Unless you’ve been in a hole today, you probably noticed that the final Space Shuttle mission landed this morning.
Reality check: The sky is not falling
It’s over. And you feel about it how you feel about it. Whether you love it or hate it, it’s time to move on.
What I want to hear about are your optimistic thoughts on what should be next.
I’m all for focusing on deep space exploration now; however, I’m still saddened that the shuttle is being retired simply because of it’s utility in LEO operations. I think in order to focus on deep space, we’d be much more efficient by starting out in LEO. Will the ISS be able to act as a support station for deep space exploration, manned flights to Mars, etc? If not, and something else would need to be built, do the planned heavy lifters have the utility and flexibility the shuttle did? So many questions, but so few answers as of this moment. We have the goal, deep space, but the path to get there doesn’t seem to be focused enough as of yet.
One word: Infrastructure. The ISS is a great start, but we have to stop thinking about space as a place we just visit. We must start building up an infrastructure than can support increasing numbers of humans in space indefinitely. Despite what everyone else says about heading off into deep space being the next great goal for NASA, they are always going to incur great expense at everything they do until they can get some logistical support in space to help back them up. That expense also applies to any private enterprises that may want to put people in space for whatever reason. Unlike national space programs, however, this incredible expense is a very real barrier to entry for anyone wanting to do anything with humans in space as a business venture.
I think the next great thing should be private space. Why should we have the cost burden of space travel thrust upon the American people? The Government (non-military) doesn’t build bikes, cars, trains or planes so why do they build rockets? Lets let the private sector do that.
We already see amazing improvements in cost and safety from SpaceX alone. Imagine what we’ll be able to do when a slew of companies start to compete. And if we get another Howard Hughes who has the vision to go above and beyond a simple business plan, we could find humans on Mars, NEOs and out in the galaxy far sooner than if the Government did it.
Don’t get me wrong, the Government isn’t bad, it has its place in aerospace. Much like we have the FAA we’ll need something to keep us new civilian astronauts from getting killed due to lack of safety standards. And how awesome is it that we will soon need safety standards to keep us safe? Up until now it was all about large, high cost vehicles that only a few could ride. Soon I think we’ll start to see more people go in to space every year than have gone since all of time combined. Then not too far after that every week. Heck, I can even imagine a time where more people go in to space every day than have ever gone in to space since humans have started going in to space!
The future is bright. New business is expanding in space, and frankly it is amazing to be alive at this time.