Fifty years ago, the world watched as American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took the first steps on the moon, the culmination of a near decade-long race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union to determine the world’s technologically superior nation.
Today, a new space race has emerged, not between rival superpowers, but competing private enterprise backed by some of the planet’s richest men. Companies like Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin are leading the charge to commercialize space travel, and they’re creating a ton of excitement along the way.
“Everybody’s talking about space again,” said Rich Cooper, Vice President of Strategic Communications and Outreach at the Space Foundation.
“Space has been cool for those of us who have been part of the industry, but there is a whole new generation of Americans that are getting reignited and excited about space because of companies like Blue Origin, SpaceX, and Virgin Galactic,” he added. “You’re having a whole new set of market entrepreneurs enter this area and really bring the cost to access space down, but also communicating with people that makes them feel connected to it.”
According to the Space Foundation, the global space economy is now worth about $414.75 billion, with more than half of that value coming from commercial space products and services.
Cooper says that number is only expected to grow as space related technologies creep into all corners of the developed world.
“Space is a critical infrastructure,”he said. “Everything that we do here on Earth is directly connected to what’s happening above. Whether that be cell phones, whether that be data, whether that be advanced medical technology… every facet of our lives is connected to that and that’s what becomes a larger part of a global space economy that is creating jobs and is creating opportunity that we always thought were reserved for the rocket scientists and the astronauts.”
Mars by 2030?
With the lunar landing behind us, experts and science fiction fans alike are looking to the next frontier in space travel: Mars. Depending on the time of year, the red planet sits anywhere from 33 million to 250 million miles away from Earth, putting the total travel time anywhere between 39 and 289 days. Although a trip that long may sound like a daunting task, Cooper said we could possibly send a human to Mars by 2030.
“The hope is that we could see [reaching Mars] hopefully within the early 2030’s if at all possible, if not sooner,” Cooper said. “This is a longer journey that needs to be taken and there are steps that need to be taken to make sure that it is safe, it is affordable, and it is sustainable.”
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