near unanimous flack for an off the cuff, expression of your feeling. Gotta give it to you! But is there a retraction in the works?"

LOL. No way. You all can retract to me later, someday when you realize I'm right.

Original Mike said...

"I've always been against space tourism. I'm sorry to hear of the death and the injury, but this is not a good way for rich people to try to find fulfillment in life."

I read this right after reading:
"If you do not vote this year, we will be interested to hear why not."

and the same reaction to both. "What business is it of yours?"

The Right Side said...

Ground control to major Tom

Larry J said...

"Blogger Quaestor said...
Ironically today's crash may well be linked to a change in fuel. Originally Branson's spaceplane used hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene (HTPB), which is a well-established fuel for solid rocket motors. This stuff looks like pink bubble gum, but smells like foam rubber. I've worked with HTPB in an undergrad chem lab. Heat catalyses it to release gaseous O2, so once it get started it burns like a m'fer.

HTPB is also remarkable stable. It can be stored for decades and remain potent and safe. Consequently it's the fuel of choice for most US ballistic missiles.

Just recently VG changed the fuel to a hybrid -- partly solid, partly liquid. The solid component is thermoplastic polyamide pellets, which are bits of plastic similar to nylon and about the size of sand grains. The liquid portion is LOX. By having a separate oxidizer that can be throttled or cut off the motor is more controllable -- at least in theory."

Actually, just about everything you wrote about the SpaceShipTwo engine is wrong. SS2 has always used a hybrid engine like SpaceShipOne before it. Before today, the fuel was essentially rubber and the oxidizer was nitrous oxide. They encountered problems with their rubber propellant engine so they switched to a type of nylon. Today's flight reportedly used the nylon/nitrous oxide engine.

Original Mike said...

"They endanger the environment. That's everyone's business."

What a crock.

Original Mike said...

I can see why you had a revulsion to libertarianism.

Howard said...

I'm calling bullshit. Americans are all super rich and super powerful compared to the developing world who make our dirt cheap consumer goods without OSHA or EPA or NRA protections.

Petty jealousy and faux environmental superiority regarding folks who are just slightly above your rarefied station is the height of bourgeois.

Drago said...

Althouse: "They endanger the environment. That's everyone's business."

Stupid Wright brothers.

Revenant said...

Petty jealousy and faux environmental superiority regarding folks who are just slightly above your rarefied station is the height of bourgeois.

I dunno, your prioritizing of things like OSHA above things like "poor people being able to feed their families" is pretty darn bourgeois...

Original Mike said...

"It's as if she is afraid that someone, somewhere is having fun and she means to put a stop to it."

Seems like it, doesn't it?

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Revenant said...


The other thing you need to remember is that your colonization plan requires that humanity have access to technology that is, itself, a greater existential threat to us than anything the universe is likely to fling our way.

What technology do you believe it will require? I don't see it needing much more than we have right now. Better tech would make it faster/safer/cheaper, but mostly what we need is engineering and will.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Revenant said...

Earth-based underground bunkers would adequately protect against any disaster the Earth has experienced in the 4.5 billion years since the Moon was formed.

I think the biggest problem with Earth-based shelter is social. If you build a Mars-based colony, and tell people that it is likely a one-way trip, with cramped quarters, hard work, and a very repetitive meal plan, you would get highly skilled people lining up for the chance.

If you try the same thing on earth with an underground bunker, where people can only come and go a couple of times a year, for a threat that most likely won't happen in their lifetime, you won't be attracting humanity's best and brightest.

richard mcenroe said...

Sir Francis Chichester, one of the 20th century pioneers of solo long distance sailing, once explained why he never carried a radio before one of the early Observer Transatlantic Solo Races:

"If it should come to it, I hope I would have the decency to drown silently, like a gentleman."

He didn't expect the state to get him out of trouble he might get himself into... and he damned sure wasn't prepared to have to get their permission.

Flying itself was a self-indulgent novelty in its early years, and many more people died in those primitive airplanes and their development than have died in spacecraft.

richard mcenroe said...

Ann, you are sitting in the middle of a country that exists because of self-indulgent rich people and the exploration they paid for.

richard mcenroe said...

"We're centuries away from needing to worry about how to transport humans to other planets for any practical reason."

The sooner we get the human genome off this one rock in a sustained fashion, the sooner we'll be doing something to guarantee its continuation.

