Is space important?

I keep hearing a lot of scepticism over my reporting on the emerging Space Economy. This article on the accomplishment of SpaceShipOne and future plans helps illuminate the growing potential.

  • Virgin Galactic, a division of Virgin Airlines, has already contracted with Scaled Composites, the company that built SpaceShipOne, to build five more five-seat versions for commercial use.
  • Initial flights will continue from Mojave, California, a rural community that used to be in the middle of rural nowhere, but is now the first commercial spaceport in the world. However, Virgin Galactic has already indicated spaceports will be added as needed in other parts of the world.
  • An annual X Prize competition has already been announced that will create incentives for additional companies to get into the spaceship business. New Mexico, which used to be in the middle of rural nowhere, has had its eye on space for years, and X Prize competitions will be held at the New Mexico spaceport--that translates directly into increased cash flow into the state.
  • Oklahoma has formed a Space Industry Development Authority and is building a spaceport.

If you are inclined to think there are more pressing problems on earth than getting tourists into space, you are both right and wrong. This is not some pie in the sky program for rich tourists--this is the beginning of the greatest economic boom in human history.

Remember the personal computer and the Internet? Those two little innovations touched off the second biggest economic boom in human history, but what enabled those two developments was the integrated circuit.

Guess where the IC (integrated circuit) came from? The sixties era space program. Anyone involved in economic development who thinks going to the moon was a waste of money needs to go back to the history books--not to study science, but economics. The moon was a bargain, because the money spent by the government to get reliable IC circuitry for the Apollo spacecraft was paid back many times over by the resulting IT boom that started in the late seventies and ended around 2001.

No one predicted that back in 1970, and there's the rub--the future is hard to see. Economic developers who are not willing to take modest, calculated risks are actually putting their communities are greater risk--doing nothing is making a choice. It may look like risk avoidance, but it is not--doing nothing or doing the same old thing is also risky.

Here is the money quote from the article:

"The Ansari X Prize is the beginning, it's not the end," Diamandis said. "Over the course of the last two weeks we have had companies approaching us, we have had wealthy individuals approaching us, about investing in this marketplace. The same thing happened when Lindbergh flew, the same thing happened when Netscape went public, the same thing's going to happen here."

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