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Lots and LOTS of people seem to be constantly comparing the current situation with space travel, with the early 20th century aviation.

In fact, the comparison is not appropriate at all.

The early pioneers who created aeroplanes from bits of sticks and cloth, putting unreliable petrol engines on, often killed themselves. But we remember the successful ones.

The basic problem I see, is space travel is NOT aviation.

The amount of foresight to be able to predict aviation is fairly minimal. DaVinci did it in the 15th century, and probably loads of people did before him (just he wrote it down in rather more detail than them). Everyone since the beginning of human history, has watched birds flying. Everyone since the invention of paper has made paper planes. Each step was essentially just a small one.

Space travel just ISN'T that simple. They don't call it "rocket science" for nothing. It's complicated, and no amount of constant comparisons with the early aviation industry will make it simpler. Birds do fly very gracefully, but they don't usually go into orbit.

For decades, the governments of the two most industrially productive countries in the world have been pouring massive amounts of cash into space travel - mostly to figure out how to destroy each other more effectively. They have achieved much - and I don't believe that any real progress would have been made without them.

Sure, commercial companies do launch satellites with varying degrees of government assistance, but their R&D has been paid for by the cold war budgets of NATO and the Soviet Union.

The only possibilty that anybody has these days to produce "cheap" spaceflight, is to use a great deal of computer power (to do modelling, saving cost of failed launches) - but even that is not easy, largely because the cost of hiring the engineers and scientists to operate the computers.

I don't want to knock Rutan and Scaled Composites - but seriously, putting a spacecraft into orbit is a lot different from flying a 30 minute sub-orbital flight. The energy involved is something like 20x higher. They won the X-Prize. And Branson (boss of "Virgin Galactic") won the right to take a few rich something-or-others up on the rip-off so-called "trip of a lifetime".

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Last Post by ZWheel
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Lots and LOTS of people seem to be constantly comparing the current situation with space travel, with the early 20th century aviation.
In fact, the comparison is not appropriate at all.

Hmmm, Hope you are wrong about that. Not to say I am convinced either way.

The early pioneers who created aeroplanes from bits of sticks and cloth, putting unreliable petrol engines on, often killed themselves. But we remember the successful ones.

I suspect if commercial space travel does take off there will be many accidents, and yes deaths to come. No doubt in the end we will only remember the successfull ones too. Still, given the chance to go I think I would take the risk, lots would. Just hope not too many are hit from above.

The basic problem I see, is space travel is NOT aviation.

The amount of foresight to be able to predict aviation is fairly minimal. DaVinci did it in the 15th century, and probably loads of people did before him (just he wrote it down in rather more detail than them). Everyone since the beginning of human history, has watched birds flying. Everyone since the invention of paper has made paper planes. Each step was essentially just a small one.

Aviation isn't exactly simple either. Certainly it has become routine but it wasn't exactly a walk in the park to get to that point. And people have been predicting space flight for about as long as they have known the atmosphere had it's limits. Before that they were predicting aviation all the way to the moon and other "heavenly bodies". As for watching birds flying true, we haven't had space birds to watch but we haven't exactly copied bird's design or flight methods for our aviation technology either.

Space travel just ISN'T that simple. They don't call it "rocket science" for nothing. It's complicated, and no amount of constant comparisons with the early aviation industry will make it simpler. Birds do fly very gracefully, but they don't usually go into orbit.

For decades, the governments of the two most industrially productive countries in the world have been pouring massive amounts of cash into space travel - mostly to figure out how to destroy each other more effectively. They have achieved much - and I don't believe that any real progress would have been made without them.

Sure, commercial companies do launch satellites with varying degrees of government assistance, but their R&D has been paid for by the cold war budgets of NATO and the Soviet Union.

The only possibilty that anybody has these days to produce "cheap" spaceflight, is to use a great deal of computer power (to do modelling, saving cost of failed launches) - but even that is not easy, largely because the cost of hiring the engineers and scientists to operate the computers.

I don't want to knock Rutan and Scaled Composites - but seriously, putting a spacecraft into orbit is a lot different from flying a 30 minute sub-orbital flight. The energy involved is something like 20x higher. They won the X-Prize. And Branson (boss of "Virgin Galactic") won the right to take a few rich something-or-others up on the rip-off so-called "trip of a lifetime".

Certainly Scaled Composites is a long way from earth orbit and beyond but what they have produced they did so for considerably less than any government would have spent on a comparable project. While the familly "road trip" isn't likely to include a tour of the solar system any time soon that dosn't mean there isn't something new happening that will result in significant change.

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