Competition, Cooperation and Conflict: Space Tourism on the Rise

Competition, Cooperation and Conflict: Space Tourism on the Rise
By V.A. Zabala-Aliberto

National Space Society
posted: 17 November 2006
12:05 p.m. ET

The Wirefly X Prize Cup identifies a large persistent community of people, defining their dreams and desires of human spaceflight. 

In Las Cruses, New Mexico, hundreds of educators, students and special interest groups took to the desert to watch history in the making during one October weekend. For myself, it was my first venture to this event in which I observed a variation in the development of technology for Rocket Racing teams, lunar exploration and how elevated competition stimulates both cooperation and conflict within the members of the private and space sectors.

While amazed at the amount of time and effort it took to put the X Prize Cup together, there were some disappointments in the desert that we were witnessed by all. One might think this to be a bad thing. This is not the case when dealing within human and robotic space exploration as anyone in the business surely knows. 

With great success, one must falter and learn, then test…test…test. I was amazed that when the countdowns commenced, everyone stopped what they were doing and ran to the fence or just looked up to the sky to see a Rocketman fly [image] with his rocket jetpack, or Armadillo Aerospace’s “Pixel” vehicle [image] fly a 90 plus second jaunt to an altitude of 164 feet (50 meters) and over a distance of 328 feet (100 meters). They were unable, however, to make the return trip.

But hey, that’s okay!  Armadillo broke a number of DC-X [image] records on reflight/turn-around time.

Pertaining to education, more than 5,000 students turned out on the first day of the event and were definitely inspired to learn more about human spaceflight, mechanical and aerospace engineering, planetary science and much more. Anousheh Ansari, the first female space tourist, was on hand to talk to members of the general public and sign autographs. She even hinted of returning to the International Space Station to “where she belongs.”

The National Space Society (NSS) was in full force handing out the award winning Ad Astra magazine to all who attended the event and were on hand to answer questions on issues related to space tourism, public policy and how to get involved in order to make the Vision for Space Exploration a reality.

For one who attended the X Prize Cup for the first time I must say that I was impressed as well as excited for what is being accomplished thus far.

The X Prize Cup provided the inspiration, education for the next generation of explorers and gave reason to celebrate a moment in human history in which through heightened competition, the development of social strategies to work together in order to generate the defining characteristics of human flight which will no doubt take us higher than we ever dreamed.

Veronica Ann Zabala-Aliberto is on the NSS board of directors and is the founder and chapter president of National Space Society of Phoenix. Zabala-Aliberto is currently a senior undergraduate student within the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University who has recently been assigned to work on the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission, which launches in October 2008.

NOTE: The views of this article are the author’s and do not reflect the policies of the National Space Society.

Visit SPACE.com/Ad Astra Online for more news, views and scientific inquiry from the National Space Society.

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