I went to the DLD conference in Munich a couple of weeks ago.One of the cool things about the DLD conference is that they throw in speakers and panels on topics other than the latest buzzy consumer web feature.
Before I got to the conference, I got an invitation to a special breakfast seminar about space.
That sounded cool, so I went. I sat in the back in the Google+ lounge eating three fried eggs and listening to folks from Virgin Galactic and Space Adventures (the company that shoots people into space on Russian rockets), and Esther Dyson, who has done the training to go into space.
Here are some cool things I learned:
- About 500 people have gone to space
- Soon, one panelist promised, 500 people will go to space every year
- Virgin Galactic, Space Adventures, etc., are opening space to normal people. Or, at least, to normal people with $200,000 to blow on a brief trip to sub-space (Virgin Galactic) or $50 million to blow on an actual space trip (Space Adventures.)
- The next few decades will be the ones in which people permanently move into space.
- What will drive us into space will be the same things that drove us to explore planet earth: The promise of unlimited resources and incalculable riches.
- The first trillionaire will be made from space (in one panelist’s opinion).
- The “ownership” of space hasn’t quite been worked out yet, and it won’t be until some private individual goes and plants a flag somewhere. Then the ownership issues will be worked out quite quickly.
- Our existing laws, one panelist says, suggest that if you go capture an asteroid, it’s yours. Some asteroids might be made of super-valuable stuff. So someone will eventually do that.
- Now that space isn’t just for governments anymore, some countries are rushing to cash in on that. Like Nigeria. Nigeria, apparently, wants to provide a platform of operations for anyone who wants to explore space.
- It used to cost you $20 million to be blasted into space by Space Adventures. Now it costs $50 million.
- Space Adventures is putting together a cool new space trip you can take—an orbit around the moon. This will cost you $150 million.
- Of course, if all you want is to be weightless for a few minutes, they can do that for you for $5,000 in a plane flying a special “parabola” trajectory. Esther Dyson did that. She didn’t throw up.
- The reason going to space costs so much, by the way, is that it’s like building a 747 for a flight from New York to Sydney, Australia, and then throwing away the plane.
- 40 per cent of astronauts get a special space-form of motion sickness. Even the badass fighter pilot astronauts.
- Of 8 private citizens who have gone to space, however, only one has gotten it.
- The difference is the time spent in space and the speed required to get there.
- A quick trip through sub-orbital space only requires you to go Mach 3 or 4, and your time in space only lasts a few minutes.
- An extended stay in orbit, meanwhile, requires you to go Mach 25.
- Guess how much the fuel cost is as a percentage of the total cost of an orbital space flight? (Guess—answer below.)
- Most of the people who go into space find it a profound experience that permanently alters their worldview. There’s something about seeing how small the earth is and how thin the atmosphere is and how there aren’t any cultural or sovereign borders drawn on the planet that gets people thinking.
- One Space Adventures customer flew twice—he didn’t get enough the first time.
- The cost of fuel as a percentage of a space flight is only 1 per cent. The bulk of the cost is labour. (All those dudes sitting in front of screens at NASA, etc.)
- Jeff Bezos, one panelist maintained, started Amazon to fund his space interest.
- Some individuals are now rich enough that they could fund a mission to Mars.
- We are no closer to flying faster than light than we ever have been. The best we can do, one panelist said, is about one-tenth light speed. But someone recently decided that some things do go faster than light (neutrinos). So maybe there’s hope.
- But, nevertheless, even at sub-light speed, one panelist said, we could still colonize the galaxy in a couple of hundred thousand years.
- There are a hundred billion galaxies.
So the final frontier will produce the first trillionaire.
Any venture capitalists out there want to help me try to grab an asteroid?
SEE ALSO: Time-Lapse View Of Earth From Space
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