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To Infinity–and Beyond! December 9, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in gummint, inventions, science fiction, space, westerns.

“The Man Who Sold the Moon” was a favorite from the instant I read it in the late ‘50s and now it looks as if there might be some real predictive power to this. I came across this Professor Bainbridge blog and followed the link to io9 about sf corporations. Writers need antagonists and when the gummint more than fulfills the role, corporations must take up the slack since the days of the individual mad scientist are long gone.

But fiction and reality tend to converge now and then. The future of spaceflight might well lie with private corporations. Spaceport America is readying the facility for a Virgin Galactic launch sometime next summer (although Richard Branson has yet to fork over one red farthing). The SpaceX folks had a successful orbital launch and reentry yesterday. Yea! Forget the fire. Light the fire!

This really isn’t so strange in American history. The history of railroads through the West is a case in point. Getting across The Great American Desert, not to mention across the Rockies and Sierras involved a huge cost for the time. The Pacific Railroad Grant of 1862
offered alternate sections of land along the route of a road. A thousand miles, a thousand sq miles of virgin land owned by the railroads. Not a bad incentive to push the state of the art in rail laying, technology for the engines and maintaining the rails after the final 1869 connection at Promontory Point.

But the grant came with a caveat. Use the land–but no mineral rights. I can see a parallel with space and incentives from the gummint since NASA has given up on manned space programs. Send that mission to Mars but you don’t get to keep anything you find there. Mining rights on the Moon? Nope, unless they are purchased. Homestead it but don’t dig it.

I get tired of the incessant drumbeat of how evil corporations are. If they are, it is the gummint’s fault. Mostly collusion between the two create our worst problems. But if they can separate into reasonable roles, the stars might be ours. Or at least Mars in my lifetime.



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