For several years, I’ve had a sort of fanciful list going. The theory being that when some group I’m part of succeeds in fielding the first commercial orbital RLV, or the first commercial manned lunar lander, there’s a list of people that (if I have any say in the matter) have earned themselves a free flight. I’ve never written this list down, and some of the people on this list have never heard of me, and no, I don’t have any formal agreement from Dave, but it’s still something that I would do if I ever end up in the situation to offer them that. I heard today from Rand Simberg that Len Cormier, one of the people who’s been on my list ever since I dreamed it up, is in hospice now fighting a losing battle with cancer.
I’m not going to eulogize my friend yet, as he’s still fighting the fight. You don’t eulogize the living.
But I do have to admit that it really struck home how long and hard of a road the commercial conquest of space has been, is, and will continue to be. Back in ’98, when I was 18 and first starting to seriously try to get involved with this whole commercial space thing (ironically enough, as part of Len’s X-Van 2001 project), I really thought that things were on the cusp of taking off. I was somewhat worried that by the time I got back from my 2 year mission, I would have missed out on all of the excitement. If you had told me back then, that ten years later the industry would still be struggling to get the first commercially operable manned suborbital vehicle into service, I would have laughed at your naivety…
But here we are. While I’m more confident than ever that there is a road from where we are to where we in this industry want to go, I’m no longer so confident about the timeline. The reality is that while Space Ship One did kill the giggle factor about commercial space, that hasn’t equated to the funding spigots being turned on. Even extremely solid companies like XCOR are still struggling financially to some extent or another.
We’ll get there, I just hope it happens soon enough that those on my list can still take me up on my offer.