Space meets Silicon Valley


SpaceX is based in Hawthorne, about 350 miles from Silicon Valley.

Yes, I made the correction. Thanks.

The commercialization of space seems like a great idea, compared to abandoning it altogether. But I wonder if the day will come when we compare it to the EM spectrum, and wonder when the public lost control of such an important resource.

There will be functions only government can perform, such as tracking a million objects and making sure they don’t collide. Will we tax the users appropriately? Or will we all share the burden from which only a few reap the profits?

What about this function necessitates the need for government here?

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The fact that, like many government functions, it provides a public good without an opportunity for profit. Do you see a way for OrbiTrac Inc to offer this service for a price, or let your space station - and staff - be blown to smithereens by a wrench at 660 mph? What price would the Invisible Hand set for avoiding violent death? There are very good reasons we don’t privatize the Fire Department or the Army.

So you assume that everyone thinks profit motive is bad? I’m not sure what you’re saying.

That would be individuals deciding how much risk they’re comfortable with. Additionally, I think you would find that any type of underwriting would be ruinously expensive without safeguards.

I’m sure people would pay for that service given the consequences you describe.

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Yes, of course - everyone would pay, but would it be OK to make that a for-profit excercise? To put it another way ‘is it OK for OrbiTrac to let your staff be blown to smithereens because you haven’t paid your subscription?’

Clearly you’re not sure, because that’s pretty much the opposite of what I was saying. Business exists to turn a profit. If something is unprofitable, business won’t do it. If it needs doing anyway, it’s government’s job. Does that make sense?

The classic example, again, is the Army, which really shouldn’t turn a profit. Only the most radical Libertarian would argue that everything should be privatized, just like only the most radical Communist thinks nothing should be.

Tracking space junk is one of those functions that can’t be performed profitably, unless you accept the idea of a corporation simply allowing people to die if they don’t pay up. Most of us consider that unethical - but not everybody, as history will demonstrate.

True but see above. Most people would describe that as extortion.

The most powerful entities will arrive at control of the most valuable resources.

Rather than a necessity, it is an inevitability that governments control this. Even if etc don’t create control, there will certainly be a creation of a governing body. It just always happens. Forever and ever.

Anyway, check this out on the latest Mars mission (includes NASA):

I wonder if it won’t follow the model of the wild, wild West. In the early days, the pioneers will crazily venture forth, then slowly armed forces will come in manning outposts, then when the bureaucracy can figure it out, they’ll arrive.

I think private enterprises could manage space effectively, without the need for communal funds, but government will surely come. Especially when they discover magic particles somewhere, y’ know?

OrbiTrac hasn’t let your staff be blown to smithereens, you have.

(You don’t pay for your insurance and something happens to you, it’s hardly the insurance company’s fault for not giving you insurance for free.)

Yeah, I get that it’s not causation - but OrbiTrac aren’t insurance: they don’t pay you after your crew get killed, they tell you before, so you can avoid being killed. Given that they would have to have the information regardless, and don’t tell you because you haven’t paid your bill… well yeah - as Boundgear said, most people would call that extortion.

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