Monday, October 08, 2007


Letter published in the Metro & the Guardian:

Today (4th Oct) is the 50th anniversary of Sputnik, the first time human beings put anything into space orbit. 12 years later men walked on the Moon.

A comparison with aircraft, where 50 years after the first flight we had achieved twice the speed of sound & passenger jet airlines were in service, is instructive. Today NASA promises to be able to return to the Moon in 13 years, & has been promising this or more for 30 years. The problem is not so much a shortage of money but of how it is used. NASA with a budget of £8 billion has been described as a jobs creation programme for bureaucrats & the southern states which occasionally does some stuff in space. By comparison with Europe, whose combined budget is £5 billiion & has not yet allowed them to launch a human they look positively animated. Russia, on the other hand, with a budget of £650 million actually has a greater launch capacity than even the US. Britain's budget of £210 million, largely given to ESA, is aimed fairly openly not at going anywhere but at ensuring a share of ESA contracts.

The good news is that a $10 million "X-Prize" awarded for the first independent launch has virtually created Virgin Galactic & the space tourism industry - that is what NASA spends every 5 1/2 hours or Europe in 10. Experts have said that an X-Prize of only £1 billion would produce a shuttle capable of at least weekly launches. This is what Britain already spends on space every 5 years. By comparison with what we spend on wars or windmills this is chickenfed (& as for what we spend on farm subsidies)!. With even a little vision humanity could get back on that 50 year track that aircraft builders pioneered.
Yours Faithfully
Neil Craig
Various space budgets
UK budget of £210 million
What could be achieved by X-Prizes

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