[FPSPACE] reflections on the great Boeing vs. SpaceX debate

Keith Gottschalk kgottschalk at uwc.ac.za
Tue Sep 23 11:56:26 EDT 2014

Dear Friends,

    First, I imagine that most of us are agnostic on whether SpaceX will succeed or fail: time will tell, launch by launch. SpaceX has been boasting of a manifest of significant numbers of customers signed-up for launching. Now we wait to see how those launches will fare.

       Second, as a general principle it seems sound for the USG & its agencies to want to broaden the number of domestic contractors who acquire the capability to launch satellites. Two, such as ULA & SpaceX, is surely the absolute minimum. Soyuz is a third.  The US has not approached the Chinese to launch either cargo or passengers to ISS, but that is a theoretical possibility, provided China does not seize a new Crimea-sized chunk of Ladakh or Arunachal Pradesh.

          Third, the historic odds are stacked against Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser, or Blue Origins, or Xcor, having their own funds to R&D a spacecraft all the way to a successful orbital insertion & recovery. But good luck to them.

         Fourth, there is something unreal about current claims of people wanting to go on a one-way ticket to Mars.
Mars' temperature range is a match to our Antarctica, from -10C to - 90C, with only Mars' equator, like the Antarctic Peninsula, having a few months at +1 to + 3 C. I do not see a stampede of civilians wanting one way tickets to settle in Antarctica, even though you can breathe the air there. Even though you have all the water you need, provided you have  fuel to melt it. I do remember that an Argentinian junta hugely subsidized a pregnant woman to give birth in a prefab in one of their Antarctic bases, which they considered would establish an Argentinian birthright to territorial possession. But as best as I know, that family has not permanently settled there.

        My point is that while most of us would like to visit both Antarctica and Mars for a one week holiday, how many people would like to spend the rest of their life confined to living in a caravan or trailer-sized living quarters? Those who have languished in prison confinement are not sentimental about enjoying that. Even in the largest US Antarctic base, with over one hundred persons, no one stays for more than two years at a time.

       Also, only millionaires can afford not to earn a living for a decade or more of life.

- Keith

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