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Space Station grabs SpaceX Dragon ship (bbc.co.uk)
585 points by mocko on May 25, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 166 comments

[2008] "Optimism, pessimism, fuck that; we're going to make it happen. As God is my bloody witness, I'm hell-bent on making it work." (http://www.wired.com/science/space/news/2008/08/musk_qa)

Elon Musk doesn't seem like the easiest person to work with, but I'm having a hard time thinking of a more accomplished human.

What a great interview. I liked this part too:

> Wired.com: Your whole mantra is "cheaper and more reliable." But so far you're zero for three, which is anything but cheap and reliable, and guys like GlobalSecurity.org's John Pike say the reason it has taken billions of dollars and tens of thousands of people to successfully launch rockets is physics, not some new design or economic model.

> Musk: Guys like John Pike have existed since the dawn of time, and if you listen to people like that then things will never get better, never change. It's a false point of view. Yes, we need to put some rockets into orbit. But the first order of business is to get rid of design errors, which we're doing, and once those are eliminated then you're dealing with repeatability, and people should judge what we're doing from the point of view of all the design issues we've ironed out through these F1 test flights.

It's truly inspiring to read something like this after the person has been vindicated. The amount of patience, perseverance and determination required to make this a successful venture is enormous, but add to that the ridicule and criticism of your peers and it must be extremely difficult.

The earliest days of orbital rocketry were filled with the same kind of spectacular failures, embarrassment of very gifted engineers, and perseverance.

It's pretty amazing that the (possibly) most accomplished human did a reddit AMA: http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/kpt9f/tesla_spacex_and... His answer on motivation was striking to me: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6K8NkJpUei4#t=28m05s

  My drive to get it done is somewhat disconnected from hope, enthusiasm or anything
  else. I just... I... I actually don't care about hope or enthusiasm... motivation. I
  just give it all I've got irrespective of what the circumstances may be. [...]
  Yeah... You just keep going and get it done.

The enthusiasm shown for this accomplishment on Hacker News is borderline ridiculous. This comment seems particularly over the top to me. What does this even mean, how do you measure the attribute of "being accomplished" on a 1d scale across vastly different kinds of accomplishment? To me it seems obvious that some of the medical accomplishments of the past 100 years are easily and vastly more important than a private space launch, but I wouldn't normally compare those things in such a manner. I had to rewrite this paragraph multiple times because it feels so bizarre. I haven't even touched on the question whether and to what degree you can ascribe an accomplishment of a group of people to an individual, which makes the whole comparison even stranger and less meaningful.

I mean, I guess some people here subscribe to the notion that space travel is imperative for human survival. In that case, you might argue that each step towards it is more valuable than anything else that does not immediately push towards human space travel. Human space travel will save humanity, your piddly vaccine only saves a couple of hundred million people. But that seems a bizarre argument to make (and maybe that's why one really makes it).

Edit: -3 in one hour? Wow. For what it's worth, I made this comment in good faith.

"The enthusiasm shown for this accomplishment on Hacker News is borderline ridiculous."

Some thoughts:

1. We all want to live in a world where dreams become reality. I think a lot of us are passionate at this moment in time because we are seeing a dream unfold; not just Elon's, but for everyone that is working to make it a reality.

2. The majority of us are builders, and we are naturally going to be excited about a company that is building, particularly at this level.

3. (Speaking as an American, here)... in the U.S., I think there has been an under-current feeling for the last several years, that could perhaps be paraphrased as, "Where are we heading, as a nation?" I think it is easy for us to lose touch with the pulse of the nation when we are head-down in code at a start-up or elsewhere, but I think this feeling is real. So, this is perhaps at the root of at least some of this passion and excitement. It perhaps affirms, in some way to us, that the collective "We" are still builders.

4. The U.S. does not currently possess the capability of human spaceflight. We are at a point in history that is similar to the human spaceflight gap that existed between the Apollo program and the Space Shuttle program. The success of SpaceX and this mission is another incremental step toward resuming that mission capability.

I think that something that speaks to this is symbolic: an American flag that flew on-board STS-1 was left on the ISS by the crew of STS-135. It is awaiting return to the U.S. by the next American crew that is launched from the U.S.

5. As has been noted already, Elon is one of us. He is a builder. I do not know all of the figures, but I do know that he has put at least $100M dollars of his own money into SpaceX [1]. I think we all understand that these types of efforts are the intense result of many people collaborating together across various organizations, different backgrounds, etc. However, the reality is that these types of efforts require serious vision and investment, and I think, again, to see a builder like Elon achieve this is extremely motivating.

6. Finally, there is something intrinsic inside of all of us that longs to explore; perhaps for many of us, space is the ultimate expression of that longing ("Space, the final frontier."), and we are over-flowing with enthusiasm, wonder and hope at this achievement.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PNwg8FvfuuU#t=248

SpaceX is exciting because Elon is one of us. He's a silicon valley founder who put all his personal money on the line to change the world. Paraphrasing PG, he didn't forget his dreams and he's inspiring many of us to remember our own.

SpaceX is just beginning. His launch costs are now as low as the Russians (the cheapest). The Falcon 9 heavy will cut that in half, and reusability is intended to cut it by 80% again (10x improvement is the next goal). Watch this animation to see reusability, it's awesome:


Elon has said he will consider the company to have failed if they dont get reusability to work. These cost improvements will make many things possible and change the world. And these too are just the beginning.

It's also exciting because it is potentially of cosmic significance. There may come a time when the entire universe is affected and altered by people, and this is an important step in the journey to attaining that level of science and technology. There are certainly medical steps along that journey and those will generate great excitement as well; for example, when a "cure" for aging is developed, I'm sure it will generate a great deal of enthusiasm on HN, if HN is still a going concern when that happens.

He's one of us? I wish. We should aspire to be a crowd of Elons.

That goes for the investors reading this too. This is what I tweeted a couple of days ago:

> All the other rich people in the world should be kidnapped and forced to attend a seminar by @ElonMusk on Advanced Zillionairing.


They're going for TSTO full reuse, vertical landing?

That video gave me the creeps: "One hundred thousand dead after engine of spacex launcher fails."

Do you have any clue about how they intend to solve this problem?

Where the hell are you getting this 100,000 people dead stuff? It's a rocket engine, not a nuclear weapon. What problem is it you're suggesting they need to solve?

I was thinking about the launcher falling on a skyscraper for example. My number was off by an order of magnitude, sorry.

The problem is: making sure the launcher lands where it has to or else falls on an unpopulated area. I expect this to be harder than with the free fall capsules, where you only have to calculate a trajectory and gravity does the rest.

Come on, I'm just ignorant, not a fear monger, it really gave me the creeps in my ignorance.

I was not aware of any of the marvellous feats you mention. Thanks for the information.

I was merely wondering if a propelled launcher would be a harder safety problem than a non propelled one, but it seems that has already been solved also.

(This is in answer to nknight)

I'm aware of many of the names you mention, but I haven't the slightest clue if they were reusable or had a reusable launcher.

