Archive for June, 2010

Space Tourism Will Find a Market

Florida From Space

Image Credit: NASA

When new products and services draw the attention of the general public, they also draw the attention of venture capitalists and investors. Although buzz about the space tourism industry is steadily growing as industry leaders move closer to routine space flights, many financial experts and investors question the viability of the service. With cheap suborbital space flights costing something in the neighborhood of $100,000 and flights orbiting around the Moon (provided by Space Adventures) going for a staggering $100 million, the question is will the demand be enough to grow the fledgling industry?

The answer for a certainty is yes. Anyone who thinks otherwise may not appreciate mankind’s desire to explore. Columbus, Magellan, Robert Edwin Peary, Marco Polo and countless others, for whatever their individual reasons were, felt compelled to venture out into the unknown. Whether for riches, fame, or curiosity, all of the above mentioned explorers packed their bags and left.

Anyone with a basic knowledge of history can see that mankind has been day dreaming about leaving
Earth for more than a century. The fascination for space goes back for many centuries before the 20th century (think Galileo), but the realization that space travel could be a very reachable endeavor, really settled into the minds of scientists and the public alike within the last 150+ years.

Why were so many drawn to Jules Verne’s novel From the Earth to the Moon written in 1865, or movies like The Forbidden Planet (1956), 2001 A Space Odyssey (1968), and Armageddon (1998)? What about television shows like the original Star Trek (1966) and each of its sequels, Battlestar Galactica (1978) and its sequel (2004)? The market that they serve is the same market that is filled with wishful space explorers.

Recall President Kennedy’s Moon speech on September 12, 1962? “We choose to go to the moon… (applause) we choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard…”

No doubt, many millions of people wish that they could go out there, where no man has gone before. But, only a fortunate few, at least in the beginning of the space tourism industry, have the means and the way. More than 300 wealthy, future, civilian astronauts, have paid in full or placed a deposit with Virgin Galactic for a seat aboard SpaceShipTwo.

This is nothing new. There was a time when only the affluent could afford cars, VCRs, DVD players, camcorders, computers, cable television, cell phones, and yes, even airplane flights. In time (my guess is within 20 years), at a minimum, low Earth orbit (LEO) flights will be an affordable getaway for the middle class. The innate desire to explore the cosmos has been housed in the heart of earthling man for a long time. Only now, has the opportunity to do so presented itself to the world.

Will space tourism be successful? I wouldn’t bet against it. In fact, when given the opportunity, I’ll invest in it.

Kepler Telescope Finds a Cash of Exoplanets

Planets Orbiting 55 Cancri

Planets Orbiting 55 Cancri - Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

On June 15th, The Kepler team at NASA announced that the space based telescope found a veritable cash of potential exoplanets. The team released information on more than 300 of the objects, many of which could turnout to be false-positives. The expectation is that some of these would be planets will actually be, for example, twin stars orbiting each other in close proximity.

The Kepler telescope was designed to search for Earth-like planets in other solar systems. Kepler’s findings total more than 700 possible exoplanets, but NASA will not make public information about the remaining 400 objects until February of next year. The Kepler team will be researching those objects through the summer in hopes that at least one turns out to be an alien Earth.

Approximately 156,000 stars were surveyed for evidence of orbiting planetary bodies in the constellations of Lyra and Cygnus.