In the run-up to this year’s State of the Union address, I’m sure that there were many
of us out there holding out hope for the announcement of some grand space vision,
something that would cement the hopes and dreams we have for the next great leap.
However, in trying to define our future in space, and more importantly the leadership
of that future, we too often look to our Congressional and Executive officials to set the
agenda. As we’ve seen over the past several decades, these visions rarely last longer than
the next election cycle.
We are the ones who know where we want to go, and yet there are those of us who
keep waiting on our governments, on those with only a passing interest, to give us
confirmation that it is OK to go. Why do many of us insist on relying on others to set
the goals and agendas, to define the ambitions, to grant the permissions that by rights we
should be governing ourselves?
Where then are our leaders? The ones who will carry us along further into space than we
ever hoped? The truth is that those leaders are us. Leadership in space is now a bottom-
up endeavor. It comes from those launching commercial startups, from those building
backyard rockets, from those vying for X prizes, from those with the audacity to chase
their dreams and visions in the naked light of day, from us. We must lead because we
know the future we want to build.
Barring some unforeseen, fundamental shift in the functioning of the political world,
the old top-down, Kennedy-esque model of space leadership is dead for the foreseeable
future. We are now the drivers. If we really want space to belong to the people, then
it is up to all of us to go out and make that happen, in whatever capacity we have at
our disposal. Some of us will build the machines, some will lobby and fundraise, some
will educate, but all of it is necessary to build the future we want, and we are the only
ones who can build it. We must all lead because no one else will. The alternative is to
continue waiting for something to happen that likely never will in our lifetimes, and for
that history will judge us harshly. The future we want and deserve is only limited by our
willingness to put forth the effort necessary to lead its development.
In the end, there are those who observe history, and those who go out and make it.
I know which I am. Do you?