1. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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    Are you ready to trust space to a commercial enterprise?

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by Robert_S, Nov 1, 2014.

    Virgin's SpaceShipTwo crashed, killing the pilot and seriously injuring the co-pilot.

    I'm wondering we're ready to trust this level of engineering to some entity that is wanting to make a buck. The first rule of business is cut costs. Often times, they can't tell the difference between cutting costs and cutting corners.
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    America's governmentally controlled space program has had some serious tragedies over the years. That doesn't really negate your premise and may in fact support it, but my point is that even out of private hands, things have happened.
     
  3. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm okay with it as long as it's only going to hurt those involved. Like, we're not really being asked to trust them with "space". They're not going to wreck outer-space somehow. It's just the lives of the people who sign up to go with them (assuming the flight isn't over populated areas, I guess...)

    Personally, I wouldn't go on a space flight no matter who was in charge of it, government or private enterprise. But considering the number things private enterprise has made common, and the number of things government has messed up... I'm not really sure one's any more trustworthy than the other. (What if you thought you were getting NASA and got FEMA instead?)
     
  4. Ulramar
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    Ulramar Contributing Member Contributor

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    Cars exploded at the start. We endured, and now you take a car to work.

    Planes exploded at the start. We endured, and now you fly across the Atlantic to go to Europe.

    Rockets exploded at the start with NASA. We endured, and we put a man on the moon.

    Rockets are exploding at the start with private corporations launching rockets. We should endure, because we always have and we've always gotten good things from it.
     
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  5. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I'm sure the government cuts costs as well. I'm also sure there are failed missions the general public never knows about, either out of security reasons, embarrassment, or both. On top of that, NASA works with the private sector a lot. In fact, they've been doing it since at least 1958. The National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958 allows NASA to enter into contracts with the private sector (both domestic and foreign). Finally, private companies have a lot to lose if things don't go right, so I think that's motivation enough to get things right and not cut corners. So yes, I do trust the private sector.
     
  6. Ulramar
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    Ulramar Contributing Member Contributor

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    I know at least the Antares missions are a cooperation between Orbital Sciences and NASA. Orbital Sciences provides the rockets and manpower, NASA gives them the spaceport, Orbital Sciences launches, NASA funds it.

    What Virgin Galactic is doing is beyond me. I've yet to get real research done as to what actually happened, but I remember it has something to do with an experimental spacecraft.

    Those blow up.

    Even non-experimental ones.

     
  7. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Richard Branson shouldn't really be trusted. I'm sorry, I feel very uncomfortable with the idea of trusting my life to a millionaire who has such bad teeth. :p
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Would you rather leave it to governments? Forget that you're accustomed to governments running space programs. Think about every other endeavor that has fallen under government control.

    The private sector is the wellspring of creativity, and has to always be better and more efficient to survive.
     
  9. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Every new endeavor has failures, no matter if it's government, corporations, or individuals. The choices are then give up, postpone, or push forward. Rarely does the first reap any rewards.
     
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  10. Christopher Snape.
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    Christopher Snape. Member

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    Probably the biggest advantage public space research has is the minimal profit motive. Assuming they have the income from taxes, funds can be dedicated towards R&D without curbing it for making money only.

    Also, governments tend to have much more money to spend on space travel than private companies I believe. To the extent that private companies often take out loans.
     
  11. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Basically sums it up for me. Whenever I am about to express skepticism of technology, I remember all the skepticism of technology that has been expressed in the past.
     
  12. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    Private enterprise doesn't equal failure. In fact, a private enterprise has a great chance of success, because they want your investment and you as a customer. They'll work very hard to get you on board ...pardon the pun. It's once you become totally dependent on their services that the trouble starts.

    Private enterprise is NOT in the game for the good of humankind—like public services are supposed to be. Private enterprise is in it for the money. If it makes money, or has the potential to make money, they'll go for it. If that potential drops or vanishes, they'll be off onto something else.

