Look to the Skies!

Sep 5, 06:46 by IROSF
Comment Below!
Sep 5, 11:01 by arvind mishra
Excellent write-up -very prudent !
thanks for sharing your thoughts on outer space in Sf.
Sep 5, 17:24 by Dave Creek
Kris, I've had a lot of these same thoughts lately, and you've put them into form for me. I really wish we would see more adventure SF that was set in space but wasn't military SF. I've really enjoyed Allen Steele's Coyote stories for that reason, and told him so in a recent e-mail. And character-oriented space SF is what I tend to write, as well.

Not that I don't enjoy military SF, but it seems to dominate right now. Naturally SF is about change, so we can't really compain that the field itself has changed. But our preferences are formed early and tend to remain with us, so I miss space SF that's about exploration about as much as I miss the real moon landings.
Sep 5, 17:28 by Gregory Benford
We have no personal vision of space because we have no true plans to send people beyond low Earth orbit. Thus vanishes the vision. Mars could change all that.
Sep 5, 18:56 by Bluejack

I've read some fun space opera in recent years that is not strictly military sf (although there's certainly the odd battle or two), and which takes space travel seriously. However, it's all stuff that is in the distant future; space travel is a solved problem; it's part of the fabric rather than part of the point.

I think there is plenty of that being written, and at a high level.

However, one thing we've learned about the near future of space travel is that it's a slog. Getting even a basic space station up there takes billions and billions of dollars, and decades of work to accomplish. Getting to the moon, or to Mars, is a very hard problem with no expectation of anything profound revelation: there's just not much happening up there. You can go to the remotest, most boring deserts here on earth, and find stuff more startling than we're likely to on our neighboring planets.

Reality has leeched the sexy out of near-future space travel.

At the same time, technological progress here on earth has outpaced, and often outclassed science fiction.

The trend certainly doesn't surprise me. But, it's the power of human creativity we're talking about, so I wouldn't be at all surprised if someone turned this thing around; and all it takes is the successful propagation of one new, unexpected meme about near-future space travel to break out of science fiction and into the larger community for the reality of space exploration to change as well.

Sep 5, 20:10 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Oh, I don't think reality has taken away the romance. I think reality can make for good adventure story-telling, as the nonfiction about the space program shows. I do think that reality has, as you say, Blunt, gotten ahead of a lot of sf.

I hope you're right about the Mars mission, Greg. I'm not sure it'll happen, though, esp. with the recs of the new commission coming in this week. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for space travel. I want to head to the stars! (Or at least, watch people do so.)
Sep 6, 15:13 by Steve Fahnestalk
We've forgotten the message of Heinlein, among others. Make space profitable for business, and business will fill in the gaps. Why did we ever think that space should be the sole province of governments and the military?

Reread "The Man Who Sold The Moon," Kris & Greg. That's our ticket to space. Excite the public, yes, but get business thinking about what's out there for them.

BTW, Kris--I laughed out loud when you wrote "...and a lot maler." Thanks for the guffaw.
Sep 6, 16:39 by Bluejack
Well, who is going to make space profitable for business, but business?

And that, at least, is one area where space is making good progress on the tourism front. They have a long way to go to the space station and lunar outpost level, but since they are trying to do it both profitably and safely, the achievements of the past five years are pretty amazing.
Sep 6, 19:47 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
It looks like the committee's recs will include a lot more private industry in space, and I think that's a great thing. We need to get it moving. I think space tourism would work now. How many of us would pay to stay in a hotel in low Earth orbit? I would.
Sep 8, 16:45 by Nader Elhefnawy
Indeed, many would pay. But how much? And how much risk would they tolerate in doing so? Launch costs per-pound remain very high, even in the estimates of the fantasists who dominate too much of the debate (solid figures are hard to come by, but several k per pound are still standard; it's 200 k a seat for a ride on SpaceShip One, the hypothetical space hotel stay likely having a seven or eight figure price tag, the latter if the trips up to the ISS are taken as a basis), and vehicle reliability remains a real issue. (We're talking about a field where a 2 percent failure rate's standard.)
There's plenty of people who insist that this is due to bureaucratic failure, rather than of deeper technological limitations, but given how long the problem's been around, the onus is really on them to prove it, and they've yet to do it. As we speak, the "first flight" dates of all those space tourism ventures-grossly overhyped-are being endlessly pushed back.
And at any rate, we should all remember the limits of space tourism as an approach to space development. It's a very different thing from actually extracting resources from space by way of bringing down resources to Earth, or using them as a basis for human settlement-which is the real basis for meangingful economic development out there.
I'm not saying it won't happen. But as I've said in too many times and too many fora, I don't picture it happening in the very near future barring some really revolutionary tech breakthroughs of the kind that always seem to be stuck in the land of "more research necessary."
Still, you're quite right about the trend in space stories, and the "culture of fear."
Sep 9, 11:50 by Bluejack
Re: tourism not being the long term answer to private space exploration: true. But since, as you point out, the main barrier to *any* profitable space industry is the per-pound launch-cost, then if tourism as a short term lure to business can bring the costs down to something affordable by say, upper middle class, then almost certainly industry can find profit in manufacturing and resource extraction as well.

Mind you, the main resources we are running short of down the well are not likely to be found out there either, so my bet, in anything like the current macro-economic climate, is on zero-g / vacuum / clean-room manufacturing.
Sep 20, 15:53 by Janine Stinson
I just got round to reading this column and noticed:


Cool typo for "satellite." :) Job hazard of English majors and proofreaders: compulsive error corrections. ;) Still a good column.
Sep 20, 17:41 by Stacey Janssen
Got it! Thanks for the catch!
Sep 20, 20:03 by Lois Tilton
Janine - come and work for me!
Oct 7, 15:21 by Nader Elhefnawy
It seems appropriate to mention here that this week saw the five-year anniversary of the SpaceShip One flight that helped private space flight get so much attention. Here's a piece from Space.com about it:
Oct 8, 03:23 by Bluejack
Let's make that link easier. Remember that to make a hotlink in this forum system, you do the following (with no whitespace): [ a = http://www.space.com/businesstechnology/091002-spaceshipone-5yrs-later.html ]The Link![ /a ]. So: The Link!

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