Bill Nye on the Remarkable Efficiency of SpaceX
Bill Nye is a lot of things. He's the world-famous Science Guy, for example. He's also Executive Director of the Planetary Society and one of the nation's most fervent bow tie aficionados.
And as you probably know, Bill Nye is a big fan of SpaceX.
There are plenty of reasons for this, not the least of which is how the private space transport company has significantly cut the cost of building and launching rockets. The key to doing so, as Bill explains, was in breaking from a NASA model that traded efficiency for resilience:
"When you build rocket engines in Alabama and you get the fuel from Utah and you test them in Mississippi and you then send them to Florida and control all that from Texas, with some drop testing done in Cleveland and all sorts of material science research done in California, some flight tests done in the desert in Arizona, when you do all that you just add cost."
SpaceX, on the other hand, handles most of the above at its massive headquarters in Hawthorne, California, before transporting the product to a launch site, thus consolidating effort and trimming overhead. For Bill, the hope is that this and similar processes from other private companies will lower the cost of launching things (and people) into low Earth orbit. NASA is certainly on board:
"SpaceX has taken at least $500 million from NASA because NASA wants to develop this capability... These are commercial rockets and NASA has gone to great lengths to develop that business."
What really excites Bill is this means relatively inexpensive space travel could soon be on the horizon. He compares the appeal of space to the exhilaration one feels when skydiving:
"Everybody's dream is to be able to fly... I can see how people get hooked on that. And I think space exploration would be the same deal."
For more on SpaceX, NASA, and the chance to hear Bill Nye the Science Guy say "Iz'all good," check out this clip from his Big Think interview:
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