Re: 2 billion in today's market
Good to see someone's been paying attention.
"Many may scoff at this lofty ambition, but it's one that Russia ceded 40 years ago and one that NASA has squandered over the same time period."[My bold]
More than once I've got the commentard equivalent of an odd look when I've pointed out that Nasa has been the major obstacle to manned spaceflight since the mid-70s. I guess it does sound like an odd comment given Nasa's mission—but still, I stand by my assertion. Nasa has been the misunderstood and unappreciated football of ignorant politicians since 1965, and when you consider the constant interference, changing priorities, budget cuts and sheer stupidity deployed by US politicians, especially the cretins in Congress, it's amazing the agency ever launched anything. The fiasco that was Shuttle (remember the promise of cheap weekly flights with quick turnarounds?—Yeah, that Shuttle) consumed colossal sums in the name of simply bonkers levels of risk-aversity while still managing to kill two complete crews for entirely avoidable reasons, both examples of which led back to fatally compromised design and the gangrenous infection of Nasa's management with political idiots.
A manned flight porgram that was less overtly risk-averse (astronauts are brave people who expect some level of danger, it's a test pilot thing) while concentrating on practical and frequent trips to ever-better orbital facilties would almost certainly (and ironically) have killed far fewer people for much greater results. Now Nasa and the USA are in the crushingly humiliating position of having to beg rides for their astronauts on Russian spacecraft. Truly, impressively pathetic failure for an agency and a nation that put men on the Moon when I was just nine years old.
Which makes this line from the article a teensy bit ridiculous:
There's a bit of realpolitik to consider here, too, because tension between the USA and Russia means the former nation isn't very keen on sending business Moscow's way.
"Keen" or not, the US has absolutely no choice if it wants to keep sending people into orbit.
Yes, Russia is leaving the market because SpaceX is achieving things that Nasa's bureaucracy would have prevented for a century, and Russia expects that it and China will just steal*¹ all the data they need and replicate the technology for their own use when they need it. Reaction Engines will come along later with stuff we should have been working on since 1961 (they'll steal all of that data too) and finally—at last!—the world will have access to space it ought to have had 30 years ago.
*¹ In the bunker containing the Chinese filing system for stolen western blueprints "Falcon" comes right after "F-35", but the former drawer has a note attached saying "May Be Useful"—while the latter is marked with the Chinese ideogram for "suicide" and padlocked shut.