Space News Business


posted: 21 January 2008
11:01 am ET

It Takes Money

I would like to offer a thought to Frank J. Centinello, who wrote a letter in Space News

[“A Young Engineer’s Vision,” Dec. 3, page 19]

and who would like to have a crack at the Google Lunar X


It is a waste of

time talking to engineers and scientists about your project. They have no money. If they had it, they

probably also would be gearing up for the Google Lunar X


or for a space tourism vehicle

themselves. A bunch of people with no money cannot achieve anything, however enthusiastic


committed to their cause they might be


Aerospace companies do not set out to do exciting projects with their own money because they are beholden to the shareholders

who, quite reasonably, are interested in money, not risk. An aerospace company that decided to do even something as conservative as a space plane for space tourism could not raise money for it

for fear that

its share price might slide, prompting

the shareholders

to find


chief executive officer who had his

or her

feet nearer to the ground.

For example, EADS Astrium has designed a space plane but

have not tried to build it. They are looking for someone else to accept the risk and the cost

. The exception is when a company gets a government contract to build something, so the taxpayer takes on the risk.

When billionaires get interested in space exploration, they can easily make their own arrangements and


competent people to build what they want.

So, your only recourse is to work hard at becoming a billionaire so that you can, in due course, pay for your project yourself;

or you need to

be on personal terms with a billionaire

. Given the rather complete social isolation of the moneyed classes

, the chances of

even finding a billionaire to trust you enough

to allow

you to spend his or her money on your project

are vanishingly small. I’ve come to realize this after promoting my own project for a space tourism vehicle for the last two years.

I thought all

this was worth saying

because there are many people out there who think, as I did, that if one puts forward an exciting-looking project, then someone will turn up to fund it

eventually. However, because the giving of funds depends on the giver accepting the

risk that the recipient

is trustworthy, funds are only ever going to be given to a visibly competent person or organization.

If you can get enough like-minded people together to form your own aerospace company, that might get you where you want to go.

But there is no escape from having to build something that people will buy.

If you want to make money by coming up with a better propulsion system as you seem to want to do, then you still have to persuade some external fund-holder that the new engine will make money, and that you are the right person to build it.

Raymond D. Wright