Rusty said...

Then we should just quit right now. Use that money for something else.

PuertoRicoSpaceport.com said...

I am not a big space buff but if people want to spend their own money on it, God speed and good luck.

We look like we might be getting our own spaceport here in Puerto Rico USA at the old Roosevelt Roads naval station. A group of Japanese investors are in final stages of negotiating a lease, we are told.

Two big advantages are that it is away from most normal air traffic routes. The other is that crashes will be in the water so no messes to clean up.

Another big advantage is that the runway is less than 2 miles from my house so I can watch them take off from my porch.

Anyone interested in advertising? Visit puertoricospaceport.com to contact me.

John Henry

Revenant said...

What technology do you believe it will require?

Two things: the ability to accelerate large masses to speeds of tens or hundreds of kilometers per second cheaply, and the ability to terraform planets. You could skip the second option if you wanted to build bunkers on Mars, but like I already mentioned that's a retarded idea; bunkers on Earth are entirely superior.

The third thing you'd need, of course, would be a totalitarian government run by an apocalypse cult. No democracy is going to divert a substantial part of its economy to ward off an event that hasn't happened once in the last four billion years.

I don't see it needing much more than we have right now.

If your goal is to have a small population of Mars-based humans that slowly die off after Earth stops supplying them then, yes, we could probably hook that up for only a few trillion dollars. But that would be crazy.

PuertoRicoSpaceport.com said...

As others have commented, I will believe that Ann cares about carbon footprints when she starts behaving as if she cared about them.

Ditch the sporty ineffficient Audi, stop making long drives etc.

When you start walking the walk, Ann, you can start talking the talk. Until then you would do well to keep quiet about these things.

John Henry

Revenant said...

I think the biggest problem with Earth-based shelter is social. If you build a Mars-based colony, and tell people that it is likely a one-way trip, with cramped quarters, hard work, and a very repetitive meal plan, you would get highly skilled people lining up for the chance.

No, because highly-skilled people do not usually seek out miserable conditions for the sake of inflicting a worse standard of living on their descendants. Remember, Mars will be more, not less, vulnerable to losing its entire population to disaster. Ditto for the Moon. Even if it made sense from a whole-species perspective to use Mars or the Moon as a backup population center, the people on Mars or the Moon will be living in vastly more dangerous and less comfortable surroundings... forever.

Revenant said...

The sooner we get the human genome off this one rock in a sustained fashion, the sooner we'll be doing something to guarantee its continuation.

You didn't even bother reading the comment you replied to, I see.

Ignorance is Bliss said...


If your goal is to have a small population of Mars-based humans that slowly die off after Earth stops supplying them then, yes, we could probably hook that up for only a few trillion dollars. But that would be crazy.

That would be crazy, so why would we choose to leave them dependent on Earth when Mars has pretty much all the resources they would need?

St. George said...

Commercial air travel was for the wealthy and movie stars in the 1930s and 1940s.

Give commercial space tourism 50 years, and we'll see Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruises in orbit.

Weightless fat drunks in buffet lines. It's the American way.

St. George said...

And with slot machines.

Revenant said...

That would be crazy, so why would we choose to leave them dependent on Earth when Mars has pretty much all the resources they would need?

Well, you kind of answered your own question when you said "pretty much all" instead of "all". But the main reason is that you were discussing colonization with current or near-future technology. With current or near-future technology, an independent Mars isn't on the table.

Revenant said...

One additional bit of food for thought.

Fans of Mars colonization are fond of saying things like "it has plenty of resources". Actually we just think it *probably* has plenty of mineral and metal resources, but I'll let that one go. The thing is, finding an ore deposit is only the first, and by far the easiest, step in actually leveraging it.

The *really* important resources are infrastructure and labor. Say you find an iron deposit. Congrats, you are the proud owner of rust-colored rocks. Even with the aid of machines you need people to dig the ore, then it has to be smelted and refined, at the end of which you can... sit around and admire your shiny ingot. No, you need still further men and machines to work that into shapes you can use -- and that's just iron, one of the easiest-to-work-with substances in existence.

Actually having a viable, self-sustaining economy on Mars, even IF it has all the mineral resources we need, would require tens of thousands of mines, refineries, factories, et al, and a population of millions of skilled and unskilled laborers. That is no more achievable with current technology than the Apollo program was to the Roman Empire.

Danno said...

