I’ve been talking a lot about the importance of economics to the sustainability of space development and eventual settlement. Well, some would likely go so far as to accuse me of flogging that dead horse a little too much. I’m not sure that’s possible.
Brian Dunbar over on his Space for Commerce blog has it right with this Niven quote:
A. E. Van Vogt never worried about what a spacecraft cost. I don’t think Isaac Asimov did either.
Nobody ever did until, in the 1950s, Robert Heinlein published “The Man Who Sold the Moon”. And nobody did again for a long time. Imitating Heinlein used to be normal, but the science fiction writers of the day couldn’t imitate this. None of us had trained for it. The excitement of travel to other worlds is in our nerves and bones, but where is the excitement in economics?
Then we watched mankind set twelve human beings on the moon for a few days at a time, come home, and stop.
We saw our space station built in Houston, orbiting too low and too slow, at ten times the cost.
Thirtieth anniversary of the first man on the moon, celebrated by grumbling.
My tee shirt bears an obsolete picture of Freedom space station and the legend, “Nine years, nine billion dollars, and all we got was this lousy shirt,” and it’s years old and wearing out.
Now is economics interesting?
We’re never going to see large amounts of interesting things happening in space without commerce playing the leading role. Commerce will only happen when things make economic sense. Without tens or hundreds of commercial dollars being exchanged for every dollar that government spends in space, we’re not going to see settlements on the Moon, Mars, or anywhere else for that matter. Making the business case connect over and over again for space ventures is the most important thing we need to start doing if we want to space settled and developed in our lifetimes.