As the human race space has long captured our dreams and our lives from looking at constellations for direction to observing the Moon’s phases that gave us our early perceptions of time. It has been a frontier crossed only by superpowers that spent billions of dollars to send a few men and recently women to space. The Apollo Project, which put the first humans on the moon, was estimated to cost around $125 billion in 2010 dollars. For a long while, it was assumed that only when states joined together to form a united Earth would humanity then become a space-faring race.
This is changing. The first private citizen to be in space was Dennis Tito who spent nearly $20 million to fly to space and back in 2001. Since then there have been non-profits and corporations that are keen on having the human race as a space-faring civilization. In 2002, Elon Musk, founder of Tesla, Solar City and PayPal founded SpaceX, becoming the first private company to launch a rocket into space and land in the International Space Station.
In 2004, Virgin Galactic was founded by Richard Branson promising to have commercial space flights though they won’t be taking anyone to the Moon yet. And recently, Mars One has announced the 100 people who will receive further training for potentially setting a colony on the ambitious date of 2025.
The frontier is being pushed back in this field but what started this privatization of space? The main reason was the decrease of government involvement in space. In 1972, the Apollo Missions was stopped by President Nixon as its mission was seen to be accomplished. As the Cold War ended, and due to the Challanger disaster, the US started to tighten their belts on space eventually retiring its Space Shuttle program in 2011. In a New York Magazine article, it stated that when NASA stopped its shuttle program, the scientists joined private companies eager to recruit talent accelerating the process. Now private corporations are taking the helm of this market putting governments in mission control.
Our quest to the stars has met some setbacks. Just weeks ago, an unmanned SpaceX rocket on it's way to the International Space Station exploded minutes after lift off. Virgin Galactic got into problems as a test flight of its aircraft crashed killing a test pilot. Mars One has met some controversy over its goal which is deemed unrealistic by Wired through its ambitious program with little funding to make it happen.
The mission to reach for the stars has never been easy but as the character Gene Kranz in Apollo 13 said, “Failure is not an option!” Our generation can put humans back to the stars by supporting this new space age. Eventually we will have to move out into the universe as our little blue dot gets smaller. Reaching out in space is something that many, including myself, have dreamed about but as our governments focus more on now, it is up to visionaries like Musk,
Branson and all the innovators in the world to have humanity look down on Earth instead of up in space. As the late Neil Armstrong said, “That is one small step for Man and one huge leap for Mankind.”