[Herewith a rare guest kit from ace boodler and science wonk “bc”.]
An Open Letter to Sir Richard Branson, Mr. Elon Musk, and the countries of China, Russia and Anyone Else with Deep Pockets and Extraterrestrial Ambition:
I believe an opportunity may be before you, one that may never come again.
NASA and the US Government are planning to decommission the Space Shuttle fleet and retire the vehicles shortly, despite the fact that they’re still in good condition and that the US could continue to benefit greatly from the system’s heavy lift-to-orbit and human-rated flight capabilities for future endeavors in space. The most technically-advanced spaceflight vehicles ever built are now destined for museums, like old finned Cadillacs in some $1 per-entry ‘museum’ way off the Strip in Vegas.
Like many Americans at this point in time, NASA is ready to park the big old space truck in favor of a smaller vehicle. However, unlike most Americans, NASA isn’t quite sure what their next vehicle is yet, and they’re working from home for the most part and renting rides to and from the office (i.e. the International Space Station) when they need to go in.
The opportunity I speak of is this: with the US Government facing unprecedented fiscal challenges because of the recession and near-record unemployment, the ever-increasing Federal deficits, a bi-polar congress, and First Dog Bo’s mounting dog food and White House carpet cleaning/ replacement expenses, there may never be a better time to buy or lease a Space Shuttle than RIGHT NOW.
You could take possession of one or more of these classic beauties, complete with a friendly, experienced, fully trained and capable service and support staff (i.e. NASA and subcontractors), with prepped and ready-to-fly flight facilities, a fully functional support infrastructure and suppliers, and a boilerplate operational program that’s ready to go anytime you are. In addition to slotting these vehicle operations right into your business or nationalistic plans - advancing your timelines by doing away with further vehicle development and/or espionage - you can also save time and money on paperwork, since they’re fully FAA/DOT-compliant for space travel (experimental, anyway).
Should you decide to acquire a Space Shuttle or two or all three, you can take one Small Step to recoup costs by renting flights and services back to the US Government and NASA. You can also begin your own exploration of deep space, Low Earth Orbit and the wonders of the GSA Schedule and service contracts by using your new Shuttle as a transportation service for Federal Workers (Astronauts), Supplies and Equipment to earth orbit and to the ISS. Naturally, you’ll also be taking a Giant Leap in the Space Tourism Industry by booking available seats to Space Tourists.
Imagine how great your new ride will look painted up in the company colors of Virgin Galactic or one of the other Virgin companies, Space X, or even Tesla. Also, you could sell advertising space on all of that surface area of the STS launch stack -- the world’s biggest, fastest, loudest billboard and advertising vehicle, ever! [Note: how cool would it be to have William Shatner as Capt. Kirk pitching your company’s Shuttle rides on TV? “To boldly go where no CPA has gone before. Cash, credit, pure gold and other precious metals accepted. *Now* you’re negotiating!”]
You may consider providing launch services for industries or countries other than the United States – many of them would pay handsomely to utilize the Shuttle’s lift capabilities for assembling their own orbital spy weather observation platforms, for sending deposed leaders into a Very Special Exile, or for furthering their ambitions of space conquest exploration – the sky’s no limit at all!
Consider customizing your Shuttle with special passenger modules in the payload bay, such as adapting an airliner section to fly 40 passengers at one time, or constructing a zero-gravity Party/Nightclub Module for those with the means (athletes, musicians, Charlie Sheen, autocrats, etc.) to celebrate whatever they want, 200 miles in space and well beyond the legal jurisdiction of any country on Earth. [Note that nightfall comes every 45 minutes in a typical equatorial orbit.] Just use your imagination. Or how about a Honeymoon Module – don’t forget to knock before you pop the airlock! [Let’s hope the happy couple isn’t prone to space sickness].
There are also personal benefits to having a Space Shuttle at your personal disposal – think how great it will be to roll up to your next high school reunion in your new Shuttle orbiter! That cheerleader who wouldn’t give you the time of day all those years ago will definitely notice when you arrive in high style, even before you do a fire burnout in the parking lot with the 37 million horsepower main engines.
If your current economic situation makes outright purchase an issue, easy terms can be arranged or a lease/rental arrangement can be reached. The US Government has a deficit to pay off and an annual budget to try to balance – no reasonable offers refused. Rates are low, and three orbiters are available – get yours today!
Next: Should the International Space Station go into Foreclosure in 2015 or 2020, should you wait for it to hit the market, purchase and lease it as commercial space with a hotel for Space Tourists, or work out a deal for a Short Sale and try flip it to China, Russia, India or the Marriott or Hilton corporations?
Perhaps I am selling a bridge here, but it’s a bridge to the stars!
Here’s a Special Achenblog Comment Challenge:
There are three operational Shuttle flight vehicles in the fleet: Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavour – consider writing the text of an ad for one or all of them for eBay, Craigslist or even a hardship auction.
FS: 1985 Space Shuttle -- “Discovery” trim package. 3 Billion miles, almost all of them orbital/highway. Garaged, well maintained, reliable, with AM/FM, TV, Short Wave broadcast facilities, microwave radar, robotic arm, and center console. Spectacular fuel mileage in orbit and still quite cavernous on the inside. A real cream puff from the 1980s. $2B OBO. No reserve. Call or email firstname.lastname@example.org
[Solid rocket boosters, external fuel tank, and astronauts not included. Some assembly required. Your mileage may vary.]