And more to the point, I have no idea if the reusable capsule or launcher had an engine to drive it instead of using a parachute and letting it fall on the sea.

The only reusable launchers I'm aware of are the Space Shuttles, which look like to be driven similarly to a plane.

(answering nknight)

The capsules holding astronauts obviously have to land intact at some point, unless you thought we sent all astronauts prior to the Shuttle up to their deaths. The Shuttle's uncontrollable SRBs have been jettisoned and recovered after every flight.

Reusability is of no ground-safety consequence. By basic physical law, these devices will be very nearly empty of fuel by the time they reach the ground -- in fact almost all fuel will have been expended within minutes of liftoff.

The first stage of a Falcon 9 has a dry mass less than a 14-seat Gulfstream V business jet, the Dragon capsule is less than 1/3rd that.

If you trust thousands of planes to fly through the air over and into major cities every day without killing thousands of people on the ground, you should trust spacecraft far, far more.

You are absolutely correct. I should have thought a bit more about it before writing about my irrational fear. Thanks.

Where exactly have you lived that you've avoided knowledge of Vostok, Mercury, Gemini, Apollo, Soyuz, the Space Shuttle, Skylab, Salyut, Mir, the International Space Station, and the thousands of observation, spy, communications, and scientific satellites that have been launched since Sputnik in 1957?


I'd call that more like three orders of magnitude, and the world has been launching rockets and landing capsules since 1961. Nothing even remotely like what you are speaking of has ever come remotely close to happening.

No one launches rockets over populated areas, nobody aims capsules for populated areas, the CIA spent the 1960s recovering CORONA satellite film canisters with such precision they captured them with planes in mid-air.

Stop fear-mongering.

I think if you are comparing 'accomplishments' based on 'lives saved', then your comment has a lot of validity.

But to me, the reason the SpaceX success is so noteworthy is that that achievement isn't just new, but ground breaking on so many levels.

* first time a private firm has created, launched and docked a space craft

* done it on a budget several magnitudes less than ever done before

* done it with a fraction of the staff than conventionally used

* opened a new era in space development

Whilst I'm being grossly unfair to medical researchers, at a simplistic level I see most new vaccines like the release of a new model of car - beneficial, but incremental development . Whereas I see the SpaceX achievement as something that broke all the conventional wisdom on how things could be done.

And that's what makes it so special and worth celebrating a bit more than other accomplishments.

Your comment is unnecessarily negative and doesn't add much here.

Are you really trying to gauge whether Musk is an accomplished person? Paypal, Tesla, and SpaceX are each the most successful companies to date in their respective markets.

Everyone on this thread would think a vaccine that saves hundreds of millions of people is a good thing. Be reasonable

I didn't mean to imply otherwise.

The point I was trying to make was that gauging persons in this way is very strange to me. Accomplishment as a concept isn't something that can easily be compared. That is both because it is very abstract and fundamentally relative to another concept[1].

That's why the grandparent saying that Elon Musk is the most accomplished person (that he can come up with) struck me as odd; having a most implies having more/less. I tried to apply these general more/less as best as I could, but I explicitly said I felt bizarre writing it (I guess I should have rewritten it a sixth time).

[1] I.e. you are accomplished at something. Like efficiency: you can't be efficient, you can only be efficient in terms of a certain input and output. Both concepts are relative to other concepts. People often refer to efficiency and accomplishment without overtly stating the other concepts, but they are still there. Sometimes they are clearly defined by the context ("efficient car") sometimes less so ("efficient economy").

Your comment is true, they are the most successful companies to date in their respective markets. However, Tesla is the only company that makes a fully electric small sports car, besides the recent Fisker Karma which has yet to see widespread production. In addition, Tesla received about $450 million dollars worth of funding from the government, which radically enhanced Tesla's production capacity and perhaps makes them look more successful than they actually are. Furthermore, I doubt Tesla is more successful than the gasoline car it is trying to emulate, the Lotus.

SpaceX is also the most successful company in it's market. However, it's a tiny market with only a few companies, and receive government contracts and funding as well. I understand that the funding is orders of magnitude less than the Shuttle, that government funding is almost essential in new ventures like this, but the company would not be as successful without this additional money.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that yes, Musk is extremely accomplished. He has incredibly successful companies. However, the market for small electric sports car as well as ISS delivery system are both very small with few competitors, and would not exist without government funding.

You are seriously underestimating Musk's accomplishments. I take issue with your implicit stance that anything involving the government is intrinsically tainted but I will set that aside for now.

The global launch market is well into the billions of dollars . SpaceX has booked over $4billion in revenue for the next 5 years. The majority of that money is __commercial__. They have the cheapest, sturdiest, most advanced technology in that sector. Furthermore, if they manage to lower the price point even further, they will open up a vast market. What happens when it is economically mine an asteroid or immigrate to Mars. They would make Pacific Union look like a tinker toy set.

There is no question Tesla has the best electric cars on the market. Tesla is set to turn a profit next year. This is an market filled with incumbents and where no car company has been IPOed for many decades. They have a 30% margin product which sells out. If their government loan vanished overnight, they would __still__ be able to execute since they have money from licensing their technology to other car companies.

Musk speaks of nothing less than pushing humanity forward toward. That kind of ambition will inevitably intersect with some portion of the public sphere.

This isn't an efficient market of valuing accomplishments with enthusiasm coins. We could go all day with the "who deserves more enthusiasm/respect?" debate. The cancer researcher? The AIDS researcher? The clean water specialist? The billionare philanthropist, who paid for all of the above? Space travel captivates a lot of people on HN. That's just the nature of the community; it doesn't intend to debase the work of others.

How much karma do you need in order to downvote something on HN? I'll be back when I've got that much.


Who saves lives? Doctors? Medical researches? People who feed the hungry?

Consider something such as a weather satellite. What goes into such a system? What inventions and breakthroughs are responsible for its existence? Things like CCD imagers, micro-chips, and, yes, rockets. Are the inventors of such things savers of lives? Surely yes, because it is through weather satellites that we are able to track and monitor hurricanes, typhoons and other severe weather phenomena which historically have been great killers of lives. Today hurricanes do not hit land by surprise, we have enough time to warn people so that they can evacuate or hunker down. Over the years this has saved perhaps millions of lives. Are vulcanologists life savers? Sometimes they are. What about automobile manufacturers? Well, without automobiles it would take a lot longer for EMTs to get to people who are injured and a lot longer to get them to a hospital, so a lot more people would surely be dead without automobiles. If you were to see a construction worker digging up the road to work on the sewer would you think of that man as a life saver? He most surely is though because clean running water and sewer systems are some of the most effective methods of reducing the spread of disease. That man isn't just digging up the street he's helping to keep you free from cholera, as surely as any doctor or medical researcher would.

Reality is a lot more complicated and intermeshed than a naive, simplistic interpretation would indicate. What figure from, say, the 17th century is most responsible for the greatest reduction in untimely deaths since then? Such a question is almost impossible to answer.

