Out in the Nevada desert, in a complex encircled by barbed wire and guards, a millionaire motelier who believes in UFOs and prayer—but not the Big Bang—is building the world’s first private space station. And it’s inflatable.
The vision is President Barack Obama’s: Let private entrepreneurs take over the space race from bloated NASA. But someone needs to build the rockets and space hotels to make it work. Robert T. Bigelow, of Bigelow Aerospace and the Budget motel chain, believes he can build the space stations, and others will be able to fly paying customers, including NASA astronauts, into orbit—all for less money than NASA and other government space agencies currently pay to transport and host spacemen and spacewomen.
Truthdig is not entirely convinced this is such a good idea. In a year of oil spills, runaway Toyotas and toxic happy meals, we’re not so sure about turning over exploration of the final frontier—and transportation of our astronauts—to private profiteers. —PZS
The New York Times:
If this business plan unfolds as it is written — the company has two fully inflated test modules in orbit already — Bigelow will be buying 15 to 20 rocket launchings in 2017 and in each year after, providing ample business for the private companies that the Obama administration would like to finance for the transportation of astronauts into orbit — the so-called commercial crew initiative.
President Obama’s budget proposal for 2011 calls for investing $6 billion over five years for probably two or more companies to develop spacecraft capable of carrying people into space. Then, instead of operating its own systems, like the space shuttles, NASA would buy rides for its astronauts on these commercial space taxis.