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.