Friday, June 18, 2004

A New Era
Periodically I feel the need to include something in this blog that has no immediate implications for energy. Monday's planned launch of SpaceShip One is such an item. If successful, it will inaugurate a new era in humanity's conquest of space, beginning to move it out of the realm of things that governments do at great expense and toward something that private enterprise can do to make a buck.

Without in any way diminishing the achievements of two generations of astronauts and NASA employees, as well as Russian and other international space programs, this transition will mark the real beginning of our move out into the solar system, making accessible quantities of energy and resources far beyond anything we can imagine on earth. Solar power is much concentrated in space, without the atmosphere to absorb the sun's light, and a typical asteroid contains enough iron to meet the world's needs for a year.

None of this will be easy or cheap, but it has to start somewhere. Even though SpaceShipOne won't achieve orbital flight, it should reach an altitude of 100 kilometers, passing the threshold of space and qualifying for the first hurdle of the "X Prize".

I wish them luck, and I'll be eagerly tuned in to watch their progress.

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