Thursday, September 28, 2006

Las Vegas Space Travelers

Clotaire Rapaille, author of "The Culture Code", states that the French culture code for Americans is "Space Travelers". The image of a Dreamchaser taking off into the desert sky, with the Las Vegas skyline as a backdrop (think the black pyramid of the Luxor) is appropriate for Rapaille's observation. More appropriate might be the German code for Americans: "John Wayne", or benevolent cowboys. If the ISDC 2007 Conference poster is any indication, the Dreamchaser could be the iconic meme for American commercial space travel -- despite formidable competition with the image of SpaceShipOne.

Las Vegas already has gambling, bungee jumping, skydiving, helicopter tours to the Grand Canyon; why not suborbital space? A promotional tie-in with a casino would set the tone for Benson Space clientele: sophisticated and adventurous risk takers with disposable income spending a long weekend in Sin City and oh-by-the-way taking a day to get astronaut wings. Another approach would be to style itself as a provider of high adventure, similar to the way Space Adventures sells space.

As an armchair astronaut, here are some things I think SpaceDev and Benson Space should come up with . . .

To improve on the existing Dreamchaser concept:
  1. More windows than what we've seen.
  2. Consider re-imagining the styling (paint job). The suborbital dreamchaser should remind us that it is safe and functional, that it is not a mini space shuttle and its purpose is for fun and adventure.
  3. Focus on interior design (human factors) and fun factor. Do whatever it takes to convince potential customers that this is not just a transport vehicle.
To distinguish itself from the competition:
  1. Pick one area to blow away the competition: cost per passenger, preparation/logistics ("WE fly out of greater Las Vegas!!"), total time for weightlessness, or overall experience (interior design, level of passenger comfort, most leg room, etc.).
  2. Create an innovation in customer service or PR that is independent of the actual ride to space (celebrity adventurers ride for free, promotional tie-ins with casino, other space companies, partner with an airline company).
  3. Obtain endorsements from public figures (perhaps Hollywood celebrities), to establish that it's cool to fly with Benson Space. They should create a brand as well as a destination.
Something else I noticed at the new site -- besides a potential launch site in Nevada, Benson Space is incorporated there. Does Nevada have a tax credit or other incentives that justify this choice? Or is something more exciting in the works -- perhaps a partnership with Bigelow Aerospace or one of the Las Vegas casinos?


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