April 2016, Opposition Pieces

The Space Race

Should the space industry turn private?

By the Public, for the Public

Written by MWR writer Ceylan Borgers

Space exploration is a relatively new development in our history. Indeed, the first satellite launched into space was achieved by the Soviet Union in 1957. Since then, many space missions have been accomplished, mostly through government-funded programs. Although private space exploration has its advantages, it is this author’s opinion that space exploration continue to be funded mainly by the public sector.

Without institutions such as NASA, many scientific and technological advances would not have come to fruition. Funded mostly by the tax payers, public space exploration contributes to the well-being of society. Publicly funded space agencies can accomplish missions that benefit society as a whole that the private sector would not necessarily be able to do on its own. One of the most important and long-lasting missions accomplished by NASA is the launching of the Hubble telescope. It was the first telescope to be launched into space, in 1990. The Hubble Space Telescope’s mission is to explore and observe our universe with a new perspective and using the latest technologies. Not only did Hubble help humanity explore the universe, the technological advances achieved through the work on the Hubble telescope also helped further research and studies in breast cancer. In addition, the data retrieved from Hubble enabled astrophysicists to better understand the universe and its many wonders; since its launch, many thousands of scientific papers have been written. CAT scans, artificial limbs, wireless headsets and water purification are but a few examples of other technological innovations that have directly benefited from the work done at NASA and that have been major contributions to our society.

Privately funded space agencies are not able to match the accomplishments of NASA and other publicly funded space agencies. The reason is quite simple: privately funded agencies generally are profit-driven. Their main goal is not necessarily the advancement of science, but rather the bottom line. Moreover, these private agencies would not be as interested in endeavors such as the Hubble space telescope program as there is no real monetary return with such investments. One of the few ways in which they could seek profit from missions like the Hubble program is by selling the data collected and charging researchers to use it. By monetizing data and the ability to do research, scientific progress would suffer. While private corporations can have a place in space exploration, they should not be allowed to monopolize this field.

Thus far, public space agencies have paved a path forward for all of humankind. They have taken the risks and borne the burdens of failed missions. The very reason that these agencies can sometimes fail and nonetheless forge on with their research and discoveries is the fact that they are publicly funded. Space exploration, which will very likely be a deciding factor in the survival of humanity, must continue to develop and progress. The many billions of dollars needed for this can only come from the public sector.

While privately funded space exploration certainly has some benefits, the many scientific advances made in the decades since the space age began can almost exclusively be attributed to institutions like NASA and the Canadian Space Agency. These agencies must continue to be funded by the public; our very existence may depend on it.

Edited by Chani Lumbroso

A New Vision for the Space Industry

Written by Dima Romanov

There is no doubt that over the last seven decades we have had an impressive technological progress in every industrial section. However, it is also a well-known fact that after the Space Race, the government funding on the exploration of the Universe drastically relatively decreased. In fact, NASA’s budget went from 4.5 % to 0.5%, thus leading led to the agency delaying their Journey to Mars. It does not end there; in fact, it was recently announced that the International Space Station, a symbol of the nations’ cooperation towards scientific progress, would retire in less than 10 years. Consequently, the public sector of the space industry is failing in numerous ways, which begs the question: how can we solve this problem without abandoning our dreams of galaxy exploration? The solution is obvious–we can turn toward the private sector. Over the last few years, SpaceX demonstrated that private companies are capable of achieving impressive results such through their latest launch of Falcon Heavy. Thus, the best way to make Space Industry great again is to hand the reins over to private companies.

Who other than the private sector can find money for space?

As aforementioned, the government-sponsored institutions suffer from lack of financing. Their plans are constantly being discarded because of the continuous changes in the budget. Meanwhile, private companies have an advantage in time and money and since they are not under a direct control, they have more mobility in their actions. Their position allows them to find financial resources. For instance, Jeff Bezos is able to invest in his company, Blue Origin, using his personal funds, whereas NASA would have to go through numerous obstacles before acquiring the necessary resources. Additionally, since private companies focus on profit, the space industry would undergo a huge financial boost. To sum it up, there is no doubt that private companies would be able to fund their projects with ease.

There is nothing better for customers than competition between companies

The privatization of the space industry has multiple significant advantages, but one of them is more important than the others; competition between companies is one of the most valuable factors of the corporate world as it benefits science, economy, and people. Rivalry in the public sector is still effective, with the outcome proving to be incredible. The Space Race is a direct proof of that.

Years of fierce competition have indeed resulted in unthinkable advancements in science, essentially creating the space industry. The privatization of the space industry could provide even more benefits. Instead of having a few competing countries, there would be dozens of companies trying to surpass each other. Needless to say, this will result in a new extraordinary scientific revolution; possibilities in space are limitless after all.

Naturally, there is always a risk of monopoly, which is undoubtedly detrimental to society. However, most of the modern countries have institutions in place to prevent any company to fully control the market. Moreover, at this point, the competition is only beginning; there are already three technology moguls who run spaceflight companies. Elon Musk, Richard Branson, and Jeff Bezos are significantly pushing science towards better future of space industry. Apart from the scientific benefits of competition, naturally, there will be more qualitative services at fair prices from different companies. Therefore, the competitive aspect of the private space industry is assuredly an effective upside for science and society.

The solution to environmental issues could be right above us.

For a long time, asteroid mining was a part of science-fiction novels, but with recent advancements, it could become a reality. It is no secret that private companies are expected to be the first ones to exploit this as the financial potential of acquiring resources from asteroids is enormous. Apart from the increase in natural capital, the space mining industry could be incredibly beneficial for our planet. With the threat of climate change growing and the demand for resource increasing day by day, asteroid mining could become the perfect tool to release the pressure on Earth. Hence, by allowing companies to explore space, we may find a solution to the issues of our planet.

There is no doubt that the existence of the private sector in Space would have an upside and it would be unreasonable to ignore its multiple advantages. The private sector could bring tremendous investments to scientific research, cultivate competition that would provide people with high quality services at reasonable prices, and provide the solution to climate change through initiation of asteroid mining. All in all, having private companies take charge of exploring space could revolutionize the industry and change our world for the better.

Edited by Behraz Rezaie










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