I recently wrote about Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic sub-orbital rocket plane, and described it somewhat romantically (both literally and figuratively). But how realistic is this dream of low-space tourism?
Jeff Bell's answer is: not very. He seems very cynical, and having read some of his past essays, I find he does come down on the dour side. But that doesn't negate his basic point: rocketplanes have a scary record, and the environment in which these vehicles are being developed is not going to guarantee their safety; Bell argues just the opposite will happen. I think that some of his points may be at the very least debatable; new materials and equipment that have been developed in recent years may make a big difference in safety margins.
But I am no expert in this field, and we're still in the stage where both sides are hammering out their arguments. I'll continue to read about this with interest!
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