10A080 Watch This Space by Jim Davies, 11/21/2010    

A couple of extraterrestrial items hit the news last week; a previously un-noticed planet wandered into view, and Space Ship Two glided to a successful landing as part of its test program. Neither did so with aid from any government.

The planet apparently got hijacked by the Milky Way six to nine billion years ago, and spins some 2,000 light years from us today. Its trip reminds us of the awesome universe that is ours to understand and explore, but it was the glide that most peeked my interest.

Space Ship Two has a history. It predecessor made the first-ever space flight funded by money provided without extortion, in 2004 after development by Scaled Composites, a company led by Burt Rutan and capitalized by a few individuals like Sir Richard Branson and Paul Allen. Branson is shown here with a model of Space Ship Two, a.k.a. Virgin Galactic; the fellow on the left is an actor whose name escapes me and I don't know whether he bought shares.

The company is developing the exploration of space in gradual stages, using capital provided voluntarily and with the objective of turning a profit in due course. It's unusual in that the payback cycle is very long and the capital requirement very large, but this is exactly the way it ought to be done - yet it's never been done before. All other space programs worldwide are funded with stolen money and the purpose of boosting national (ie, government) prestige and spinning off technology whose prime purpose is to kill people. Scaled Composites plans to sell seats on its flights, for fun - first, orbital flights and later, ones to the Moon and beyond. Although surrounded by government restrictions, this is a fine example of free capitalism and a foretaste of mankind's exploration of the Universe after the age of government has passed.

I love the sign that someone made after Space Ship One completed its first flight, and wish them very well.

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