Let’s Stop Pretending Space is Hard

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Space isn’t hard. 

Space isn’t exotic

Space is boring. 

Do those statements bother you? If so – what comes next is for you. 

By and large, the space community talks about space exploration and development as though it is science fiction come to life. As a society, we have formed this idea that space is far beyond our scope of existence. And in many senses it is. Riding rockets to the Moon used to happen only in Tom Swift novels, but so long as the space environment is seen as an impossibly distant and challenging place, the vast majority of humanity will feel as though it is not for them. 

It is time to change that paradigm. Those of us on the inside of this new frontier should set our goal to deconstructing the barriers in people’s minds about space. Living in other parts of the solar system is a foundation for OUR future, and we must set into motion reducing barriers to get there for everyone in the next generation. 

Let’s harness new human habitation, find new ways to generate electricity, and do so much more to transform our home into a more suitable and equitable space, even for those of us who have no interest in going to space. In 2020, Morgan Stanley estimated that the global space industry could generate revenue of more than $1 trillion or more in 2040.  We want space to be for everyone, not just the top one percent who can afford access now and in the near future. 

With space exploration comes a responsibility to right the wrongs of the past and present and to be as open as possible. We have to address where we’ve made mistakes and reshape our future to be more sustainable and attainable simultaneously. At Foundation for the Future, we think positioning space as a public utility, with the creation of a US port authority that constructs the skeleton framework of a harbor in space, is the most attainable. Commercial companies can use that framework to move people, goods, and cargo off the planet, reducing the cost of entry into the current “space race.” Building public space infrastructure to improve access for all wouldn’t compete with current explorers like SpaceX or Blue Origin for the same reason that rail and sea transit don’t compete with air cargo. Sometimes, you need something cheaper that doesn’t need to be there the next day.

We are promoting a bill in Congress that would create an infrastructure development corporation to help fund those basic building blocks for human existence in space. This bill would ultimately help create a secure, sustainable, and efficient pathway to outer space while serving as an engine for unimaginable economic growth here on Earth. 

Staying at home, waiting to run out of resources, or to be wiped out by the next disaster isn’t America’s style. We need more alternatives to meet our growing energy needs and reduce our impact on planet Earth. It’s also simply alien to our culture to look away from a great adventure or back down from a significant challenge. And what greater challenge is there than exploring a limitless frontier?

Ultimately, space has no limits. In that way, space exploration and the United States are a uniquely suited pair. Americans are well suited to frontiers, and not only physical ones.  We like to explore areas like medical research, information technology, and personal development, too. The boundless expanse of outer space is mental as well as physical. is only the first of its limitless characteristics. It is time to rekindle the fire of exploration and discovery. So yes, this is a wild, crazy, and impossible idea. As wild as fighting the world’s most powerful empire for independence, as crazy as building the Hoover Dam in the middle of a Depression, and as impossible as going to the Moon. We as a nation have mastered wild, crazy, and impossible. It is why we went from riding horseback across the prairie to riding a rocket to the Moon in less than 100 years. It’s time we accept that space isn’t hard, it is just new.
Tim Chrisman is the founder and executive director of Foundation for The Future (www.f4f.space); author of Humanity in Space, a look at the future of the second century of human spaceflight; a retired Army Special Operations officer and former CIA Space Department Officer. The Foundation for the Future is an education and advocacy nonprofit dedicated to advancing the space economy by developing critical infrastructure to enable it, investment tools to finance it, and a workforce to power it. The organization hosts monthly virtual events bringing together industry leaders from government and the private sector (www.f4f.space/events), including panels with Congresspeople and senior leaders from the Defense Department and NASA.

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