The Commercial Space Biz: A Coming-of-Age Story
Saturday, April 28th, 2012
Earlier this month we blogged about the recent success of space commercialization and the planned mission to dock the first private space craft, the SpaceX Dragon capsule, with the International Space Station (ISS). If that news wasn’t big enough, the newsrooms and blogs roared back to life following an announcement that film director James Cameron and top executives at Google are planning a venture – Planetary Resources, Inc. – to begin mining minerals from asteroids, as soon as 2013.
A spaceship named SpaceX Dragon? Mining resources from asteroids? If it seems like we have just stepped into a science fiction movie, it’s because in a sense we have. We may have finally reached the point where so-called science fiction runs headfirst into reality. And one key aspect of this new reality is a private space industry that has finally come of age.
Since the dawning of the new millennium, we’ve seen giant leaps in the private space industry. It began with the flight of Dennis Tito, an American businessman who became the first person to pay for his way into space aboard a Soyuz capsule’s trip to the Russian space station Mir in 2001. Since Tito’s trailblazing trip, dozens of other space tourists have followed him into the great beyond, spawning space tourism organizations, as well as a widely-publicized race to commercialize space flight. Sir Richard Branson, of course, has gotten in on the act.
What’s clear is that private space corporations bring a lot to the table — resources in particular — which has led to their inclusion in delicate missions to the ISS. It means that, in at least some respects, private companies now have the means to soon operate at the same level as much larger, public space agencies.
And while it’s easy to sit in our comfy desk chairs and scoff at the notion of extracting iron, nickel and other precious metals from nearby asteroids, it’s hard to ignore the committed group of individuals backing the Planetary Resources venture. In addition to Cameron and the top tech executives, former mission commanders from NASA stand behind the Planetary Resource program.
This is not a publicity stunt. Chances are that if these esteemed individuals have risked their reputations on such a venture, they believe the private space industry has truly come of age.
By Jason Taetsch
Jason Taetsch is a freelance content writer with experience in tech writing, blogs, travel writing, pop culture and a range of promotional materials. Jason blogs via Contently.com.