Business to replace part of NASA

NASA

On Thursday, U.S. President Obama announced his vision for NASA for the next 25+ years. His plan includes the development of a spacecraft capable of sending astronauts in to deep space and landing on an asteroid and eventually on Mars. This is very exciting and although it is many years away, it will be interesting to see how those plans unfold in reality. What is even more exciting and interesting, from a business standpoint at least, is his plan that NASA no longer will focus on sending people in to low earth orbit, such as to the International Space Station (ISS).

Soon the space shuttle program will end as it is scheduled to retire. The plan is not to replace it with another American spacecraft, but instead to rely on the Russian Soyuz rockets to transport people to and from the ISS. This reliance on Russia rubs some Americans the wrong way and the plan is receiving its share of criticism. However, this is only part of the plan. The more interesting part of the plan is that the Russian rocket will be used mainly until private companies will develop a spacecraft capable of doing the job. This is where it gets very interesting.

The technology for transporting people in to low earth orbit is relatively mature according to many scientists. Therefore, private companies should be able to handle those operations with their own technologies. This will cost less in transportation costs per astronaut and will allow the companies to be more efficient than a government agency can be. The potential this creates is that it will allow business to enter the realm of space travel which only increases the ceiling of what humans can accomplish in a given time frame. It will also allow NASA to hone in and focus on fewer tasks, such as deep space exploration.

Business is generally more efficient and effective than government and by investing in business to do these tasks, which is different from what all other countries do, it will give American companies an advantage that can pay dividends for many years to come. They will have a crucial head start over businesses from other countries like Russia, China, Japan, among all others. In the future, it is completely foreseeable and even more likely that companies will be doing these missions versus governments so by being first to invest in them, it opens up doors for America to remain the leader in space.

This strategy is the correct one and it is good for the free world that America is the nation to do it first. In the short term it will benefit Russia as they will have the sole responsibility and therefore, receive payment for transporting people to space but, in the long term, if they do not invest in their private businesses (and they likely will not) then they will eventually not be able to compete with private American companies.