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Maybe the Mojave Space Port is California’s Next Silicon Valley?

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(Taken from Usedcarsalesman.com: “The Surprisingly Honest Opinion Column”)

In the 1990s, people my parents age threw a lot of 401K money at dot-com stocks and development of the Internet in general. And I guess the massive roll out of the computer network in to people’s every day lives was a big deal for Baby Boomers. They went to college pushing punch cards in to room-sized computers, and so the whole “connected-to-the-world- from-your-house” thing of the Internet was a dream come true.

Well, as a kid who grew up watching films like War Games, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Weird Science, and The Running Man (Arnold buys plane tickets using a keyboard connected to a TV in Maria Conchita Alonsos’s character’s apartment; the first depiction of e-commerce?) and reading books like Enders Game and Neuromancer, I was already kind of the familiar with the concept of an individual imposing himself on the world by way of his connected computer. Frankly, oceans of 401k money or not (financial blessing or curse, or not), “cyberspace” and dot-coms didn’t really do it for me in the 1990s. However, there was always another type of “Space” that, in the back of my mind, I was curious about getting involved with or investing in. That’s right…outer space.

Last year, in June 2004, I drove up from L.A. early on a Sunday morning to see the first launch of SpaceShipOne at the Mojave Airport (later that day named the “Mojave Spaceport,” the first commercial space-port licensed by the FAA). I saw the crowd of almost 20,000 people, and it was like a big Whitman’s Sampler filled with Cal Tech aerospace-nerds, Ribboned Edwards AFB staff, hardcore Star Trek marshmallow-shaped fans, the odd gold-covered celebrity, and assorted local nuts (kidding 🙂 wearing colorful SpaceShipOne T-shirts. I think about 4-5 people from L.A. were there, but I’ll be liberal and say 10. Anyway, it was a big deal: SpaceShipOne didn’t blow up; it took off, actually made it in to the vacuum of space, and then landed on a runway in front of us an hour later. I was like, “Holy cow!”

And, then I was like “Hmmm…,” thinking, and all of these analogies started pouring through my head like, “Northrup-Gruman is to IBM as Scaled Composites or Space Dev is to Microsoft,” that kind of thing. And, I was wondering to myself, “could outer space-related companies be one of my age group’s big long-term investment plays, just as tech and biotech stocks enjoyed strong support from Boomer-aged investors?”

I’ll now hazard a guess and say, “yes.” That’s probably exactly what new space ventures are, despite their apparent impracticality. They could be the young Apples and Microsofts of the aerospace business. So, Generation X and Y-ers, get ready to park your 401k money in your investment advisor’s latest choice of “AstroFund” between now and 2020! The aerospace companies developing in and around the Mojave Spaceport could form California’s next Silicon Valley, thus experiencing all of the same monumental capital appreciation experienced by tech companies started in or otherwise influenced by San Jose some 30 years ago.

Edited: bhw

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  • Bennett

    Right On Chris!!! Man, I envy your being there at the launch and landing. What a rush.

    Just this morning I was thinking of the Wednesday shuttle launch, and decided that 2006 in the year I’ll see one in person.

    Scaled Composits, t/Space, and the folks in Washington State developing the Space Elevator are ALL good places to tuck a few dollars.

    Nice job comparing these companies to the early computer manufacturers. The tough task will be to determine who is a Kaypro, and who is a Microsoft.



  • I keep waiting for that space revolution. I think we need the tipping point. I thought the winning of the X-Prize would be it but so far, no.

    I think part of the problem is that we shut down human space travel whenever there’s a catastrophe. Did the Donner Party decrease travel to California?

  • try Heinlein’s the Man who sold the Moon to see a possibility of how commercial space ventures can shape up as real business

    take it with a grain of salt…check the dates on the stories and ya will see why

    but if you are interested in this type fo thing, this set of Shorts will get your blood pumping to shape an orbit of your own

    nuff said?


  • Bennett


    Heh! We aren’t quite to the Donner Party era of space travel yet! More like Columbus and the Indies…

    In fifty years, with a bit of luck and competition from the ESA, JAX, and China, we will finally get serious about taking the steps that humanity needs to take in order to spread our precious cargo beyond this one fragile basket.

    Exciting times we live in, is what.

    Wednesday. 3:51 EDT. NASA TV. Be there.

  • Fifty years? I hope we don’t wait that long to develop the resources available to us in space. If we accelerate things the way we really ought to, by fifty years from now we could easily have all the infrastructure already in place for importing helium-3 from the gas giant planets to fuel fusion power generators.

    Fusion power can be done without helium-3, but with it we can get a much cleaner reaction that won’t turn the reactor parts into toxic radioactive waste. Unfortunately there isn’t any helium-3 worth speaking of on Earth. The gas giant planets have more than enough of it to meet all our energy needs for thousands of years. With no greenhouse gases, no acid rain, and less radioactive waste than our medical imaging technology produces.

