Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Everybody has won and all must have prizes

The Once and Future Moon

No American human spaceflight flight systems exist and their development is dependent on the advent of a demand that has not yet materialized. Meanwhile, we comfort ourselves with fantasies about human missions to Mars. I appreciate and applaud Gingrich’s enthusiasm for space, a visionary attitude sorely lacking in most politicians. He needs to think carefully about how to incentivize the development of space and about the critical national needs served by our civil space program. Prizes seem attractive because of their historical role in stimulating a nascent aviation industry. But significant differences between aviation and spaceflight and our primitive level of development of the latter suggest that what worked before may not work now.


Too negative!  The use of prizes has worked before the advent of aviation.  Prizes incentivized technological advancement as long ago as the period shortly after the Age of Discovery.  The Marine Chronometer was invented as a result of a prize set up by the Longitude Act.  Thus, it has a longer history than Spudis suggests.

The use of the Alice in Wonderland metaphor was a bit too much.

Not every prize will be successful, but you may need only one, or a few.

Perhaps Spudis is cautioning the over reliance upon the private sector in order to advance the progress of human space flight.  I think there's room enough for both.  The trouble with NASA is that it is too risk averse and it is a government program.  Governments don't have enough of an incentive to economize.

That's how you get mammoth rockets and mammoth budget deficits.

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