My thought is that people should be free to do things like this, but I cringe at all of the "bucket list" bragging that accompanies such rich people and their expensive follies.

RecChief said...

Ann Althouse said...
"but this made me laugh out loud based on what I imagine a Law School professorship probably pays in annual salary. We middle class people?"

You think I could call myself "upper class"?

Maybe upper middle class, but I'm firmly middle class and always was. I don't even think I know anyone whom I'd consider upper class.


I meant no disrespect by my comment. But, I'm guessing a tenured Law professor at even a State university makes well over 6 figures. Even at $3+ a gallon gas and $4 a pound hamburger in the midwest, that is freedom from worry about a lot of things financial.

I don't begrudge you that.

I guess I am just old enough to picture the middle class as assembly line workers and trades people. Kind of a Wonder Years cliche I guess.

Also, I had a client once (during a short stint in another industry) who was a doctor, made over 300,000 a year....and thought of himself as middle class.

Gahrie said...

Althouse:

I hate to break it to you, but your minimum position salary alone puts you in the top 5% of the nation's family incomes. Add in any income by Meade, investments, or other and you are quite clearly upperclass.

If it makes you feel better, feel free to call yourself lower uppper class.

Gahrie said...

But, I'm guessing a tenured Law professor at even a State university makes well over 6 figures.

You don't have to guess. Althouse's basic salary is a publically available record, and yes, it is considerably over six figures.

RecChief said...

but this is not a good way for rich people to try to find fulfillment in life."

Linking this back to your post the other day about why people think you're a big lefty, it's the second time this post made me laugh.

It's utterances like the above that make me think you're a leftist, no matter who you say you vote for. My guess is that, as an intelligent person, you are able to logically reason the candidate that might be the best for your economic situation. That doesn't make you a conservative or a libertarian, it marks you, to me , as a rational person who has clearly identified their own self interest.

Exactly who made you the arbiter of what someone should find fulfilling in life? and apparently, it was an off the cuff the remark. It's these impulses that make some of your commenters think you are a leftist, voting record be damned.

Roger Sweeny said...

"Earth sits at the bottom of a deep gravity well. You will always--always, always, always--need lots of energy to "slip the surly bonds of earth." Which means it always will be expensive--unless we can develop something like cheap fusion.

"Your argument seems to depend on the idea that technology used to send people into orbit can only be used for that purpose.

"Exploring other planets and/or sending people into orbit will almost never make economic sense, sure. But improved launch/recovery capabilities would make satellites cheaper, which in turn make telecommunications cheaper, and so on."

Since hundreds of satellites are sent up every year, there is already plenty of incentive to make launches cheaper and/or more reliable. The additional technologies required to send people up and get them back aren't very transferable.

donald said...

"No, by all means let's just sit around and wait for the government to do everything."

Do what? Take rich people on a joy ride. I don't want government doing that either.

10/31/14, 2:46 PM


This is so funny in so many different ways.

donald said...

We middle and lower class people are asked to conserve and be careful about our carbon footprint.

I think most travel is self-indulgent from the environmental perspective. But space tourism is clearly the worst.

10/31/14, 2:47 PM


Why don't you define lower-class there toots.

donald said...

Iwhen I think low class the first name that comes to mind me is Bill Clinton and his skank wife.

Al Sharpton Kinda enters my mind.

But I get it you kind of thinking garage Mahal



donald said...

You're.

donald said...

Ann, I'm curious to know why you are against private space travel. How is it wrong for wealthy individuals to use their own money to fulfill a desire to slip the surly bonds of earth, but OK for astronauts to do so using tax dollars taken from rich, poor and in-between? Does space belong to government? Should early aviation pioneers, most being private individuals using their own money, have been prevented from flying?

10/31/14, 2:47 PM

They should just give it all the poor people.

Whoops, the gubmint. They'll get it to the poor people after they get their cut.

What doesn't need to happen, is an entrepreneur or a group of entrepreneurs should start a business and hire a bunch of people resulting in actual economic development and advances in science and mankind.

That would suck.


Roger Sweeny said...

It takes about 62,720,000 joules of energy to get 1 kilogram out of earth's "gravity well" (assuming no energy loss to friction, etc.). There is nothing arbitrary about that and no technology can change it.

What might be possible is to find a cheap and reliable way to provide that energy to something that will spend most of its time out of the atmosphere. A jet is simple by comparison.

