Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Port or Starboard?

In his recent blog post: Agreement! At least I think so... Bill stated the following:

But I don't see how theme park spaceports can hurt provided we do not expect too much from them

They can hurt in one very obvious way: financial. You may not have an issue with governments expropriating taxpayers' money on these white elephants, but i do.

Some within the alt.space community chafe whenever the "wasting of tax dollars" argument is made, responding with the "well, they waste money on [insert program name here] so why shouldn't we spend it on space projects?" This is flawed for the very basic reason that two wrongs don't make a right. Note that they don't actually explain why it is *not* a waste of money, but rather try to use the tired "but they're doing it too" line which seems to be a justification for just about anything these days.

If someone wants to build a privately funded space themepark, a la Disneyland, i say good luck with that. But even in that case, there is a moral flaw in the argument made by most spaceport enthusiasts - the ones who sell the spaceport on its own merits (as a port) - to the non-space-savvy financial investors who may put $$$ in those spaceports.

Let's not kid ourselves, the vast majority of space tragics do not have the financial wherewithall to finance their own small space projects, much less a hundred million dollar plus spaceport. That money comes from other sources - be it rich people who are sold the kool-aid of a space idea (and why do they always seem to go for building rockets, anyways?) or investment funds which are slowly duped by the repeated articles in the mainstream media (hardly a critical bunch these days anymore anyways, but that's a whole separate blog in itself).

The moral flaw is this: when you sell someone kool-aid, they usually are buyers because they like the flavour and want something sweet to drink. But if it's sold as a nutritional supplement that is good for building strong healthy teeth and bones, it's a lie. When you sell someone on the concept of a spaceport as an operating port that will make money through the large number of repeat flights from yet-to-be-built vehicles, it's no longer a dixie-cup filled with kool-aid for 10c from the kid with the stand, it's buying the entire Kool-Aid company.

And that just isn't right.

7 Comments:

Blogger Bill White said...

I agree with this following statement 100%:

When you sell someone on the concept of a spaceport as an operating port that will make money through the large number of repeat flights from yet-to-be-built vehicles, it's no longer a dixie-cup filled with kool-aid for 10c from the kid with the stand, it's buying the entire Kool-Aid company.

And that just isn't right.


However, after reading the New Mexico State University study I am not convinced this is what the New Mexico state legislature was told, or sold.

If in a few years Peter Diamandis can grow annual attendance at the X Prize Cup up to the 30,000 level (and perhaps more with his Rocket Racing League) and if New Mexico gets some national media exposure can we really say it's a bad investment? The NASA lunar lander challenges (for example) simply will garner national exposure for Las Cruces.

If many thousands of people fly to El Paso or Albuquerque and/or drive to Las Cruces this coming October, New Mexico business will receive a fair amount of revenue. Southwest Airlines is having an airfare sale and I well may go myself to watch the lunar lander challenge and eyeball the marketing hoopla. I will need a hotel room plus meals and some souvenirs and by myself the whole trip will probably cost me around $600 - $700. If I had another extra day, I might even bring some golf clubs and if I enjoy the event I might bring my entire family for a week or two in 2007 and explore New Mexico.

Did Indianapolis lose out by giving the owner of the Baltimore Colts NFL football franchise a good deal to induce them to become the Indianapolis Colts? I admit opinions vary on this question yet should we hold Diamandis and Branson to a higher ethical standard than the NBA, NFL and major league baseball?

Now, if the Southwest Regional Spaceport is badly planned or managed then yes the taxpayers will have been bilked. And I do agree that selling a regional spaceport as anything but a tourist destination for Earth-bound tourists is not really all that honest. The target audience for the New Mexico government is people like me who can afford perhaps $600 - $700 for a mini-vacation to attend the X Prize Cup.

Branson and Virgin Galactic? He needs those able to spend $200,000 for a flight to space.

Now, if the X Prize Cup flops as a generator of crowds, then the taxpayers (state government) should strongly consider cancellation of their planned investment in that regional spaceport.