But more than that, life is about more than merely living. This is the fallacy of Maslow's hierarchy at play here. The idea that an individual who is ill, hungry, in danger, or impoverished must necessarily forgo self-esteem, appreciation of art, romance, and intellectual pursuits. That is a backward and harmful way of approaching the world, whether on an individual level or on the scale of all humanity. Yes there are great problems in the world, we are ill as a people, we are hungry, we are not safe from violence and war. But should we shun poetry, music, and science for that? It is often through introspection and art that we can gain a better understanding of our fellow humans, that we can set aside hatred and bigotry. It is often through the pursuit of science and engineering that we find better ways to treat and prevent disease and to feed the hungry.

So I would say that we can and should strive toward putting humans in orbit and on Mars and it is just as noble a thing to do as curing disease or feeding the hungry. Because it represents what humanity is all about, pushing frontiers, exploration, knowledge, adventure. It is those things which make life worth living and give greater potency to more direct efforts of saving lives (just as the existence of art, food, and music do). And they also give us new perspectives. The photograph of the Earth from the moon by the Apollo 8 astronauts has been enormously inspirational throughout history, for example. Perhaps along the way who knows what new technology will come about. And, of course, more than likely we will develop the technology to divert asteroids away from Earth (perhaps saving billions of lives) and also make Earth a multi-planetary species, which could save human civilization from utter annihilation at some point.

This is a spectacular essay and should be published somewhere. Send me an email at

daniellefong at daniellefong dot com

and I'll intro you to Wired, Fast Company, TechCrunch, Forbes, Economist, etc.

Well written, but I completely disagree. Behind your reasoning lies the classic libertarian argument about epistemological complexity (not saying you are a libertarian, just that you are using Austrian school reasoning): because we can't know what can potentially save lives, we should just let people do their thing without making any judgments on what should be our collective priorities. I, for one, have no doubt that a doctor saves more lives than a car mechanic. There are a lot of outcomes we can know, be certain about, do something about. If we concentrated as a society on defeating aging, for example, we would perhaps get rid of jobs that could very indirectly help in increasing our longevity, but we would replace them with jobs that do so much more directly and effectively.

You also completely misinterpret Maslow's hierarchy. It's not a prescriptive, but a descriptive one. An individual who has to struggle daily to survive usually does not have time for poetry.

Good article. And I am not just saying it cos DaniFong just gave you a thumbs up! :D

let me know if you develop on this.


I expect HN to show the same level of enthusiasm when science finds a reliable cure for melanoma. This is the first artificial event in space so significant since the moon landings.

I too find the enthusiasm, displayed here and on reddit and everywhere in between, for this to be patently ridiculous, although not for the same reasons. I'm a great fan of space exploration, in all forms - observation, robotic, and human - but this docking is simply not a significant event. Not in space exploration terms, and not in the grander scheme of human activity. It is neither a scientific nor a societal accomplishment, it showcases neither innovation nor courage. It's just - something that happened. Something that happened roughly on a monthly basis until a few months ago. I don't care.

I think a great deal of the enthusiasm stems from the fact that it's a private company doing this, and not a government. Well, I'm most emphatically not enthusiastic about that. In fact, it smells rather dystopian. Governments can, with care, be kept under control. However bad corruption gets, democratic governments will always be bound to the electorate. Corporations - no. I don't want space exploration to be led by a private company, and certainly not by a small group of insanely rich individuals. As much as I admire Elon Musk - and Jeff Bezos, and all the others trying to get us back into space - these people are not the ones who ought to be leading us.

Part of my discomfort with this course of events is no doubt just my personal political views - I'm about as far left as you can go. But what's happening also reminds me of some of Heinlein's stories - when space exploration was fueled by money, human rights (especially the collective right of self determination) fell by the wayside.

If the cost of going to space is the permanent privatization of exploration, I can't be enthusiastic about it.

It is neither a scientific nor a societal accomplishment, it showcases neither innovation nor courage. It's just - something that happened.

While governments are cutting down their budgets for scientific research and basically accepting the status quo regarding the spaceflight, there's this guy from Africa doing something extraordinary and you see no innovation or courage?

If you describe what happened today as "there was this thing that came close to some robotic arm or something, and then the arm slowly captured it, and ... that's about it.", then I agree with you - that is boring. But, that's not what happened today.

Today we saw one guy's insane vision becoming reality. And if that is not something I don't know what is. And what's even more exciting about it is that this is just the beginning.

Governments can, with care, be kept under control. However bad corruption gets, democratic governments will always be bound to the electorate. Corporations - no.

Aren't corporations regulated by the laws made by the governments elected by the electorate?

there's this guy from Africa doing something extraordinary ... Today we saw one guy's insane vision becoming reality.

What happened today is only different because it was not government-funded[0]. I'm not allergic to the idea of government doing things (I agree with Barney Frank that "government is just the name for the things we decide to do together"), and so I really don't consider it to be interesting, or extraordinary, or insane. It's exactly what many others have done, just funded differently.

Aren't corporations regulated by the laws made by the governments elected by the electorate?

The obvious, cliche response is "not nowadays". But, more helpfully - who has jurisdiction in space?

That is my fear. At the moment, the power with jurisdiction in space is the power that can get to space. And I want that power to be elected.

Up until now, space operations have always been nonpartisan, co-operative, and peaceful. As eager as I am for humans to go further, I can't help but think that if we can't maintain that way of doing things - if humanity must, in order to get to space, give up on the hope of universal rights and self-determination (meaning democratically elected bodies of power) - then we're not ready. If we can't decide to go to space cooperatively, as one unit - if a few lucky individuals have to do it for us, even if they're right (which I believe they are), then we're not ready to go.

[0] That's a lie, of course. It was partially government-funded, because the promise of contracts with NASA et al is what's making this possible (to my understanding). But that's beyond my argument.

> Up until now, space operations have always been nonpartisan, co-operative, and peaceful.

Oh please. Space operations grew directly out of unbridled Cold War militarism, and have been pure political football at least since the approval of the absolutely insane space shuttle program.

I want high taxes, I want big government, I want single-payer health care, I want a welfare and social security system that makes Scandinavia look like a libertarian wasteland. I want ten times the corporate regulation we have now.

But there is no reason for the government to be the primary driver or provider of routine space launch services, especially when it's done such a piss-poor job of it since Apollo.

Private companies like SpaceX have ample incentive to advance the state of the art in launch services and are demonstrably doing so for less than the government has ever managed before. NASA can and should take advantage of that.

Not that insane. Everyone knew it could be done (since the 60s), and the guy was already insanely rich, so the means were available. All that was lacking was the will to do it.

Cute, but as a feel-good human interesting TV story, not life outlook-changing.

>Aren't corporations regulated by the laws made by the governments elected by the electorate?

If SpaceX goes public (and my understanding is that it will soon enough), then government can buy a massive stake in the company to control it, if they so choose.

Only if parties with majority control are willing to sell. (Which can be a lot less than majority ownership --- see Facebook for an example[].) And there have certainly been hints that when (if?) SpaceX actually does an IPO, Elon will try to have similar measures in place, to keep shareholder activists from putting the kibosh on his private Mars program...