    It makes sense not to kill off your customers, unless you do it slowly enough so they don't realise what you're doing and are willing to recruit more on your behalf. So I don't think Virgin will be packing celebrities into a tin can and shooting them off into space unless they're damn sure they'll go and return safely, and emerge from the can in one piece—back here on earth—with smiles on their faces and wonderful stories to tell.

    Meanwhile, back to the drawing board....
     
    Last edited: Nov 2, 2014
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  13. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Want my opinion?

    <puts on science glasses>

    Let's work on a way to make the rockets not explode next time. :D It'll be a huge accomplishment for us humans once we've got it right.
     
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  14. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    I commute daily by privatised rail. Four out of the last five days, there was a problem with my train...3 delayed, 1 overcrowded because there were only half the number of carriages. And this with a rail system that now costs the taxpayer 5 times what it did when it was nationalised.
     
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  15. Ulramar
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    Ulramar Contributing Member Contributor

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    They were using a new fuel/engine combination that had been tested four time on the ground... but they neglected to test it without people inside at high altitude with low air pressure and colder temperature. I'm not a scientist (all the best statements start with that phrase), but that's probably why it exploded.
     
  16. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Test flights are inherently dangerous. No matter what bench testing and simulations you perform, the real life operation is different. You can mitigate the risk, but you can't eliminate it.

    And that is also why test flights are necessary as well.

    The history of avionics and astronautics is written in the blood of heroes.
     
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  17. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    'Heroes'? I don't know... adrenaline junkies, maybe...
     
  18. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Adrenaline junkies more often than not don't want to die, and they don't do things for the betterment of humanity. They do it just for the rush.

    The people Cogito is talking about go in there knowing full well, like many others who did aviation and astronautics, that they would likely die, but do it anyway all in the name of mankind's progress. That's pretty heroic.
     
  19. Ulramar
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    Ulramar Contributing Member Contributor

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    Heroes, because instead of taking days or months to cross an ocean we can now do it in hours. Heroes because of the incredible leaps in technology created by the space and aviation innovations. Adrenaline Junkies followed in their footsteps after the initial innovation.

    We go into space regularly now and now people are skydiving from the edge of space. Innovation leads to adrenaline junkies.
     
  20. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    They knew they would likely die? Is that real? Like, can you give me names of people who truly believed they wouldn't survive and did it anyway? (I'm intrigued from a sort of character-study perspective).

    Even so, though, I'm not sure I'd classify them as heroes. Giving your life to save someone else's life seems heroic. Giving your life to see whether a plane will fly just seems... I don't know. I guess I don't put the same value on 'knowing whether a plane will fly' that others do?
     
  21. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    I certainly wouldn't want to do what Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin did. I'd be too worried about the very real possibility that we'd be stranded on the moon. Nixon even had a speech prepared for that, and you can read it here.

    http://watergate.info/1969/07/20/an-undelivered-nixon-speech.html

    Text from the link:

    In other words, there was a very real possibility that we were sending those two men to die on the moon. So real that Nixon asked for this to be drafted. Thankfully the men returned and this speech never had to be made.
     
  22. Ulramar
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    Ulramar Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well after Apollo 1 caught on fire on the launch pad and killed everyone inside, many weren't sure they'd survive.

    The astronauts of the mission after the Challenger explosion weren't sure if they'd survive. Probably the same with the Columbia breakup.

    I'm sure Virgin Galactic's contracted pilots are feeling the same way now.
     
  23. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, a risk, yeah. I wonder if the astronauts knew about the speech, though!

    I wouldn't want to do what they did, for sure. But there's plenty of things I don't want to do - someone else doing them doesn't necessarily make the other person a hero.
     
  24. Robert_S
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    Robert_S Contributing Member

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    It's not the tech I'm skeptical of, it's the motive and what a business is will to call an expendable resource.
     
  25. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    You are an expendable resource to auto companies; do you trust a car with your life? Do you trust the car more today than you would have trusted it at the beginning of the 20th century, when it was brand new technology?
     

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