= = =

By that same token, doing a makeover of a Lear-jet so it can fly in space is wicked cool and I am truly pulling for the Rocketplane people to succeed but no one should pretend that a made-over Lear-jet is on the critical path to anything more significant than an awesome episode of Monster-Garage.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006 9:26:00 PM  
Blogger Kelly Starks said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Thursday, July 06, 2006 11:46:00 AM  
Blogger Kelly Starks said...

>By that same token, doing a makeover of a Lear-jet so it can fly in space
>is wicked cool and I am truly pulling for the Rocketplane people to succeed
>but no one should pretend that a made-over Lear-jet is on the critical
>path to anything more significant than an awesome episode of Monster-Garage.

;)

By that logic you shouldn't consider a reworked short range missle (redstone) with a conic pod on its nose (Mercury capsule) as in any way being on the path to the moon.

Big things often have unimpresive starts.

Thursday, July 06, 2006 11:48:00 AM  
Blogger Bill White said...

In today's news:

Las Cruces, NM - Starchaser Industries Inc., the first private space company to establish a New Mexico presence in response to the development of the Southwest Regional Spaceport, is pleased to announce plans to develop a 120-acre site approximately seventeen miles west of the City of Las Cruces in southern New Mexico.

The ten-year $100 million project, which will be privately financed, is expected to create up to 300 permanent positions, from service industry to high tech, high salary aerospace jobs with an emphasis on training local people. Phased development of the site will include rocket manufacturing and astronaut training facilities, retail outlets, office accommodations, restaurants and exhibition areas as well as a space-themed hotel with conference facilities. The Rocket City complex will span more than a mile of interstate frontage associated with the north side of exit 116 on Interstate 10.

Starchaser's Rocket City, located roughly 50 miles due south and well within striking distance of the Southwest Regional Spaceport, will be a high-tech theme park with an emphasis on science education and a 22nd century space age experience. Exhibitions and hands-on experiences will be themed toward personal and contemporary spaceflight while celebrating New Mexico's rich and varied space heritage.

Rocket City will provide unprecedented "behind the scene tours" of a working rocket assembly and manufacturing plant. Visitors will be able to purchase advance tickets for rides into space aboard Starchaser's Thunderstar rocketship, while having the opportunity to become familiar with the technology used to make spaceflight possible.

As a major tourist destination, Rocket City will attract throngs of visitors to the area and will compliment other New Mexico space initiatives. The development will offer many opportunities to create local, regional and national partnerships and will provide a focus for those wishing to invest in space tourism without necessarily having to put their money into rocket development.


All I can say is: Indeed!

:-)

Thursday, July 06, 2006 1:03:00 PM  
Blogger Shubber Ali said...

lots of "ifs" and "will be" in those comments and press releases.

try a google search, and you will find similar such prognostications made every few years by the alt.space booster/huckster community. so what is different this time around?

Thursday, July 06, 2006 5:20:00 PM  
Blogger Bill White said...

My original point wasn't that these schemes will work and actually make money. No, my original point was that no one was intending to attempt to fund a spaceport based solely on fares paid by suborbital passengers. This Starchaser proposal is looking to cobble together a number of diverse revenue sources most of which depend upon crowds of land lubbers flocking to Las Cruces. Will it work? I dunno. But if crowds do arrive in October 2006, we will start gathering relevant data on this question.

Thursday, July 06, 2006 6:23:00 PM  
Blogger Shubber Ali said...

No, my original point was that no one was intending to attempt to fund a spaceport based solely on fares paid by suborbital passengers. This Starchaser proposal is looking to cobble together a number of diverse revenue sources most of which depend upon crowds of land lubbers flocking to Las Cruces. Will it work? I dunno. But if crowds do arrive in October 2006, we will start gathering relevant data on this question.

Then the proper approach before looting the public treasury is to observe the events in Oct 2006, the follow-on in 2007, and perhaps even 2008 before announcing intentions to build a spaceport/themepark for an event that has been held essentially zero times so far...

Thursday, July 06, 2006 8:20:00 PM  

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