Excited About Space Yet? If Not, Then You Should Be.

Do you feel the energy?

Last time I wrote about the discovery of phosphine on Venus, but there are still a lot of questions to answer with that. Now they will plan and fly several robotic spacecraft to Venus to get a closer look at its atmosphere in order to nail down some of the variables. At least for a while, the search for life in outerspace and the answer to the question “is anybody out there” will now include the skies over Venus

Please understand though, that the excitement of possible life on another world other than Earth is itself only a data point. The real question to be answered is Firmi’s Paradox. That is to say that if Drakes Equation (a formula estimating the amount of life in the universe) were correct, then there would already be space aliens everywhere. One theory is that life has catastrophic events that prevent advanced societies from persisting for thousands of years. The question that we need answered is this…did humanity dodge its bullet, or should we still be watching for it? Just in case the Reaper does come for all intelligent life on Earth, shouldn’t we have a backup?

Well the more time humanity spends in space, the better we sit with these things. The space tourism companies, Space Adventures and Axiom Space, have made deals this year with SpaceX to fly tourists to orbit on private money. Bigelow Space Operations booked four flights last year…before SpaceX’s second test flight to the International Space Station (ISS) and even before their partner Boeing’s failed first test flight.

Accessibility to space without an act of Government opens the door of opportunity to the masses. Bigelow Aerospace will charge $52M per seat on the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, four seats per flight, there and back again to the ISS. Now, I know what you’re thinking…$52,000,000 is quite a lot for even rich folks. Well, it’s not much at all for any country wanting to start their own national human spaceflight program. Bigelow Space Operations is the service arm of Bigelow Aerospace, the company that has had their own private space station prototypes in orbit for the past fourteen years. So these flights could serve as practice runs for the orbiting space Hotels they plan to operate soon.

Just as other things commercial, the prices fall as flight frequency absorbed development costs and other overhead as these costs are divided among costumers and side industries spring up to service needs that we haven’t even anticipated yet. These activities will take place around the world of course, but the industry leaders are U.S. based organizations.

Of course, the question of Fermi’s Paradox can’t be answered directly in close Earth orbit. NASA and the space industry will need to venture out. SpaceX intends to fly eight people in one of their huge Starships up and around the Moon and back again.

Under a mandate from the Trump administration, NASA has accelerated the plan for building the Lunar Orbital Gateway and explore the Moon such that they intend to return humans to the surface of the Moon by 2024. Congress isn’t helping with that effort much, neither is the development schedule for NASA’s Space Launch System, but NASA has contracted to use commercial carriers whenever necessary to fulfill the timeline where SLS can’t. This also has the side effect of potentially lowering cost.

Starship finally successfully completed its 150 meter hop test with their SN5 prototype back in August, just a few days after Bob and Doug returned to Earth from the crewed Demo-2 flight of the SpaceX Dragon to the International Space Station.

Starship hopped again with SN6 this month. The next flight will will probably fly on a 20 kilometre hop before the end of 2020. Tens of millions of viewers, maybe over a hundred million, watched the Dragon Demo 2 splashdown event. Jim Bridenstine of NASA mentioned Starship in his DM-2 welcome home speech. Space geek YouTubers all covered both the launch and splashdown events live on their channels. The first official operational NASA crewed mission with Dragon will probably fly this year with the second mission early next year, along with Boeing’s second un-crewed flight test of Starliner.

“Today, we’re flying into Low Earth Orbit, and in a few short years we wanna be flying to the Moon…and not just go once or twice, but we want to go sustainably with a purpose. We’re going to the Moon sustainably. We’re gonna learn how to live and work on other world for long periods of time. We’re gonna use the resources of the Moon in order to live and work, and we’re gonna take all of that knowledge on to Mars.”

“This is about momentum. It starts today, and it finishes when we put an American flag on Mars.”

— Jim Bridenstine, NASA Director

Routine access to space will spawn and/or feed technology and support to other industries around the globe, much like the impact of orbiting satellites on global communications, weather, and Earth imagery has been commonplace in our lives for decades.

Morgan Stanley issued an updated report last month predicting that the space industry will generate an annual 1 trillion dollars globally by 2040.

“We think of reusable rockets as an elevator to low Earth orbit (LEO). Just as further innovation in elevator construction was required before today’s skyscrapers could dot the skyline, so too will opportunities in space mature because of access and falling launch costs.”

Adam Jonas, Morgan Stanley Equity Analyst

Maybe you or someone you know will someday have a job in space, or on the ground supporting space activities in some way.

If you don’t feel the excitement yet, stay tuned.

~ by Bill Housley on September 15, 2020.

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