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Everything gets tested, asshole

“The experience of a few hyper-wealthy amateurs paying $28 million to vomit for 15 minutes probably won’t bring many average people closer to spaceflight or change their impression of it,” Matthew Hersch, a historian of technology at Harvard, told Recode in an email. “Compared to NASA’s space vehicles, they are clever amusement park rides with minimal utility, intended to support a tourism business that has never been part of NASA’s charter.”


The 1890s Hresch was complaining that this automobile things were slower and more expensive than a horse. Which they were of course…..

33 thoughts on “Everything gets tested, asshole”

  1. Missing the point that all of the new clever amusement park rides can go up and down and remain basically in one piece. That’s something that compares well to NASA’s space vehicles, because reducing the cost of the ride has never particularly been part of NASA’s charter either.

  2. Yes, beardy Branson’s ‘space’ plane is crap and Bezos’s isn’t much better, but I’m pretty sure that Musk’s SpaceX isn’t just a theme-park ride.

  3. I imagine the marginal cost of use of the Virgin Galactic “space plane” is pretty low, and that it will show a nice return on operations (if not on capital, which isn’t the point because it’s the Bearded One’s toy). And that will fund the next generation, which will be less crap and cheaper to operate. Rinse, repeat.

  4. At what point in our history did human progress become something to be derided? Certainly horseless carriages weren’t popular with buggy whip makers, but most people welcomed them – those claiming that travel at more than 30mph would collapse your lungs were a small minority.

    The misanthropes seem to have taken over.

  5. Branson and Bezos are at the stage the first NASA manned launches were with the first Mercury suborbital launch in 1961.

    Branson’s “toy” may be tricky to get to orbital speed, but Bezos really only needs a larger launch vehicle to get to real orbit.
    So one of them is *just* short of Musk, and the other *might* be able to adapt/iterate his vehicle to true orbit.

    And besides the (beautiful) double booster landings, and the now near standard main stage landing, Musk managed to lift off and land a *9 floor* appartment building..

    Meanwhile NASA has done…. oooooohhh… Static tests and a mock buildup of their Magnificent Stack…
    And not a single second of actual lift-off….
    And with the already announced delays adjusted roadmap, it’s a sucker bet to state that the next manned moonshot will be either Musk or the chinese. Because NASA sure as hell isn’t going to get there first, if at all.

  6. Of course, compared to NASA’s vehicles like the SLS, they aren’t 50% over budget and three years late, and they’ve actually taken off (and landed successfully, as dotdavid notes).

  7. I am slightly bemused by the adulation afforded to a few rich boys doing something that was done in the 1950’s. They are not ‘ground breaking’ and definitely not noteworthy.
    These stunts are the equivalent of a privateer doing a ton average around the Island on a stock CBR600 compared to Bob McIntyre on a factory Gilera in 1957.

  8. The SPUD has spoken.

    “In my 60s I see almost no benefit to space travel.”

    Another thing he is an expert in, you see. What’s his solution?

    “We need to tax the rich because they are rich.”

  9. The difference is the 1950s the only people who could afford this were states, this is innovation to reduce the costs and make it affordable to non-state participants. Remember, Columbus only got to the Americas as a state-funded project. Imagine if 500 years later that was still the only way of crossing the Atlantic.

  10. @ Grikath:

    Meanwhile NASA has done…. oooooohhh… Static tests and a mock buildup of their Magnificent Stack…
    And not a single second of actual lift-off….

    Of course NASA, like all US government bodies, has fallen to the Diversity, Inclusion and Equity (D.I.E) business, so because Whypipo Bad™, the chances of them doing anything of note actually decreases over time.

  11. Two hour flights to Australia (via space), coming soon.

    Even if only the rich can ever afford it, it would still be one hell of an achievement.

  12. NASA are subject to extreme Congressional interference, so it’s remarkable that they can do anything successfully. I take my hat off to them for continuing Mars exploratory craft though. And all the other Solar System explorers.

    Bezos’s dildo is actually the 2nd stage of a 2 stage to orbit vehicle. I can’t remember when he said Blue Origin would do an orbital test flight though.

  13. Two hour flights to Australia (via space), coming soon. Even if only the rich can ever afford it, it would still be one hell of an achievement.

    Don’t forget that it was “the rich” which kept Concord running all those decades after its still birth. BA and Air France earned nothing from the flights themselves but the reputation value of being able to do the run to New York in 3 hours was worth it to both airlines.

    “Where are you going this weekend Tarquin?”
    “We thought we’d pop over to Sydney”

    The rich will pay a lot for that sort of caché.

  14. The Meissen Bison

    $28 million to vomit for 15 minutes

    A bad oyster would be cheaper.

