August 9th, 2010
I received this email from Brian Turner, captain of the Kansas City Space Pirates. It’s pretty self-explanatory…
The dust has settled from the failed attempt to schedule the games for this fall. I will give a recap of how we got here.
A few months after the last games USST was informed that they would not be allowed to enter the games this time around. Turns out that the prize monies are reserved for US citizens. This was not a new rule but how would you tell a US team from a non US team? The rules said that the team captain had to be a US citizen. USSTs official captain was just a figurehead to meet that requirement. I will let you decide for yourselves if this is all fair or not. Personally I would rather compete to be the best in the world.
I do however have a bias. The KC Space Pirates were sharing laser expenses with USST. Also the cost of running the competition is divided among the teams. With USST gone our costs jump by $30,000 to $50,000. That was more than I thought we could handle. With only 1 competitor there really is not a competition. So the competition was delayed to give USST time to figure out a way. A wide array of options were explored. In May USST dropped out graciously.
The costs were just too high. I asked Spaceward to work on lowering the costs. A new venue was found up in Washington state that was close to the helicopter. This would lower costs significantly. Spaceward got a preliminary OK from the venue and I set about raising the funds needed. Amazingly I got pledges for the more than $50,000 we needed in just 2 weeks. But the time needed to find the venue and raise the money left little lead time for everything else to come together. We needed official approval from NASA the venue and TRUMPF to proceed.
An unfortunate snag was hit causing another 2+ week delay in the process of getting all the paperwork together and that was enough to push past fall and into winter. It’s not prudent to hold an outdoor event that requires mild weather in the winter in Washington state. So that leaves us with Spring 2011.
But there is still a cloud of doubt over the competition. Most of the pledges I received were conditional on fall 2010. So I still don’t know if we can raise the money and I don’t know if TRUMPF will still be willing to provide a laser. We also don’t know if even LaserMotive will stick around that long.
What we need is a few more teams to enter the competition. That will lower the costs and put the predictability back into the competition.
This has put me in the rather odd position of trying to recruit teams to compete with us. The threat of winning less money is balanced by the high cost of raising the money needed without additional teams.
I am even going so far as to offer help to new teams to help them up the steep learning curve of the competition. This offer is in exchange for a cut of their prize. Remember, we are pirates after all.
The altruistic motivations that provided the resources to run the competition in the past are substantially less this round. Mainly because the success of the competition has shown that power beaming works largely as predicted and is only currently practical for a few applications. The big motivators of cheap Space Access and the Space Elevator are firmly located in the future world of better lasers and bigger budgets. I think that both of those are coming.
But without new teams bringing in new innovation and resources the competition may not happen at all.
So the KC Space Pirates are on a recruiting drive. If you think you have what it takes, want to go where few have gone before, and have at least some kind of budget, contact me.
KC Space Pirates
So, the gauntlet has been thrown - any takers?