Letter: An Inconvenient Truth About Space Tourism


Congratulations to Fredrick Engstrom and Heinz Pfeffer for their commentary in the Nov. 16 issue [“Space Tourism is a Hoax,” page 15]. Unfortunately, this inconvenient truth will always be misunderstood or ignored.

The response of Al Globus in the Nov. 23 issue [page 18], for example, misses the mark. Engstrom and Pfeffer never claimed that an orbital ticket is priced at $200 million (they state $20 million), and it is totally insignificant if suborbital tickets are offered for $20,000 to $200,000 or for $120,000 to $200,000.

The decisive part of the commentary is dismissed as “a long explanation of rocketry basics.” But these basics are the physical constraints that we can never change, and space launch vehicles have operated very close to these physical limits since the 1960s. They cannot get much better, and this is generally not understood.

We are so close to the limit that nothing has changed for four decades now. It is about time to stop the nonsense of “investment in future cheap space transportation” that is continuously funded with taxpayers’ dollars and accept the truth: Despite hundreds of billions of dollars spent for launcher research and development, current transportation costs (not planned or projected costs) are still in the same order of magnitude that Saturn 5 offered.

Down-to-Earth engineers who propagated this truth, like Harry O. Ruppe, were laughed at 40 years ago. Only time can prove that Engstrom and Pfeffer are right, but for now, they have to live with the laughs.


Robert H. Schmucker and Markus Schiller