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 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.


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 booster/huckster community. so what is different this time around?

Thursday, July 06, 2006 5:20:00 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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