Tag Archives: international space station

Why do I love space so much?

I really wonder why I’m such a sucker for all things space.

From early teen-hood on I looooved science fiction, I still miss anything in this genre to this day and would really like to become one of those space tourists to the international space station, even though, looking over my finances, I’m a bit short at this time.

For quite some time I was sure the reason was simply experience – that I had lived all that space opera stuff in previous, long past, life times, but currently I am not so sure anymore. It might still be true, but I wonder if this explanation might have been a bit too easy and obvious.

Still, I enjoyed these two time lapse videos from the International Space Station, even though low earth orbit does not compare to some proper hyperspace travel or inertia free space drives (yes, I am re-reading Doc EE Smith’s Triplanetary right now.)

ISS – View out of the Cupola

There are always two sides to a coin, and today I had to reflect on these two side in regards my my anarchistic conviction.

It is easy and righteous to be an anarchist, and to help as little as possible for all those things most of us abhor. War, extortion, corruption, etc. But there are a few things that I like that these guys are doing, like helping to get pictures like this…

Tracy's View out of the Cupola on the ISS

This is just one sample of the pictures taken by astronaut Douglas H. Wheelock during¬† his stay at the International Space Station just about 200 miles straight up. I can’t help considering other people who do not appreciate this venture out into space, just as I don’t appreciate beating up the Irakies or toppling a South American Dictator.

One of the most heard arguments against anarchy (in the sense of a society without a ruling government – not the definition of ‘chaos in the streets’) is “but somebody will have to build and maintain the roads!” On first glance that seems to be a valid argument, but thinking a bit further there are possibilities that don’t make it look so good. For one, a private builder who builds an area with houses he wants to sell, will make sure that there is a road that lets people get to these houses. Would make the houses probably a bit more expensive but considering that the buyer does not pay any taxes to a usually very inefficient government, the house with the street factored in would probably come cheaper than the house plus the taxes.

But what about highways and freeways? In part of the US we already have toll roads and they seem to be working just fine, and again the saving in taxes factored in, traveling might actually become cheaper. But lets assume that it would actually be more expensive to travel longer distances along toll roads – maybe other means of transportation would have been invented if they would be now more competitive without any government strong-arming the use of the road and car system. Maybe there would be already flying cars that don’t require expensive road building – or we would actually have the rolling roads of the early Heinlein – would THAT be cool!

Back to the space pictures. It might have take us a bit longer to reach the moon, but there is a good chance that we would have a flourishing space industry if there would have been no monopolistic government involved. A good chance that I might be able to afford a trip to Bigelow’s Space Hotel in one of Burt Rutan’s SpaceShip 4’s.

There would have been less people contributing to the cost of developing these space technologies, because right now each and every tax-paying citizen is a contributor. But if only the people who wanted it would be contributing, which is far less, it still could be more, as – first – an inefficient middle man is cut out of the loop, and – second – the people who do contribute really want it, and how much energy does does real intention add to the equation?

But despite all these ifs and whens I can still enjoy the great images from the ISS that were created with all our contributions – willing and unwilling – even forced. Here again the link to astronaut Wheelock’s images.

From Mohave to Aldebaran

With all this brouhaha going on right now about the fifth space tourist (officially: participant) being up at the international space station I remembered an article I wrote nearly two years ago in June 2004 after we had returned from Mohave, California where we watched the first civilian attempt to reach space without any government funding.

I think it’s in order to review this event and realize that private space travel will be required to get you and me (or at least your and my kid) off this planet.

watching space ship one

Watching Space Ship 1

I missed the flight of the Wright Brothers, I was on vacation in Spain when the Eagle landed on the moon and Neil Armstrong said his famous “One small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” and I have never observed a space shuttle flight.

Did I mention that I have also not visited the International Space Station yet either?

So I, for sure, did not want to miss the first attempt of civilian space flight!

Maybe a little bit of background. There is no boundary between earth atmosphere and space as the air is just getting thinner and thinner as we go up and at some point there is so little that we define that as nothing and that is then space.

