Steering Elephants

01/29/06 00:00:00    

By Michael Mealling

Clark Lindsey closes his reflections on the Challenger anniversary and the lessons learned with this paragraph:


At this point, though, there is no point in whining. The CEV/CLV system design isn't going to change fundamentally no matter what spectators like me say. I expect instead to watch the entrepreneurial space transport companies follow a step-by-step process that will lead them from suborbital RLVs all the way to practical, low-cost orbital vehicles.

This is the same conclusion I and many others have come to. You just can't steer that elephant. The only driver that can is congressional pork and its mission is the simple transfer of wealth to particular districts. If you are interested in space (both science and settlement) then NASA simply isn't the place where innovation is going to happen.

Back in the mid-90s when the Internet was 'growing up' the online world consisted of services like Prodigy, Compuserve and AOL. It was around this time that Al Gore came out with his 'information superhighway' proposal. The 'information superhighway' was a completely new creation that had more in common with interactive TV than anything. But those of us involved with the Internet at the time simply chuckled a little and went right on doing what we loved simply because we liked doing it. In the end it ended up routing completely around OSI, interactive TV, Compuserve, Prodigy, and Al Gore's information superhighway.

And the same thing is about to happen with space. You don't steer the elephant, you just drive around him in your new car.

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