(Don’t) “go the distance, Ray.”

field of dreams

If you’re old enough to remember the line, you know how this movie turns out.

A farmer (kevin costner) has a vision that inspires him to turn his prime farmland into a baseball field.  Never mind that he is WAAAY behind on his mortgage and will be foreclosed on… He keeps telling everyone that ghosts show up to practice on the field, but only he can see them.  

Of course, like any good Hollywood film, he perseveres and eventually is proven right, lots of people show up with cash in hand to watch the game, and the farm is saved.

“Space may be the final frontier,

but it’s made in a hollywood basement.”

-the Red Hot Chili Peppers

It was in 1999, while I was a manager at KPMG for the Aerospace and Defense group, that we conducted our assessment of the commercial viability of the International Space Station.  Back then, it was still early days for the program, and while the promises from NASA were full of hopes and dreams (and echoed by the space enthusiast community, who had dreams of a Babylon 5 station that they could run if NASA would only let them….) our hard nosed analysis of the actual “customers” found a major red flag:

NO ONE was interested.

15 years later, with the shuttle fleet ground and the US reliant on foreign nations (and soon) on our private sector to simply GET to the ISS, the question can be asked: what has been accomplished with the $100 Billion (with a “b”) we’ve thrown at the Great White Hope?

Well, according to Google searches… not much.

more to come, but it bears repeating the great quote from Carl Sagan at this point:

“But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.”

3 thoughts on “(Don’t) “go the distance, Ray.”

  1. Good to have Space Cynics back!

    I was writing a response about how, if nothing else, we got some valuable experience operating a manned spacecraft for years on end . . . then realized the Russians already did that already with Mir. So, yeah. I guess there’s a list of ISS experiments available, but I have no idea whether you could do them with ISS versus just sending up a spacecraft to do experiments in LEO every so often. Maybe not.

    That annoys me. NASA’s funding never really seems to grow much, but it also doesn’t shrink – and there’s other stuff that could have been done with the money sunken into the ISS and Shuttle.

    our hard nosed analysis of the actual “customers” found a major red flag:

    NO ONE was interested.

    Same problem with commercial space launch in general IIRC. The percentage of payloads that aren’t done by some governmental organization (including the military) is pretty tiny.

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