    The energy wealth of the outer planets exceeds that found in all the OPEC countries combined, by several orders of magnitude, and it’s not all that difficult to get there. We’ve already sent more than half a dozen probes to that neighborhood of our solar system.

  • hurm…
    i’m with Victor here, set up the reactors on the moon…and work out how to get the power down to earth efficiently…add solar from orbit, and we should have plenty of power until we drain Jupiter (not bloody likely anytime soon)

    now to convince those with Capital that it is in their best financial interest to make the needed investments now

    if the U.S. doesn’t get on it soon, we will be buying power from India, China, or Japan…compare their number of graduating engineers to ours


  • Fusion reactors need not be on the moon. They’re safe, and produce less radioactive output than coal-fired electrical generating plants. We can build the fusion reactors right here on Earth, and then we’ll only have to import the helium-3 to run them.

  • sorry..safety first…and where plans for a helium3 reactor are much safer than our current fission types…

    when it comes to thermonuclear devices, i am a bit of a belt and suspenders kind of guy…far safer on Luna, by an exponential order of magnitude…and with virtually unlimited power available, there is no need to skimp on the hysterisis losses from transmission

    your mileage may vary


  • Helium-3 fusion isn’t just safer than fission. It’s safer and cleaner than coal, oil, natural gas, and biomass power plants, all of which are already scattered all over the Earth’s surface.

    It’s far too late to talk about “safety first” in the field of power generation.

    Waiting until we have the infrastructure to build the reactors on the moon is false safety. We need to move away from all these more dangerous energy sources much sooner than that.

  • if you are “waiting” to get the fuel form the gas giants, you will need other infrastructure in place as well

    and IMO, it’s never too late for safety, when it comes to caring for the population, and the planet

    no worries, a minor difference of Opinion between folks in whose hands these decisions will never rest

    nuff said?


  • Fusion reactors just can’t cause that much damage. If something goes wrong, the reaction simply stops. That’s the whole reason it’s taking so long to create viable power generators in the first place.

    It is the general ignorant fear of fusion power I’m arguing against, not you specifically, Gonzo.

    You just happen to have appointed yourself its representative for the moment, that’s all. 😉

  • not fear…just caution

    you see, when we speak of fusion reactions, we are basicly talking about the sun’s process of energy manufacture, yes?

    and, silly person that i am..i am a bit leery, not of the theoretical process…but the very real world dilemma’s of lowest bid contracts, and greed

    and even if there is only 1 thousandths of 1 percent chance of something going horribly wrong…

    the consequences become nil when the reactors are placed on the moon

    call me a silly goose…but, if i were the Galactic Overlord…that’s how i woudl do it

    and i would make my storm troopers all wear clear faceplates, so the pesky rebels couldn’t infiltrate…

    but i digress…


  • The chances are zero, not 1 thousandth of 1 percent. It is physically impossible for the tiny amount of fuel in a fusion power reactor at any given moment to create any kind of large scale catastrophe.

    Fission reactors are dangerous because the amount of fuel in the reaction chamber is usually enough to last a year or more. The reactor needs control devices to keep the reaction slow enough to be safe. If the safeties fail, the reaction goes out of control with very harmful results.

    In a fusion reactor, both of these factors are exactly the opposite. The amount of fuel present is tiny. The reaction cannot happen at all without the containment field (usually a magnetic field). If something fails in a fusion reactor, the reaction stops immediately. It’s physically impossible for it to melt down or run out of control in any other way.

    Yes, fusion is also the reaction happening in the sun, but again this comparison is faulty. The sun has a huge supply of fuel and massive compression from its gravity field, both conditions which are impossible to duplicate in any power reactor.

    The amount of caution involved in requiring fusion reactors to be built only on the moon is similar to requiring you to don a full body asbestos suit and seal you inside a fireproof bunker before allowing you to light a match.

    It’s just massive overkill, far beyond any sane requirements of safety.

  • and i said i was sane….when?

    again..we will just have to disagree here, i never think any possibility approaches that close to zero

    and with the match, it is just me i would be burning..perhpas some of my immediate surroundings…but i do understand your analogy

    you have any links to a working model of such a reactor and it’s safety record?

    no worries


  • The world’s largest fusion reactor right now is in the UK and has been in full operation since 1983. It is a research facility called JET.

    There is also another research fusion reactor in the UK, at least three in the United States, and several others in Japan, Russia, and elsewhere. So far my search has turned up no report of anyone ever being injured as a result of fusion reactor failures.

    Here is another link to a page discussing the safety of nuclear fusion reactors.