Gambling on Space

Last week Obama introduced the new United States budget– which notably kills the American space program. There is one way the zombie that is NASA can return from the dead: a lottery.

NASA has been in the sick ward for some time. Few come to visit these days. The Shuttle is a flying Betamax of technolgy. NASA has been reduced to finding parts on eBay.

Perhaps the only thing George W Bush did I concur with was give NASA a reboot. The proposed Constellation Program was Apollo on steroids. After all, we have computers, CAD, and iPods so let’s use that awesome technology to go to the moon. Using proven rocket technolgy from the design of Saturn V and Soyuz rockets, the Ares would take us back to the moon.

It might have, but now the money and interest is gone. This has been the problem with manned spaceflight since it’s inception: money and interest.

The money is obviously an issue in the credit crunch economy. Interest also as many see other things to worry about. Interest, in the traditional knee jerk short sighted reaction.

Consider Sputnik in 1952: at that time there was no MLB Network, Internet, or cell phones. Sputnik had no clear benefit, no practical outcome. Soviet scientists were not sitting around saying “let’s put ball in space then it go beep beep. After, we will sell– how can you say– sports network to yankee blue jean American to watch on TV.” Nope, just a ball in space that went beep beep. Heck, most people didn’t even have a TV. Yet Sputnik’s development was absolutely critical in the world we live in today.

All that anyone could promise at best was the ball went beep beep and didn’t explode. That’s it. Today satelite technology is an invaluable part of our way of life but then it was simply ball that go beep beep.

Today where fortune and success come and go by the second space is a hard sell. The average person cannot afford a trip in space.

There’s a way to make money off space: get the real average Joe¬†and make people excited about space again. The answer is a lottery.

At $100,000 Virgin Galactic isn’t cheap but it is cheap for space travel. If 100,000 people bought a $1 ticket (better odds than most lotteries) that would break even. Chances are though mote would buy– and outer space would start making money and interest.

This is the kind of viral and word-of-mouth advertising marketing types have wet dreams about. Even a few minutes in space is a lifetime experience and at $1 the price is right. Anousheh Ansari spent time in space and left feeling depressed– as if she had seen a fantastic world just out of arms length. As a result she created the X-Prize, offering a prize for affordable space travel; which in turn led to Virgin Galactic. Imagine when not just some guy on TV but your neighbor, your friend, or you journey into space. What we could accomplish with renewed money and interest in space is unimaginable. It’s unimaginable because right now we can’t get there, yet.

With a lottery, we could.

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