Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Disgusting Amount of Wealth Launches Mankind into Space

Recently, Sir Richard Branson has put his ridiculous wealth to a most laudable goal: space travel. His latest company, Virgin Galactic, plans to fly people into space and back again for a paltry 122,000 British pounds, or approximately $200,000. He unveiled his spacecraft, SpaceShipTwo, last week.

SpaceShipTwo, the descendant of 2004's SpaceShipOne which won the X-Prize for the first private human space flight, flies to 52,000 ft (16 km) while strapped to an airplane, then releases and uses rockets to zoom out of the atmosphere to an altitude of 110km.

SpaceShipTwo can hold 2 pilots and 6 passengers, and its trajectory allows for about 6 minutes of weightlessness for those onboard before returning to Earth.

Though the flight is short, 300 passengers have already bought their tickets, while thousands more have expressed their interest.

Many of my friends on the Left seem to believe that the uber rich should be taxed at a far higher rate than your average person. While such a system may take the tax burden off of the working man, it must be weighed against the opportunity cost of lost investment. Wealthy people often make their wealth by investing wisely in things other people want, thereby using their obscene amount of money to provide for the needs and wants of their fellow man, at a small profit of course.

Branson's Virgin Galactic is a great example of how wealthy private citizens can use their ridiculous wealth to benefit mankind by pushing the boundaries of science and technology. If a person like Branson is taxed too heavily by his government, then he will not be able to make the $400 million investment needed to get a project like this off the ground, and humanity will have to wait until the government deems it feasible to take on space travel again, which considering our budget problems will not happen any time soon.

But this brings me to my next point, the point at which I must applaud our government's decision to practically starve NASA for funding. Initially, I was for increasing funding for space projects, but upon reflection I see the change I want happening before my eyes. When the government fails, the private market comes in to give people what they want. And people want space travel.

The government space program peaked in the late-60s, early-70s with the Apollo Program and the moon landings. Since then, there has been very little progress in this domain by NASA. Sure, we have the ISS, but we've stopped moving the ball forward.

While SpaceShipTwo is still early in the testing phase, SpaceShipOne stands as a proof of concept, that private entrepreneurs can and will take humanity into space, assuming they aren't taxed out of trying.

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