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The Pros and Cons of Privatizing Human Spaceflight

1. Introduction to privatization of human space flight

What is privatization?

Privatization is the transfer of ownership or control of a company, enterprise, service, or public asset from the public sector to the private sector. This can be done through selling shares in a company to private investors, converting a public entity into a privately-owned company, or introducing elements of the private sector into a publicly-run organization.

What is human spaceflight?

Human spaceflight is spaceflight carrying human passengers, generally non-technical individuals related to space science. The first human spaceflight was on April 12, 1961, when Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first person to orbit the Earth. Since then, there have been numerous other manned spaceflights carried out by various nations around the world.

Privatization of human spaceflight: the pros and cons

There are both proponents and opponents of privatization of human spaceflight. Proponents argue that privatization would lead to increased efficiency and innovation in the development and operation of spacecraft and launch vehicles. They also argue that it would allow for greater commercialization of spaceflight activities and help reduce the cost of launching payloads and humans into orbit. Opponents argue that privatization could lead to less safety and oversight in spaceflight operations, as well as increased costs for access to space. They also argue that privatization could lead to a two-tier system in which only wealthy individuals would be able to afford to fly in space.

2. The history of privatization of human space flight

The early days of privatization
The idea of privatizing human spaceflight dates back to the early days of the Space Age. In the 1960s, both NASA and the Soviet Union were considering options for commercializing their respective space programs. The Soviet Union even went so far as to sell tickets for rides on Soyuz spacecraft, but ultimately decided against it due to safety concerns. In the United States, NASA considered various options for commercializing its Space Shuttle program, but ultimately decided against it due to opposition from within the agency and from Congress.
The first privatized spaceflight company
The first privatized spaceflight company wasSpace Services Incorporated (SSI), which was founded in 1982 by David Anderman and George Whitesides. SSI was created with the goal of providing suborbital tourist flights using refurbished military missiles. The company’s first launch took place in September 1982, when it launched two test payloads on a Scout rocket from Wallops Island, Virginia. In 1984, SSI launched two more test payloads on Scouts from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The company’s first paying customer was actor Timothy Dalton, who paid $100,000 for a suborbital flight aboard a Scout rocket in 1985. Dalton’s flight never took place due to technical difficulties with the rocket.
In 1986, SSI launched two additional test payloads on Scouts from Vandenberg Air Force Base. One of these payloads carried six live mice as part of an experiment for university researcher John Iversen. The other payload carried a coffin containing the cremated remains of Star Trek actor James Doohan (better known as “Scotty”). Doohan’s widow requested that his ashes be sent into space so that he could “boldly go where no man has gone before.”
In 1987, SSI performed its first and only successful launch of a Scout rocket carrying paying customers. The rocket carried four payloads, one of which was a coffin containing the cremated remains of Star Trek actor Gene Roddenberry. Roddenberry’s widow requested that his ashes be sent into space so that he could “see the universe the way he imagined it.”
After the successful launch of the Roddenberry ashes, SSI began marketing suborbital tourist flights to the general public. The company offered flights on both sounding rockets and reusable winged spacecraft. In 1989, SSI launched two test flights of its reusable winged spacecraft, the Conestoga I and II. Neither vehicle reached orbit, but both were successfully recovered after landing in the ocean.

3. The current state of privatization of human space flight

The Augustine Commission
In 2009, President Barack Obama chartered a committee to review the state of the U.S. human spaceflight program and make recommendations for its future. The committee, known as the Augustine Commission, was chaired by Norm Augustine (the former CEO of Lockheed Martin). The commission released its report in October 2009, which contained several options for the future of human spaceflight in the United States.
The Constellation Program
In response to the Augustine Commission’s report, President Obama directed NASA to cancel its Constellation program (which was developing rockets and spacecraft to return humans to the moon). Instead, Obama proposed that NASA focus on developing technologies for long-term exploration of deep space (beyond low Earth orbit). Obama also proposed increased cooperation with commercial companies for launching payloads and humans into orbit.
Obama’s plan
Under President Obama’s plan, private companies would develop and operate rockets and spacecraft to transport humans and cargo to low Earth orbit. NASA would focus on developing technologies for long-term deep space exploration (beyond low Earth orbit). The plan also called for increased international cooperation in spaceflight activities.
The budget crisis
In 2011, Congress passed a budget bill that included significant cuts to NASA’s budget. As a result of these cuts, NASA was forced to cancel or delay several programs, including the Constellation program (which was developing rockets and spacecraft to return humans to the moon). The budget cuts also forced NASA to rely more heavily on commercial companies for launching payloads and humans into orbit.

4. The future of privatization of human space flight

The increased role of the private sector
The future of human spaceflight is likely to involve an increased role for the private sector. Private companies are already playing a major role in launching payloads and humans into orbit (e.g., SpaceX, Blue Origin). These companies are also developing new launch vehicles and spacecraft that could be used for human spaceflight (e.g., SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, Blue Origin’s New Shepard spaceship).
The changing landscape of the space industry
The landscape of the space industry is changing rapidly, with new commercial companies entering the market and existing companies expanding their businesses. For example, Blue Origin is now offering suborbital tourist flights aboard its New Shepard spaceship; Virgin Galactic is also planning to offer suborbital tourist flights aboard its SpaceShipTwo vehicle; and SpaceX is planning to launch astronauts to the International Space Station aboard its Dragon capsule.

In conclusion, the privatization of human spaceflight is a controversial issue with both proponents and opponents. The future of human spaceflight is likely to involve an increased role for the private sector, as private companies are already playing a major role in launching payloads and humans into orbit. The landscape of the space industry is changing rapidly, with new commercial companies entering the market and existing companies expanding their businesses.

FAQ

Privatization of human space flight is the transfer of responsibility for development, operation, and funding of human spaceflight missions from government agencies to private companies.

There has been an increased interest in privatization of human space flight due to the high cost and risk associated with government-run programs, as well as the desire to increase access to space.

Some advantages of privatization of human space flight include increased efficiency and accountability, as well as the potential for reduced costs. However, there are also some disadvantages, such as a lack of government oversight and regulation, which could lead to safety concerns.

Some key players involved in privatization of human space flight include SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic.

Challenges that must be overcome for successful privatization of human space flight include developing safe and reliable technology, reducing costs, and ensuring regulatory compliance.

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