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Hoopy birthday Xyroth! >>
I posed this question on the "cancer drugs vs. space exploration" thread, but you don't seem to have seen it.
Do you think the idea of government funded "x-prizes" is a good way to fund the design of new space vehicles?
it is one of the three viable methods for getting funding for space.
the first is the visionary leader like kennedy, who actively fights for funding. as seen from the moon program in the sixties, it works, as long as the leader doesn't get ousted.
bush senior tried to fake this method, but didn't bother to fight for the program he had in mind. this lead to it to flounder under it's own price tag, and is the most likely outcome for the ideas of bush junior.
another varient is the x-prize model, which worked well for aviation, especially man powered flight. the main problem with this is setting the right aims for winning the prizes, of which you need a whole set covering the various steps leading to a full and sucessful program. also the prizes are not usually worth winning, as the reward tends to be a fraction of the cost of winning them, but they can be good source of additional funding and good publicity.
The third method is the rich person privately funding such a program. it is partly this model which is currently funding space tourism, but very indirectly. bill gates used to be able to afford to do this, but since the worth of his microsoft shares went through the floor, he is no longer rich enough to do so. Also he is not visionary enough to see the returns from such an investment.
Each model is capable of funding space past the point where it starts to be self funding, but they all need someone with the vision to see the possible returns from the investment, but in some models it is not the person investing that makes the profit.
sorry it took so long to reply, but as you suspected, I missed the question.
Since I don't see any real potential D. Delos Harrimans out there (with the possible exception of the inventor of the "Segway"--if he continues to get richer off royalties I can sort of imagine him considering the issue), I suppose we have to depend on a Kennedy--or more likely, a Stalin in China or Russia if it keeps following its current path.
don't underrate some of the current X-prize entrants.
one of them has a history winning similar prizes in other forms of aviation, and a couple of others are following paths that are guarenteed to be much cheaper than suttle launches.
there is a lot of money going into winning these prizes at the moment, and they are being planned on the model that if they reach a certain critical point, they can start getting money from commercial use to improve their capabilities even further.
so it is quite possible that one of these teams could end up doing the same sort of thing as d.d.harriman.
It seems it's more a question of money--do any of them have the funding to keep going, especially if they don't win the x-prize?
I suppose Reutan has Paul Allen's backing, but how much can/will he contribute? Scaled Composites basicly said they don't actually plan to operate the White Knight/Space Ship One for profit, havent they, so they depend on financial backing if they plan to continue building better, eventually orbital, ships.
I don't know anything about the ability of the other groups to afford much after their ships are complete, so I assume they'll depend on getting their money from flying them if they plan any new projects. I have to admit I'm not familiar enough with the field to accurately consider their chances of that.
There are two motivations for those wishing to enter the x-prize contest.
one set just wish to achieve the result, and go no further.
the other set wish to actually end up with something usefull at the end.
the starchaser team in particular is looking to do cheaper satellite launches to fund further research.
another main aim of just about all the x-prize entrants is to show that doing it properly, it is possible to develop and use technologies which cost much less than the typical nasa farse.
if any of them manage it, nasa will no longer be able to get away with bloated overpriced programs which don't contribute anything outside of that specific program.
I admit I don't know that much about any of the companies except Rutan's.
The main question is whether they can affored the orrigional capital to start an orbital ship in the near (10-15 years) future.
I don't know enough about the subject to make a reasonable guess.