Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The space race goes on...

...whether we bother to suit up or not.

While the Chinese have been orbiting manned missions, their archrivals in India have just lofted a probe to orbit and map the lunar surface.

"But Tam," you say "We've already mapped the moon! We're playing with R/C model cars on Mars!"

Yes, but after we mapped the moon and hit a few golf balls around up there, we just turned our back on the whole thing. Scrapped our huge boosters. Used an outdated, overengineered flying garbage truck as a make-work program for NASA and a pork conveyor for incumbent congressweasels. Got in the way of private progress with government interference that would have strapped airbags on the Wright Flyer and prevented them from flying at Kitty Hawk lest they wound some rare sand flea.

The Chinese and Indians are serious about this. This is good. I've mentioned before that when I get to the moon I'd like a choice of food other than Happy Family Pork Seafood Rice #5. I was kinda hoping for a Big Mac rather than some soy & curry concoction, though. If we want to get back in the game, I say we tell Americans that anything that happens over a hundred miles up is tax-free, and then stand the hell back.


Earl said...

I have long been of the opinion that the Japanese would find the way to make things in space that they could make large profits from selling on Earth, buy selling it to American consumers that don't study as hard, think magic is a scientific substitute and are afraid to engineer a future they would be responsible for. Where India goes, Pakistan won't be far behind - Space is the high ground.

Anonymous said...

I would have put the tax-free altitude at 5.5 miles up but that's not really space by anyone's definition, just above the highest land.

Also, keep in mind that Kármán line is at 100 km (about 60 miles). And that the U.S. definition of an astronaut is someone who has flown above 80 km (about 50 miles).

Okay, how about we provide a little more economic stimulus with a compromise. We could use the geometric mean of your suggestion and mine at 23.5 miles.

Anonymous said...

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the pawnbroker said...

can't wait to join the hundredmilehighclub...imagine the possibilities at zero g, and all tax free!

don't know if i've got time to wait for the chindians to get it up though ;), i may have to go ahead a plunk down the 30 mil over at the russkie's space r us program like this guy...

now where did i put my wallet...


Anonymous said...

before we go after the moon, we might want to look at the 50% of earth we haven't looked at yet:

NotClauswitz said...

I think the Indians will get up there because their corner of the globe is a crowded land-trap. It's a wedge shaped peninsula surrounded by high mountains and impassible rivers, and for over 3,000 years people have been coming over the hills, sliding down and crowding and pushing in - unable to get back out. The only way out now is UP.
That and they want to set up a Tandoori Kitchen and sell some Naan to the tourists and bus drivers.

Jenny said...

I miss America pining for the stars.

Now it seems that's one more dream that was hacked up and tossed on the fire to fuel the Great Society. Pity.

Anonymous said...

Burt Rutan's doing some good work. The following is worth the twenty minutes.

One point he makes in the video is that in several instances in aeronautics, government subsidies have produced an initial burst of innovation, followed by stasis. So the current stasis after innovation could be inherent in the NASA model, not an accident.

This is something space enthusiasts are going to have to grapple with, even if only to rebut the thesis or prevent it in the future.

I'm amazed at the number of people who think government funding, and therefore government beaurocracy, is the only way to go in space. So much so that based on your opening, I assumed that was where you were going, and was pleasantly surprised at the end.

Anonymous said...

Oh, sure. They can open a Chinese restaurant on the Moon. But it still won't have any atmosphere.

Gotta go!

Brian Dunbar said...

Mmm, curry.

Declaring 'outer space' tax free would get things going. Or if not then we'd finally know for sure that private enterprise can't make a go of it in space and we really need the government to run things 'up there'.

I'd bet that we don't. But we really don't know, yet.

However, the powers that be will never declare it tax-free forever. Too much potential there for the government to ignore.

This would work as well. For Congress to enact a Grand Lunar Prize: $20 billion tax-free to the first American-owned corporation or organization to sustain 30 people on the moon for three years.

American-owned does not mean American only - and this is important because it lets the winner partner with organizations from other countries. Everyone gets to participate if they can make the grade.

Whatever techniques and technologies the company uses to win can be applied by the winner - and others - to build and sustain other habitats and activities in the Earth-Luna system. And this is important because that includes a lot of stuff and can kick-start a true space-faring culture.

Anonymous said...

I would love to see a Bill Gates foundation for developing a civilian lunar transport.

"One of these days, Melinda, to the Moon!"

Ed said...

When you get to the moon, stop by my pizza place, "Moon Pies".