September 20, 2006 4:00 AM PDT
Restaurant at end of universe not so far off
- Related Stories
Mergers in private space travelMay 30, 2006
Space--the new summer vacation?May 16, 2006
NASA launches lunar lander contestMay 5, 2006
Consortium to make tour vehicles for spaceFebruary 16, 2006
Space: Final frontier is final resting placeDecember 21, 2004
Space adventurers race to get aboard Virgin shipOctober 12, 2004
X Prize group plans new series of contestsOctober 8, 2004
Geeks in spaceOctober 6, 2004
SpaceShipOne: Flights of fancyOctober 4, 2004
SpaceShipOne repeats its featOctober 4, 2004
Will historic flight launch space tourism?September 30, 2004
(continued from previous page)
Kemp said that meshing Google's and NASA's cultures has been difficult, given natural differences in goals, but that the two organizations have tried to work out how to cross-pollinate their strengths on projects. For example, Google is trying to tap into terabytes of otherwise inaccessible data at NASA Ames and use the expertise of scientists at the research center. As a result, Google is exploring how to add other types of imagery to Google Earth. For example, users could open a map of their back yard and view compass points of magnetic north versus geographic north, according to Kemp.
"For Google, this is a way to take what NASA has and commercialize it," said Kemp.
Still, the economics of the alliance are still being worked out, like many other NASA private-industry initiatives, given government regulations and restrictions. Worden said during his speech that Google, for example, may hire NASA Ames for project development and research, but Kemp later alluded to the difficulty of such an undertaking.
A recent project by Google Earth to provide aerial imagery of Africa and the land destroyed by Hurricane Katrina required Google to write checks out to Carnegie Mellon University, which was working with NASA to produce the maps.
"There was no other way to see this happen," Kemp said. "People want to see this work better with commercial partners, but it takes the will to do it."
(Kemp spoke partly on behalf of Google Earth CTO Michael Jones, who missed his scheduled presentation.)
Still, some speakers at the conference expressed serious doubts about NASA's approach to private partnerships. Jim Muncy, president of space consulting practice PoliSpace, compared NASA's experience with the economics of private industry to that of an amphibian. He highlighted similar NASA commercial partnerships--such as one called Dreamtime that was designed to bring high-definition recorders to space--that were abandoned.
"NASA doesn't understand the economics," he said.
Nevertheless, many entrepreneurs are bulldozing forward.
Alex Tai, vice president of Virgin Galactic, Richard Branson's space-tourism venture, said during a morning panel that the company plans to launch two commercial flights a day beginning in late 2008 or early 2009. The company has already announced several booked flights on its SpaceShipTwo, which cost $200,000 each.
"Come with your $200,000. We'll take your money," he said.
George French, president of Rocketplane Kistler, said that the new space economy is coming about partially thanks to government funding in the form of the COTS program and partially thanks to the people he calls the "mega-angels," including Branson, Musk, Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who has backed Scaled Composites' SpaceShipOne suborbital commercial spacecraft.
"Starbucks will be in space. Virgin will be in space," he said.
14 commentsJoin the conversation! Add your comment