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Richard Branson’s space flight

All this combines to give assisted launch great flexibility and the capacity to launch more times of the year, into more orbits, from pretty much anywhere you want to go. For very specific small packages which need unusual orbits, this can be a boon. For national security packages that need to be able to launch quickly, for example if your opponent has anti-satellite weapons and you want to be able to redeploy on short notice into any necessary orbit, this is especially huge.

Thanks for the reply. Lots of good stuff here. This part above is specifically what appeals to me about this method. I see a huge market for smaller, cheaper, more frequent launches. We need work-horse methods of getting into space more than we need another extremely over-speced project like the shuttle.

On top of all this for Virgin Galactic specifically, the vehicle never actually reaches orbit. You go up, you freefall for a few minutes and experience apparent null gravity, and then you land. You can never for instance dock with a space station, or transfer to another craft, or spend any longer than a few minutes in "technically space according to the airforce". So while it's an interesting novelty, it will never be able to hook in to what many of us anticipate will be a future space infrastructure, including civilian space stations or orbital industrial facilities or transfer flights to the moon and beyond. So in that way it looks likely to be a dead end, barring some serious improvement in the technology.

This point, however, is where you lost me. Yes, this version doesn't reach orbit. But why the insistence that this style of launch never will? Isn't serious improvement in the technology the entire raison d'etre of Virgin Galactic? Is there anything fundamental to the design that means it will never be capable of these things? Does the smaller size make it physically impossible, or is it just something we haven't done yet? I don't grok the extrapolation.

Just imagine how many people could eat or receive critical life saving medical care with all that money. But billionaire wants to go to space.

My personal idea is to take the money away from the rockets that go "boom" and put it into the rockets that go "up". The details of executing this plan, however, seem to be a bit more complicated than I originally hoped.
 

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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Just imagine how many people could eat or receive critical life saving medical care with all that money. But billionaire wants to go to space.

Just imagine how many people's paychecks are already getting paid with that money, such that they can eat have housing and receive lifesaving care! Imagine how much lifesaving care has come out of space exploration!
 

J.Quondam

CR 1/8
Just imagine how many people could eat or receive critical life saving medical care with all that money. But billionaire wants to go to space.
yeah, but again: It's not like they wave a wand and transform a pile of money * poof * into a rocket. They're getting those rockets ultimately by paying people, including in places that need good jobs, like New Mexico and South Texas. And all that salary money gets transformed into taxes and other business the vicinity.

In effect, this is a rare case where the near-mythical "trickle down" actually works more or less as advertised. As said already, might not be super optimal, but it's better than what happens to most of the point-oh-one-percenter hoards that just get "invested" to multiply like fungus.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
Meh. I'm a civil engineer; I'm not all that impressed with luxury high-altitude plane tickets for the super-rich. If you want to impress me with your wealth, let's have a race to see which billionaire can improve the most bridges, or remove the most garbage from the ocean. Maybe a race to see who can build the most efficient desalination plant?

The suggestion that these rockets are somehow making life better for everyone because of the amount of money changing hands and the technological breakthroughs? I don't know what to say to that except there are other hands to put money into, other sources that it could trickle down from, and other technologies that could be improved upon. The problem is that they are all boring. --sigh--

Spaceships are cool and exciting and loud and have flames coming out of the back...people make movies about spaceships. A bridge just, you know, sits there quietly helping an entire city grow and thrive and do business 24/7 for a century and largely goes unnoticed.
 
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Grendel_Khan

Adventurer
Meh. I'm a civil engineer; I'm not all that impressed with luxury high-altitude plane tickets for the super-rich. If you want to impress me with your wealth, let's have a race to see which billionaire can improve the most bridges, or remove the most garbage from the ocean. Maybe a race to see who can build the most efficient desalination plant?

The suggestion that these rockets are somehow making life better for everyone because of the amount of money changing hands and the technological breakthroughs? I don't know what to say to that except there are other hands to put money into, other sources that it could trickle down from, and other technologies that could be improved upon. The problem is that they are all boring. --sigh--

Don't forget the assumption that these are baby steps toward the eventual goal of colonizing space, a deeply dorky outcome that ignores all the inhospitable-but-unclaimed territories here on Earth, and that assumes we can somehow outrun climate collapse (something that billionaires could pour their money into averting, and get legitimately great attention for). But part of the issue there is that if you're the type of billionaire dead set on becoming a space tourist, you probably also just blithely assume the world is going to innovate itself out of catastrophe. A highly cool way to think, given that the climate disasters are already happening, and there's not a single solution in sight.
 


J.Quondam

CR 1/8
The suggestion that these rockets are somehow making life better for everyone because of the amount of money changing hands and the technological breakthroughs? I don't know what to say to that except there are other hands to put money into, other sources that it could trickle down from, and other technologies that could be improved upon. The problem is that they are all boring. --sigh--
Meh, I'd like to see a ton of money in other areas, too. But why not celebrate what's merely "okay" rather than poo-poo what's not "ideal"? (Especially since no one will ever agree on what exactly is "okay" and what is "ideal"!)

