The Green Universe: A Vision


Freeman Dyson in the NY Review of Books:

The three books under review describe space activities belonging to the Big Space and Little Space cultures that are now competing for money and public attention. Each book gives a partial view of a small piece of history. Each tells a story within the narrow setting of present-day economics and politics. None of them looks at space as a transforming force in the destiny of our species.

Julian Guthrie’s How to Make a Spaceship describes the life and work of Peter Diamandis, a brilliant Greek-American entrepreneur. Diamandis cofounded the International Space University, bringing together each year an international crowd of students and professors to its campus in Strasbourg, and providing a meeting place where academic thinkers and industrial doers exchange ideas. He founded the ISUwhen he was twenty-seven years old, less than half the age at which Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia. The ISU has been growing smoothly for twenty-eight years. It is successful not only as an educational institution but as a job market where young people interested in space can find employers.

Diamandis also encourages competitive space projects by offering substantial prizes for clearly specified achievements. The latest and biggest of his prizes was $10 million for a privately funded spacecraft to reach an altitude of one hundred kilometers and land safely on the ground twice with a human pilot. The money came from Anousheh Ansari, a young Iranian-American computer engineer who had founded with her husband and brother-in-law the company Telecom Technologies. They sold the company for $440 million, of which they donated a small piece to Diamandis. The winner of the Ansari Prize was Burt Rutan, a legendary designer of weird-looking airplanes. He designed and built the SpaceShipOne vehicle that won the prize in 2004. Many other competitors made plans and built rocket ships. The total amount of money invested, by the winner and the losers, was many times the value of the prize.

More here.