"It's not if -- it's when."

By all means, let's not sugarcoat the harsh, gravity-defying realities of this space tourism business we're getting ourselves into.

To that end, we have Dick Stafford and Clark Lindsey to thank for linking to and commenting on this unblinking reality check of an expose in Desert Exposure in which editor David A. Fryxell thoughtfully invokes everything from the death of Christa McAuliffe, "the planet's first space tourist," to the single crash that contributed to the demise of the Concorde, "the safest airline in the world," and puts together a less than dizzyingly rosy view of the fiscal and other hazards and challenges of space tourism in New Mexico and beyond. Essentially, Fryxell worries that New Mexico's spaceport will be "a flight of fancy that will leave taxpayers holding the bag."

(Oh sure. This'll go great with my morning coffee and toasted corn muffin.)

The piece is long and worth reading. In the end, of course, everyone knows the taxpayers of New Mexico are taking a monetary risk. (And these taxpayers don't exactly carry the pocket change of guys like Sir Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, John Carmack, Jim Benson, Eric Anderson or Chirinjeev Kathuri.) But needless to keep saying, the gains may be great.

Everyone also understands accidents -- on the ground and in space -- happen. To go forward, you have to at least seriously doubt Fryxell's view that, "it might take only one high-profile disaster to destroy the space tourism business..." As Clark Lindsey points out, "[i]f an accident happens four or five years after tourist flights begin, I think it will have far fewer negative consequences on the industry that if it happens in the first year or two."

Interestingly, one scary risk is not so much a deadly spaceflight accident itself, but the nation's reaction to one. As the article notes, in the event of a calamity that results in the loss of a space tourist's life, Virgin Galactic president Will Whitehorn worries about what Congress and the FAA will do; James Oberg is afraid of "the trial lawyers." So yes, a bad spaceflight mishap may hurt business. But in the end, the real damage may result thereafter from litigation and legislation.

Now those are risks we have to take.

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