by Stephan Reckie, GEN Space Executive Director
Over a half-century ago, Astronaut Neil Armstrong was the first human ever to set foot on another planet by landing on the Moon. On July 20th, 1969, I watched that landing on a small black and white television in my parent’s living room. Little did I know that access to Space would become easier than that tremendous effort in my lifetime. Eleven other astronauts have walked on the Moon since then, among the growing number of over 550 Astronauts that have been to Space.
The opportunities for Space travel are dramatically changing with the help of entrepreneurs, investors, and strategic companies that are focused on innovations in rocket launches and support systems. Reusability is a major factor in cost reduction, which historically has been a great challenge in securing budgets for Space exploration. We are in a new era of commercial space flight opportunities, no longer requiring governments to fund the exploration. The private sector is now fuelling access to space and fostering innovation. Space flight is no longer restricted to Space professionals, as several Space Tourists have already flown, as companies create lower-cost opportunities for the more casual tourist, who is attracted to the quest for human exploration. Companies such as Worldview, Space Perspectives, Blue Origin, and SpaceX plan to provide tourist access to space within this decade.
This commercial access to space also allows for the availability of research and scientific development in Space vehicles ranging in size from micro-satellites to fully manned capsules. This is critical as a step to advance humanity, leveraging our DNA for exploration. We have an opportunity to learn more about our Earth by analysing the Moon, and with the potential of finding other lifeforms in the Universe, we can further understand the purpose of our existence.
The International Space Station, a cooperative working research environment created by 15 countries, has allowed for experiments to take place in never-before-possible conditions. Health and medical technologies, as well as astrobiological experiments, such as with small rodents and insects, all have the potential of addressing diseases on Earth.
Advancements in launch technologies are on the verge of drastically reducing costs in access to space for entrepreneurs to further develop their businesses. Autonomous systems are being developed to allow for safer and deeper space exploration. Even terrestrial autonomous vehicles will eventually all be coordinated on the Earth through growing satellite constellations.
Connectivity amongst the inhabitants of the Earth is greatly enhanced using satellite-based communications, becoming accessible even through our everyday mobile phones. Earth observation of weather and climate change-related issues are now collected by constellations of mini, micro, and Cube satellites. Higher and safer food production through on-orbit surveys and assessment is being made possible by new data networks. Big Space Data is now a market and is creating innovative business models. These are only a few of the many examples of how access to space will positively impact life on earth.
Each year, hundreds of technical innovations generated by Space programs make their way into our earthly technology such as better home appliances, advancements in farming equipment, faster communications, more precise maritime and aerospace technologies, safety through dangerous weather warnings, improved medical instruments, and other innovations in our everyday life.
The progress made while solving space’s technical challenges is a catalyst for the chain reaction of innovation. While a deep space exploratory mission won’t directly address poverty and hunger on the Earth, that development process will create many spin-offs that might do so, providing a significant return of investment on the efforts. In addition to the need for mankind’s technological advancement, these developments are required if we want to continue to improve human living conditions on our ever-crowding Earth.
Space development and innovation will stimulate the creation of a continuing workforce of diverse young people who will develop a career in science. Grand Space challenge objectives are being made available, and funding for such efforts is important. Budgets allocated for space programs among existing governments and new sovereign nation programs are essential to fuel this aspect of innovation. If we could all cooperate in a space race as opposed to settling conflicts through war, the Earth would be a better place.
Some may consider Space programs towards the moon, the sun, the planets, and the stars to be a distraction away from our earth, but it is becoming clearer that those programs help us discover more about the planet that we live on and ourselves. The sky is no longer for the limit of our knowledge and opportunity.
About GEN Space
GEN Space is a program of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN), which operates projects and programs in 200 countries aimed at making it easier for anyone, anywhere to start and scale a business. GEN Space provides a platform to help stimulate the creation of startups and scale-ups focused on entrepreneurial opportunities in space. By connecting existing and nascent space entrepreneurs with relevant government agencies, industry, and investors, it promotes collaboration and helps increase the viability of space commerce.
GEN Space serves thousands of companies employing thousands of astropreneurs interested in developing launch systems, space hardware technology and support infrastructure, including advanced materials, big data, exotic fuels, flight safety, habitats, and spacesuits. GEN Space is also a means for connecting companies that are currently serving terrestrial markets today, but which may solve grand space challenges tomorrow.