[] Facebook has a dual-class share structure, in which class B shares have ten times the voting rights of publicly traded class A. Zuck owns a lot of class B personally, and has proxies on much of the rest, giving him personally majority control. (If the other class B owners sell, the proxies probably go away --- but so does the voting power of the shares, which convert to class A.) The upshot is that Zuck retains personal control pretty much regardless of what anyone else does with their stock.

Governments can, with care, be kept under control.

Can they really? I personally disagree. I believe that it is always the nature of governments to grow larger, more evil, more bureaucratic and more corrupt, until they are - by necessity - overthrown and replaced by the next iteration.

As for your disdain of corporations... I'll remind you that corporations are an artificial legal fiction that depend on the State for their very existence. They are however, arguably more accountable to the populace at large, who can vote with their dollars when it comes to interacting with said corporations. Governments, on the other hand, hold for themselves a monopoly on the "legal" use of force, and are ultimately not accountable at all. Witness the governments that have suspended elections, imposed "marshal law" or otherwise pre-empted the democratic process in the name of some "emergency" or other. Reichstag fire, anybody?

Anyway, to keep this remotely on topic, I'll say that the fact that a private entity accomplished this feat is very significant exactly because it represents a step towards the democratization of space travel. No longer will the State be in the position of determining who can and can't go into space, and picking a handful of elites to send up. Now, space travel is cheap enough that it no longer requires the trappings of the State... we're one step closer to space tourism, to a day when travelling into space is accessible to a large percentage of the population, and to a day when we decide who goes into space, as opposed to a few bureaucrats deciding. That is a big-deal as far as I'm concerned.

Disclaimer: I'm about as libertarian / voluntaryist / anarcho-capitalist as you can get.

More detail for the politics side in my reply to lhnn, perhaps. My contention is that corporations are simply not designed to accomplish the same things as governments, and expecting them to do so is naive. But you said some other interesting stuff, so I'd rather ditch the politics and go back to space. So much ... quieter.

> I'll say that the fact that a private entity accomplished this feat is very significant exactly because it represents a step towards the democratization of space travel.

Buzzword alert! I catch your gist, though. SpaceX's accomplishments bring us closer to the idea of people being able to go to space "just cuz" - the ability to buy a ticket. Ok, agreed. But I'll still content that the enthusiasm displayed here and on reddit is far out of proportion. Even within the small arena of private, LEO spaceflight, this isn't the moment I would pick as the important one. SpaceX's first launch, maybe. Or the first commercial cargo in space. Or the first commercial human in space (yet to happen, I think?). But this? It doesn't make sense to me.

On the other hand, I can't wait for the next 15 years to pass by. Every day I feel more like I'm an extra in a science fiction novel:

  Private space exploration
  Brain controlled robots
  Free ivy-league education for all
  Single atom transistors and nanotech in general
These are truly wonderful times to witness.

Thanks to Elon Musk, the length of time between now and when the average private citizen can travel to space on his or her own dime has just halved.

Markets do certain things well, and better than the public sector ever can (though I agree that the public sector is vitally important and regulation is needed). One is encourage competition so that prices for once extremely-expensive goods and services can drop rapidly. The market doesn't discriminate against evil, sure, and of course there will be abuses by mega-corporations looking to mine space for its vast natural resources. But the market also doesn't discriminate against good uses of space.

Elon Musk is helping us because what he has done will eventually let all of us into space, the good and the bad among us. To me that is a fairly democratic accomplishment.

Imagine yourself saying this 100 years ago. Replace "space exploration" with "air travel" and "spacecraft" with "airplane". Seems rather silly, doesn't it?

If I recall, it was the nations of Earth that suppressed the human rights of those on the moon...

But yes, even as I read your comment, I thought, "This guy must be quite faithful to large government." In the same breath you're blasting corporations as inherently corrupt, you're saying our faith should be in the ever-controllable government, who listens to the people. THEN you claim the government isn't in control of big business: So where do you get this notion of government's benign nature?

I really can't believe there are that many people who think this way. ALL organizations are corruptible; the U.S. government even more than SpaceX.

Two things to assuage your vague unease:

- The U.S. certainly knows the design secrets of SpaceX's rockets. If SpaceX ever did anything to endanger the nation (James Bond villain-esque), the U.S. military would destroy the company and build their own rockets.

- LEO space travel is not something SpaceX will have a monopoly on for long, if ever. It isn't as if we're in danger of being beholden to SpaceX's will.

I'm much more afraid of Monsanto, Lockheed, Boeing and Raytheon than I am of SpaceX.

This is getting uncomfortably political. I can tell because I think you misunderstood what I said, and everytime I try to reply, I feel like I'm misinterpreting your viewpoint as well. Yuck. (The Heinlein I meant to reference was "Red Planet" - Mars is controlled by the "absentee landlords" of some earth-based corporation, interested only in mining. People living on mars are there by contract, and have no proper elected representation.)

Going backwards to shoot the low-flying birds. I don't care if SpaceX gets a monopoly - the free market is very good at some things, but human rights etc. are not on the list. And I don't forsee any danger from SpaceX to earth-dweller - I fear what space exploration will be if going to space means contracting with - and giving up various freedoms to - one of maybe 6 large space companies. NDAs? Less benign forms of censorship? It's not a pretty picture, in my mind.

> ALL organizations are corruptible; the U.S. government even more than SpaceX.

Define "corrupt". If you mean "doing things for money", then SpaceX, as a company, is inherently more corrupt. If you mean "straying from the core purpose", then I view SpaceX's uncorruptibility as a bad thing, since the core purpose of any corporation is the morally ambivalent "make money" - at least democratic governments have an attractive baseline.

Now for the hard bit to explain. To my mind, no power structure is benign. Any concentration of power is inherently dangerous, and needs to be checked by other power structures to maintain some sort of equilibrium. I think we can agree on this. The difference between our government and a corporation is that our government was set up with the explicit purpose of being properly fragmented to balance itself. It's in bad need of adjustment nowadays, but along with most other democratic governments in the modern world, it's worked pretty well. Democratic governments tend not to massacre civilians, tend to be internally peaceful, tend not to declare war on each other, and tend to care a lot about scientific progress. Despite all the mars (no pun intended), it's a pretty good track record.

Companies, on the other hand, have no such internal mechanisms for self-regulation. Their role in society is efficient resource allocation - and they're damn good at that! - but nothing more. I feel like libertarians (and others with similar views less fond of labels) want to claim that because there's competition in a free market, there are adequate "checks and balances" - but if all powerful entities are pulling in roughly the same direction, it doesn't matter how many there are. The free market was not designed to protect human rights. It was designed to allocate resources for some externally set (via regulation) good. It does that very well, but I don't think we should mistake that for it being "good" in a broader sense. For that, government's still the best thing we have.

Back to space. As things stand right now, I don't see governments being able to project any sort of guidance to push corporations towards some common, ethical good. The free market won't (I think) move in that direction on its own. And so we're left with "absentee landlords".

