Space Burial or Memorial Spaceflight is one of those areas of Space which currently works economically. There have been Space burial flights (sending a portion of cremated remains into Space) for over 10 years now but it has had limitations. All Memorial Spaceflights have to ‘piggyback’ other payloads which has lots of issues of its own.
As you may have worked out from my previous posts, I believe the commercialization is one of the most important things we can do as a species. Economics drives almost all activities on Earth, so if we can’t justify economic reasons to boldly go, we will never go.
This is were my survey comes in. If it can be proved that there is demand for services such as Space burial and/or other Space applications or ‘Apps’ then the future doesn’t seem so bleak. If the service is provided and people vote with there feet we can get away from the constant cycle of looking for public funds to pay for all the adventures.
Innovation will lower cost in time, but there needs to be a market ready to supply launch providers with payloads otherwise we get back to the chicken and egg scenario. So if you could fill in our survey, it only takes 1 minute, it would be greatly appreciated. Feel free to share it as well, the bigger the sample size the more accurate it will be!
I recently came across a quote from Robert Bigelow of Bigelow Aerospace and Budget Suites of America which underlined the significance of space commerce in the coming decade.
“The third industrial revolution is on its way and it’s going to be huge… it will be comparable to the automobile industry, electronic industry and computer industry all thrown together”
Robert Bigelow, Bigelow Aerospace– Net worth $1.5 Billion (est. 2009)
So if a billionaire such as Bigelow is so confident to predict a momentous industrial age then what are the roadblocks from getting from here to there?
Space is currently is expensive. As discussed in the previous post all manned programs to date have been funded by large government. From Apollo to Shuttle, Soyuz to Shenzhou, all would have made a loss without the public sector. We can see this changing though. Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic are getting ready to go Sub-Orbital, while XCOR is proving you can do space on a budget with their tiny Lynx Spacecraft. This weeks update on the CIS-Lunar flyby (trip round the moon) by Space Adventures which will take to paying customers on an out of this world ride all the way to the moon and back show progress on the demand from. If you build it they will come. Expect to lift of in 2017, this could sow the seeds for a more economically sustainable voyages into Space.
Space needs capitalism. Only when sustained demand is created can you support an industrial base which will bring technological improvements and investments and feedback into lower cost for cargo to Space. Space is in a chicken an egg situation. Once re usability of Orbital crafts are proven by either SpaceX or Reaction Engines with their Skylon SSTO, will we see the flood gates open. It will be like broadband for the Internet and will unleash an economic tide so great that it will make the Tech boom look feeble.
It has to be the Holy Grail of human space exploration. A fully and rapidly reusable taxi too and from Low Earth Orbit (LEO). In the 50 years since the first Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin ventured into the unknown less than 600 people have followed. Humans have not left the Orbit of Earth in almost 40 years. Why? Cost.
Getting to Space is expensive… really expensive. The Space Shuttle averaged at over $1 billion per flight, for 135 flights over 3 decades. It is easy to have a go at Lockheed Martin and the Space Shuttle. It couldn’t go above LEO, it could fly if it was to cloudy and it killed a lot of people, but it did prove one thing,its super damn hard to build a fully reusable space vehicle. Discovery did set records with its 39 return trips to Space but it could hardly be described as having a quick turnaround time with every component having to be retested and replaced if need be for every single flight.
Enter SpaceX and the Falcon 9, the commercial solution to the Space taxi problem. Founded by Elon Musk in 2002, Space Explorations Technologies has the small goal of making life multi-planetary. With the Dragon space capsule and Falcon’s 1 and 9 proven in flight, Musk is tackling that age of problem of reusing a craft which would otherwise be dumped in the ocean or burnt up on re-entry.
The plan involves putting heat shields on both the first and second stages of the Falcon 9 and fitting them with retro boosters so they can land up right on a launch pad near the take off site. This does sacrifice the payload capabilities to LEO but the trick is to make some sort of trade off between weight and re-usability. This has never been done before so will be interesting to see if it can make the jump from computer screen to reality. Many have tried and failed, but our future as a civilization depends upon us leaving this rock or face the long eventual wait for the space rock with our name on it.
If it can be proved in practice we will be witnessing a new dawn in Human exploration with possible colonies on Mars for millions of Earthlings. So fingers crossed and lets hope its not just another big idea!
Scotland from Space!