THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 639, October 2, 2011
"9/11 was a private sector crime."
Special to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise
You may remember that there used to be people who wanted to fly in space. Way back in the last millennium, I was one of those people. It was 1968, and I was six years old, sitting in my father's basement where he had moved the television set (a clunky old black and white one, cheapest he could get, without a remote control other than the youngest son) after the political conventions. You might remember the police rioting in Chicago and bashing the heads of a lot of demonstrators at the Democrat national convention, if you were alive back then. Or, you know, you could look it up.
Anyway, it was December 1968, about Christmastime, and a man named Frank Borman was orbiting the Moon, reading the first chapter of Genesis. It was really exciting. As a group called "The Three Degrees" would later sing, "Everybody's going to the Moon," or so it seemed. A part of that song says, "Don't you think it's a miracle that we are the generation that is going to populate the Moon? And that's gonna be fun!"
Naturally, I was very disappointed as a youngster when the evil Richard Nixon, who had proven to be a mass murderer in Southeast Asia, who had lied and cheated to win re-election in 1972, cancelled the Moon programme. It was a sad time for space enthusiasts. Although the CIA's own Gerald Ford, who had helped with the Warren commission cover-up of JFK's assassination did his job in pardoning Nixon, and then created the Apollo-Soyuz mission so my mentor in space activities of 1986-1989, Deke Slayton, would have an opportunity to fly in space, the 1970s were a kind of desert for space enthusiasts.
In response to the dearth of NASA activities, and also in response to the incredible ideas of Gerard K. O'Neill, a group was formed in 1975 called the L5 Society. It almost immediately spawned chapters all over the world. In 1977, I joined that outfit, which is how I came to encounter then-Tucson-based Aleta Jackson. Aleta was the administrator in the L5 Society responsible in part for membership renewals and later for the care and feeding of the chapters.
We corresponded extensively in the ensuing years, after I formed a high school and a college chapter of L5, neither of which lasted very long, and found myself in Houston, working for Deke Slayton, and running the L5 Houston chapter, which became the Houston Space Society. During my time with L5 and its successor, the Nationalist Socialist Space Society (which eliminated Aleta's position in fairly short order), I found her to be honest, sincere, very intelligent, and extremely knowledgeable about space activities.
So it is no surprise to me that the company she works with, XCOR, is twelve years old. They are a rocket plane company. They have flow two different vehicles and two different engine designs with two different propellant combinations a total of 66 times. Moreover, they have been working with "Space Experience Curaçao" to help KLM Airlines, as I understand it, provide suborbital space trips as part of their frequent flier bonus programme.
Space Expedition Curaçao (SXC) and XCOR Aerospace, Inc. jointly announced this past week the completion of a multi-million dollar transaction that secures the wet lease of production Lynx tail number two for operation on the Caribbean island of Curaçao, pending export licensing action. I gather that the wet lease contract runs to eight figures, so at least $10,000,000.
"Since we signed the initial Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in October of 2010, XCOR and SXC have worked diligently towards completing the Definitive Agreement," explained XCOR CEO Jeff Greason. "Now that the ink is dry and the check has cleared we can proceed at full pace to begin operations in Curaçao in 2014."
In addition to securing an exclusive lease for the production Lynx tail number two, SXC has also optioned the exclusive right to lease the production Lynx tail number one for up to three months out of a given calendar year, prior to the delivery of tail number two.
"Space Expedition Curaçao is very happy to have completed this milestone agreement. In addition to securing the Lynx and naming XCOR as our exclusive vehicle provider, SXC has signed up 35 spaceflight participants since the beginning of April with a goal to sell 50 before the holiday season," added SXC co-founder Michiel Mol.
"A number of celebrities and notables have already signed up for this amazing experience," continued Mol, "including Victoria's Secret model Doutzen Kroes , World Series Champion San Francisco Giants batting coach and Curaçao native Hensley Meulens, and celebrity DJ Armin van Buuren, host of weekly radio show 'A State of Trance,' which attracts a reported 30 million listeners in 40 countries. It's not hard to get people excited about what will be a life changing event. The Lynx is unique in that it provides a one-on-one 'co-pilot' experience with an amazing panoramic view of the Earth and sky through large cockpit windows. It will be an unforgettable and very personalized experience for everyone who takes the trip."
SXC also has a number of business channel partners lined up including KLM Royal Dutch Airlines KLM will purchase flights to offer as frequent flyer rewards, support educational initiatives in the Netherlands through the use of flights for scientific discovery by students, and include flights as part of vacation packages to Curaçao, a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
"We've been working hard on the infrastructure end of things as well," commented Ben Droste, president and co-founder of SXC. "Our relationship with Curaçao Airport Holdings continues to be strong as they ready the facilities necessary to make this vision a reality. Things are now moving at an accelerated pace."
Andrew Nelson, Chief Operating Officer of XCOR Aerospace concluded by saying "XCOR continues to work with the US State Department, Commerce Department and other relevant US agencies regarding the export licensing framework for the wet lease of our suborbital vehicle. XCOR takes a very pro-active role in engaging relevant government officials and agencies in advance to help facilitate the regulatory level of certainty we need to carry out business around the globe while creating high paying jobs here at home so we may help revitalize the moribund aerospace manufacturing base in the US. The wet lease model should allow us to address these issues and ensure America's technology leadership in space continues in the best interests of our citizens, nation, and the men and women serving our country around the world."
So, as pessimistic, or realistic, as I've been in recent years about the evident impediments placed between space enthusiasts and actual space flights by government politicians and bureau-rats, as long a wait as it has been for those of us wanting to buy a ride into space, it may be that our dreams are about to come true. And it isn't billionaire Richard Branson and his much-delayed Virgin Galactic, nor billionaire Jeff Bezos and his rather bizarre Blue Origins, nor wealthy John Carmack and Armadillo Aerospace, but some of our old friends in the space enthusiast community leading the way.
Those of you who were involved way back then in the last millennium may recall Jerry Pournelle writing "We're going, if we have to walk," It has been that level of determination that has marked the efforts of a great many space enthusiasts, who have always been told we cannot make it happen.
One day, we're going to celebrate our arrival on the surface of the Moon. And a great many nay-sayers are going to eat their words.
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