Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 533, August 23, 2009

"Freeman Dyson once said that if we can make it to
the asteroids, the IRS will never be able to find us."

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Zeno's Paradox and space tourism
by Jim Davidson

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

So, I went to the Virgin Galactic fan page here on Facebook and made a comment on their wall. When the winning flight for the X Prize took place in 2004, Sir Richard Branson, knight of the Hanoverian usurpation, said that there would be tourist flights in 2007. Call it three years or 36 months. Some of us were even sent marketing materials and sign-up packets so we could evaluate the proposal to charge $200K or more for an eight minute flight above the atmosphere with half a dozen other people.

(If hell is other people, what are other people in microgravity? Hell plus vomit.)

Today, I was informed, very kindly, on that fan page, "After the successful public test flight of Eve at the end of July 2009 Sir Richard stated that the first public flights would start within 18 months." You see, Facebook is good for something. I asked the question on 21 June 2009 and got an answer on 22 August 2009. So they are also responsive. Whee.

Now if it takes five years (60 months) to shorten the estimate from 36 months to 18 months, what can we say about the next estimate?

Figure that 36 divided by 60 is 0.6, so in another 3 years—call it July 2012, the estimate should be halved again, to 9 months. Following Zeno's paradox in this manner, the 2015 good news would be an announced starting point for tourist flights in four and a half months. Then in 2018 we'd learn that flights were only 67 days off. And so forth.

If this seems snarky, keep in mind that some of us were around for Pan Am's promise of space tourist flights (to the Moon!) in 1968. Of course, that was a publicity stunt tied to a film promotion in which Pan Am had significant product placement along with Hilton and AT&T in the feature film 2001: A Space Odyssey which taught us that in space, no one can hear you scream, but your radio picks up the sound of your breathing.

We also learned that the artificial intelligence for the Jupiter mission cannot be trusted, and that if you pull its logic circuits, it recites the song "Daisy." Not really sure why that sticks with me, except that the events in the film took place well before 2001, and Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrik were no slouches in the "when would it be possible" department. We still don't have artificial intelligence (AI). My guess as to why would be that the phenomenon we experience as consciousness is significantly quantum in nature, rather than logical or memory related. Therefore to develop artificial intelligence we need to work on what makes a neuron able to detect quantum interference and other evidence of signals from parallel universes.

We don't have AI and we don't have space tourism. The latter is a lot easier to accomplish. Look at the 1960s technology used to get two guys to the Moon on six different occasions. Pretty simple stuff today. Their on board computer had less power than my $5 pocket calculator.

Or look at the 2004 effort to win the X Prize. It took a few years for Burt Rutan's team to raise the money and a few years to build the winning vehicles. I think they won the $10 million prize for something on the order of $30 million in costs. And won a long term contract to build tourist vehicles for Branson.

So I don't believe in the technical challenges. Whenever NASA says that going into space is difficult and dangerous, they are lying. They lie a great deal, because they are perfidious villains.

Therefore the challenges must be elsewhere. Money? Come on. Get out a pencil and paper, go to Wikipedia or your favorite other online resource, and start totaling up the personal fortunes of Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos, John Carmack, Paul Allen, Walt Anderson, Jim Benson, Elon Musk, Robert Bigelow, Richard Garriott, Denis Tito, Mark Shuttleworth, and Chirinjeev Kathuria. Just to name some of the most obvious wealthy individuals who come trippingly to mind. The figure should reach well into the tens of billions.

So, seriously, money? Not an issue. If you can explain in two hundred words or less how money is the reason we don't yet have space tourist flights, please do so. I feel sure the work would be published promptly in, say, The Libertarian Enterprise. And I'm equally confident that I can demolish such arguments.

Demand? Back in 1990, we did some serious marketing research for "The Ultimate Adventure Sweepstakes" to give away a trip to the Soviet space station Mir that we had arranged. Our argument at the time was that something around ten million people would call a 900 number to participate in the sweepstakes. After all, a million people had paid a dollar to have a chance at winning Bon Jovi's childhood home. We were also negotiating corporate sponsorships.

What evidence did we have? A number of studies had convinced us that in the countries of Europe, North America, and the Far East, at the time, there existed 250 million people who wanted to take a trip into space. We figured that if the cost of winning a trip were $3, we'd get something on the order of ten million Americans to play—and tens of millions would send in free entries by mail.

My guess is that there are closer to 400 million people in the world today that want to fly in space. Lots more people in India, China, and other rapidly developing countries have become interested, judging by the enthusiasm for their several space programs. And if a trip into space cost just $10,000 most of those people would save up to take such a trip at least once in their lives. That makes a potential space tourism market of $4 trillion at that price point.

Whereas in 2005, I reported that something like 7,000 people had signed up, including substantial deposits, to pay on the order of $200K to fly on Virgin Galactic's tourist trips to suborbital space. A $1.4 billion market very thoroughly proven. Recently Abu Dhabi's sovereign wealth fund seems to have invested about two hundred million in Virgin Galactic. Seems like a good move. They get to have the tourist flights in their region take off from Abu Dhabi, too. Sweet.

Demand is there. Why isn't supply presently available? I believe the answers are in bureaucracy and politics. The evil machinations of government bureau-rats constantly prevent people from doing what we want. In the near future, a great many bureau-rats are going to be attacked in their homes and offices by resentful, angry people, for utterly screwing over their lives on a daily basis. I don't support, nor do I need to encourage, such events to be confident they'll take place—there is a measurable periodicity to slave rebellions in this country. We're coming up on a major peak in 2010.

I don't think the powers that be want humans to fly in space. I think they are jealous of the high ground, or they are just incredibly unimaginative. Anyway, they want to force everyone to do their bidding, and to stay on Earth. Even a brief look at world politics reveals that the establishment foments wars and dreams up "permanent enemies" like global communism (which proved to be a paper tiger) and global "Islamo-fascism" which term actually makes my Islamic friends laugh heartily.

Why war? Because they make trillions of dollars in corruptly allocated defense contracts with war. They can get people to give up money and freedom and power to the evil central bankers and the evil death contractors.

It won't last. No tyranny over the minds of mankind ever does. The establishment can barely hold onto its cartel that controls finance and its cartel that controls some aspects of war. The enormous power of decentralisation is ruining all their plans. Information is already decentralised and totally out of their control.

So the currency will fail, the dollar will bring down the world economy with it, for a time, and the empires will collapse. As with the fall of the brutal, evil, authoritarian Roman empire, a great flowering of trade, commerce, and invention shall follow. NASA would finally be destroyed. Many tens of thousands of smaller countries will result.

And by this time in 2020, anyone who wants to go into space will be able to do so, for about ten ounces of gold. Not because of anything done by any government, but in spite of everything done by every government.


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