He is a dreamer; let us leave him: pass. ~ William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar
Frankly, I am now tired of this entire discussion. I don't regret bringing it up, but I'm getting more and more frustrated with the responses from Dr. Differ and Mr. Muniz. Mr. Muniz in particular seems to have decided to satirize my use of quotations and mocks my use of formal address ("whichever you prefer"). Just to clarify the latter, I was raised to cal people Mr., Miss, or Mrs (later Ms.) because that's the polite thing to do. When I went to Case Tech, professors addressed us in the same way It's a habit that I have carried over to my coworkers, none of whom have ever seemed to mind. I don't apologize for doing for being polite. Further, I do take pains to get their names right.
Beyond that, I've got other things I want to write about, and this discussion is simply circular.
Neither of these gentlemen has given me any compelling reason to change my views. Launching satellites and space tourists using the same old methods is not advancing space exploration or space settlement. Bad-mouthing the government while demanding $2 billion of taxpayer money, claiming that commercial companies have succeeded without governent help (as Burt Rutan claimed when SpaceShipOne won the Ansari X Prize) while using technologies developed under government contracts, claiming that comercial serices can supply the ISS (there's no evidence they can because they can't handle the needed payloads to adequately supply a fully-manned ISS, especially when it gets bigger), and claiming that using old methods is "innovation" isn't going to get us anywhere.
Dr. Differ goes so far as to say, "We all stand on the shoulders of giants and I won't detract from the miracles wrought by previous generations. However, I won't linger long on them either. That is work for historians. We must make the future." I would suggest that Dr. Differ refusal to linger means he will fall prey to Santayana's warning about those who do not learn from history. By the way, when Newton said, "If I have seen farther, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants," he was being sarcastic. He was referring, I believe, to Robert Hooke's claim of priority on some of Newton's theories (which was, of course, a false claim).
Perhaps I am as naive and ignorant as these gentlemen wish to protray me, but I find the study by Jonathon Huebner compelling. While one can dispute some of his conclusions, and I'm sure these gentlemen will, his data is unambiguous. The rate of innovation is dropping, a conclusion I came to by looking at the state of the computer industry. The constant drumbeat in the comments by Mr. Muniz and Dr. Differ about the reuse of technologies instead of developing new ones just fits the overall pattern.
Dr. Differ further says, "Innovation is occuring and I would argue that you may not be in a position to know it. My friends are, though. Some of us have some crazy ideas that are a mix of old and new and we are trying to get them funded. In the end, though, it only works if we have customers." I suspect I would have an inkling if some sort of revolutionary approach to space flight was happening or had happned in the last few years. I am aware of the true innovations of Deep Space I, the Liftport project, and Honda's developments in solar arays, anong other things. As to your "crazy ideas", perhaps you should contact Burt Rutan. He appears to be looking for some.
Burt Rutan, of whom I have been critical, believes current methods are getting us nowhere fast. In an interivew with Space.com, he says, “My bottom line is that we have to have some kind of breakthroughs. What’s needed is to create an environment to have breakthroughs … to try things that may seem illogical at first.” And Mr. Rutan is only speaking about advancing from suborbital to orbital commerical manned flight. The article goes on, 'Looking back on SpaceShipOne, Rutan said the focus was on safety, on recurring cost, and asking the question: “When we’re done with this, if it worked, could it lead right into flying the public? Could it be safe? I don’t think that’s been done to go to orbit,' he said."
So, at this point, space tourism isn't even safe using existing methods. And space tourism doesn't even begin to get us to a point where manned exploration and colonization can begin.
Dr. Differ is right when he says, "In the end, though, it only works if we have customers. Investors are justifiably wary of 'gee-whiz' ideas when they can't see who would buy them." That's why space research has been driven by the government, not by corporations. That's why corporations are never going to do anything meaningful in space exploration; they'll only do things that produce an immediate profit.. That's also why we shouldn't be raiding NASA's already slashed budget to support "free" enterprise.
I don't suggest eliminating commercial launch systems. I hope they freely compete to lower the cost of launching satellites and free up NASA and the ESA to concetrate on the big picture. But, don't go taking my tax dollars if you can't convince a free investment market that your industry is viable. And don't try to convince me that "space tourism" is ever going to be anything but a joyride for the rich, because the economics will never work using the same old methods. Ask Burt Rutan.
Yes, I'm a dreamer. I want to live to see humanity take the first steps to the stars. That's an idealistic vision, because there's no gain except the growth of our knowledge and our long-range survival.
There's not enough of us left for whom there is more than the bottom line.