29 July 2012
Added "Space Debris and Its Mitigation" to the archive.
16 July 2012
Space Future has been on something of a hiatus of late. With the concept of Space Tourism steadily increasing in acceptance, and the advances of commercial space, much of our purpose could be said to be achieved. But this industry is still nascent, and there's much to do. So...watch this space.
9 December 2010
Updated "What the Growth of a Space Tourism Industry Could Contribute to Employment, Economic Growth, Environmental Protection, Education, Culture and World Peace" to the 2009 revision.
7 December 2008
"What the Growth of a Space Tourism Industry Could Contribute to Employment, Economic Growth, Environmental Protection, Education, Culture and World Peace" is now the top entry on Space Future's Key Documents list.
30 November 2008
Added Lynx to the Vehicle Designs page.
More What's New Subscribe Updates by Email

To receive announcements and news of updates by email, subscribe to the sf-announce mailing list.

Join the sf-discuss mailing list to ask questions and talk about space tourism, vehicles, power, and habitats.

More Info Mailing Lists

There are currently 222 documents in the archive.

Bibliography Archives List Library Listing

The Philosophy of Space Future

Plenty of people have written about the inevitability of humans' expansion into space; about the need for us to start soon; and about the invigorating effect that expansion into space will have for the world economy, and for global society. And much of it is good stuff. However, we feel a need to add something to this subject, since there's a certain angle lacking from much of those discussions.

In almost all books, essays and stories about the future it's assumed without discussion that space development and exploration will be carried out by government "space agencies". The central organization is typically a government research center, or a military craft or base.

However, at Space Future we disagree. Space is just another human habitat - another place where humans are going to live in addition to all the different places they already live on Earth. And because space is almost limitless, humans are going to live there in vast numbers in the future - eventually more than live on Earth. And just like life on Earth, most activities will be carried out by individuals, and by private companies and organizations. Government organizations will have a role, but they won't be the main activity.

The Space Age Hasn't Happened Yet

The foundation of the true "Space Age" will be private citizens, "ordinary people" going to space in large numbers. Until that happens, the phrase "space age" is a misnomer. And the means by which the largest number of people are going to go to space in the shortest time is unquestionably tourism. As described elsewhere in Space Future, market research shows that most people would like to take a trip to space, and will pay several months salary to do so. And most people say they want to stay in orbit for several days or more.

This creates business opportunities on a scale many times larger than all space activities today - 90% of which are in any case paid for by taxes, because they're not providing services which the public wish to purchase.

A great strength of space tourism is that the simple activity of living in space, like living on Earth, will involve almost every kind of activity - construction and interior design, eating and drinking, entertainment and sports, clothing and fashion, singing and dancing, advertising and law, and many others. These activities are all much more familiar, and of more direct interest to most people, than aerospace engineering. They're the core of consumer demand - which drives economic growth. And there's no limit to how far it can grow. Starting in low Earth orbit, it will lead to the construction of more and larger hotels/orbital entertainment centers (we need a new word!), spread to a range of different orbits, to the Moon - and then on out...

However, a lot of people still can't believe that space tourism is going to start any time soon. "It's science fiction" they say. But we live in the era of science fiction coming true! Robots, the Internet, cloning - these are all the science fiction of a few years ago - as airliners, television and computers were before that. And the brakes have just been taken off! Because the end of the cold war freed a huge number of aerospace engineers from unprofitable government work. So far, many of them seem to prefer just to lose their jobs than to provide a service that the public wants and will willingly pay for! But it's only a matter of time now. (And once the cost of launch falls, another business that will grow almost without limit is the supply of energy from space to Earth - roughly doubling the business opportunities in space.)

Private Not Public

The end of the cold war was the victory of democracy (for all its flaws) over state control - of the people's wishes over those of unelected government officials using taxes for purposes that they decide themselves. To date the activities of government space agencies have not been aimed at enabling people to go to space. Not even 1% of their budgets has been aimed at this objective. They're engaged in a range of activities (using very expensive expendable launch vehicles) that were chosen initially during the cold war. And everyone has come to take it for granted that "that's what space agencies do". It's notorious that government organizations are particularly bad at both innovation and cutting costs. And so, unlike the companies around the world which have been "restructuring" in the face of the new global situation, the space agencies have yet to change.

However, government space agencies shouldn't, and needn't operate tourism services. Private industry is perfectly capable of doing this - but conditions must be made appropriate to allow them to begin. For a start, governments must rewrite the laws they've made that make space tourism impossible today - and quickly please! Then space debris, the pieces of junk orbiting the Earth that will be hazardous to tourists, most of it put in orbit by government organizations, needs to be cleared up. And of course a range of appropriate vehicles needs to be developed. This shouldn't be done by government - any more than aircraft are developed by government. But governments could certainly help.

The aviation industry is a good model for what government's role should be in space. Aviation is a huge, profitable, global commercial activity, which doesn't depend on taxes - it generates huge tax revenues. And government research establishments do a lot of useful research for the airlines. In the same way space agencies could do useful research to help the commercial space travel business. There's a whole range of subjects which would be valuable - quieter rocket engines, airport design for rocket operations, simple cryogenic propellant handling systems, to name just a few. But these activities have to be focussed on being useful to the space travel industry - not on the agencies' requirements for their own activities!

The Bottom Line

In this way the agencies would be doing what taxpayers want - using their efforts to enable space activities to become profitable as soon as possible. After which space exploration activities would also be much less expensive for taxpayers. So it's surely an easy choice for taxpayers to make, if they're given the choice.

Or you can put it another way: the countries which make the efforts necessary to bring these new commercial space industries into being are going to dominate space, the space age, and the human future. Countries whose space industries are too conservative (idle? self-satisfied?) to make this effort are going to be left behind in the dust of history.

Please send comments, critiques and queries to feedback@spacefuture.com.
All material copyright Space Future Consulting except as noted.