A while ago as part of my Kickstarter habit I excitedly backed a space program. For the princely sum of $10 I get to control a satellite that’s about the size of a coffee machine for 100 seconds.
Sadly Fortunately in this instance the satellite’s functions are limited to sending tweets from space and taking a couple of photos with it’s on-board camera, although the music from Diamonds are Forever will be playing in my head as I imagine wielding control of a thing flying through space – even if it is just for a moment and lacks a laser death ray.
Still it’s rather nice to see a very ambitious Kickstarter funded project come to fruition – given that many more earthly bound campaigns fail after the funding hurdle has been reached.
Here’s the cube blasting off on board supply ship onboard a rocket (launched magnificently from a swamp):
And here it is docking with the International Space Station:
At some point in the future it will be thrown out of an airlock in a graceful launch sequence. Suggestions of things I’m going to make it tweet (along with the 3000 or so other backers) are most welcome – I get 10 historic messages to broadcast from space and the option of 2 photos from the on-board camera.
Here’s an idea: if everyone who watched the last Star Trek film donated a couple of dollars would it be enough to fund a real space ship?
Right now on Kickstarter you can sponsor a cube sat (starting at one dollar) which is a tiny 10cm x 10cm x 10cm satellite (potentially) hitching a ride on a forthcoming falcon rocket launch. For your dollar, you get to sponsor 10 seconds of the mission and can tweet from spaaace! – for a bit more you get to take a couple of photos using the cube-sat’s camera. Sadly there’s no space laser option.
Edit: Skycube has managed to hit it’s target! raising $116,890 of it’s goal. The team will be publishing updates at www.skycube.org
Here’s an exceptionally nerdy video from the project organisers: no it’s not an episode of the Big Bang Theory
The backers are aiming to raise $82,500 for their project to be successful – small change compared to some recent projects on kickstarter. Space-wise it’s a relatively low key mission – the sat is destined to whirl around the earth a few times, and then deploy a giant balloon to commit tidy suicide in a fiery re-entry through the Earth’s atmosphere.
This got me thinking pointlessly about how the cost of sending stuff into space would compare with the revenues from the Star Trek films. There’s a handy blog here with adjusted values.
Once you’ve got over the shock that the highest grossing Star Trek film was the really boring one, here are a few Star Trek films, and what they could have paid for*:
The average takings for a Star Trek film are about 151 million dollars.
43 million dollars will buy you a Russian Angara rocket:
56 million a (probably) more reliable Falcon 9 rocket:
94 million was what Star Trek V took.
105 million dollars will buy you a complete 3 seat Soyuz mission.
160 million dollars a nice ION drive powered SMART1 probe around the moon (or Search for Spock)
700 million dollars will send a car sized probe to Pluto (New Horizons)
820 million dollars buys Some nice Mars rovers. So here’s a really very exciting video about landing a Ford Transit sized rover on a distant planet:
1.7 billion dollars = is what all the Star Treks put together took.
9 billion = the UK trident nuclear missile programme.
12 billion = Skylon reusable shuttle: (ok this is semi-fictional, but the video pitch is narrated by Brian Blessed, which in itself is lovely)
And finally 43 billion buys you a shiny space shuttle programme.
So there you go. Space is terribly expensive. Still, the UK government could probably fund an entire space programme, make a lot of Star Trek films, and still have a lot of change over for nice things if it just cancelled it’s nuclear weapons programme.
Or the UK could even buy about 3 mars rovers for the cost of the Nimrod MR4 spy plane which was cancelled before entering service.