When a little skepticism can be a good thing

The Sunday Times of London offered a brief overview of Bigelow Aerospace and its plans for developing inflatable habitats that could be used for orbital space hotels. There are few, if any, new details about Bigelow’s effort in the article, although it will be gratifying to many that the Times played the story straight, without any snickering or snarky remarks.

A somewhat less viable scheme was profiled last week in the Long Island (NY) Press. Like their colleagues in the UK, the Press plays it straight in a discussion of Space Island Group, a long-running effort by Gene Myers to build orbital habitats using space shuttle external tanks. This is a case, though, where a little skepticism and hard reporting would have benefited the reader: the Press described Myers as “among the handful of pioneers with major financial backing who say that it won’t be long before vacationers are packing their bags for space.” However, there’s no evidence that Myers has “major financial backing”, or that his work is that much farther along than when I read his self-published book on the topic as a Caltech student over 15 years ago. At least the Press is in good company: Business 2.0 also played it straight with Space Island Group earlier this year, claiming that the company will start launching modules “as early as 2008″ – apparently without digging to see if there’s any there there.

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