Monday, April 2

Yi-Tan Tech Conference Call - Space Travel

Conversation about space travel with Esther Dyson:

1) Where have you got your interest in space travel initially?
There are three magic reasons: father built a rocket ship, dot.comers are now moving into space. The Silicon Valley is the remainder of the "truth" - really hard work and creates all the value. Love frontiers - Eastern Europe. This is the new frontier.

Following Elon Musk - X-Prize people are using their own money - no one can complain if they waste that.

2) What is the landscape for institutional investors?
In the realm of air-taxis in space. When she did FedEx, the rounds of money - the round three people made money, but would not have been in round three if they were not in round one and two. She is an investor in Zero-G and Space Adventures which are quite ready for institutional investors. Someone will more than likely die - which will shake out the companies/industries. She is going out to Russia to watch Charles (the guy who wrote Microsoft Word) launch into space. Fee: $25M.

SpaceX, Virtual Composite - building rockets. Still a way to go.

3) When will this start to materialize? How many years from now when we see space differently?
It is here, just early. Five years from now, will be a small launch of effort.

4) What role has the X-Prize been responsible for this?
Clever form of financing - $10M purse. Not only did it encourage numerous teams, but it was also funded with a $3M insurance policy. Very creative financing.

5) What is the role of the "priesthood", the establishment?
NASA - is, in part, encouraging private enterprise. But still a frictional component. NASA funds interesting research, financial markets fund real projects.
Large companies (Lockheeds, Boeings) - not used to dealing with small companies. Environment is hostile to indifferent.

6) Why space and not under the oceans?
Space is just much more romantic - the ocean is swimming and getting wet. Space is freedom and liberation. While we may be wrong - that the oceans are also the same sense of freedom and liberation. The Whole Earth Catalog is about space. Photo spurred on the ecology movement.

7) What are the reasons to go into space? Mine resources? Travel speed?
All and other than the sheer pleasure. We may want to do terraforming - terraforming Mars: can not do it with machines, must do it with biology. Why not do it on Earth to fix global warming? Because there are people here and if we help people on one side, we might hurt on the others. Might need the "extra space".

Pip: over the past 5-10 years, have there been 2 or 3 "ah-ha" moments on this problem that could be looked at in a different fashion?
Still love the "space elevator" - just create an elevator instead of rockets to get into space.
Essence of space tourism are people who have more money than time.

8) Is this going to change our moving from point A to point B? Did we miss the intercontinental boat?
Air taxis speed things up immensely. Supersonics will speed things up if you go up high enough.
Nova Spivak on one of the MIG flights that took him up to the stratosphere.

9) What will this do to "earth culture"?
Creates a new sense of possibility, in the end, people will perceive borders differently. Tremendously exciting - still places we have not explored. Draw the attention of kids to space and science - key to our success in the future.

10) If we had a backup planet, will be end up taking care of our planet less?
Poor people usually are the ones who move on - to push the bounds.

David Spector: The Bush Adminstration will control space for American interests at all costs? When will the conflict occur with the military and the private interests and what will the outcome be?
Space race is now between us and the Chinese. US will have a hard time thinking they have control of space. They simply do not have control over it - and there is no legitimate claim.

Everyone going into space, forcing Americans and Russian to work together. The Russian government is acting like a commercial player. No private ventures happening.

She loves the zero-G flights - feels like swimming with flippers.

Had to leave for another meeting...

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