And now I'm afraid I explained it wrong. Ugh.

Shorter, possibly better summary: corporations are good for one thing (efficient allocation of resouces). Governments are good for another (high-level imposition of some broad purpose on human events). Neither necessarily has purely good intentions, but democratic governments are more likely to lean that way, because of their design. So I want them to have certain powers, to help push society towards respecting human rights blah blah blah.

That's a very sad post.

By that scale, Einstein's work was mostly lame, because hey, plenty of it is still theoretical. And he didn't cure polio did he?

And Steve Jobs wasn't accomplished, because the iPhone is just a toy, right? It doesn't cure cancer.

And the Wright Brothers. Well, I guess human flight could be subscribed to as being imperative to human survival. But really, humans were never meant to fly were they? They'd have wings otherwise, so how could flight be all that important? It's not like human flight cures AIDS or anything.

I mentioned this yesterday, but I believe Reisman's quote really captures that feeling we are all having about SpaceX and particularly their first ISS mission:

Pelley: "You know, I'm curious... you have so much background in engineering, you could have easily gotten a job at Boeing, or at Lockheed, but you came here..."

Reisman: "If you had a chance to go back in time, and work with Howard Hughes when he was creating TWA, if you had a chance to be there, at that moment, when it was the dawn of a brand new era, wouldn't you want to do that? I mean, that's why I'm here." [1][2]

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PNwg8FvfuuU#t=425

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garrett_Reisman

For anyone who wants a smoother video version of this,


My favorite quote about this is from Don Pettit, right as the ISS grabbed the Dragon capsule.

"Looks like we've got a Dragon by the tail," station flight engineer Don Pettit said moments after grappling the craft over northwest Australia.


And after that "okay, this was a great sim. now to turn it around and do it for real".

Honey how was work ? - Oh nothing special, i just helped the first private company in history dock a space capsule to the international space station.

"That's great, could you do the dishes?"

I think it must be quite humbling to be a part of one of humanity's accomplishments, whether it be inventing an aqueduct or traveling through space.

Are you sure you mean humbling, and not the opposite?

International Space Station space station. /pedantry :)

of course you are right, fixed ;)

On one hand, this is a momentous day for private space flight. On the other, we're closer to Moon lobbyists than ever.

If we had moon lobbyists, at least NASA would get better funding. I'd take moon lobbying over coal/oil/defense/farming/etc. any day.

I think part of the problem is that we're willing to accept bad behavior when it's done on behalf of the team we agree with.

If something is bad, then it's bad even when it's done by your team.

The end does not justify the means.

Hm, this argument sounds morally equivalent to pacifism, and I don't mean that in a good way. While in an ideal world there would be no lobbying, in the real world, if the bad guys have lobbyists, the good guys should too, if just to defend themselves from the lobbyists of the bad guys.

Can anyone tell me why lobbying is inherently bad?

The problem with lobbyists is that there are always competing interests on any issue and legislators should weigh them with the overall good of society in mind. But lobbyists' campaign contributions make it hard for legislators to fairly weigh the competing interests, instead they favor the guys that cut them the biggest check. So all our legislation is now tailored for the wealthiest and most powerful interests.

There is no problem with private economic interests consulting government. It is in the interest of society for government officials to hear what is best for the economy from the major economic organizations.

Lobbying is berated because economic organizations should not be granted larger influence on governmental officials than the people en mass in a democratic republic, and most people would argue that is the current state in the US.

It's a self-reinforcing thing. Corporations don't hire lobbyists until their interests are threatened by government. For example, Microsoft didn't start giving money to Congress until the DOJ started investigating them. Same for Google.

Once a company invests in lobbying, lobbyists have an incentive to keep clients on retainer, so they look for rent-seeking opportunities that they can justify on an ROI basis. Hence all the shenanigans around taxes. Spending $500k on a lobbyist to save $1 million in taxes is a no-brainer.

If lobbying were just groups of vested interests putting their best foot forward, that would just be free speech.

But "Lobbying", the practice, is understood by the public to be the process whereby monied interests essentially buy votes via graft, bribery, etc and/or buy votes via contributions to re-election campaigns.

The result being that it is (usally) not the speech and thus the data or moral argument that changes minds in government, but the money.

And that is what's inherently bad.

It's not. If not for lobbyists we'd have no bill of rights, we'd all still be driving cars that exploded whenever they got rear ended, our rivers would still catch fire on a regular basis, etc.

That all sounds like lobbying from non-corporate entities.

False. Those were corporation. Perhaps you didn't realize that Sierra Club, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, etc. are corporations?

Corporations are not just businesses. They are the way that people with a common interest can pool their resources to coordinate on a common goal.

Nonprofit advocacy organizations may be incorporated but it's really not what the parent poster meant by "corporations".

Well, then, I meant non-profits -- my mistake.

That is, all this "good" lobbying was by organizations operating on behalf of a large group of individuals who don't have the same shared profit-driven interest.

So profit = evil is the crux of the argument? The Chamber of Commerce is a non-profit while many Sierra Club sponsors are businesses who benefit from the regulation they promote.

When people or organizations get together and lobby the government so that their business or industry makes more money as a consequence of the changes they're lobbying for, then yes, that's bad. Sure, corporations should be able to influence policy, but this influence must happen democratically and out in the open, and potentially opposing parties must have an opportunity to comment.

The fix doesn't lie, however, in hoping that businesses will voluntarily stop lobbying, so I won't criticize back-country tourism companies from giving money to the Sierra Club to ensure that their venues remain unspoilt. Even if a business didn't want to, it might nonetheless feel compelled to lobby congress for reasons of competitive advantage. When many entities feel compelled to act in opposition to their ethics, it's a sure sign that the system they operate in is broken.

(That said, many businesses sponsor the Sierra Club for P.R. reasons, which is fine and categorically different from the "bad lobbying" explained above)

I don't believe that it is.

I was just saying that if that is your position, then you must object to it for all parties.

It's not, unless you disagree with the ends the lobbyist is lobbying for.

Well, people aren't inherently bad, but when you get lots of people living in the same space, bad things often happen because it's hard to coordinate.

The same thing goes for people in the same "political space."

If we had moon lobbyists, it would probably be because the coal/oil/defense/farming/etc. industries discovered a way to make some money up there.

Sounds like a good place for them to me.

Privatizing area on the Moon is quite frightening to think about. I wonder if one day copyright law will also reach other planets and moons.

Where humans go, human concerns will follow. The sole, singular, and only alternative is for humans not to go.

(And for those inclined to take that as their cue to strike the fashionable misanthropic pose where they claim that would be a good thing, remember: The moon is a dead, sterile rock. The Moon has no copyright law because there is no creative activity of any kind there taking place that could be copyrighted. There is nothing there to abuse, no "environment" to foul, no natives to exploit, nothing, not even bacteria. The alternative to humans going there is death, forever. And not "human" death, either, but total death. No life. Deader than the worst possible nuclear holocaust could ever make Earth. If that is truly your position, fine, but I hope I can at least remove the fashionableness from your pose.)

