A Space Lottery: An Idea Whose Time Has Come

I suggest a National Space Lottery as a new way of fundingspace flight systems, promoting space tourism and paying for the tickets ofthose who would fly. Many have spoken of our goals in space, but few offer waysto pay for them. The following proposal offers a possible solution.

The National Space Society should promote creation of aNational Space Lottery. Ideally, this might become an International SpaceLottery, and would offer the possibility of space flight, as a prize, to everyman, woman and child on earth.

Robotic planetary exploration is important, as it preparesthe way for men and women. However, only humans in space will excite theimagination of the world and only this can protect us from eventual extinction.Our species is at risk as long as we keep all our eggs in one basket, all ourprogeny on one fragile planet. Konstantin Tsiolkovsky said, "Earth is thecradle of mankind--but one cannot live in the cradle forever!"

The public will support a robust space program, as they didfor the Apollo moon missions. Our race with the Soviets was not the prime causefor their support; it was vicarious experience, the reason "Star Trek" is sopopular. It was the exciting idea of human beings doing important dangerouswork, and traveling "where no one has gone before."

Inexpensive access to space must be our highest priority.Its lack has kept us in low Earth orbit for 35 years! Finding a cheap way toescape Earth's gravity well is essential.

Expendable rockets are a trap, a dead-end. Inherentlywasteful, they are only as reliable as the first flight of each plane. (Youwould not take passengers on your first flight.) Using throwaway rockets islike building an airliner in Seattle, flying to New York, and then throwing theplane in the ocean! We build a new ship for each flight, only to destroy it.Such a system can never be a permanent solution.

We must build a robust, fully reusable orbital space plane.The likely solution will be two fully reusable stages, or nuclear propulsion.Only government can build the latter. Private industry is more efficient,however, and could make a two-stage system in just a few years.

The Space Shuttle was designed with a reusable first stage,abandoned in a shortsighted attempt to save money. Many ships have beenplanned, only to be cancelled. Congress can see only as far as the nextelection! The government should set goals, but not specify how they are to bereached.

The problem with funding space efforts with tax dollars isthat many say, "What's in it for me?" To date, space has been reserved forscientists and rich tourists, like Dennis Tito and few imagine themselves ashaving a chance. A National Space Lottery will offer the possibility of spacetravel to everyone, rich or poor!

Lotteries generate huge amounts: One multi-state jackpotreached $363 million! The lottery for New York has the motto "A Dollar and aDream." The dream offered by a ticket in the "space" lottery could be a ride onan F-16 or the "Zero G" airplane, suborbital flight on SpaceShipOne, a

trip to the International Space Station, or eventually toour lunar colony.

Our lottery can encourage creation of reusable ships byoffering a series of prizes: Many ideas can be tried; competition will provewhich is best. Lindberg won the $25,000 Orteig prize for his 1927 flight from New York to Paris. Those competing raised more than 20 times that amount, and within tenyears, we had an airline industry. Burt Rutan won the $10 million "X-Prize"with his 3-passenger suborbital White Knight and SpaceShipOne. RichardBranson's new Virgin Galactic has placed the first 5 orders for an 8-passenger"SpaceShipTwo."

The X-Prize Cup now offers an annual series of prizes toprivate companies for the highest flight, fastest ship, most passengers, etc.NASA's "Centennial Challenges" program is offering prizes now in partnershipwith the X-Prize Foundation. Congress should expand this idea.

The question remains, "How can we fund these efforts?" Ithink the best answer is a lottery. This is the other side of the same coinoffered by the X-Prize.

Americans everywhere would pay a dollar a week for a ticket,not only in hope of winning a prize, but because millions want a future inspace. They would do it for national pride: to retain our leadership intechnology.

Private investors want a likely stream of revenue for theirinvestment. This was provided in the 1930's by a government guarantee of mailservice, using the new airlines. A lottery could produce the same result:Prizewinners would represent a series of pre-paid tickets for each new ship. Iffunded by lottery, each prize would keep growing until it was won!

New York and most states have a monopoly on their lotterymoney. A National Space Lottery thus might require an act of Congress, or itcould be made a part of NASA. Preferably, however, such a lottery should be runby a nonprofit organization like the National Space Society, Planetary Societyor the X-Prize Foundation. A "National Space Lottery Foundation" might beformed. The first step may be to create an organization to lobby congress, andraise money for public awareness.

The National Space Society should sponsor this innovativeplan to fund our efforts in space. Both its mission and its organization would benefit:

A Space Lottery would generate enormous worldwide publicity,a new fascination with space. Prizewinners would be followed like those ofmodern "Reality TV" shows. An International Space Lottery would be ideal.People all over the world, rich and poor, would share in the possibility of aride into space. Space tourism could soon become a reality. Men, women andchildren everywhere sense that the destiny of humanity is elsewhere, and wantto be part of the dream.

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

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

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: community@space.com.