Gerroa - Dec 5, 2001
Space Tourism was given a major boost this week with the second commercial astronaut - Mark Shuttleworth - being signed by Russia for a flight in a Soyuz to the International Space Station.
It's the opinion of this publisher, that this is a critical step forward in opening up of new business opportunities in space that are key to driving down costs and expanding the scope of all space activities.
Once again it's an American company - Space Adventures - that is knocking down the barriers of entry to a marketplace; which more and more people believe can only reach its full potential when the power of the market is given a chance to work.
Since assuming office in January, President Bush has paid little attention to his nation's space program and associated supporting industry - other than a few high profile the military aspects.
And while September's attacks on America have since then rightly taken up most, if not all of the President's time, it remains imperative that the US government has a national space policy that facilitates the commercial development of space.
There is little doubt that within a century, if not less, it will not be possible to be a great power without being a leading player in space. Without an economy that has access to the vast resources of space it is inevitable that the limits to growth on Earth will eventually strangle our economies and lead to new wars based on water, food and energy. The early warning signs of this are all around and while technologies might buy us time, we cannot forever plunder the Earth and not expect an impact.
Many in the space industry believe that space tourism is the key to opening space. With it, real markets can be created that will help drive technological developments that in time will slash the cost of access to space to the point it becomes a commodity service.
The sudden and rapid thaw in relations between the US and Russia offers a golden opportunity for the sharing of knowledge, technologies and markets relating to space. Let's not forget that spaceflight is the one thing the US and Russia still share in common to the exclusion of all other nations.
Among many examples, the Soyuz three person spaceship is a standout opportunity that with a bit of revamping could soon be rolling off the production lines.
This would create an immediate and affordable spaceship that can be used to support an initial space tourism industry by readily parting rich people of their surplus funds in exchange for the trip of a lifetime.
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Crunch Time For Space Station
Partners in the International Space Station hold talks on Thursday aimed at lifting a dark shadow lying over the costliest and most ambitious cooperative venture in space. Blunt words are expected, as the United States' partners in the ISS are openly worried that proposed spending cuts by NASA could destroy the original vision of the space station.
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