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Tim Peake excitement

The UK media is getting quite excited about British astronaut Tim Peake and his trip to the International Space Station. I was watching on Sky News. Their guest expert was space journalist Sarah Cruddas, and after the launch they allowed her to gush excitedly about private space travel for a couple of minutes.

She was not entirely coherent as she was talking excitedly — but that is the point. She mentioned “Space 2.0”, a new term to me, and Elon Musk, and Planetary Resources who want to mine asteroids which contain enough wealth to make everyone a billionaire. She talked positively about wealthy people making money in space. She talked about how Internet access in the developing world has an “absolutely revolutionary effect on the number of people on our planet who will have access to knowledge”, improving education and increasing the pool of talent and getting them rich. She talked about businesses making space travel more efficient. She talked about the UK space industry, which “does exist and should be celebrated”.

It struck me that all this private enterprise and wealth creation should be brought up and positively plugged during a government space launch.

In the ’50s and ’60s it seems as if it was normal to be optimistic and excited about technology. In the ’90s and recently we seem mostly to hear about how greedy rich industrialists trample the poor and destroy the planet. Perhaps that pendulum can swing back the other way.

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32 comments to Tim Peake excitement

  • It’s the greedy rich bastards who are driving towards real progress.

  • Runcie Balspune

    She talked about businesses making space travel more efficient.

    This. If government was involved it would never get more efficient, unless it got a military benefit, and they’d just tax more.

  • Ellen

    Yes, rich folk get the neat things first. They’re the self-selected guinea pigs.

  • momo

    > In the ’90s and recently we seem mostly to hear about how greedy rich industrialists trample the poor and destroy the planet.

    Interesting, my experience of the 90s was one of great excitement about technology and fortunes. But I was in Silicon Valley.

    It was the 2000s that was all “greedy rich industrialists trample the poor and destroy the planet”

  • Mr Ed

    Wouldn’t it have been a win-win to have sent Mr Corbyn instead? I’m sure he’d have found it easy to co-operate and work with the Russians. He could do PMQs via videolink. Should boost the viewing figures for a while.

  • Paul Marks

    Good Rob – and I hope so to.

    As for whether we will see real private property in space……

    Sadly both Mr Putin and Mr Obama would agree – “no”.

    They both a Hobbesian world (Solar System) where THE STATE decides who gets what in terms of natural resources (no real property rights AGAINST the State).

    Hobbes justified that by (mis) citing the Bible (yes the Bible of the religion he did not really believe in) – actually Mr Putin and Mr Obama are quite like that as well.

    But these people will lose – there will, one day, be real private property in the Solar System.

    It will happen – and some people active on this blog will live to see the defeat of the Hobbesians.

  • CaptDMO

    Gosh, Space tourism.
    Remember kids, unlike “our” gub’mints that recently signed up for “less pollution”….
    Take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints”
    (and the occasional fully equipped, NASA price list, tool bag.)
    Mining asteroids, a a billionty seven K/hr?
    Why am I seeing NOTHING about “mining” massive amounts of space debris for the pre-refined “precious” recyclables.
    Property? I’d cite the derelict ships at sea laws, in DIRECT contradiction to the “HEY, that’s OUR gold in that 200 year old boat that you found, and recycled” laws.

  • veryretired

    Congress in the US just passed a law which recognizes, in one of its elements, the rights of property and development in space. (per Instapundit a few days ago)

  • Nicholas (Andy.royd) Gray

    Does that mean that Congress, full of congressives, is extending its’ reach into space, the ultimate extra-territorial power grab? What is there to recognise? We would have been better off if Congress had said nothing, and limited its’ laws to Earth.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    As for whether we will see real private property in space……

    Please define “real private property”.

    They both a Hobbesian world (Solar System) where THE STATE decides who gets what in terms of natural resources (no real property rights AGAINST the State).

    Please feel free to provide an example of when in history there were “real” private property rights against the state.

    But these people will lose – there will, one day, be real private property in the Solar System.

    Because you say so?

  • Laird

    Nicholas (AR) Gray, Congress long ago extended its reach into space, by ratifying the UN space treaty (along with most other nations on the planet; there were very few exceptions, and none with any remote hope of ever developing a space program). That treaty already defines the moon and other planets as “the common property of all mankind” (or words to that effect; I’m too lazy to look up the precise language), so the law veryretired cited is actually a very positive development.

  • Shlomo,

    Let’s cut to the core of your objection, which (unless I miss my guess) is your skepticism about the idea of a “right” at all.

    True—governments have most of the guns and will do whatever they want to, ultimately. However, in a social sense, something does exist that we call a “right”, and these occasionally do impede the unfettered grasp of government. So how’s this for a definition of a “right”:

    “A claimed zone of noninterference, which a society believes is legitimate to defend and which governments cannot overtly threaten without resistance.”