Rusty said...


The other thing you need to remember is that your colonization plan requires that humanity have access to technology that is, itself, a greater existential threat to us than anything the universe is likely to fling our way.

And you get that technology by pushing the technology you already have to the limit. And then you push it out a little bit further.
Magellan didn't have time to wait for the QE2 he had to explore with what he had.
We want space tourism to be commonplace. We want a permanent space station to be commonplace. We want a presence on the moon to be commonplace.
When these things become routine destinations then the next step is just a little bit easier.
As someone on one of the other threads noted; we weren't put here just to exist we were put here to know. it is our nature to be curious. it is also our nature to explore.

Roger Sweeny said...

Alex Tabarrok has an interesting post on space tourism. He is very much a free enterprise guy. His post begins:

"Ten years ago when Burt Rutan was predicting 100,000 space tourists in ten years I wrote a widely debated article, Is Space Tourism Ready for Takeoff? My answer then, and my answer now, is no ..."

http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2014/11/space-tourism-still-not-ready-for-flight.html

A number of commenters essentially say, "Okay, you can't have a big space tourism industry now, but there are at least a few rich people who think it is so cool to go into space that they will willingly assume a 1 in 50 risk of getting killed."

donald said...

Then we should just quit right now. Use that money for something else.

10/31/14, 8:57 PM


I vote condoms for the lower class. They're icky.

Issob Morocco said...

Then don't do it, but that should not be a reason for others not to pursue their own happiness.

Don't Be A Nazi.

;-)

Dante D'Anthony said...

Well, good thing it's a free country and you don't get to make that call. http://www.amazon.com/Mining-The-Sky-Asteroids-Planets/dp/0201328194

Anonymous said...

Hmm. Virgin Galactic is built on a philosophical commitment best articulated, in the decades prior to SpaceShipOne, by Burt Rutan. If the reader is not familiar with the DIY ethos that prevails at the EAA Fly-in at Oshkosh, nor with Scaled Composites or any of a great number of other private Aviation and Aerospace initiatives, then this is likely to be seen as nothing more than "space tourism."

Laypersons and outsiders misjudge this. The aviation and private Aerospace community knows this is about a lot more than just how one company finances their innovations.

When the first private company goes manned orbital for space tourism, that means that the technology that gets us into orbit will have become a commodity. THAT, folks, is what this about -- as it has been about that with running water, electric distribution, computers, cell phones, and any of a vast number of other things throughout history. Space tourism isn't the goal. It's evidence that any of a vast number of goals are more within reach than they ever were before.

I read an utterly ignorant opinion piece lambasting Virgin for risking lives. Unbelievable. I guess they have no idea how many lives have been snuffed out in government-sponsored test flights. "But that was different!" Yes. So? Seriously -- why do some people find it unthinkable that there are folks who believe in research and development enough to risk their lives. Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager flew around the world in one of Burt's planes in a little over a week. That was life-risking. No one was lunatic enough to write an opinion piece decrying the folly of the risks.

Personally, I suspect such weird criticisms come from some sense that space development belongs in NASA's hands. No. That's Burt Rutan's whole argument, and again -- if the reader isn't familiar with the long history of this philosophical issue, well, it's fascinating and worth knowing. And it insulates one from saying stupid things about it all.

Loren said...

From a leftist point of view, what's the real downside? If rich people die in a space tourism accident, their money gets distributed to their heirs and foundations. Less concentration of wealth!

RonF said...

1) Telemetry from the flight indicates that the engines performed optimally throughout the flight and that the breakup was due to pilot error in deploying the "feathering" process of the wings too early.

2) Test pilot deaths are not sanctified because the government, not a private entity, signed their paychecks.

3) Many a useful commodity started out as a rich man's toy. When space flight is cheap enough that rich people can use it for tourism, a whole lot of other uses for it will open up.

4) Advances like this are in my view better developed privately than waiting for government to do it. One man with a vision and the money to back it will get things done a whole lot faster - and is no more likely to get someone killed doing it.

Popville said...

I considered not posting this reasoned response in Wired from an engineering prof to Wired's own previous anti-space tourism article, as the comments here more than cover arguments for continued effort. But what the hey, it's Saturday.

The article's headline was stupid so used the url wording, & in deference to regulars included the story's comments so you won't need to click to see them.

A Defense of Space Tourism