Clark's Stairway to Space
Hot developments charted for 2005 included a few surprises such as formation of the Rocket Racing League, and announcement of Falcon 9 (-- as Falcon 1's maiden flight carried over into '06); along with noteworthy happenings like the X Prize Cup debut, NASA's COTS program, New Mexico spaceport action, news from t/space, Blue Origins, AirLaunch, SpaceDev, PlanetSpace and more.
Clark sees the role of wealthy "space angel investors" as "currently the primary fuel that is propelling the entrepreneurial space movement forward" but predicts commercial space "will not always be dependent on the generosity of a few farsighted individuals. As with most every other commercial technology, practical space transport that is robust and low cost will be achieved with a step-by-step development process in which each step builds on the lessons learned and profits earned in the previous step."
Clark says in 2005 "the prospects for space tourism continued to strengthen. It appears now that both suborbital and orbital tourism will provide markets big enough to support several successful space transport companies. In that case, private space development will become self-sustaining and not depend solely on funding from a small number of wealthy investors."
And he talks about space settlement as the "growing motivator" and notes that "the giggle factor" here did not disappear entirely but that "as happened with space tourism after Dennis Tito's ISS flight, the laughing is starting to die away and serious consideration of the concept is becoming more widespread. Several of the space angel investors, such as Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, have made it quite clear that they are pursuing space development because of their strong belief that people will eventually move to space colonies throughout our solar system."
Then Clark lays out an enticing timeline for future events we'll be looking for that could change the commercial space world. For example, look forward to trips to the Bigelow Aerospace space hotel ($1 million per seat, which I like to imagine includes deluxe cabin service and a chocolate on your pillow), as well as exotic glass and artworks made on private space stations for sale on earth (circa 2012-2014).
So climb Clark's stairway for insights and vision. (There is no word on whether he is negotiating for the movie rights.) By the way, maybe next year Clark will add a box on new legislation and promulgation of rules that signal legitimacy of human space flight venture markets and boost the credentials of the industry. And don't forget the growing role of space lawyers as the industry's fortunes rise and rise. After all, in the coming decades, more and more space-faring businesses and individuals will seek legal services and advice as to their rights and responsibilities as citizens, customers and providers in the newly golden age of private space.