• Carlton Stephenson

    Let’s see how much longer America continues to be leader in space when the private companies making that meaningful are forced to look elsewhere for support. In an earlier comment someone mentioned the UAE. It’s a brave new world.

  • duheagle

    Perhaps you could ask the voices in your head – very politely – if they could slow down and speak clearly so that you can transcribe what they’re telling you for the benefit of we poor folks out here in Internet-land who haven’t the foggiest what you are going on about here.

    Oh, yeah – yours was the first and, until I piped up, only comment here so what earlier comments? Or do the voices show you pictures too?

  • Carlton Stephenson

    Aww, jeez, I can’t be that obscure. Let’s wait a while, will you, and see if anyone else is paying attention. If not, I’ll break it down for you, I promise.

    For now, lets just say that I’m not talking about the article, but the event that is intrinsic to the article – the signing of the NASA Transition Authorization Act – and all that followed since, including comments. The probable reason why the president thought he needed to highlight NASA in this week’s address.

  • Kirk

    ? ?

  • duheagle

    So, the “Dance of the Seven Veils” act continues. You might want to keep in mind that, if you aim not to be pelted with overripe fruit when the payoff is eventually due, it would help greatly if what’s under all the veils is in the same class as, say, Rosario Dawson or Margot Robbie. If it turns out to be more like the pre-weight-loss Mama June, you will be instantly consigned to Geraldo Rivera/Rachel Maddow-land.

  • Carlton Stephenson

    LOLOL! You guys are killing me! But okay, here goes:

    On Tuesday, March 21, President signs NASA authorizing act, right? Same day some tweeter thinks Musk will like what is contained in that act but Musk quickly tweets that he doesn’t. There’s nothing new in it for Mars, he says. And we know Mars is where his heart is. The reporting on what Musk might have hoped for, roll out, and endless comments follow each article. In one of those comments, I can’t remember which, someone mentioned the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Notably, Trump, the tweeter in chief, does not get involved in the brief twit between Musk and the tweeter who started it all. But in his weekly address of 3/25 (yesterday, as stated in the above article), he took the opportunity to highlight NASA, perhaps in response to all the speculation about a possibly disappointed Musk. So now we’re all caught up on the history.

    My take is this thing that Trump boasts about while signing the Act and again in his yesterday address – making America first in space again, may not last in this brave new world, not while the American govt.’s priority continues to be jobs on earth. If Musk is indeed disappointed in the bill’s lack of increased funding for mars, he may decide that he is running out of time for his dream of starting a colony on Mars in his lifetime. Seeing no likelihood of change in the status quo, he may decide that it’s not worth it to wait on help from the govt. of America.

    Enter the UAE. They have already shown an openness to Musk’s ambition by their embrace of Hyperloop One, and they want to build a city at the long end of Musk’s Interplanetary Transport System. They have all the money that he needs. I can just imagine the ITAR awkwardness that will ensue if he chooses to go that way, but Musk is nothing if not determined. Even if he takes their money and continues to fly the American flag, can his Mars accomplishments, the direct result of their investment, still be called American? If not, then it could mean the end of the America first in space business. That was my gist.

    While other countries are nudging their entrepreneurs to take up Musk’s example, America is squandering it by their grudging, half-hearted support.

  • therealdmt

    “In an earlier comment elsewhere…” would have helped

    Anyway, it is interesting to think about if Musk would have the heart to start pretty much all over again in a new country if it seemed the US government was presenting an insurmountable obstacle. He could do it, I have no doubt, but to have the necessary passion the second time around might be too much. However, with SpaceX now being a launch provider the military (not to mention NASA) is counting on, well, SpaceX is becoming part of the establishment. Congress now official supports commercial space and has officially (via this authorization act) set Mars as the long term goal for human exploration. There’s been a tide change — SpaceX and Musk aren’t going anywhere bar a major anti-space movement arising.

  • Carlton Stephenson

    But can he work at that establishment pace? The man had a reason for starting all this. How much long term would be too long term for him? Starting over elsewhere from scratch may be too much to expect. But what if he gets impatient and, not wanting too many ‘owners’ in SpaceX, goes looking for a single, large investor who may or may not be local – or private? Who out there has that kind of interest in Mars, as well as that kind of money to spare?

    It just seems to me that his ITS is going to happen sooner or later, one way or the other. If America wants to own it and all the concomitant credits, they are going to have to…well, own it. Sometime soon. And at present their whole mindset is wrong for that kind of ownership.

  • ThomasLMatula

    The big question would be which country?

    Europe is not exactly friendly to space commerce startups. Australia is a Moon Treaty country. Canada and the U.K. are too far north for any good launch sites. Few nations are even prepared to regulate space commerce as they are required to under the OST.

    There is also the question of finding and training a workforce. The U.S. has a good aerospace workforce to draw from. In Europe only France, UK and Germany really have one. Canada has a small one, but that is about it.

    Recall Elon Musk fled from South Africa because he saw no tech future for it, and only paused long enough in Canada to make it into the U.S. He knows there is no where else he could create a firm like SpaceX or have the resources to go to Mars.

