The Black Horse, a layman's view

by Dan Risacher, MIT student

I'm not a Rocket Scientist, I'm a computer engineer.
Essentially everything I know about aerospace engineering is freshman physics, or self taught. I have a lot of interest in access to space, because I want to go there someday. The Black Horse is possibly the most important research being done anywhere on Earth. While I realize that this statement is somewhat hyperbolic, if we don't get off the Earth eventually, we are doomed. As far as I'm concerned, the sooner we get off the better. Only by climbing out of the cradle can we assure our growth and survival as a race.

So why is the Black Horse important? The reason is money. Right now, going to space is expensive; really mondo expensive. It doesn't have to be that way! The celebrated Space Shuttle is built with 1950s and 1960s technology, and we learned a lot since then about how to do things "the easy way". If you or I want to get into space someday, we can only hope that cheaper methods come along. The Black Horse is that way. Ballpark calculations of payload launch costs for the vehicle are less than $500/lb to low Earth orbit, possibly much less. It's hard to calculate the cost-per-pound for the Space Shuttle, but it's closer to $10,000/lb.

Why is the BH a good idea?

Why will it actually happen?

Why will it work?

In conclusion, I'll say that going to space is a dream that I share with many people. It is not an easy dream to achieve, nor is it one for the short-sighted. I decided that I wanted to go to space when I was four years old. When I was fourteen, I realized that it was hopeless. When I was twenty, I heard about the Black Horse, and decided that if you're willing to work, there's never any good reason to lose hope.

In 1994, Neil Armstrong came to MIT and gave a guest talk in the largest lecture hall at the Institute. It wasn't advertised, but when I got there, it was standing room only. At the end, someone asked him this question:

I was born in 1974. What are the odds that man will set foot on the moon in my lifetime?
To which Armstrong replied:
When I was your age, I would have said that the odds of man going to the moon in my lifetime were zero.
But we did, so don't lose hope, because anything can happen.

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