How About A Spaceport!

My girlfriend recently sent me an interesting story about New Mexico building America’s first commercial spaceport. In fact, it’s called America’s Spaceport. Nice.

She asked what my opinion was on it and, honestly, I’m of two minds. The first is “cool!” I mean, a spaceport! Sure, as far as I can tell, only Virgin Galactic is going to fly out of it at first but, damn, what possibilities it holds. Just the name “spaceport” sounds way cooler than the now pedestrian “airport”. And, for those of you who have read Chapter One of A Short History of the Unified Republic of Stars, you know that there are plenty of spaceports being built there too to take advantage of the new space race. Which leads me to my other reaction…

A spaceport is a planet based area for the landing and loading and unloading of a space vehicle....

“What a goddamned waste of money.”

I say this not because I don’t think we should think big. I do. Anyone who actually looks toward the future and tries to make it happen is kind of a hero in my book. Especially with things looking the way they are in Congress right now. But does the United States even really need a spaceport at this point?

In the URS, spaceports get built because there are already the kinds of ships and traffic that make them necessary. In America, apparently, it’s okay to spend US$200 million on something that right now will be used by one company that’ll charge US$200,000 a ticket. That’s not exactly bringing space to everyone.

So what it means is that the taxpayers of the state (and I’d be highly suspicious that they are no Federal funds also going to it) are on the hook for providing a spacious 100,000-square-foot terminal for a few rich people who, if they really cared about going into space, probably wouldn’t care if they took off from Newark, NJ or Outer Mongolia.

I’m not against rich people, and I’m not against them spending their own money on a joyride to the edge of space. What I am against is giving away public dollars to make their experience all the more pleasurable when it could either be spent on filling a gap in the budget or, hell, and I know this is a radical idea, returning it to the people from which it was taken.

Ports, historically, have always been a place where governments make money as they are the gateways for trade which gets taxed. One day, maybe spaceports will provide a new endeavor that government can fleece but, in the meantime, it’s a hole the government will continually shovel dollars into and away from its core responsibilities, like say… roads.

And if a government really wants to spend US$200 million on the future of commercial space travel, I can think of a few places where it might be better spent. Think experimental physics.