Unfortunately, one of the perks of their billionaire status is that they get to decide where the money goes, not us. So I'm just happy when they decide on something vaguely socially beneficial that isn't straight up vulture capitalism.
*shrug *
 

IMO it doesn't count as "space" unless it completes an orbit. The Russians got that on their first manned flight.

So, neat stunt Branson. Cheaper thrills on the vomit comet. Next time, go for an orbit.
 



ardoughter

Hero
Supporter
Meh. I'm a civil engineer; I'm not all that impressed with luxury high-altitude plane tickets for the super-rich. If you want to impress me with your wealth, let's have a race to see which billionaire can improve the most bridges, or remove the most garbage from the ocean. Maybe a race to see who can build the most efficient desalination plant?

The suggestion that these rockets are somehow making life better for everyone because of the amount of money changing hands and the technological breakthroughs? I don't know what to say to that except there are other hands to put money into, other sources that it could trickle down from, and other technologies that could be improved upon. The problem is that they are all boring. --sigh--
I understand where you are coming from but the issues of tackling poverty, infrastructure or anything else is a deeply political one and not allowed by site rules. I actually believe that tackling these issues is one of political will. Or at least persuading enough people that the attempt should be made.
But given our current system, one will have billionaires and given that, billionaires funding a space program is less bad than funding a small war somewhere.
 

FitzTheRuke

Legend
Don't forget the assumption that these are baby steps toward the eventual goal of colonizing space, a deeply dorky outcome that ignores all the inhospitable-but-unclaimed territories here on Earth, and that assumes we can somehow outrun climate collapse (something that billionaires could pour their money into averting, and get legitimately great attention for). But part of the issue there is that if you're the type of billionaire dead set on becoming a space tourist, you probably also just blithely assume the world is going to innovate itself out of catastrophe. A highly cool way to think, given that the climate disasters are already happening, and there's not a single solution in sight.
Solutions will come at the 11th hour, after an unfortunately awful lot of people have died. It isn't necessary for it to happen that way. It's a huge waste. But it seems most likely to me at this point.
 


Grendel_Khan

Adventurer
Solutions will come at the 11th hour, after an unfortunately awful lot of people have died. It isn't necessary for it to happen that way. It's a huge waste. But it seems most likely to me at this point.

I hope you're right, but I don't see any evidence suggesting even that sort of bittersweet outcome. If anything the pandemic has shown just how terrible the most powerful nations are at responding to a complex global threat, and how utterly useless and disconnected billionaires are when we most need them. And there's no vaccine for this problem. Even if there was one, it's looking more and more like it's just too late for that. The assumption that human life is a constant, that we're the main characters and all future catastrophes are just some echo of previous plotlines that we overcame with gumption and grit just doesn't make sense to me. Sometimes the party's just over.
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
billionaires funding a space program is less bad than funding a small war somewhere.
That is a dubious binary if I've ever seen one.

The Lion King What GIF
 

FitzTheRuke

Legend
I hope you're right, but I don't see any evidence suggesting even that sort of bittersweet outcome. If anything the pandemic has shown just how terrible the most powerful nations are at responding to a complex global threat, and how utterly useless and disconnected billionaires are when we most need them. And there's no vaccine for this problem. Even if there was one, it's looking more and more like it's just too late for that. The assumption that human life is a constant, that we're the main characters and all future catastrophes are just some echo of previous plotlines that we overcame with gumption and grit just doesn't make sense to me. Sometimes the party's just over.
It's possible that we'll be "too late", but from everything I've observed, including this latest pandemic, it seems to me that once things get really bad (bad enough that we can't ignore/blame/pretend othewise any more, then we tend to get together and get stuff done. (Some of us keep ignoring/blaming/pretending, but enough of us get motivated to get stuff done.) Then we'll figure it out.

On a slightly different but adjacent topic - I'd be totally against our attempts to Go To Mars. I think it's the height of foolishness. BUT if we can learn how to put people on Mars and not have them die than we can figure out how to live here (on the only planet we are suited to). ALSO, if we find out how terrible Mars is, we might start thinking about taking better care of Earth.
 


FitzTheRuke

Legend
That is a dubious binary if I've ever seen one.
It may ignore all the other, better options, but it's not wrong. It is definitely better for billionaires to go to space than to fund wars. That I can confidently agree with. It's better than a LOT of things they could spend their money on. Unfortunately, it is also worse than a lot of things that they could spend their money on, but that's another story...
 

CleverNickName

Limit Break Dancing
It may ignore all the other, better options, but it's not wrong. It is definitely better for billionaires to go to space than to fund wars. That I can confidently agree with. It's better than a LOT of things they could spend their money on. Unfortunately, it is also worse than a lot of things that they could spend their money on, but that's another story...
Right, but literally everything else is also better. There are more options here than just "spaceships or war."
 


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