New Space and Tech

Ongoing Commentary from Michael Laine on Liftport, Past, Present and Future

By Marc Boucher
April 8, 2013
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So what’s it like to pour your soul into your vision and after years of building it up seeing it come crashing down? In an open and frank ongoing commentary on the Liftport blog, Michael Laine is chronicling how he got to this point in his quest to build a space elevator, what’s happening now and what may happen in the future.

Here’s an excerpt from one of his blog postings today:

“I will have many blog postings over the next several weeks, chronicling our success and progress – and if needs be, failure… We will go on. It is harder than it was before. It’s not commonly known, but I -personally- was the main person bankrolling this project. There were others, at a much much smaller level of financial commitment. The largest of our other investors had only $15k at risk. Most were in the $2-5k range. In contrast, I used my own resources to capitalize the day-to-day operations. I have only taken $30k in salaries in the last 5 years, combined. The project lived in my building – rent free – for the past 4 years. I have personally invested about $400k into the company. So, add that all up, and with deferred salary, deferred rent, and cash from my checkbook, and I have committed somewhere near $1M of my own assets to this idea, this vision, of how the world could be…”

Whether you agree with his approach to building his vision into reality you have to give him respect for the effort.

I too believe that building a space elevator is a noble cause. One that could someday open the way to a larger human presence in space. The image you see to the right of this post is just a small part of a larger painting that hangs on my office wall. I commissioned renowned space artist Michael Carroll to paint it. For the most part I have kept quiet as Michael and Liftport went about their business these past few years. The reason is simple, if they succeeded, well that would be good for all of us. However if they failed it would be bad for all of us. It was even suggested that once the problems surfaced at Liftport that it would be best if I kept quiet about it, after all it would hurt the effort. But you see, I approach the space elevator concept from a very no nonsense businesslike approach. Vision and passion will only take you so far in the real world. You need resources, read lots and lots of money, you need new materials, new technologies, well you get the point. So to get a space elevator built you need to start with practical matters, solve some of the basic problems, such as material development then move onto the next problem. Solving some of these practical problems can lead to spinoffs that can generate revenue that will fund the next stage of development. Take a look at the spinoffs from research and development at NASA to see what’s come out of public R&D funding.
So why don’t I get more involved in any one space elevator development? A fair question. First of all I don’t have the resources to invest in such a venture at this time other than the creation of this site. And this site is still in its infancy. My two editor colleagues and myself have plans to expand and make the site more useful for people interested in tackling all the challenges that lie ahead. And for those people who read this site but don’t know much about me, well I do keep busy. I’m the co-founder and developer of the SpaceRef network of sites which consists of 19 web sites. I’m also the co-founder and CEO of the Mars Institute which is a very active research institute working on several Mars projects with several space agencies, universities and companies. I also run an internet technology development company, aTerra, working on data aggregation and vertical search. As well I helped my fiancee start an online retail business last year. Someday I would like to put some of my resources into a venture that will help with taking the space elevator from a concept to reality. However at this time I have not found a company that company I would invest in and also have not decided to start one of my own.

For now I suggest people read the Liftport blog as Michael adds to it, watch what he and other companies, organizations do, get involved and hopefully one day the concept will turn into reality.

SpaceRef co-founder, entrepreneur, writer, podcaster, nature lover and deep thinker.