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Category — Space Propulsion

Rocket Science is the Easy Part: How Government has Grounded Space Propulsion

“The Apollo moon landing was 42 years ago, and at the time many Americans thought it only a matter of time before they made their way to the next frontier. Is it simply that the problem of space travel is too difficult technologically? No–it’s that government policy has made it too difficult politically.”

Ever floated through space, 200 miles above the earth’s surface at a comfortable cruising speed of 17,500 miles per hour, while watching the earth whirl beneath you in a full revolution every 90 minutes?

Ever stood on the surface of the moon and gazed at the tiny blue-green ball where you had spent most of your life, nearly 240 thousand miles away?

Neither have I. To date, only a handful of super-wealthy individuals, paying enormous sums of money, have experienced the thrill of a trip into low earth orbit. And only a handful of stratospherically-subsidized astronauts have made it to the moon.

But if the history of capitalism tells us anything, it is that under economic freedom, yesterday’s impossibly expensive luxury can become today’s affordable commodity. Terrestrial flight was once available only to the wealthy but eventually its price came down enough that most Americans can now afford it–why not space flight? The wonderful world of space could become an affordable vacation destination. Wouldn’t you like to buy a ticket to the moon?

A New Resource Frontier

The possibilities of affordable space travel go well beyond recreation, as space is a literal and figurative gold-mine of mineral resources. For example, near earth asteroids are known to contain massive stores of platinum and other similarly valuable materials, which could potentially be mined and exploited for cheaper and more extensive application on earth (see John S. Lewis’s Mining the Sky: Untold Riches from the Asteroids, Comets, and Planets).

One company, Promethean Enterprises Inc., is already proposing to embark on the venture of space mining. As exotic and far-fetched as this sounds, space-mining could make a real difference in your life.

Consider a rare metal such as platinum, which is incredibly valuable–about $26,000 per pound (as of March 23)–not primarily for jewelry but for its vital industrial applications. [Read more →]

March 30, 2012   11 Comments