Good evening. I am in Las Cruces, NM at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight, and I wanted to summarize some of what I have heard at the various panels on the first day, and end with some amazing words of encouragement.
During the first two sessions of the day, covering issues related to success in sub-orbital and orbital commercial space flight several common themes came up. First and foremost was the need to ensure a much higher degree of safety in space flight (one speaker went as far as to say we should be aiming for accident rates of 1 in 10,000 or 1 in 100,000 flights). Another theme that was interesting to hear was the importance of working with today’s technology to develop solutions we can fly today. Arianespace and XCor appeared to be particularly strong proponents of this approach. The speaker from XCor had one more point that is of interest to Mach 30, namely that moving into manned orbital flight was too big a step for private enterprise and that the government is too focused on “hail mary” programs to make sustainable progress in routine access to space.
I also heard some interesting news during the dinner. Spaceport America(the spaceport where Virgin Galactic will begin their operations withSpaceShipTwo) announced important progress in their contracts with Virgin Galactic and the formation of a new non-profit, the Spaceport Institute. The Spaceport Institute will focus on education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM).
Finally, the highlight of the day came when Anousheh Ansari spoke after dinner. She shared about her passion for spaceflight (she wants to live long enough to have the chance to stay in a hotel on the Moon or Mars ), and she spoke at length about the need open collaboration in space development. Her vision for this collaboration was none other than the open source development model used by software communities like Linux(which she mentioned by name). As the founder of an organization that has this very model as its inspiration, I was very excited to hear someone in her position expressing this idea.