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space (spās) n. 1. space beyond the atmosphere of the earth.

prag·ma·tism (prgm-tzm) n. A way of approaching situations or solving problems that emphasizes practical applications and consequences.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Frontier Technologies

Alan Boyle has five frontier technologies he thinks we will see by 2012. One of those is private spaceflight:

5. Commercial spaceflight: I’ve been covering this field for about 10 years, and one of the high points came in 2004, when a privately developed rocket plane called SpaceShipOne made not just one, but three flights to the edge of outer space. I talked about the impact of those flights on the field of space tourism in a video clip from October 4, 2004, the date of SpaceShipOne’s final flight to the final frontier.

The successor to SpaceShipOne is expected to roll out for testing later this year, leading up to the start of commercial service two years from now. And SpaceShipTwo probably won’t be the only suborbital spaceship out there. By 2010, there might well be two or three companies offering quick rides to outer space and back, with a price tag of $200,000 or so. And that price tag is certain to go down as the industry matures.

A Nevada company called Bigelow Aerospace has already launched one unmanned orbital spaceship called Genesis 1, and the company is planning to put up a bigger ship that could serve as an orbiting hotel or research station in the 2010 time frame.

Bigelow Aerospace is backed by a real-estate billionaire named Robert Bigelow – who has set aside half a billion dollars to get his orbital venture off the ground. Last month, Bigelow told me that in 2012 or so, he’s planning to start focusing on helping NASA build its first moonbase. Bigelow is promising to make yet another big announcement next month, so you’ll have to stay tuned for the next chapter.

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