It’s been a while since I have released A Puzzle in a Tunnel. The book maybe on release but now I think it’s time for a bit of science and nature. I am going to be studying this subject and I think it’s time I comfortably put myself into the spirit of my passion. So let’s omit politics for a while.
Tonight there was a programme on the new frontier of space travel. Space travel run by private enterprise in the place of the big government funded space organisations like NASA, ESA, Roscosmos, JAXA and UKSA. When the space shuttle was retired six years ago it looked for many veterans of the space industry like a collapse of manned space flight for America. All because of budget cuts and lack of investment. But it’s not a loss of manned spaceflight or even the slow death of NASA, it’s a transition into a new way of space exploration.
Over the last fifty years space travel has been the operations of the national governments. It started off as a race from the Cold War with the Americans and the Soviets in a technological warfare of progress to build the best and achieve the most. After the Moon landings the focus shifted to establishing a permanent manned presence above the Earth in orbit. This consisted of government funded projects to create an international scientific community of satellites and space research. At the beginning of the new millennium a group of entrepreneurs saw an opportunity in this community.
By the 1990s this established international space community gave opportunities to a new industry that was emerging. At that point in time the space agencies were still setting their sights on more ambitions space missions. They were sending unmanned robots to places in the Solar System that were never explore before, the International Space Station was under construction, the Russians were opening themselves up to a post-communist investment in it’s space science, and in the midst of all this emerged the new space explorers. These were not government run organisations, but business people.
After the 2003 space shuttle Columbia disaster NASA realised that it’s prized spaceship was starting to outlive it’s usage. It was spending vast sums of money on maintaining it and running it’s operations. However the cost of space launches was decreasing and a millionaire called Dennis Tito was making headlines as a non-employed, non-professional American astronaut who paid $20 million dollars for his own space flight to the ISS in 2001. This proved the market for space flight for the common person was possible. Now it was time for this private industry to provide some purpose to the big game players.
As part of it’s retirement NASA and the US government came up with a new way to sustain it’s investment from public funds in a new economic way. To spare up the cash required for manned space travel NASA decided to outsource the access to Earth orbit to the private sector to fuel and fly crews to the ISS. With the shuttle no longer operating NASA can save the money to invest in it’s desirable and elaborate space missions for the future. This includes the return to the Moon, and then eventually start making progress to put the first humans on Mars by the 2030s.
The logic behind this is that by collaborating with the private sector the US government invests in the private sector and gives them the finance to build their own rockets and spaceships. This creates more jobs and material wealth for Americans working for Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin for the less elaborate and low cost space operations like tourism, university projects, and experimenting with it’s own machines.
That way NASA can buy rockets and space access services which will cheaper to buy than build their own rockets for those kinds of activities. NASA can then focus their research on the big high risk stuff that the public sector is keen on expanding. This includes further expansion of manned exploration of space like the Moon and Mars, a new space launch system to build interplanetary craft, innovation in aeronautics, advances in medical science, public relations programmes, and Earth climate monitoring data. Now NASA has more money than ever to work on it’s science projects and can hire people for new types of jobs.
With private enterprise now providing access to space it can also give opportunities for non-space faring nations and those with no rocket launch facilities. Consider Britain for example. We have our own space programme called United Kingdom Space Agency. It consists of space research facilities, satellite building factories, telecoms networks and university partnerships. Thanks to companies like SpaceX we can buy rocket launches from them and provide them with our creations and projects to loft into space on our behalf with no need to pay money into the US government or apply for citizenship of that country.