Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Mojave Rocket Show: Spectator Capitalism at its Finest

At the risk of revealing some traits of libertarian geekness, I admit that I enjoyed viewing the White Knight webcast from Mojave. The Rutan Brothers' bizarre airfleet of gliders, home-built planes, and micro-rockets is impressive, and provide some of us with a Ray-Bradbury sense of wonder. Others, however, watching from the cheap seats might be a bit dismayed at the corporate overtones of the entire spectacle. The Rutan Brothers supersonic adventures are of course funded by the 3rd wealthiest man in the world, Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft with Bill Gates, El I.T. Padron Supremo. Now Virgin Airlines, owned by former punk rock producer Richard Branson, has jumped into the civilian space race as well. 7-up and the M n Ms have also made an appearance: NASCAR in orbit.

There are plans to offer commerical space travel, though tickets for the Virgin/Rutan space vacations are not cheap: about $190.000.00 a seat--not exactly coach rates. One wonders how many jobs the Rutan Brothers offer to Mojave and the surrounding communities. They must have a team of dedicated programmers, assemblers and some engineers, but it's probably not more than about 100-200 people. To be honest, it appears like some expensive fun for really rich geeks like Allen and Branson--hire some propeller heads out in the Mojave Desert to build neat toys, and maybe someday, there will be a little fleet which various IT barons and celebrities and their dates du jour may use to jet around in orbit for a few very expensive minutes. Yet does such high concept, rocket science capitalism do much for the economic and social problems of Kern County and SoCal as whole? I do not think it does. It is more of a sort of high tech hedonism, a dangerous and exciting game for the Corporate Boys to marvel at while many of us, not Einsteins or Lindbergs, are allowed to watch mutely from the sidelines, or in front of monitors, our computers, our entertainment, our dreams stamped with Microsoft Inc.


Anonymous said...

Interesting. You seem to be implying that the Rutans and their Sugar Daddy Paul Allen are near to, if not actual, seditionists. Does the privatization of space, the Ansari Prize, etc., ridicule Kennedy's dream of the "New Frontier?" I am not sure, but it certainly does not appear as a very democratic process.

prying1 said...

I have to wonder what's it to you how they spend their money? I suppose you want to tell them 'better' ways they could spend it. May I suggest you go out and earn your own and then spend it as you will.

"Yet does such high concept, rocket science capitalism do much for the economic and social problems of Kern County and SoCal as whole? I do not think it does."

You must admit it does far more for the economy than our sitting at keyboards blogging about it.

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