> There is nothing there to abuse, no "environment" to foul, no natives to exploit, nothing, not even bacteria.

I agree with the sentiment of your post, but this is incorrect. The Moon is a uniquely pristine environment that holds irreplaceable evidence regarding the formation of both our and other solar systems. It may even contain bacteria, trapped long-dead within meteorites, that could tell us more about the development of life on Earth or elsewhere.

It is of huge importance that we are able to extract as much of this information as possible before we start tearing it up.

There is a planet full of it. An entire planet. If we made a conscious effort to deliberately go forth and destroy all evidence, it would take us millennia... with generous technological assumptions.

Also an entire solar system and indeed an entire universe full of further such stuff.

Space is big.

This is a terrible argument.

How could we possibly eat all these pigeons? There are flocks, 300 miles long, that turn the sky dark.


Complete bollocks. This is a planet. You are talking about taking a shovel to an entire planet. This is not something that's going to just, whoops, accidentally happen in a couple of hours, sorry, didn't think about all that science lying around. We haven't even done that level of "damage" to Earth, by orders of magnitude, with the entire history of human civilization, on a much larger planet, and you're sitting there worrying about bespoiling a dead rock.

By the time we've "wrecked" all that precious precious data about the formation of the solar system we'll have better recording equipment than we can even dream of now anyhow, since we're talking centuries and centuries from now in the "best" case. Not to mention we'll have visited a few other places in this case.

There's no need for the aggression. We're two grown-ups here, having a discussion about a subject we both find fascinating.

That aside, here's some elaboration.

Trillions of meteorites have landed on the Moon's surface since its formation. Some of these may be remnants from violent collisions between other planetary bodies. A few of these events may have happened at a time where life was starting on Earth. An tiny portion of these pieces of rock may actually contain fossil evidence of early life, in the form of bacteria or complex biochemistry. Similar evidence that once existed on Earth is likely to have been destroyed by our active geology, or by more recent biological processes.

The likelihood of life being preserved in this manner is so vanishingly small that, out of the trillions of meteorites on the Moon's surface (an area around 20% larger than that of Africa), only a minute number of them are likely to contain anything like it.

It would be a shame if the key to understanding abiogenesis was lost in an industrial rock-grinder.

The Moon has no copyright law because there is no creative activity of any kind there taking place that could be copyrighted.

I'm glad they didn't copyright the footprints.

You mean the photos of the footprints?

So, to paraphrase you and Magritte: This is not a footprint.

>> There is nothing there to abuse, no "environment" to foul, no natives to exploit, nothing, not even bacteria.

Don't forget that stuff in space affects other stuff in space. Let humans do as they please in the moon and they might affect a thin balance between the Earth and the Moon.

Earthquakes on Earth can shift its axis[0]. Seeing as ehe Moon has approximately 1/4 Earth's diameter, 1/50 Earth's volume, and 1/80 Earth's mass, it is a much more fragile place than Earth and what's to say that an accidental explosion could not affect its orbit? The slighest change would probably affect tides in Earth.

Even if that is not much plausible (I'm not an expert), what about simply extracting rocks to sell as moon suveneirs? That alone would ammount to change its mass > gravity > orbit.

[0] - http://articles.cnn.com/2011-03-12/world/japan.earthquake.ts...

Sigh. Some people have no grasp whatsoever of the insignificant scale of human activity in the context of planet-sized objects. For some perspective:

Let's say we start extracting rocks from the moon. Let's say we get SO enthusiastic about this that our extraction of rocks from the moon becomes equivalent to the total amount of iron mined every year on Earth. That's a completely ridiculous thing to suppose, but let's roll with it. That's 2,400,000,000 tons of stuff removed from the moon every year. A big number, right?

The mass of the moon, however, is 73,477,000,000,000,000,000 tons. So at this completely ridiculous rate of mining, it would take just over 306 MILLION YEARS to change the mass of the moon by even 1%.

So, what would happen if we did change the mass of the moon by that much? Answer: basically nothing. The moon has been slowly spiralling away from the earth since its formation, meaning its gravitational effects are decreasing all the time, to no ill effect. 306 million years from now, it will have lost much more than 1% of its tidal influence on earth -- and nobody will be the wiser. It just doesn't matter that much.

In short, he notion that the gravity of the moon could be upset by us mining for trinkets is as preposterous as the notion that my sneeze in London could collapse a skyscraper in Chicago.

Dateline - November 10, 2015 - In perhaps the most bizarre twist in the story detailing the strange hurricane that recently destroyed the Willis Tower (nee the Sears Tower) in Chicago, a scientist has used one of the new climate modeling systems to identify the sneeze that he claims pushed the chaotic drivers that caused Hurricane Zed to take such a strange course inland along the Great Lakes. Dr. Zimmat has been using the new Watson 2nd series in an attempt to untangle chaos theory to find the ultimate causes of major weather events, in the hopes of finding humanly affectable actions that could help to dampen the ever increasing number of Hurricanes.

"I'm afraid I can't release the name of the individual," Dr. Zimmat explained, "however by using the network of cameras in downtown London and correlating with the time our models show an unusual movement of air, we can with 90%+ certainty say that a gentleman's sneeze in the wrong direction is ultimately to blame".

Investigators for London Yard remain mute on whether any action is being taken, while inside sources state that it would be hard to prove anything more than unintentional manslaughter. US investigators, however, are working on a theory that members of Al Quaida may have planted a mole in London to execute the sneeze.

1/2 :-)

Bloody hell - I've been sussed!

>> Some people have no grasp whatsoever of the insignificant scale of human activity in the context of planet-sized objects.

Guess you're right. Thanks for the clarification.

I disagree. Privatizing the moon has been a dream of mine since I was a kid.

I like to think of it as Galt's Gulch in space.

...because there's no better place for a group of self-sufficient Randian heroes to live in complete isolation from the rest of the world than a barren rock in space that would have to import nearly everything from the earth?

What's wrong with imports?

Well, earth then has the power to dictate terms to the moon-colonists.

Such a situation is not favorable for the sort of thing the grandparent post had in mind.

However when we are talking about a reality in which there are multiple independent and competing launch entities, the idea of "the earth" as a single entity capable of deciding not to service colonists makes much less sense.

The whole point of Galt's Gulch is that the world is corrupt and evil and the Randian heroes have to establish a self-sufficient colony where they can support themselves, and stay there until the evil altruistic world collapses under its own weight. That's rather opposed to the concept of having to import everything.

Is there no Hacker News story that can pass without reference to copyright?

With asteroid mining companies, someone will have to decide which companies can get at which asteroids.

that's easy: whichever company can shoot down all other companies ships, and still manage to land and mine said asteroids, wins.

the name of this game? "king of the asteroid"

"Game of Asteroids".

I know we like to bring elements from the video game EVE into our reality but that is very implausible.

It'll be like the gold rush, stake a claim, file it with the regulating agency, shoot anyone that trespasses.

Possession is 9/10ths of the law.

The other tenth is having the biggest fuck off guns to destroy all contenders.

