A Small Step for Private Space Flight

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Private industries make their first probes into the final frontier

A recent article in The New York Times discusses the possibility of privately funded space travel open to tourists in the near future:

“Boeing said Wednesday that it was entering the space tourism business, an announcement that could bolster the Obama administration’s efforts to transform the National and Space Administration into an agency that focuses less on building rockets and more on nurturing a commercial space industry.”

With NASA’s potentially diminished role in the space program, there now is a golden opportunity to bring the full powers of human ingenuity to the problem of space travel. As Robert Garmong wrote in 2004, it was government involvement that inhibited more vibrant development of the space program over the past few decades.

“[S]pace exploration, as the grandest of man’s technological advancements, requires the kind of bold innovation possible only to minds left free to pursue the best of their thinking and judgment. Yet by placing the space program under government funding, we necessarily place it at the mercy of government whim. The results are written all over the past twenty years of NASA’s history: the space program is a political animal, marked by shifting, inconsistent, and ill-defined goals.”

Consider the incredible advancements made by NASA in the past two decades despite the ever changing political waters it had to navigate. We’ve had amazing advances in communications, global positioning systems and defensive capabilities thanks to the space program. The future opportunities in space from solar energy harvesting to off-world settlement are almost literally limitless. Setting the space program free of bureaucratic mandates will vastly increase the amount intellectual energy devoted to using space to create and implement new technological advances. Just as the relative freedom of the advanced technology sectors in the past decades has led to an explosion of amazing new products and services at ever decreasing prices, so too can we expect increased freedom in the space program to bring us an increased ability to utilize the resources of space with costs constantly going down.

Hopefully, we are now starting to see the beginnings of a private space industry that has the potential to develop and mature in the same way that American industries became the leading producers of advanced technologies in the world: entrepreneurial ventures on the free market. There is quite a long way to go until we have a genuinely private space exploration program, but this is a promising first step.

Related Articles:

Privatize the Space Program
Should We Go to Mars: Wrong Question
NASA’s Flight From Reason

Posted by on September 30, 2010. Filed under Fall 2010, Science & Technology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
  • Paul L.

    NASA is a bunch of bureaucrats. Government does not “create” anything. NASA creates nothing but standards which stultify and stop innovation in its tracks.

    There is also a commonly held belief that NASA was responsible for Apollo. It was not. The commercial industries that fed NASA parts, specifications, and most importantly seasoned managers and specifically the means to accomplish the moon landings. There are several reasons that we could not go back to the moon under NASA now but one is that the American manufacturers that made such achievement possible are long gone.

    Just as a show of proof, at how poor Americans do social programs like NASA, we should look at their launch success record in comparison to their Russian counterpart.

    According to the Aerospace Corporation’s Launch reliability analysis from 1957-1999 NASA launched 1,152 with 164 failures while CIS/USSR launched 2,589 with 181 failures. The Russian Agency has launched nearly twice the number of payloads successfully and had half the percentage of failure.

    The data: http://www.aero.org/publications/crosslink/winter2001/03_table_1.html

    The article http://www.aero.org/publications/crosslink/winter2001/03.html

    The Russian space agency also is the choice of many telecommunications satellite providers.

    The Russian agency also allows tickets to be purchased and rides to be taken to the ISS.

    The above report was found on SpaceX’s website and the now very successful private space entrepreneur Elon Musk bet his fortune on this data.

    NASA should be closed in its entirety and an end should be put to nearly all socialized scientific research.

  • Paul L.

    NASA is a bunch of bureaucrats. Government does not “create” anything. NASA creates nothing but standards which stultify and stop innovation in its tracks.

    There is also a commonly held belief that NASA was responsible for Apollo. It was not. The commercial industries that fed NASA parts, specifications, and most importantly seasoned managers and specifically the means to accomplish the moon landings. There are several reasons that we could not go back to the moon under NASA now but one is that the American manufacturers that made such achievement possible are long gone.

    Just as a show of proof, at how poor Americans do social programs like NASA, we should look at their launch success record in comparison to their Russian counterpart.

    According to the Aerospace Corporation’s Launch reliability analysis from 1957-1999 NASA launched 1,152 with 164 failures while CIS/USSR launched 2,589 with 181 failures. The Russian Agency has launched nearly twice the number of payloads successfully and had half the percentage of failure.

    The data: http://www.aero.org/publications/crosslink/winter2001/03_table_1.html

    The article http://www.aero.org/publications/crosslink/winter2001/03.html

    The Russian space agency also is the choice of many telecommunications satellite providers.

    The Russian agency also allows tickets to be purchased and rides to be taken to the ISS.

    The above report was found on SpaceX’s website and the now very successful private space entrepreneur Elon Musk bet his fortune on this data.

    NASA should be closed in its entirety and an end should be put to nearly all socialized scientific research.

  • mason storm

    I think this is one of the few times imo when privatization is a really good idea. Whether we think it’s necessary or not, we need to continue to develop new forms of space travel and technology to facilitate it. What the ppl whose only argument is “we have too many problems down here to be worrying about this,” they fail to understand the two most important implications of aeronautical research. The first is for national defense… it’s bad enough that nasa has to rely on Russia to ferry them to the ISS. If we keep going at this rate, our disadvantage will only grow as they continue to develop new technologies in their space program while we pump the brakes on ours. Is air and space superiority something you really want the Russians to have? It doesn’t seem like a good idea for any one country to have, let alone one whom we have a sketchy history with. The second is that with aeronautical research comes a flood of new technologies, most of which are very applicable to us down on earth. For example, if it wasn’t for nasa, we wouldn’t have the chips that we use for non-invasive biopsies, solar energy, and a whole litany of other things (http://www.thespaceplace.com/nasa/spinoffs.html#Top has a good number of inventions that most of us don’t know came from our space program). And if you’re one of those ppl that are so skeptical (or cynical imo) that you still don’t think that any of the things on this list warrant a larger investment in a privatized space industry, just remember that while you sleep at night, you most likely have nasa to thank for that, too. If you use any type of home security system, chances are they use infrared and laser technology that came out of nasa’s research (just look at the adt security infrared camera page. They even admit that the technology came from nasa!)

  • mason storm

    I think this is one of the few times imo when privatization is a really good idea. Whether we think it’s necessary or not, we need to continue to develop new forms of space travel and technology to facilitate it. What the ppl whose only argument is “we have too many problems down here to be worrying about this,” they fail to understand the two most important implications of aeronautical research. The first is for national defense… it’s bad enough that nasa has to rely on Russia to ferry them to the ISS. If we keep going at this rate, our disadvantage will only grow as they continue to develop new technologies in their space program while we pump the brakes on ours. Is air and space superiority something you really want the Russians to have? It doesn’t seem like a good idea for any one country to have, let alone one whom we have a sketchy history with. The second is that with aeronautical research comes a flood of new technologies, most of which are very applicable to us down on earth. For example, if it wasn’t for nasa, we wouldn’t have the chips that we use for non-invasive biopsies, solar energy, and a whole litany of other things (http://www.thespaceplace.com/nasa/spinoffs.html#Top has a good number of inventions that most of us don’t know came from our space program). And if you’re one of those ppl that are so skeptical (or cynical imo) that you still don’t think that any of the things on this list warrant a larger investment in a privatized space industry, just remember that while you sleep at night, you most likely have nasa to thank for that, too. If you use any type of home security system, chances are they use infrared and laser technology that came out of nasa’s research (just look at the adt security infrared camera page. They even admit that the technology came from nasa!)