Cuddihy's Cut

Cuddihy's Cut on the events of the day....

Monday, February 13, 2006


Wow, my first serious post gets linked to! Lesson: trackback works.

Thanks to all who offered well wishes. Even though this is a (as may be expected) hectic week, strangely enough I have more free time than usual. I mean, I budgeted it that way when we set the wedding date, but somehow I expected to be more behind anyway. hmm.

Rand's right that some of the assumptions I made for the numbers doom the architecture from the start--nobody would seriously consider a fully reusable lunar architecture at this stage. I ran it out of curiousity to find out 'why not,' and there's many little things that can be done to trim the propellant requirements.

But that's part of the conclusion I drew from the exercise--it suggests that a lunar (or any kind of deep space) sustainable architecture is probably not a near term thing, even after you get launch costs down an order of magnitude from current prices. When you get down to it, there are some hard facts of rocket science and economics, having to do with delta v, mass ratio, launch rate, and market.

There's an excellent paper on the Colony Fund website by Transterrestrial musing's own Sam Dinkin, David Livingston, and John Jurist that is a detailed discussion of a lot of those considerations. In fact it's titled "When Rocket Science meets the Dismal Science."

For NASA, the problem is worsened because they have to meet not just the realities of the technology and marketplace (as a customer, not provider), but also the political reality of convincing Congressmen that their architecture is worth paying for. I don't think Congress is ready to fund an architecture that requires an alternative market to spring up in order to be feasible. It would be like funding ARPAnet in the 70's because of potential tax revenue. Congress just isn't that clairvoyant.

update 10:38 PM

The link to the Dinkin paper goes to the correct paper, but the title appears to have changed some time recently from "When Rocket Science Meets the Dismal Science" to "When Physics, Economics, and Reality Collide" . I'm not sure when that changed, as I have the same paged saved on my hard drive with the old name at home. Either way, it's a good read.

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