From The Pale Blue Dot

Sharing the Burden of Progress Between Government and Private Sector


R.L.T Prankard, Cactus Writer

While the natural climate of our homeworld continues to change at an accelerating rate, our species is coming to focus more on how to fight against the rising tides and erratic weather. This increasing interest in terrestrial solutions has taken away public interest from extra-terrestrial solutions, and as a result, lessened funding to programs that concern themselves with the endeavors of space exploration. A consequence of this lacking of funds is the contracting of work out to private aerospace companies, such as SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, and the Orbital Sciences Corporation. There are many who have spoken out against this idea, playing on the patriotic factor that space exploration is a matter of national pride, when in fact it is so much more.

First, space exploration is more than a matter of national pride, it exists as more than just a trivial point of patriotic pride. The expansion out into our solar system, and consequently, the Cosmos as a whole, is the next step in our progression as a species. With science as our tool, this great endeavor will allow humankind to continue evolving as we become an ever more advanced spacefaring civilization.

Second, with a burden now shared by more people within the private sector, government administrations such as NASA and the ESA are now able to allocate precious funding to more important areas of research, such as combating the numerous hazards of space exploration. While they are searching for methods to make travel across the star-ways safer for humans, companies such as SpaceX are working with the challenge of creating cheaper yet more durable reusable spacecraft. Where once the cost was roughly $450 million to launch NASA’s Space Shuttle, it now costs $61.2 million to launch SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, a difference of $388.8 million dollars per launch. The Falcon 9 Heavy rocket, which SpaceX is still developing, will prove to be one of the most powerful reusable rockets in history, still costing less to launch than NASA’s Space Shuttle, at an estimated $90 million per launch. Money that is saved from reduced launching costs goes towards experimenting with a diverse range of dynamic landing methods, such as landing a rocket upright upon a barge that floats out at sea. Whenever a rocket explodes during a landing, there will be no massive concern regarding the cost because producing the rocket is significantly cheaper than it used to be. Whenever is rocket is destroyed in the name of science, researchers examine the landing data and use it to manufacturing another rocket, which will improve upon its predecessor’s performance.

Thus is the flexibility of research and experimentation when the private sector is allowed in on the great endeavor of moving our species closer towards spreading out away from this pale blue dot—out amongst the vast expanse of the Cosmos and beyond.