Monthly Archives: July 2015

Restarting Space Exploration

AerialSteamHorse1841

Seat of the pants ventures are quite exciting!

The space race heats up again. Commercialization drives this new cycle, fueled by privatization of governmental space projects. Visionaries see vast economic potentials and corporate leaders map out new economic strategies and markets.

Space commercialization ventures may take on any number of forms. Various business models propose to transport passengers, to resupply space stations, to collect space junk, to divert near-Earth asteroid threats, to mine asteroids and the Moon, to colonize the Moon and Mars, to manufacture goods in low-gravity, to construct space-based military defenses, to generate power in space for Earth consumption, to expand communications and information processing, and to explore space further.

The Austin Chamber of Commerce recently launched an exciting public discussion to attract space commercialization ventures to its city. Additionally, the University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business launched a Master of Science Program in Space Technology Commercialization this year.  Companies already locating resources to Austin, Texas, include Emergent Space Technologies, Deep Space Industries, New Worlds Institute, and Fathom Academy.

But why should space exploration need restarting? Because progress continues to be slow, programs cost too much, spaceflight risks lives and treasure, and efforts return low rewards and benefit too few people. Essentially, space exploration currently is unsustainable. However, exploration and commercialization are two faces of the same enterprise. So, let’s rethink long term commercialization strategies to expand participation and benefits, building on the successes of the past while employing innovation for the future.

Sustainability

“Sustainability” evokes many different ideas among many different people.

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Deep Space: The Next Frontier

ASTEROID

Asteroids will be mined for raw materials.

Space exploration accelerates now after decades of boringly intermittent progress, driven by private corporations setting up new industrial business lines. SpaceX and Virgin Galactic show us brilliant successes and dramatic catastrophes as they race to commercialize space and to make a lot of money from it. Boeing leads the race to provide new commercial crew transport systems for the International Space Station. Specialized space companies also proliferate to support, supply and service these efforts.

The serious side of space commercialization focuses on industrialization and manufacturing. The idea is to make stuff in space from other stuff we find there, and then sell it to folks back on Earth. Deep space is where the raw materials are to be found and where the mines and factories will be built. “Deep Space” spans the volumes above near-Earth orbits and reaches out to the edge of Jovian interplanetary space. It includes the Moon, Mars and the Asteroid Belt.

Astronauts

Space exploration and development will become increasingly automated and

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