[ExI] Wash post comment

Keith Henson hkeithhenson at gmail.com
Wed May 9 15:29:22 UTC 2012

On Wed, May 9, 2012 at 5:00 AM,  BillK <pharos at gmail.com> wrote:

> On Tue, May 8, 2012 at 1:07 PM, Mike Dougherty wrote:
>> On Tue, May 8, 2012 at 12:38 AM, Keith Henson wrote:
>>> My background is engineering, I can work out how it might be done and
>>> how much it would cost, but raising the tens of billions needed for
>>> the first propulsion laser is beyond me.
>> Yeah, that's a lot of cupcakes at a bake sale.
> The main problem I see is that it is a sink hole for money for many
> years with no return until successful completion.

That's certainly a point I have considered.  It's not like big and
fairly long term projects can't be done.  The Chunnel took 12 years
and came in 80% over budget.  (11 B pounds at current rates).

Three Gorges dam cost 180 billion yuan (US$22.5 billion), estimated to
be repaid in ten years from the sale of power.  Construction started
in late 1994 and took about 6 years.

On the basis of the tonnage needed, first flight to an operational
laser propulsion laser could be done in three years at a cost of
perhaps $75 B.  That's a very uncertain number, it might be
considerably less.

> Even governments would be reluctant to fund that. It is quite likely
> they would be voted out of power and the project cancelled by
> political opponents claiming they were throwing money away. Also, in
> todays climate of corporate fraud, it would be hard to get people to
> believe that the project will eventually pay off and that it isn't
> just another scheme for directors to scam millions, then surprisingly
> go bankrupt.

I don't think this would apply to China.

> You need a smaller project first with some payback which would prove
> feasibility and help fund the full scale project.

Unfortunately the physics is against doing it on a small scale, at
least as far as I can see.  It's like the Chunnel, it can't go half
way and produce any revenue at all.

> As with all projects there may be unexpected consequences. Pollution
> from hundreds of launches, disasters from misfiring rockets, more
> space debris in orbit, (which might damage construction work), other
> projects cancelled in order to fund this project, etc. These are just
> a few possibilities after a few minutes thought.

Yeah.  In some ways it is amazing that anything gets done at all.


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