    (pssst, JG: Cachet)

  15. The big problems with the space programs were they were trying to railroad a bit before railroading time. Various reasons. Forced development for military purposes. Political willie-waving. There’s a lot of stuff come along in last couple of decades has actually made space practical. Computing power is a lot of it. Design is a whole lot cheaper & easier. New materials. We’re probably looking at the real dawn of the space-age. May see another Moore’s Law established.

  16. It was always thus. Many people don’t like people trying things.

    The Amish won’t be doing with new fangled technology like buttons.

    (And I say that at one who thinks personal space travel is a waste of money. There’s nothing up there we want, let alone need. It will never be economic, no matter how cheap, to send people where machines are better.)

  17. ” It will never be economic, no matter how cheap, to send people where machines are better.”
    It will never be cheaper to send the repairman to change a 50 cents component than spending a 100 million to launch a replacement satellite?

    Little story might be relevant. Back in the 70s I was involved in a little firm used to supply electronic parts to hobbyists, mail order. (Amusingly, our main competitor was Alan Sugar). Couple of years later I got to see the boards a major avionics company was putting into the equipment went into the RAF front line aircraft And was amazed they were using such junk. Where the hell were they still sourcing the components? There was more sophisticated stuff being put together in kid’s bedrooms.

  18. “.. next manned moonshot will be either Musk or the chinese.”
    It will probably be the Chinese, though we will only be toild about the successful flights. Like the Soviets (Yuri Garagin was the first man into space ‘and returned alive’), failures do little to improve the world’s view of their political ideals. In a country where thousands of deaths are classed as acceptable casualties, the CCP will not bother about a few replaceable astronauts in their aim to show their society is better than everyone elses.
    “In my 60s I see almost no benefit to space travel.”
    Much as I hate to agree, I think he is on to something. What happens when space travel allows flights to other planets? We will take the same political and idealistic views and racial hatred with us. All we will be doing is spreading our differences around the universe. We whinge about the CCP virus, but that is what we will be doing, spreading the virus of the hatreds of humanity. Until we sort ourselves out, we should stay where we are. Convince me I’m wrong.

  19. ‘It was always thus. Many people don’t like people trying things.’ With me it’s sheer laziness, Chester.

    But whether personal space flight will ever become routine, I’m damned if I know. I always liked Bob Heinlein’s story that made the moon the new Oz, with Earth dumping its convicts there.

    A new place for dumping illegal immigrants anyone??

  20. @Penseivat – who gives a shit if we export earth’s race hatreds to Mars? Who will notice? And perhaps space exploration achievements will bring an end to dreary human self-hatred.

    We’re a long way off making contact with another spacefaring species and even so, science-fiction suggests meeting aliens would bring us all together in a new spirit of inter-species hatred. To quote Pratchett (from memory): “Black and white lived together in perfect harmony, and ganged up on green.”

  21. Those Puritans buggering off with their hatreds and differences had some bumpy bits but it seems to have worked out well enough.

  22. On the subject of hatreds, my thought is that part of the problem is that we have run out of places to go to get away from the haters. I always found it a little odd that, during the cold war years, those who held to Marxism didn’t just move to Russia instead of trying to inflict their cack on the rest of us. If there are enough planets we could have one for each ideology. Those racial purists could live in splendid isolation on a world where everyone is the same colour.

  23. If there are enough planets we could have one for each ideology.

    It’s a nice idea but you can be sure that when Marxworld is approaching mass starvation, their politburo will be staring at the abundant surpluses on Hayekworld and instead of adapting their philosophy to edge a bit closer to reality will be wasting the last of their resources on an invasion fleet.

    The only way socialism can ever work (to a rough approximation of the meaning of “work”) is if there is no alternative. After all, defending the borders of a socialist Workers’ Paradise from mass immigration of those less fortunate victims of capitalism has never been much of a problem.

  24. Eric Frank Russell wrote a book (The Great Explosion, thanks wiki)wherein a cheap form of star drive allowed any minority group to set up its own colony on a planet of choice. It involved an uncontrolled diaspora so nobody knows what or where the colonies are. The plot follows a ship from Earth trying to find them all. Good story if you can find a copy, but Russell is not easy to find.

  25. Charles Brecknell

    Anyone who thinks that Elon is serious about spaceflight needs to look on You Tube for ‘Common Sense Skeptic’- it will open your eyes…

  26. There is often something quite puritanical about the left at times – hair shirt type of stuff. It’s hard not to think that their hatred of very successful entrepreneurs is at least in part because they seem to enjoy their lives so much.

  27. There’s a project being started now to loft large telescopes for astronomy up to 57km using helium balloons. That’s above 99.5% of the atmosphere & pretty well in the same region that the New Sheppard vehicle got to at 100km+. It’s the first 50’s the difficult bit. It’s an area of near space has a lot of potential. Communications, ground surveillance…

  28. There is –or was –a website from a small company using balloons -and planning on airships– to get to the edge of space with very little energy expended.

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