I want to keep this thought brief, but I feel it’s important to think about from time to time. Basically, we need to remind ourselves that just because we can think of a dumb, unworkable way to approach a given problem, doesn’t mean that is the only way to approach things. To give a relevant example, Mark Whittington made the following point in comments to my Lunar Markets post:
No venture capitalist is going to invest money into a lunar shuttle based solely on a lunar base that will become reality in ten or fifteen years or on commercial markets that are likely decades in the future.
His point is valid in a way. There are no lunar markets today that are both so provably real, and so large that they can possibly justify a venture capitalist investing to develop a full-blown cislunar transportation architecture as well as developing all of the hardware and infrastructure to take advantage of that market. That is true, and I’m not going to argue with it.
However, it’s also a false dilemma. There are other paths to the end goal of commercial lunar markets that don’t involve raising venture capital to directly pursue those lunar markets today. There are nearer term, more realistic markets, that require less startup capital, and involve less risks, that make future lunar enterprises come closer to closing the business case. There are probably more than I’ve ever dreamt of. Many of them involve little or no government money. Many of them probably could eventually lead to privately developed manned lunar missions prior to the first LSAM landing.
If private enterprise reaches the moon, it probably won’t be because of some master plan dreamt up by some wunderkind (least of all me). It will be the result of many smaller, nearer term, more incremental plans by many competing individuals trying to provide value to others in new and innovative ways. That’s how markets work. Grand multi-year plans hammered out by genius technocrats aren’t what capitalism is about.
The moral of the story being that if a given approach is stupid, but the goal is worthy, try thinking of other approaches before dismissing the goal as impossible.
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