  • duheagle

    Okay, it pretty much was all in your head then. Glad we got that cleared up.

    The NASA authorization bill Trump just signed is more of a placeholder than anything else. It’s principle author, Ted Cruz, says he’s going to have a longer-term authorization bill done in a few more months. By that time, NASA should have a new Administrator and a new path forward at least roughed out.

    Elon may or may not be delighted with the new authorization bill, when it arrives, but the idea that he would up stakes and move to the UAE is just batshit loony. NASA has been quite supportive of SpaceX and continues to be. There is no big new move to throw in with Elon on his own Mars project, but all the other business he does, or will do, with NASA is still there – CRS, Commercial Crew, Red Dragon, etc.

  • duheagle

    Not sure who this mysterious “their” is. Do you mean NASA? Trump? Who, exactly? Musk’s current plans should provide him with sufficient capital to at least get his Mars project underway on his own dime. As other commenters have noted, he couldn’t have done what he’s already done here anywhere else on Earth. Abandoning everything to decamp to the Middle East is not a formula that would save him any time in realizing his ambitions.

    To put things as crudely as possible, if Musk decides he needs money from some government, rather than, in essence, selling himself to some tribal barbarian desert chieftain with delusions of grandeur, he’d be a lot better off just doing what his legacy space competitors have always done – stay right here at home and buy a few Congressmen and a Senator or two. Much cheaper and no “banker” to answer to.

  • therealdmt

    Hmm. I’d kinda figured Australia might be his next best bet, with the northern part of the country getting quite close to the equator, an educated populace that might be intrigued by the possibility of being the center of global attention, a bit of a frontier ethic embedded in the culture, English as the national language and an attractive place for skilled workers to emigrate to. The Moon Treaty is an interesting spanner in the works for that scenario though.

    Perhaps an artificial island sanctuary floating in international waters…

  • therealdmt

    And, if/when SpaceX successfully demonstrates some upcoming items they have in the works (Falcon reuse, Dragon reuse, Falcon Heavy, crewed Dragon 2 demo, manned lunar flyby, Red Dragon, full scale Raptor and composite tanks, Dragon 2 land landing) the facts on the ground are going to start changing.

    At the least, if NASA is redirected to the moon, SpaceX will be in excellent position to get substantial contract awards in relation to the resulting lunar efforts. SpaceX can then use that revenue to finance development and demonstrations of their own Mars architecture, not to mention gain valuable beyond-LEO operational experience through NASA’s lunar endeavors.

    The moon may become a frustrating (to some) diversion from a more direct “Journey to Mars”, but it will ultimately also be an enabling one for SpaceX. And, as the facts on the ground (err, in space) change and government plans get stretched out, the debate may yet shift.

    Basically, there’s no reason for Musk to lose hope at this point. Things might not be going exactly in his preferred direction at the moment, but he’s gotten people’s attention and there’s a real interest at the highest levels of doing *something* in space. He’s got the biggest something going, and as he demonstrates the means, things are more likely than not to swing in his direction.

  • Carlton Stephenson

    No Rosario, eh. :). Mark this, however: it wouldn’t be the first time someone badly misjudged Musk.

  • Vladislaw

    When he launched from an island in the pacific the salt in the air caused one of the launch errors?… I do not think he would want to do that again… stay on a coast inland a bit

  • WhoAmI

    FWIW, UAE could be a customer of SpaceX without requiring SpaceX to relocate or violate ITAR. It would be similar to Turkmenistan as a customer though it did have its satellite built by Thales Alena Space in France (neither a US entity, though France is a NATO ally). The evil Canadians were allowed to launch on a Falcon 9 too. 😉

    Are there any trade restrictions that would limit what SpaceX could launch created by UAE relative to peaceful activities?

    UAE has already put a nano-satellite built at the American University (bit of an irony) into orbit via India’s PSLV-C37 rocket. They plan to launch the home built Mars Hope Spacecraft on a MHI H-IIA rocket. Thus, a possible restriction on UAE from launching on US launchers wouldn’t slow their progress.

    If SpaceX is able to lower launch costs, catch up on their manifest and deliver the ITS, then UAE would definitely have an interest in paying SpaceX to help them meet their Mars 2117 Project launch needs. That being said, so would NASA but in 20 years rather than 100.

    So in the end, SpaceX could capture revenue from UAE for Mars transport, but it won’t be exclusive, become the majority of their deep space revenue nor enable UAE to take the lead in space exploration of Mars.

  • Carlton Stephenson

    Once the ITS is built and launching off American soil I expect few ITAR concerns regarding SpaceX customers. That’s not the beef. The beef is getting it built: Will SpaceX wait on its own revenue stream to foot that bill? Musk called for a public/private partnership right from the start so clearly he either doesn’t want to pay for it himself or he doesn’t want to wait out the years until he can. NASA meanwhile can’t just hand him a check so where does it come from? He is left with another round of fundraising. Somebody could end up with a $10B chunk of SpaceX. That somebody may not be American. If the generous investor is foreign, there will always be an asterisk on the great ‘American’ foray to Mars called the ITS.