While our current times seem rife with consternation and strife, the news isn't all bad. In the burgeoning space tourism industry, America has not only been setting new and exciting benchmarks, but is actually leading the global pack.
This cultural era is marred by constant distractions, side-bar issues, and bright shiny objects that continuously pop up and pull our attention away from the things that are, often times, most important. And with social media minutiae, constant soundbite politics, the quest for “clickbait”, and the drone of the wall-to-wall news cycle, it seems like we’re not capable of focusing on great things any more.
If you’re able to get past the daily sensationalism and the political bickering, you may have noticed that America’s commercial space industry has been accomplishing a lot. In fact, the last couple of months have seen some record-setting private sector strides in space – which is not only inspiring, but a sure sign that despite the ongoing challenges we face as a nation, Americans can still do great things.
In the span of only a couple of weeks this past July, two major players in the commercial space industry successfully launched human spaceflight missions with new platforms and technologies – challenging convention, and establishing new thresholds of technological and human triumph. In September, SpaceX's Inspiration4 mission saw the world's first all-civilian spaceflight mission – the crew circled Earth for three days, and successfully splashed down on September 18th. And just a few days ago, Blue Origin’s New Shepard craft successfully took another group of people – including legendary Star Trek captain, William Shatner – into space and back.
Understanding the increasingly vital role of our vibrant commercial space industry to our Nation’s overall space success, these accomplishments are all the more important and noteworthy. Frankly, we wouldn’t have much of a space program without our new space economy – to design and build exquisite satellites, to launch supplies to the space station, to support our ever-expanding communications networks, and to enhance our national defense. Key to note, as inspiring as it is, the area of space tourism is but one part of a wider industry that is inextricably linked to American prosperity, leadership and security in the decades ahead. The fact that the new US Space Force and other national security agencies are increasingly relying on the private sector to quickly develop game-changing technologies for security and defense testifies to the importance of this industry.
But these space tourism feats are more than just cool novelties. They are the visible proof that American ingenuity, resources, technical acumen and commitment to excellence still exists, and can still serve the citizenry and our national interests well. And while the successful launch and return of private sector spacecraft to Earth might look flawless on television, an inordinate amount of work, time, research and trial-and-error goes into these endeavors before the final 'show'. Moreover, the great research and work performed by the visionaries, engineers, scientists, and manufacturers in the commercial space industry can be leveraged toward other pressing imperatives – from developing enhanced life support systems to inventing novel energy solutions.
Finally, the achievements of the space tourism industry – and the commercial space industry writ large – should also serve another purpose: to give hope to the millions of Americans who dream of a promising career with rewarding benefits, an interesting mission, and a stronger sense of purpose and meaning. For those looking to work hard and do great things, this industry has a lot to offer now, and will only do so in the future. Finding sources of real-world motivation and promise – particularly for younger generations moving out into the challenging professional world – is especially important as we continue to grind through these uncertain economic times.
So when life seems filled with nothing but endless depressing news, faltering leadership, discord and strife – try to remember to cut through the noise and the fog and focus on what is positive and promising. Take both comfort and inspiration in the fact that there are parts of American life – like the space tourism industry and new space economy – that are doing great things for the nation, for scientific advancement, and for all humankind.