May 11 2008

Space Entrepreneurs — A Brief 21stCenturyWaves Perspective

Fifty-six years ago in 1952 there were no space entrepreneurs, but what did exist — although Earth-bound — was almost as exciting: Colliers magazine began its first-ever series on “Man Will Conquer Space Soon.” Headed by Wernher von Braun, Colliers’ staff of world-class space experts collectively asked, “What are we waiting for?” and then compellingly described each step of the human expansion into space including the Von Braun “Wheel”, the subsurface Moon base, and the convoy to Mars!

As the space tourism industry prepares for launch, today’s aspiring space adventurers are not limited to just reading about cosmic joys, but will soon experience them personally. Bert Rutan, the dean of space-tourism advocates, who won the $ 10 million X-Prize in 2004, believes he can fly 100,000 passengers on his suborbital spaceships by 2020! Rutan is currently supplying spaceships to British billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic and expects the first launch in 2010 for about $ 200,000 per person. Branson’s passengers will zoom to 60 miles altitude and officially enter space. The first-ever space tourism price war is taking shape according to the Wall Street Journal (3/26/08) as XCOR Aerospace will offer thrill-seekers a ride to 37 miles altitude featuring 2 minutes of zero-g, for only $ 100,000.

Although currently not officially targeting space tourism, Bigelow Aerospace (Las Vegas) does operate the first two private space stations in history. Despite their smallish size, the Bigelow inflatable habitation modules are the precursors of orbital hotels. Undoubtedly, the future private space industry will feature orbital hotels for the penultimate astronaut-like vacation experience: circling the Blue Marble repeatedly with sunrises and sunsets every 90 minutes. The ultimate astronaut-like tourist experience is a trip to the Moon, which is already offered by the Russians through their American agent Space Adventures. Because of the hefty price ($ 100 M) and undeniable risks there have been no takers…yet. The elaborate, inviting lunar surface hotel concepts of Shimizu remain a golden dream for the 2020s.

The space tourism industry can be thought of as a spectacular, but secondary MEP — analogous to the famous 1912 passenger ship the Titanic (minus the sinking!) — heralding the approaching Maslow Window of 2015. Because of their innovations, space entrepreneurs stimulate public, business, government, and even international interest in space as they develop new concepts that challenge historical approaches and promise new adventures and profits. Wave Guide 6 posts will monitor the space entrepreneurs’ progress and their impact on the rapidly approaching 2015 Maslow Window.

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