On one hand, I believe that violence is bad.


Privatizing area on the moon would be a great way to fuel colonization there.

It's incredibly difficult to overstate the importance of this moment for science and humanity as a whole. The commercialization of space travel is the only way that we will ever see the stars, as no longer are we at the mercy of the fluctuating interest in space travel from the already over-extended tax payers of certain nations. This is a beautiful moment for humanity, and a damn awesome way to start the weekend!

It's incredibly difficult to overstate the importance of this moment

I tire of statements like this. Either you have no capacity for exaggeration, or I have grossly misunderstood and the docking is actually more momentous than the discoveries of fire, DNA, germ theory, cell theory, flight, and nuclear physics combined.

Now, if we figure out how to beat aging and live forever, that is something whose impact might be difficult to overstate.

living forever would lead to our extinction ... in along run our genome would adapt and we would become sterile

Evolution does not work that way. Evolution does not refine beyond what is good enough, it does not refactor. Genomes do not adapt, genes which encode phenotypes that are best at getting its owners to maximize reproduction with respect to an environment are selected for.

Most importantly, if we could cure aging and necessarily cancer, then you can bet we would have the sophisticated understanding of genes, proteins and cells required to fully control our genome.

Personally my view is the exact opposite. Privatizing space travel will never bring us to the stars. It will get us into orbit for very high fees but e.g. deep space exploration? Too expensive, too low likelyhood of payoff. But for the really long term survival of humanity, it's a must.

I'll see your exact opposite view with with my own exact opposite view.

Privatizing Space will do the same thing for it that privatizing the Internet did for all of us. It will take a government-pioneered oddity that was out of reach of the masses and explore millions of ways to make it of financial benefit to the entrepreneurs who can get there first. Like with the Internet, society will be pulled along in the vortex of the Race to Space. Space will become accessible for a price and in ways that would have been inconceivable a decade before.

The technical challenges with space travel are much greater and so the time before we reach the exponential part of the curve is further away, but when the critical mass of Space travel technology has been reached it will be like the Internet in the 1990's. The Internet had been around for 20 years and only governmental and academic types even knew anything about it. Within a few years of its commercialization, its use and uses had exploded. We went from the average joe not knowing anything about it to seeing an abundance of commercials on television for it within just a couple of years.

I mention the Internet, but the pattern is one that you can see in the adoption of transatlantic sailing, rail travel, electricity, automobiles, etc. Space travel will be no different.

SpaceX is going to drastically reduce the price to orbit, which will drastically reduce the cost of all space exploration.

Substantially cheaper price to orbit will allow us to start doing things like economically assembling large spacecraft in space.

A cheaper method to orbit is a necessary building block of everything else, and so far NASA hasn't been able to do that. Congress views NASA as a giant jobs program, and as long as they are running NASA, cheap isn't realistic.

I just don't think one order of magnitude in cost-to-orbit is what is stopping us from doing things like assembling a large craft in space.

A cheaper method to orbit is in fact not a necessary building block. It's nice to have, of course. I'm sure we'll end up with more useful stuff in orbit, which is a good thing. But space exploration has so many building blocks still simply missing, this won't change anything fundamentally.

Peter diamandis new company is aimed at mining asteroids. One of the ideas of how to do this is to build an engine that will move asteroids or large parts of asteroids to orbit. This kind of engine, if developed, seems very useful for space colonization.

Getting investment for such a company probably wouldn't have been possible without a private space industry.

I must say I was more excited when SpaceX did their first successful launch, but this is a lot of fun for essentially being parking. Can't wait for the future though. If there's one things that sets Elon Musk apart from other entrepreneurs it's his ability to make long-term plans. It seems like everything he (and his team) does leads up to somethings even greater.

"essentially being parking"

I gotta say, that is one hell of a simplification—launching a rocket into space and meeting up with another craft, already in orbit, is a little more difficult that parking your car. :)

I think they let the valet actually park it. ;)

With any luck, in a few decades, it won't be.

Who said anything about a car? I read that as "essentially being [orbital spacecraft] parking".

Amazing stuff, also amazing is being able to watch the live feed from space on my phone!

Is it me or is this getting absolutely no press?

I don't think its you. I've talked with various folks about the events playing out and the split between amazed enthusiasm and barely cognizant is not smooth at all. There is a noticeable number of people who don't care at all.

I think that is in part that a lot of people don't understand the significance of what has just occurred. Even now there are people in government who are 'alarmed' that a private company has this capability. After all, its a technology we're attempting to deny the North Koreans and now Elon Musk's company has all of the parts it needs to build an intercontinental weapons delivery system. The Dragon capsule can be 6 tons. Even neophyte nuclear weapon designers could probably make a device that is less than 6 tons. What is worse is the company won't just die a horrible death if our government pulls all of its contracts.

So where does that leave us? In a very very interesting spot. We are approaching a point where orbital launch technology will be available to 'everyone' and we have to deal with everyone having it. If you were around for the 'great super computer panic' that was when our government realized that there were no microprocessors they could constrain from export that would allow bad guys to build their own super computer using clustering techniques.

Its a similar problem but with the twist of being actionable (or being able to exploit it against the national interests of the US more easily)

Its also one of the reasons I've been following the progress of SpaceX trying to build their own launch facility in Texas. You might see how that combination (private space craft company + private launch facility) would exacerbate the problems for people who wish to keep this particular genie contained as long as possible.

Is being able to launch into orbit equivalent to being able to launch an ICBM?

I must admit I haven't thought about what the privatization of space (and SpaceX specifically) means regarding weaponization and proliferation. I suppose I always figured the main thing restricting proliferation is engineering the payload and not the delivery system. I guess that's only true for nuclear proliferation, though.

There are three things that non-proliferation folks talk about; mass to low earth orbit, guidance, and multiple payload deployment.

If you can put something into a pre-chosen orbit you've got the launch and navigation down (after all an ICBM in in 'orbit' that just happens to be highly elliptical and intersects the planet rather than goes around it.) But there is always the mass problem, conventional bombs, combined with relative lack of orbital precision, means that even a 2,000 lb bomb which is a 'big' iron bomb if you can't accurately get it within a mile or two of its target it won't be very effective. A nuclear weapon clearly can 'miss' by a couple of miles and still be very effective, but they are really really heavy unless you know what you are doing. The first bombs built by the US weighed in about 5 tons, but they did damage equivalent to more than 20,000 tons of explosive (a 'gain' of 4000). State of the art weapons have much higher yields. But if you're new at the game you have to have a rocket that can lift 5 - 6 tons before you are a 'threat' to the rest of the world.

"I suppose I always figured the main thing restricting proliferation is engineering the payload and not the delivery system."

Well if you can build a bomb, but the only way to hit someone with it is to fly it in on a huge transport plane, or drive in with it on a truck, it is both easy to defend against and you have plenty of time to figure out if you need to defend against it. If on the other hand you can launch it into space and have it fall out of the sky some where in 45 minutes to an hour, that requires a different strategy on the part of folks you might seek to attack.

