Esther Dyson: Space Program Just a Giant Plumbing Operation


Investor and would-be space tourist Esther Dyson had some interesting things to say about commercial space and the International Space Station in an interview with Air & Space magazine. A few highlights:

On software billionaires in the space business:

One of the problems with this [space] industry is that it’s so capital intensive that the only players are billionaires right now. So they fund their own companies. There’s less of an open marketplace, and it’s more siloed, which is a pity. It’s also ironic, because it’s the software industry that should be secretive, because you can copy software. You could steal all of XCOR’s plans, and still couldn’t do what they’ve done without taking three to four years, because there’s so much black art to it.

On the International Space Station:

To be candid, the whole space program is basically just a giant plumbing-in-the-sky operation, plus some medical stuff. So you send these guys up, and what do they do? They do experiments on humans, and they fix the plumbing, and a little bit of construction on the outside.

On the Economy:

I think it will recover. You have a bunch of billionaires who haven’t yet spent their billions. I was just talking to someone who was on [Oracle CEO] Larry Ellison’s yacht. Larry has shown no interest in space, but there are other billionaires who have. And I think you have a bunch of guys in their thirties and forties now who will be billionaires in 10 years and will have time on their hands, either to be space tourists or to invest $500 million in a space hotel chain.

Read the full interview.