Two recent and interesting articles about the commercialization of space. Popular Science's cover story for January is on the emerging private space industry. The article focuses on private companies building alternatives to the NASA space shuttle.
For those not following the private spaceship market, it's getting close to reality. Over the next couple of years Virgin Galactic and others will be offering trips to space (around 380,000 feet up) for around $200,000 per trip. Virgin's ship is shown below.
A bit further out is the space elevator. CNN/Money has an article on entrepreneurs and others trying to build this device. Long a staple of science fiction, the space elevator appeared in the latest Star Trek movie. Young Kirk and Sulu fight bad guys on top of a moving space elevator.
The science behind the space elevator is real. All it takes is:
- A large counter weight in geosynchronous orbit
- A tether line made of carbon nanotubes stretching from space to the ground
- A freight car propelled by a laser beam
- A location where no one would mind if this thing fell on them
OK, there are a few technical hurdles and land use issues to overcome before the space elevator is commercially available. The industry says a space elevator could be built by 2020, but my guess is it will be much longer - maybe 2040, or 2050, or Star Date 2443.
So if you are in a hurry to get to space, sign up for the rocket ship ride.
Both articles talk about small businesses pursuing space-based opportunities. It is interesting to see that even when the odds are enormously stacked against an idea, there are still entrepreneurs willing to take the chance.