"Making space happen" is for me a phrase that conjures up visions of the world as portrayed in "2001: A Space Odyssey". But of course the world portrayed in that 1968 film -- one with routine space travel -- has not come to pass. Now, 45 years beyond our first, tentative journeys into space, that situation begs the question: Why not?
Paula Berinstein's book is a valuable component of the answer to that question. One reason is that Ms. Berinstein understands business and finance. Indeed, she makes her living advising others on business ventures. For this book (her sixth), she spent three years researching the economics of such ventures as tourism in space, and interviewing many of the movers and shakers in this burgeoning, but largely unnoticed, area.
Its publication is well-timed, for today the biggest barriers to getting into space are not technical ones; they are political and economic ones. This is why business sense is the important asset. Good businessmen with an interest in space -- space entrepreneurs -- are not so common as the techies; but they do exist. This book profiles a number of them, revealing that while getting into space is no cakewalk, it need not be as difficult as the powers that be maintain. One example is the chapter on Jim Benson. He took a look at NASA's Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) mission, with its $250 million price tag, and decided it could be done a lot cheaper by the private sector. A feasibility study done in 1997 by industry experts confirmed that $25 million would do it. An order-of-magnitude cost reduction is not bad. (And note that this is with the existing stable of launch vehicles -- themselves much more expensive than they might be.)
Each chapter deals with one aspect of the problem (human health in microgravity, funding space ventures, insurance, laws, etc.) and profiles an individual or team of individuals actively working in that area. Those profiles include generous portions of the interviews with the subjects. Along with these interviews, some surprisingly candid, come cogent discussions of the relevant issues, supported where applicable by numbers. At the end of each chapter, Ms. Berinstein gives her own opinion of the facts and views just presented. These opinions reflect her admitted bias in favor of routine space travel, but are often skeptical about specific points.
Following the 20 chapters and an epilog on Dennis Tito, there are four appendices that go into greater detail about space tourism market issues, market surveys, regulatory issues, and propulsion. A bibliography, a glossary, a biographical sketch of the author, and a very thorough index round out the book. There are also 29 color and three black-and-white plates, many from photogrpahs taken by Ms. Berinstein herself.
I'd say this very readable book is a worthwhile introduction to some people who, relatively obscure today, might be making us all sit up and take notice in just a few years.