The focus of this article is on
I have talked before on how I think that this current economic depression gives us the greatest opportunity to change the direction of how
My solution, as some of you may know, revolves around the development of a serious space program that involves the entire nation. I am not talking about a quick fix, 10 year program like going to the moon in the 60’s. I am talking about a permanently established infrastructure system dedicated to the infinite reaches of space.
My solution tackles a few of the major issues confronting
Currently, most of the world is familiar with the major American aerospace companies like Northrup, Lockheed, Boeing, United Space Alliance (which is really a Boeing/Lockheed company), Orbital Sciences, etc. Although large, they don’t employ as many people as you may think, so more needs to be done to increase the workforce of the space industry.
For the most part, these are government contractors who basically derive the majority of their profits from the tax payers by virtue of their contracts with NASA. NASA gets their federal budget and divvies out contracts to these companies for their services. These lions aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, but they are also not really developing much in the way of commercial space either. Why should they, when their bread is nicely buttered by locked contracts with the government? Where the rubber really meets the road, and the average person, is private commercial space exploration and development. The jobs will be created here more than anywhere else.
Private companies, like SpaceX, Bigelow, Virgin Galactic, etc. have started the revolution, where the notion of going to space is not reserved for the select few as appointed by the government (our present day astronauts), but open for everyone to enjoy. They are also breaking down the walls of high cost, low return on space travel. One of the main reasons why space is so expensive is because we have so few players in the game, developing limited scope and unique products that only serve specific purposes. Mass production is what drives prices down.
For example, the rovers Spirit and Opportunity cost a few hundred million each just to design and build, but how much would that cost drop if you mass produced them, in assembly line fashion, with “plug-in” ports to hold vast arrays of scientific instruments? If you punched out a few hundred rovers a year in this format, the cost would drop significantly. Now marry this idea with long range rockets designed the same way (mass produced) and we could have rovers and probes exploring our solar system by the hundreds every year and where the costs are no more drastic than the cost of maintaining commercial airliners. Can you imagine the amount of science and discovery that would provide just in and of itself?
Now that is just a robotic example. The real job growth would come with manned exploration, development and recreation in space. We need to build better spaceships. For the past 30+ years we’ve sat on our hands, enjoying the iconic space shuttle, yet complaining all the way about its faults and its cost of operation. Yet all we did was complain, and never spent the time or resources to develop the next generation of shuttle or spacecraft to accomplish the task better, cheaper and safer.
Honestly, the government is not the arena where progress like this happens. It is the private sector that can and will develop proper spaceships. These companies will compete, grow, employ hundreds of thousands of people, and re-establish
It is very simple to spark this kind of growth and development; make it attractive for space companies to start and grow in
The government doesn’t need to contribute a single dime to make this happen. All they need to do is enact legislation to make it desirable to start a space company in
A natural byproduct of creating space businesses in
Knowing that hard work in school could lead to one actually living in space, because there are more serious opportunities to do so, is a very strong incentive to maintain the proper focus and excel in math and the sciences. Right now it seems more like science fiction, whereas we need to turn it into science fact.
It’s not just about engineers and scientists though. Space Law and Policy will have to be seriously addressed as we develop orbiting hotels, a lunar mining and research facility, etc. Space Medicine would become a completely separate discipline, because what you do on Earth is not exactly the same as what you would have to do in space to save someone’s life or perform surgery. Special schools may have to be developed to study topics such as these. And space business is a business after all, so there is marketing, finance, administration, and all other aspects of running a business that are involved. Many fields of learning are involved in this new direction.
This is where federal funding does come into play, but more importantly, a refocus on how education is administered. No longer should we cater to the lowest common denominator, because all that does is slow everything and everyone else down. High standards, based on strong individual (and in some cases group) effort, are needed in our school systems.
Standardized testing is a farce, where teachers are more focused on teaching just the elements of standardization and not concentrating on the overall picture of scholastic development. You either pass or fail, and not everyone gets an award. The focus needs to be on ensuring everyone receives the most challenging education possible, where failure is an option that serves to strengthen ones resolve. Failures do happen in life, and school is one of the first places to learn the lessons of humility, failure and rising to success. Those that struggle should receive additional assistance after school and on weekends. Reducing the standards does nothing more than destroy the overall potential of
It also wouldn’t hurt to run TV commercials, targeting young people to get involved with math and science for the commercial space business. Entice them with how it can be and how they can help make it happen. In addition, offer older people the opportunity to re-educate themselves and get involved. This would mark a new era in education and focus.
This topic is covered very succinctly. With such frequent trips to space, the ability to conduct low cost space medical research would grow significantly. This would in turn help medical scientists address and solve some of the complex health issues we face today. Medical research in space offers great potential for breakthrough discoveries. It is this kind of space based research, on a large scale, that will help humanity become a stronger, more healthy and vibrant species. The best way to fix the broken health care system is to find ways to prevent sickness in the first place.
Peaceful relations among nations is achieved on many fronts. One of these is free and open trade.
Only through global cooperation can we as a species truly achieve a consistent space presence. Everyone has something to contribute, and these contributions should be used to fortify economies, stabilize relations, and most importantly, advance human space exploration and development.
Advancing the American space program, federal and private, is not just something to boost our economy, fortify international relations, strengthen our education system, or provide enhanced medical research opportunities. An advanced space program is necessary for survival.
It is no secret that the Earth is a fragile sphere. It is no secret that the Earth is not made of unlimited resources. It is no secret that overpopulation could strangle humanity with itself. Yet above all this, it is also no secret that there are objects in our solar system that could wipe out human existence in a matter of minutes. At some point, this stark reality must be faced.
Nothing we do on this planet matters if, in the blink of an eye, we are eradicated by an astronomical disaster. You can’t bring it with you if you’re vaporized. It is imperative that the human species expand to the stars, for survival. The time of large scale space cruisers carrying thousands of people to the far reaches of space may be a far off dream to some, but it must start somewhere, and governments alone will not get us there.
Private space exploration and development, through American leadership, innovation and determination, will make the advancement of humanity to the stars possible. The world will come with us, but we will lead the way, and although the greater reason for developing a strong and long lasting space industry is human survival, we can also bring ourselves out of this economic darkness, reinvigorate the American spirit and establish ourselves once more as the greatest nation the world has ever known.