On Feb. 24, 2009, a quarter of a billion dollars fell into the Antarctic Ocean.
NASA’s recently completed Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO), failed 12 and a half minutes into flight when its upper rocket stage didn’t separate.
The $270 million satellite never made it into space. It did make quite a splash though, filmed for the world to see.
In today’s economic climate, NASA does not need failures like OCO. On Feb. 26, the Obama administration allocated $18.7 billion to NASA in the 2010 budget. “Although that is only half a percent of the total U.S. budget,” says aerospace analyst and founder of the blog spacepolitics.com Dr. Jeff Foust, “to a person like you or me, it’s a lot of money to spend on an agency with problems.” Continue reading “No Bucks for NASA Without Buck Rogers”
In my second assignment for Space Lifestyle Magazine, I was sent to the plush Beverly Hilton (in Beverly Hills, CA) to sit in on a grand announcement by XCOR Aerospace. Having seen the operations behind another space commercialization company (SpaceX) I was keen to see how the two companies differed. Firstly, comparing XCOR with SpaceX would be like comparing apples with pears; they belong to the same family (i.e. fruit), but they taste entirely different.
For starters, SpaceX is focused on launching payloads into orbit. XCOR is a space tourism venture (with it’s closest competitor being Virgin Galactic). They do however, have some common ground: both build their own rockets and both have a very enthusiastic outlook for this emerging industry.
Soon, space tourism companies such as Virgin Galactic will be flying several flights per day on sub-orbital joyrides. It is expected that this will be quickly followed by orbital “space hotels” where high-paying space sightseers can spend long periods looking down on the Earth (a venture being quickly developed by Las Vegas entrepreneur Robert Bigelow; there’s an unmanned space hotel prototype currently in orbit). It’s only a matter of time before space tourism becomes commonplace, opening a massive host of scientific and recreational possibilities.