[FPSPACE] Hudgins Op-ed on SpaceShipOne in Washington Times

Edward Hudgins ehudgins at objectivistcenter.org
Wed Oct 6 12:27:08 EDT 2004


Hi all! Here's my comments on the great and glorious achievement of Rutan
and company.

The Link:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/commentary/20041005-095949-1067r.htm

The Text from the Washington Tims:
-----------
Signals from SpaceShipOne
By Edward Hudgins

On Oct. 4, 2004, the 47th anniversary of the launch of Sputnik, humanity
again made spaceflight history.

SpaceShipOne, designed by Burt Rutan and his company, Scaled Composites, and
built with money from Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, won the privately
funded $10 million Ansari X Prize by becoming the first three-passenger
private vehicle to fly into space twice in a two-week period.

SpaceShipOne's triumph teaches us four lessons:

(1) It reminds us of the power of competition. Entrepreneurs who compete
with one another generate the dynamism of free enterprise. They cannot
simply offer adequate goods and services when competitors might offer the
excellent. Competition pushes entrepreneurs to strive to satisfy and thus
keep their customers. Whether it's automobiles, personal computers, the
Internet, consumer electronics or airline flights, only entrepreneurs can
commercialize goods and services, making them available to all. The X Prize
stimulated competition in spaceflight, which has for too long been dominated
by government. The result is SpaceShipOne's triumph.

(2) It shows us the power of pride. Mr. Rutan's team, as well as the other
two dozen competitors for the X Prize, struggled with limited resources to
develop new, innovative and ingenious ways to travel 100 kilometers above
the Earth, into space. They called upon the best within themselves and gave
themselves what no one else could: the knowledge of a job superlatively done
despite great challenges, and the manifestation of their creativity and
rationality that made the achievement possible.

(3) It demonstrates the motivational power of profit. Private cash prizes
were heavily used in developing civil aviation; Charles Lindbergh won the
$25,000 Orteig prize in 1927 when be became the first individual to fly
nonstop across the Atlantic. In the wake of the X Prize success, Robert
Bigelow, founder of Bigelow Aerospace, which plans to place a private
station in space, has offered a $50 million prize for development of a
vehicle capable of carrying as many as seven people to an orbital outpost -
hopefully, one of Mr. Bigelow's.

Mr. Rutan used some $20 million invested by Mr. Allen to win $10 million.
That doesn't sound very profitable, but Mr. Rutan's efforts aim at long-term
profit - he plans a business carrying passengers on suborbital trips and
eventually orbital flights into space. In fact, billionaire Richard Branson,
founder of Virgin Atlantic airline, is partnering with Mr. Rutan and Mr.
Allen in hopes of carrying 3,000 private astronauts into space in the next
five years.

Prosperity is a good thing, and, in the process of pursuing their own
economic and spiritual well-being, these space entrepreneurs will create a
commercial revolution as Mr. Allen did with Microsoft and Mr. Branson did
with Virgin Atlantic.

(4) SpaceShipOne marks a paradigm shift. For nearly five decades, most
people thought of space as a government program and believed travel beyond
the atmosphere simply too costly for the private sector. Of course, it was
the government providing the service that kept the cost high, and government
regulations helped discourage private entrepreneurs from trying to create
their own space businesses.

But Peter Diamandis, president of the X Prize Foundation, sought to create a
revolution not only by sparking entrepreneurial competition but by changing
how people think about space: It can be a free-market frontier, where
private firms take you to private facilities for your private edification.

Mr. Rutan designed the Voyager, the first plane to fly around the world
without stopping or refueling. That craft now hangs in the Smithsonian Air
and Space Museum in Washington, along with Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis,
the Wright Brothers' 1903 flyer, Chuck Yeager's X-1 and the Apollo 11 craft
that carried the first men to the moon.

SpaceShipOne should one day hang beside those pioneering craft, in tribute
to the private entrepreneurs who opened space to all mankind.
-----

Edward Hudgins is editor of the Cato Institute book, "Space: The Free-Market
Frontier," and Washington director of the Objectivist Center.


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