By Michael Mealling
A thread on SpacePolitics.com had to be cutoff before I could respond to a few questions so I thought I'd bring it here. While the intent of the original post by Jeff was lost, the context of my comment was the “Moon Uber Alles” view held by some on the thread. As a former Moon Society Chairman and co-founder of an RLV company I thought I had something useful to add: This was my original comment: bq. I spent several years helping the Moon Society and eventually became its chairman. I helped run business tracks at the Space Frontier Foundation's lunar conferences. No need to convince me that the moon has a lot to offer.
But I left the Society when I finally realized that low cost access to space was necessary for anything other than watching a few government employees planting flags. I said then and I say it now: it has absolutely zero to do with technology and hardware and absolutely everything to do with business models.
That's why I'm out here trying to build a suborbital RLV company.
The only way to get to the moon to stay is by developing free cash flow from each and every step on the way to getting there. And yes, I think that does mean an NEO mission before you try to for the lunar surface again. But that's the beauty of business models, there are so many to chose from. If you feel differently and can find the investors then go for it.
If you truly are a “moon firster” then your best best is GLXP teams on a SpaceX vehicle, not recreating Apollo expecting to get different results.
After that a few people asked some question but the comments were closed before I could respond. Those responses are here:
bq. Bill White wrote @ December 13th, 2010 at 6:29 pm
@ Michael Mealling
How will a NEO mission generate cash flow?
To be clear, I very much agree with this:
I said then and I say it now: it has absolutely zero to do with technology and hardware and absolutely everything to do with business models. * * * The only way to get to the moon to stay is by developing free cash flow from each and every step on the way to getting there.
Persuade me there will be cash flow coming from a NEO mission and I will advocate for NEO missions. But right now, I just don't see how revenue will flow from NASA doing a NEO mission.
The art of making each mission (version) pay is in defining a minimally viable product. The idea I have is to find a very small NEO (2 cubic meters at most), grab it with a net-like grappling system, and then bring it back to LEO to dock with the ISS. Sell research access to it, cut off slices and bring 'em back for collectors, etc. Be a little careful about which NEO you pick (by makeup and orbital elements) and you can make it profitable. Use the cash flow from operations for that mission to pay for the next one where you go after a different type. Each version/mission creates the base funding for the next one.
bq. Bill White wrote @ December 13th, 2010 at 6:33 pm
IMHO, GLXP teams should also push the “co-brand with Google” meme when seeking sponsors.
For example, “Acme Corporation is proud to partner with Google to send XYZ Team to the lunar surface” - even if Acme doesn't give a flying fig about space exploration, being a Google partner is brand value platinum.
Maybe some GLXP teams are doing this and I just haven't seen it.
But this is an example of making money from aspirations and inspiration rather than tangible lunar resources.
Bill, I know that they can use the GLXP brand in limited ways. I'm just not sure about the boundary conditions. Making money from sponsorships based on aspirations and inspiration is all part of branding and is a valid part of the way ventures make money. Some our country's most successful companies are successful because of the aspirational nature of their brands.
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