A large chart on the boardroom wall compared Maxxim Enterprises’ competitors in space. It displayed each company name as a three letter code, it’s current plans and goals, and then compared how many launches each had made and thus far. It read as follows:
|SRN||ISS Transport||Orbital Tourism||0|
|SPX||ISS Transport/Satellite||Exploration of Mars||8|
|MAXXIM||ISS Transport/Satellite||Orbital Tourism||15|
“It’s pretty clear who our real competition is,” said Roy Dillanson.
“Yes, it’s pretty clear,” agreed Carl Maxxim. “It’s not a surprise to me, since our friendly competitor here is also CEO of our biggest completion in the electric car industry.”
“Still, we’re way ahead,” said former US Senator Charles Bentlemore. “We’ve had almost twice as many launches and we have a waiting list of nearly ten thousand. That’s pretty impressive since we’re charging twelve times as much as our friends planning the suborbital flights.”
“Yes, but our space planes are too expensive,” Dillanson pointed out. “To recoup the cost, we’d have to fly each one nearly five hundred times.”
“That’s because they were not designed to fly rich people around the world,” said sixteen-year-old inventor Astrid Maxxim. “We should leave that to those that want to fly tourism. The space planes are for more.”
“We’ve had this discussion before,” said Bentlemore. “What you’re proposing isn’t realistic.”
“Look, it’s simple,” said Astrid. “Werner von Braun spelled it out in the fifties. First you need a cheap and efficient launch system. Our space planes are expensive to build but cheap to fly. Second, you need a space station, as a destination and a launch point. Third, you need a space dock, where you can build the vehicles and tools you need to explore the solar system.”
“You forget, my dear,” said the former senator. “The purpose of this company is not to explore and discover. The purpose is to make money.”
“Astrid hasn’t forgotten anything,” barked design chief Dennis Brown.
“Maybe I should have said ‘explore and utilize’,” said Astrid. “I won’t say exploit. Remember the settlers at Jamestown. They came trying to make money with their toehold in the new world. If it hadn’t been for John Rolf smuggling in tobacco, the settlement of America might have been set back decades. Now imagine that those settlers had come to Virginia with their own railroad, fortress, and machine shop. How much quicker would our America have come to be?”
“Bottom line it for us,” said Dillanson. “How much are we talking about?”
“Including the boosters needed, and the lauch costs, as well as the design, construction, and deployment—Seven hundred fifty billion dollars.”
There were more than a few gasps around the room.
“That’s insane,” said Bentlemore.
“There’s no way to raise that kind of capital,” said Dillanson. “It’s more than the market capitalization for the whole company.”
“Actually, it’s not,” said Maxwell Bauer, reading information from his phone. “We’re up thirteen and a third today. Somebody leaked the subject of this meeting.” He shrugged and smiled.
“We’ve got to stop thinking small,” said Astrid. “It’s time to leapfrog these other guys. They’re not the real competition and neither are the Russians. We’ve got to be ahead of the Chinese. They’ve got big boosters. They’ve got the beginnings of a space station. They’ve got a rover on the moon. Now they’re working on their own space planes.”
“Why don’t we just buy the ISS?” asked Carl Maxxim. “The government is begging someone to buy it. We could probably get it for a dollar and few promises.”
“To do what?” shouted Astrid, jumping to her feet. “It’s a tiny space lab with room for six. I don’t care how many inflatable bounce houses they attach to it. We have to think bigger!”
“All right,” said CEO Kate Maxxim. “This is a straight up and down vote. Do we allocate five million dollars for feasibility studies and planning.”
“I vote yay,” said Bauer.
“Yay,” said Martin Bundersmith.
“Nay,” said Dillonson.
“Nay,” said Bentlemore.
“I abstain,” said Astrid.
“I vote yay,” said Dennis Brown.
“My vote is yay,” said Penelope Maxxim.
“I vote yay,” said her brother Carl Maxxim.
“The chair abstains,” finished Kate. “The motion carries.”