    Protest is, after all, the privilege of the prophet against the king.

  • Edward MJ

    For those interested in asteroid mining and such, you might be interested in the latest Neal Stephenson novel: Seveneves. I’m listening to the audiobook at the moment and enjoying it (apart from the dire British accent the narrator is using for one of the characters.)

    The basic premise is that the moon suddenly and inexplicably breaks apart, the consequences of which are determined to be catastrophic for Earth in the short term, and thus attempts are made to patch together some sort of habitat for a small fraction of humanity in orbit. It’s set in pretty much the present time, so reads more like a thriller than some sci-fi tends to. There’s even a character who seems to be loosely based on Elon Musk…

    “The Martian” by Andy Weir was also excellent, and I believe the film adaptation is meant to be good too.

    More details on the above: http://www.npr.org/2015/12/13/459392474/no-warp-drives-no-transporters-science-fiction-authors-get-real

    “Luna: New Moon” by Ian McDonald is also meant to be about mining (on the moon), and I’ve heard some good mentions of “Roboteer” by Alex Lamb as well, although that seems set quite far in the future.

  • Let’s get real here… We are looking at a current ballpark cost for GEO of $50,000/kg. Getting out to the ‘stroids is obviously going to cost more. Then you got to bring whatever back. Is anything worth that? I mean we are talking perhaps (order of mag) $100,000/kg on top of what it would cost to mine here on Earth. So ladies and gents you wanna invest in my Kickstarter for Unobtanium?

    This is just dreams of a high frontier from people who played too much Elite as kids. It ain’t going to happen. I mean even a Space-El or Skylon ain’t going to make it so.

    The real take-home about Tim’s epic journey (which is about the same distance as I am (Stockport, roughly) from London! And he did it in a rocket that Gargarin would recognize. Fifty-odd years of going nowhere slowly. And NASA’s Orion antics are equally dismal. The lifters are warmed over Shuttle bits and the spacecraft is an Apollo redux. I will bet anyone a Coke that nobody here will live to see a manned Mars landing. And that includes even if Perry takes to a vat in Zurich for a few decades or somesuch.

    It is a nice dream but reality is sometimes sad.

    There is one caveat and this I state in puzzle form: FLOWAS. But that was a different problem.

  • Edward MJ

    Mining asteroids for materials to send down to Earth == fairly pointless.
    Mining asteroids for materials to build things in space == O’Neill Cylinders! (eventually)

    “Fifty-odd years of going nowhere slowly”, and suddenly in the last few years an explosion in innovation and to use Silicon Valley speak “disruption”. I’ll take your bet for a Coke, for two reasons – increasing extensions in expected life spans moving forwards, and Elon Musk. Didn’t think that much of him until I read his biography “Elon Musk: How the Billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla is shaping our Future” by Ashlee Vance, and I wouldn’t bet against him.

    P.S. You can never play too much Elite…

  • Mr Ed

    It seems that if you scratch a libertarian you find a space dreamer.

    Such are the hopes for Liberty.

  • Yes you can play too much Elite. It rapidly becomes a grim ordeal of doing the same thing again and again.

    As to life-extension. Do you know what immortality means? According to something I read from the Actuarial Society (or whatever) it’s about 500 years. That’s due to catastrophic accidents. .

  • Mr Ed

    It is vain to speculate on the economics of space mining etc. unless one has costs to compare and a basis for economic speculation.

    If costs on Earth should skyrocket 🙂 then costs of space activity might become competitive or a natural monopoly, and then space activity might be viable, but at a guess, this seems only likely because of statism on Earth.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    Shlomo,

    Let’s cut to the core of your objection, which (unless I miss my guess) is your skepticism about the idea of a “right” at all.

    True—governments have most of the guns and will do whatever they want to, ultimately. However, in a social sense, something does exist that we call a “right”, and these occasionally do impede the unfettered grasp of government. So how’s this for a definition of a “right”:

    “A claimed zone of noninterference, which a society believes is legitimate to defend and which governments cannot overtly threaten without resistance.”

    Protest is, after all, the privilege of the prophet against the king.

    Not exactly, but not bad. Not bad at all.

  • Nicholas (Andy.royd) Gray

    What would happen if one astronaut killed another in the ISS? Whose rules would apply? (And has anyone written about this- if so, where?)

