The Space Race - 11/15/97
From: Ronnie M. Lajoie
Subject: Re: The future of NASA & space exploration
Date: Sat, 8 Nov 1997 01:25:25 GMT
Organization: The Boeing Company firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
I'm wondering what the thoughts of others are on this. It seems that lately NASA has been vastly improving public opinion on its policy, and (largely due to MP and MGS)... Do you think this will translate into extra funding for future missions? Maybe we need a second space race. Hmm...
Ronnig M. Lajoie Possibly, but Congress and the U.S. is in no economic shape to fund manned missions to the outer planets. And no "we will bury you" superpower is likely to come along soon to scare us into spending the necessary billions. And joint-ventures ... well, just look to the International Space Station. But don't worry, NASA is not the American space program, only part of it. We DO have a second space race going on. This one does not involve NASA directly, except as a provider and researcher of technology. This is appropriate for the government's aeronautics and space agency, which does the same service for our booming aircraft and airline industries. The second space race has three categories, really five.
is for the first amateur group to send its own rocket into space, that is obtain an altitude of at least 50 nautical miles. This race will be won in 1998, hopefully by the Huntsville Alabama L5 Society, chapter of the National Space Society (NSS). See http://advicom.net/~hal5/HALO/ for details. As an incentive, the NSS is sponsoring the "R-Prize" of $10,000 to be awarded in mid-1999 to the amateur group that sends their own rocket to the highest altitude above 50 nautical miles between now and May of 1999. For more information, see http://www.nss.org/ (they have yet to set up a specific site).
is for the first small company or individual who can send its own rocket to at least 200 kilometers (about 108 nautical miles). While not exactly historical, there is a big financial incentive, and it does provide a next step towards the real goal of orbital capability. The Space Frontier Foundation is sponsoring the Cheap-Access-to-Space (CATS) Prize (also called the FINDS Prize) of $250,000. The announcement of this contest is being made at the Space Frontier Conference IV. See http://www.space-frontier.org/EVENTS/SFC-VI/ for details. It is also expected that this prize will be awarded in 1998.
is for the first group or company (of any size) who can send up a reusuable spacecraft carrying non-astronaut human passengers to an altitude of at least 100 kilometers (about 54 nautical miles), the internationally- recognized "border" of space (the U.S. recognizes 50 nautical miles). As an incentive, space entrepreneur Peter Diamandis created the X-Prize Foundation which is raising a purse of $10 million dollars. The X-prize will go to the company which can take three people to this altitude twice within a two-week period, using the same spacecraft. This is by far the biggest space race going on right now, with 16 companies seriously competing for the prize. The winner and near-winners are very likely to finally open the door to space tourism. See http://www.xprize.org/ for more information. It is very likely that this prize will be awarded before the end of the decade/century/millennium.
is for the first amateur group to send its own rocket into orbit. This category may also include small companies and individuals, since no contest has yet been announced. Most likely, as Category 1 and 2 contests are completed, a contest towards this goal will be created. Contest or not, this will be an historic breakthrough, for no longer will amateurs and researchers have to piggy-back on larger rockets or the space shuttle for a ride into orbit -- assuming of course, that the winner(s) can bring the cost down.
is for the first group or company (of any size) who can send up a reusuable spacecraft carrying non-astronauts human passengers to a low-Earth orbit. Most likely, after the X-Prize contest in Category 3 is completed, a contest towards this goal will be created. Contest or not, this will be an historic breakthrough for human transportation, for no longer will tourists be at the mercy of year-long astronaut selection processes and training programs. Within a few years of this historic feat, space travel for anyone with enough money and basic physical fitness will be available.
Will we go to Mars someday? Of course. Will it be a government sponsored mission? Probably. But commercial ventures will not be far behind, and even the first mission to Mars may turn out to be a government-sponsored contest of sorts. And a booming space tourist industry will probably be in LEO and perhaps to-and-from the Moon by the time this happens in the year 2020 or so. Ad Astra! Ronnie ("I Want to GO!") Lajoie