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12 June 2012

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William R. Cumming

Yes once we have poisoned our planet Earth enough some will need to be able to escape! Or did we escape to Earth from elsewhere?

HankP

Having grown up in the 60s, I'm as big a fan of manned spaceflight as you could find. But I think the idea of commercialization of space may be premature, because all the tasks and goals that require manned spaceflight are still dependent on government funding. I just don't see the private demand for manned spaceflight services at this time aside from some tiny niches like orbital vacations.

turcopolier

HankP

i think that is probably short sighted. It may well be that this phase of planting "seed corn" may disappear soon as something profitable emerges. pl

The Twisted Genius

HankP,

Like you, I grew up in the 60s and became a fan of manned space exploration. I'm also a big fan of space robotics and unmanned exploration. I'm pretty sure the bulk of early commercial space flight will be unmanned satellite and cargo delivery. I see Spaceflight has a full schedule of deliveries lined up mostly on Russian and ESA craft now. I think SpaceX and others will soon undercut their government competition for this business.

I also believe that delivery of astronauts and scientists will follow soon. The next manned effort could be the maintenance of all that stuff in orbit. Eventually we'll see future space equivalents of the East India Company and the Hudson Bay Company with all the good and bad that goes along with it. Heinlein's "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" could prove quite prophetic.

HankP

The problem is that I don't see any potential sources of profitability at this time that require manned flight. Other than the niches like tourism I haven't seen any potential profitable products or services proposed that require manned orbital flight. Even if SpaceX reaches its goal of $2000/kg or less to LEO, it's still extremely expensive. The majority of SpaceX's revenues come from government contracts, and I expect that to be true for at least the next two decades.

FTR, I support continued exploration, especially combined robotic/manned missions (like sending atmosphere and fuel processors to Mars before a manned landing). I have no problem with investing in a permanent Moon base. I'd like to see attempts at corralling asteroids for mining. But the capital expenses involved and the lack of moneymaking opportunities lead me to believe that manned spaceflight will remain a government funded project for a long time.

I saw the space program die once already because there weren't a commitment nor any plans to make it self sustaining. I don't want to see that happen again.

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