A Reason-able take on NewSpace

The January issue of Reason magazine includes a feature article titled “Space Travel for Fun and Profit”. The article appears based primarily on coverage of the NewSpace 2006 conference in Las Vegas, including a tour of Bigelow Aerospace’s factory that took place during the conference. (Best line, from the introduction where author Katherine Mangu-Ward and others were traveling by van to the Bigelow facility: “They couldn’t have been more excited if the van had been on its way to a Star Trek-themed strip club.”) The version of the article that appeared in the print edition also included a sidebar on the “sex in space” session of the conference, a feature that appears to be missing from the web version.

The article misses on a few of the facts: at one point it states that “NASA recently awarded SpaceX, in partnership with Rocketplane, a $500 million prize to build a vehicle that will deliver crew and cargo to the International Space Station by 2010.” SpaceX, of course, is competing with, not partnering with, Rocketplane Kistler on COTS, and “prize” would be an inaccurate description of the program. However, the article does a good job conveying the spirit and atmosphere of the event, such as describing a session of the conference when Ken Davidian of NASA’s Centennial Challenges program opened the floor to suggestions for future prizes as a “nerd orgy” (which, I assume, is meant as a compliment.)

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