Picture Economics of Space Exploration

Is the Soyuz a tight fit
for Americans on their
way to and from
the ISS?


The goal of the course is to enhance understanding of basic principles of economics as applied to space exploration. The course runs from 27 August 2013 to 3 December. There is a week-long break for Thanksgiving. Prerequisites: None, except high school physics and economics helpful. Exams: There will be a final and a midterm. Exams will consist of a mixture of problems, short answers and essay questions and will cover material from lectures and the readings. Grades are determined based on the midterm (20%) the final exam (30%), paper (30%), homework (15%) and class participation (5%). Software: All homework problems will be done in Excel and submitted electronically. Some competence in Excel is assumed. (If you are unfamiliar with Excel, there are numerous tutorials available on the web.) Mathematics: Algebra and some basic calculus will be used in the course. The course syllabus is updated throughout the semester. Dates are approximate.

Part 1: Should Humans Fly in Space?

Aug 27-Sept 10 Does it make sense to spend billions on space exploration when the resources could be better spent on Earth? What are the trade-offs between social and scientific goals? Should we instead invest in infrastructure, education and poverty programs? Can basic economic theory shed any light on these questions? Readings:  Why Space?   Can the Free Market Save the Space Program?   When is the Space Age Coming for the Rest of US, Chpt 1 of Bizony  Runners, Riders Ways and Means, Chpt 3 of Bizony How Much is An Astronaut's Life Worth?   Was the Race to the Moon Real?   NASA's Greatest Hits  More Hits On the Threshold of the Universe Five Essential Things to Do in Space  In class films: Sputnik Declassified  on Youtube Transcript To the Moon   Chronology

Part 2: Must Humans Fly in Space?

Sept 13-27 Oct Are the limits to growth on Earth so severe that mankind has no alternative but to colonize space? Will we run out of petroleum resources for example and be forced to travel to Titan (a moon of Saturn) which has seas of hydrocarbons in order to survive? Will we be better off living in space colonies? Readings: O'Neill Chpt 1-10 Islands in the Sky, Chpt 5 of Bizony  NASA Budget  

Part 3: Can Humans Fly in Space?

Oct 1-15. Are launch cost simply too high to make space colonies a viable alternative? Is it a practical option to become a spacefaring society? Or, is the gravity well of Earth simply too strong and deep to make space travel possible? Also, space travel subjects humans to risks they do not usually encounter on Earth. Are these risks worth it? As both the Challenger and Columbia disasters have shown, the human costs of space travel can be extraordinary. Readings: That's Why They Call it Rocket Science, Chpt 2 of Bizony.  The Age of Dinosaurs  Critique of O'Neill  Columbia Accident Investigation Board Report  Midterm exam: 3 October in class covering all readings and class material to date.

Part 4: Space Exploration and Public Policy

Oct 22-Nov 7. The US space agency was born in 1958 in the crossfire of debates over public and private roles in space and the Cold War with the USSR. This was the golden age of industrial policy. NASA has evolved since and may now become largely irrelevant. Should the US have an industrial policy that supports space exploration? Should international cooperation be pursued? What then is the role of the private sector? How can can entrepreneurs make money in space? Readings:   Papers due 7 Nov midnight No Bucks no Buck Rodgers, Chp 4 of Bizony.  Making Money in Space  Doing Business on Orbit The Way to Go in Space NASA's Not So Shining Moments July 1969

Part 5: Moon, Mars and Beyond

Nov 12-Dec 3. We will return to the Moon and eventually visit Mars. There are serious plans in the making for this endeavor but it will be costly. Will the US space agency support it or is the sacrifice in terms of cheaper robotic missions not worth the cost? Readings:   The Moon is a Harsh Mistress , Chpt 6 of Bizony.  The Red Planet--and Beyond, Chpt 7 of Bizony.    Why Go to Mars 21st Century Space Craft   New Dawn for Electric Rockets

Final Papers due Sun 8 Dec midnight

Final Exam.     Tues 10 Dec 4:30-5:45 on-line exam will be e-mailed to you at 4:30 pm. Fill in yellow areas only. Multiple choice is A,B,C,D. There are 50 questions, each worth one point. The second part of the exam consists of three out of four written questions. Some ask for numbers and there is comment (indicated by a red triangle in the corner of the cell) to indicate the kind of response required. Your exams are keyed to your student number. Return your exam by 5:45 pm to me by e-mail. Do not change the file name from your student number. Do not change the position of any of your answers by inserting or deleting rows, columns or cells.


The High Frontier
Gerard K. O'Neill

How to Build Your Own Spaceship
Piers Bizony

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