  • Laird

    Actually, Nicholas, it has been written about, fairly extensively. This is a pretty good article on the topic of criminal law in space. In answer to your specific question:

    “Thus, instead of resorting to the general principle of space law jurisdiction, Canada, the European partner States, Japan, Russia, and the United States have opted for a criminal jurisdiction system where the right to exercise criminal jurisdiction belongs, in principle, to the State of nationality of the perpetrator. This reflects a very traditional approach to criminal jurisdiction under international law. Thus, a partner State may exercise criminal jurisdiction over personnel who are their own nationals irrespective of where the perpetrator is located, i.e., in its own module or in another partner’s module. Thus, for example, if a Canadian astronaut commits a crime in a US module, Canada and not the United States will have primary criminal jurisdiction over the Canadian astronaut.”

    Pp. 6 & 7 (citations omitted). That article notes that crimes have, in fact, already been committed on the ISS. (See pp. 4 & 5.)

  • Nicholas (Andy.royd) Gray

    Well, let’s hope no American commits a capital crime- hanging him in space would be impossible!. And electrocution might drain all the power! And how do you bury a body in space? Lots of comedy potential there, for some black comedies- sorry! I meant African-american comedies.
    On a lighter note, how many elves would it take to change a light bulb?
    None- Elven safety won’t let them!

  • Mr Ed,
    I don’t buy it.

    If it comes to pass that costs for raw (or processed to whatever extent) materials reach that level on Earth we are fucked anyway. That is the Zombie Apocalypse.

    Quite what “statism” has to do with any of this is beyond me. If anything powerful states (in the sense of internally powerful) keep prices of certain things artificially low. A prime example being flour subsidies in Gadaffi’s Libya. Monkeying with prices is never a good idea, ever.

    I can’t imagine a raw (or processed to whatever extent) material being priced out of the market by state intervention. Yes, I can imagine it with the end product but then you get the same problem. Steel, say, made in the asteroid belt will be taxed (or whatever) just the same when it winds up as car parts or cutlery just the same as if it were dug-up and processed on Earth.

    The economics of space are frightful. People talk about “killer apps”. Well, space has had that for a while (I am currently watching Sky TV) and also GPS, remote sensing and spying. All these things have one thing in common. They are about information (which weighs nothing) and not bulk physical commodities.

    The same can be said about probes and space telescopes if we move to the purely scientific area rather than the economic.

    Almost every single “economic” justification for space beyond thae afore-mentioned is “spin-offs” which would have happened anyway. Look-up the story of Teflon. Its first use was in the thoroughly terrestrial hobby of angling.

    N(Ar)G,
    I once knew a constipated mathematician. He worked it out with a pencil.

  • Mr Ed

    NickM, i think we see things the same. One way that states may increase costs would be by environmental legislation making mining on Earth for certain minerals prohibitive or prohibited. States usually leave enough economic activity free so that life can stagger on, and that might leave an economic window for space activity, but otherwise, the Earth is so vast that it could be exploited indefinitely.

    Re murder in space, English law holds that it has jurisdiction over murder or manslaughter by a British citizen outside the UK. The principles that apply to ships at sea and aircraft would presumably apply if there is no treaty re the ISS. It is really an aircraft at the edge of the atmosphere, but it wouldn’t feel like that if you were ‘spaced’.

  • Mr Ed,
    So you reckon after Mr Ed’s Space Resources Ltd yanks a load of goodies back from beyond Martian orbit they won’t slap you with a stonking import duty. Of course you have the luxury of stacking in orbit and landing it almost anywhere and somewhere might be happy to take your stuff for a small fee. Of course with the stuff stacked in LEO you could auction it to the highest bidder. I mean these aren’t perishables are they? Well, not until you get your micro-gravity rose gardens going on Phobos…

  • If I sound a bit more up-beat (just above) it is due to the date.

  • Mr Ed

    NickM,

    I shall land my goods in princely Liechtenstein, probably the last redoubt of economic sanity.

  • Mr Ed,
    And also the World’s largest producer of false-teeth. You may find a synergy there or maybe not.

  • Alex

    States might intervene in favour of uneconomic asteroid mining too. They might have entrepôts where the usual taxes applied to the mineral are waived and products can be transshipped (from spacecraft to sea vessels) and re-exported to various places. I am sure most people here would agree that eco-socialists are hypocrites, they will still want all the conveniences of modern life even if they succeed in extinguishing such “luxuries” for ordinary folk. One way they might do this is permit asteroid mining but outlaw all terrestrial mines. It would be an enormous economic regression but it could happen.

  • Richard Thomas

    As with anything, if you can keep it, it’s yours.

    WRT taxes, one might feel that one who is almost literally holding huge rocks above the head of the other could have something of a bargaining advantage.

  • The Martian” by Andy Weir was also excellent, and I believe the film adaptation is meant to be good too.

    The book was excellent, but the film, running to almost 3 hours, having Matt Damon as the unlikely lead supported by actors seemingly hand-picked to conform to NASA diversity policies? I’ll pass, until it’s on TV.

  • Alisa

    The film is OK, not a must by any means.