As we as, humans, have the tendency to label, measure and categorize everything we, or somebody, has defined the border of space to be at an altitude of 100 km, or 62 miles.

The first person to get above that and fly around our globe was Yuri Gagarin, very much to the dismay of America. But the situation was somewhat remedied when Alan Shepard made it up into space just a few weeks later. Not quite as impressive because he was just shot up and fell back down while the Russian had circled the globe, but nevertheless, an American had been in space.

We all know more or less what happened since, and we also know that this stuff is EXPENSIVE! Just lately we had a few civilian space tourists paying 20 million a pop to get up to the space station. All this seems so far away from the idea of a space smuggler outrunning some government cruisers with a batch of Whiskey from Vega and reaching Aldebaran safely. Especially unrealistic as long as the government has a monopoly in space travel.

Civilian space travel is thus needed. One attempt to spur that is the X Prize. This is a prize of 10 million Dollars awarded to the first team to reach space with a three man crew and repeats this trip with the same vehicle within two weeks.

There are a few contenders for this prize around the world, but lucky for us Californians, the group apparently ahead of the crowd is ‘Scaled Composites’ in Mohave, California, about an hour and a half away from Los Angeles. Under the leadership of Burt Rutan this little company had build a space ship.

Funding did not come from any government, only from one private source, Paul Allen, the second man of Microsoft. Some might argue that this is just as good as government, but hey – there is a difference!

The price so far being paid for this whole spaceship and everything else to get it into space had been in the same range as one tourist ticket to the international space station.

Now, for Monday morning, the 21st of June 2004, Scaled Composites had announced that it would attempt to reach space – remember – 100 km. Scaled had been very quite about its test flights, but this time there was a big announcement.

Zen and I had been planning a trip out into the desert to sleep under the open sky anyway, so the idea was to combine these two events – sleep out there under billions of starts and then get to the air/space-port early to witness the event. I had not considered that others might have the same idea. But that became clear soon, when I learned about all the things the air/space-port was planning for all the people who would come – – – after it had been built.

Gigi decided to also come along and I made an announcement at Zen’s school to allow other parents to take their children out to this historic event but they all decided to miss it and probably later regret it, just as I regret to have missed the flight at Kitty Hawk. But Zen’s teacher Rose came and brought her husband Doug and graduate Ariel.

So, on Sunday night we headed north into the desert, stopped in Rosamond for dinner and to meet Rose, Dough and Ariel and were soon at the entrance to the first (official) American inland space port. We just wanted to check it out, so that the next morning we would easily find our way to the best vista point, but then we paid the stiff price for a spot in the RV and tent area and stayed there for the night. It had become so windy that it probably would have been more or less impossible to sleep under the open sky without being blown away.

We made do with sleeping (somewhat) in the car and finally crawling out into a perfect morning. The winds had calmed down to nearly nothing, there was hardly a cloud in the sky and with sunrise we got on the short way to the end of the taxi-way where the takeoff would commence.

A Future Traveller to Aldebaran

Even though I have never seen a rocket takeoff live, I have to admit that the takeoff of ‘Space Ship One’ was way unimpressive. No big explosion of fire – just the taxi of the carrier ship ‘White Knight’ with ‘Space Ship One’ strapped under it’s belly, a turn at the end of the runway and then a pretty long roll before taking off into the clear air over Mohave.

I will not report about the technical aspect and the interviews and events as they have been covered in the media and on the web much better than I could do.

But I have to report about this one brief moment when ‘Space Ship One’, twenty minutes after it had been in space – just barely – glided down in one last circle over the air/space-port and landed right in front of us and the crowd cheered – that was darn emotional.

I think we got a bit closer to the day when the Millennium Falcon will outrun some empire battleships.

UPDATE 2019-11-11:¬† It looks like we (or better Virgin Galactic which arose from ‘Scaled Composits’) are not too far from finally going into space with some real space tourists.

Still, the trip seems to be a better deal – 20 million for a week in space versus four minutes for a quarter million.