September 27th, 2008
Over at SpaceFellowship.com, they have just posted an interview with Elon Musk, he of SpaceX fame (as well as PayPal, Tesla Motors and SolarCity). The interview covered many subjects. including the Space Elevator. He’s not a fan.
“Question: I know that SpaceX has plenty on its plate right now. However, any thoughts on using your techology after you go public on the construction of a Space Elevator? Private or Public?
Elon Musk: It will be a *long* time, if ever, before the economics of a space elevators make sense. Consider that no one has decided to build a bridge from New York to London and that would be way easier than building a space elevator.”
That’s an odd answer, to say the least. Why would anyone want to build a bridge from New York to London? We already have commercial shipping and air transport that gets things to/from one side of the pond to the other. He really thinks we should drive between New York and London? Rest stops? Gasoline stations? Restaurants? In the middle of the Atlantic? When someone can fly from New York to London in just a few hours? I think he’s totally missing the point, especially considering a quote a little later on in the interview:
“Question: Do you have an estimate of when the common person will be able to take advantage of the fruits of the SpaceX program?
Elon Musk: Depends on how common. If we can make reusability work well, I think we can get the cost per person to orbit down to a few million dollars within eight to ten years. If reusability works well and demand is strong, so that we can distribute overhead over a large number of launches, it could one day get to under $1M.”
“Under $1M“. Gee, how exciting…
On the other hand, I do tend to agree with his assessment of Space Solar Power:
“Question: Should not NASA be funding research to make Space Solar Power possible in this time of energy crisis as they did in the 1970’s?
Elon Musk: No, I don’t believe in space solar power. It will never be competitive with ground solar power. The cost of converting the electron energy to photon energy and then back again on the ground overwhelms the 2X increase in solar incidence. And that’s before you consider the cost of transporting the solar panels and converters to orbit!”
It’s a very interesting interview - check it out.
(Picture of Elon Musk and the Falcon2 from here. Click on it for a larger version.)