Monday, February 19, 2018

Let's Launch Sputnik Again!


SpaceX has made the claim that with their new Falcon 9 rocket, they're able to lift satellites to low Earth orbit for a thousand dollars a pound and eventually, the Wall Street Journal reports, fifty dollars a pound.

Let's repeat that: Fifty dollars a pound. If true, that's astonishing. The biggest barrier to moving into space is the cost of moving matter into orbit and beyond. If it's not Elon Musk talking through his hat, that's revolutionary.

At that price, you could put an exact replica of Sputnik into orbit for less than ten thousand dollars.

Which is something I think we should do.

The first artificial satellite ever was launched into space in 1957. It was, yes, part of the Cold War competition between the Soviet Union and the United States. It was also one of the greatest accomplishments of the human race. That can never be taken away from the nations -- Russia foremost, but the others should not be forgotten -- that did the deed.

The United States successfully redefined the competition in space as a race for the Moon, which we consequently won. But there was no serious commitment in the US to space exploration until the Soviet Union demonstrated they were far, far ahead of us on that front. Which is to say, we won the race in 1969 -- but we wouldn't have been anywhere near the Mare Tranquillitatis then if it hadn't been for the fierce but peaceful competition between two great powers.

Now, there are 71 space organizations, thirteen of which have launch capability and six of which have full launch capability (Russian, the United States, China, Japan, Europe, India), plus rather a lot of private concerns. It's a good time to honor our past.

Just wanted to put that thought in your head.

And as always...

I'm on the road again. More when I get home.


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