NASA was established by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on April 2, 1958, in response to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), also known as the Soviet Union, succeeding in the space domain. At that time, Eisenhower felt it was necessary for the United States to win the space race or face severe national security consequences. The U.S. and the Soviet Union found themselves in a rivalry to put the first human being into space.
On April 12, 1961, on “Vostok 1”, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin from the Soviet Union became the first human to travel into space. On May 5, 1961, Alan B. Shepard became the first American in space on his spacecraft “Freedom 7.”
Almost a decade after Eisenhower made that initial call to action on forming NASA, Neil Armstrong was taking his giant leap for all mankind.
Currently, the space race has become an enterprise dominated by billionaires like Richard Branson of Virgin Galactic, Jeff Bezos of Blue Origin and Elon Musk of SpaceX. After his company’s first launch of its Falcon Heavy rocket into space, Musk said that “we want a new space race,” and according to him “races are exciting.” Now this “space race” has become one that is between commercial enterprises rather than nations against one another.
All the above billionaires in their business empires might not have applied any kindness toward those who worked for them in earning the fortune they are spending on these new ventures. I do not consider them as masterminds who could create a difference in the world by doing the best for the common good. They are also composed of the mutual imperfections of almost all who have created massive wealth. For me, they are authoritative and impatient. They also have several advisors around them who aren’t aware of the reality of the world we live in. This is a common feature shared by this class of elite tycoons.
No matter what their personalities are, we should be clear about one fact: that these people are trying to do something better for the planet. They are investing part of their fortunes in developing systems and technologies which can open our planet to the whole universe.
This will be a new pushing force for “space tourism,” but I firmly believe that commercial space exploration should be done at an affordable price instead of relying on the pricing formulas published by Virgin Galactic. As per data published by Virgin Galactic, the company “plans on launching about 400 space flights per year, with a price tag for each individual's ticket being upward of $250,000.” If this is the destiny of space tourism, then it definitely will be an adventure for rich boys with their big toys.
Although these companies joining the space race have their missions, their unifying vision should be to create an accessible space, bring down the price tag and enhance more methodologies toward space exploration rather than defining their boundaries toward space tourism.
This could also provide increased opportunities for students through scholarships, fellowships and internships. As of now, we know that the Montana Space Grant Consortium (MTSGC) is working along with NASA to enhance education in Montana for NASA-related fields. These efforts could be further strengthened by the public-private partnerships of NASA with companies such as Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic and SpaceX.
I stand against prioritizing commercializing the national space program. If we distance space exploration from the public, it would give these private entities an authoritative power which could even threaten the democracy of the space race. Instead, these galactic powerhouses should focus on private-public partnerships which could enhance opportunities. These opportunities can range from educating the public about space to creating employment opportunities to stay connected with emerging space technology capabilities. These should be designed to give people the opportunity to connect to the universe through space tourism.
We should also address the issues of pollution created by the space race and focus on moving cooperatively in this race to protect the environment. Show some respect for these billionaires for allowing their goals to drive their financial decisions instead of the contrary.
At the end of this space race, we should make sure that we win.