> Is being able to launch into orbit equivalent to being able to launch an ICBM?

It's harder. Early space program rockets were all souped-up ICBMs, including the R7/Semiorka (Sputnik and Voskhod rocket) Redstone (Mercury rocket) and Atlas (Gemini rocket).

Yes, of course. Why did you think Americans were terrified by Sputnik?

Matt Drudge had it in bright red at the top of the "fold" until a few minutes ago. It's still there now, but without the color highlight.

They showed it live on CNN with a lot of commentary, same with the launch.

You'd think that of all groups of individuals, mainstream media would be able to come up with some ultra-hyperbolic headline to make this seem more exciting to the general public.

"Member of the PayPal MAFIA launches a ROCKET directly at the International Space Station. More at 11."

I agree.

More people watched European Song Contest than are seeing this.

Yet again something profoundly depressing about modern life.

I find that ESC used to be a great contest that launched some great artist (think ABBA). While it may not be as powerful or entertaining as it once was, I don't see why someone should be judged for choosing to watch it over a space launch.

I think you'll find that the majority of the population is not interested in space exploration or development so it is quite okay to assume they would watch ESC over the launch.

In hstory considerable coverage would have been given to first man on the moon, or even first shuttle launch.

Space X is an important step in space exploration. It got less coverage than ESC - perhaps ESC is a poor example. What else did SpaceX get less coverage than?

I suppose it all has to do with audience numbers. If covering the SpaceX launch would yield less of an audience than covering ESC or any other show, I think the logical choice for a media network is to choose the one that increases potential revenue.

Let's not forget that media companies are businesses. They need audiences to survive and so they cannot cater to a certain demographic if they want a lot of profit.

I don't think concluding that people don't care about the space launch because it wasn't covered is fair. It's obvious a lot of people do (see Reddit, HN, et al).

I guess it's now on the frontpage of CNN but still - I haven't heard any fanfare over this and it's pretty monumental.

What's amazing is SpaceX beat companies like Boeing to the punch. That's pretty remarkable!

Is it? Knowing people who have worked at Boeing and hearing their stories, and following how much Boeing has struggled in recent years, it's not surprising at all. If there was ever a hidebound company rapidly outliving its usefulness, it was Boeing. And the company is struggling. In airliners, they keep getting beat by Airbus, and time after time comes up second, third, fourth best in defense bids. Once, when they lost a defense bid to Airbus for a tanker, they lobbied to have the military run the selection over again.

The entire aerospace industry has been bureaucratic and hidebound for decades. The story of Lockheed's Skunk Works almost belies the point--they were certainly innovative, but even in the 1960's, the only way they could accomplish it was to get all the best engineers and hide from the bureaucrats long enough to just build shit. Up until the first stealth fighter or so (the F-117) it worked, but it doesn't seem to anymore, considering all the problems, delays, crashes, and other mishaps the F-22 has had.

(Though, to be fair, the F-22 is a much more difficult undertaking. The F-117 had exactly one thing different from any other airplane from the 70's: it was shaped funny. It also had fly-by-wire because it was aerodynamically poor, but the engineering was far more conservative. The F-22 has lots of innovations at once--stealth, supercruise, improved avionics, the whole works--which entails far much more risk. Also, the 117 was a black project, which means there were a couple smart people in the Pentagon approving it and working as their clients, as opposed to the 22 where there were hundreds of Congressmen and thousands of federal bureaucrats to worry about as clients.)

Maybe all the Boeing people quit and went to SpaceX. I really want to know the profiles of every person working at SpaceX, where they came from, and did they build their knowledge in the last four years or last thirty. Its a great story that a company can do this in just a few years, but we need to be honest about what effort and time it truly took from all participants. Personally, I would be thrilled to learn that a new company with greenhorn engineers could do this in a short amount of time. If the enabling factor is a group of aerospace veterans, that's great also.

There are a lot of aerospace veterans at SpaceX.

I know one senior JPL (Jet Propulsion Lab -- NASA) engineer who went there early on, and another one who went later to work on docking. Making reliable space launches is a practical skill, and there are a lot of procedures that have been learned over decades that are definitely not textbook material. It has to be picked up in apprenticeship fashion.

In their promotional materials on their www site, they used to say that they were located in Southern CA to take advantage of the large pool of aerospace talent here.

Not at all. It's classic innovator's dilemma where Boeing, Lockheed etc. simply can't face the implications of competing with someone coming in from outside.

SpaceX just won't have the same baggage that bigger outfits do.

It's classic innovator's dilemma where Boeing, Lockheed etc. simply can't face the implications of competing with someone coming in from outside.

Absolutely. SpaceX is already the cheapest $/kg to orbit. If things play out like Musk intends, they'll cut that number to a tenth of what it is today. There's no way Boeing can compete without a complete restructuring of its space business.

They certainly weren't going to put money into bringing this situation about.

The innovator's dillema mainly talks about the lack of motivation of established entities to offer a lower cost service so they won't hurt current profits. this doesn't seem the case.

It's not necessarily about current profits, but future ones for sure. They will have people internally capable of doing it, but their structure will prevent them being cost-competitive, so they resist entering the whole area at all.

To what punch? Boeing built parts of the Saturn V rocket that launched the Apollo missions 45 years ago.

Built parts.

As wikipedia puts it: "Each section was designed by von Braun in Huntsville and built by outside contractors such as Boeing, North American Aviation, Douglas Aircraft, and IBM."

The extreme vertical integration (and pricing model) SpaceX has is what makes it special.

I think the pricing model is far more interesting than the vertical integration here. Boeing has been building Delta rockets for a long time too.

It's the combination of the two I think. (Not to mention the comparative capabilities of the two systems.. there is a reason the Delta's are not servicing the ISS right now)

Truly inspiring. Elon Musk has and certainly will continue to inspire me as an entrepreneur and technologist. I hope I can get the chance to meet him one day.

In his interviews, he seems like a very nice guy...I wonder what it is like to work for him.

One small step for man, One giant leap for private enterprise.

Truly historic feat. I'm working for the man on screen 1 as I watch more interesting happenings in space on screen 2.

Dragon was berthed to the Harmony module of the #ISS at 12:02 p.m. EDT

Official time: 9:56AM EST, and it took place over Western Australia. Congrats to SpaceX!

It looks like SpaceX control room is using VLC to stream video =)

Hatch Opening now in progress: http://www.spacex.com/webcast/

Go Canada(rm)!

This is so cool! I can't wait to see more humans in space.

Not docked yet.

Pass a law that whoever parks their pasty butt on the surface of another planet owns x square meters of it, but they have to land in person and affix a notary.

there has got to be a way to monitize seeding a civilization on mars.

I know you're probably not being serious, but this would stop that: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outer_Space_Treaty

Yes, it would affect the "pass a law" part of the OP's proposal, but would Mars-bound indiviual colonists, representing only themselves and no nation, be bound by treaties between the dinosaurs of Earth?

I believe the correct response from any future colonists to cries about international treaties would be "Come and stop us."

Treaties can be, and have been, renegotiated.

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