As Elon Musk’s SpaceX company is set to become the first commercial manned mission to the international space station in the coming days, a space industry expert has said the moment marks a change in responsibility for space exploration.
Professor Loizos Heracleous, a space industry expert at Warwick Business School who has advised NASA, said while the commercial sector is “standing on the shoulders of giants” and “owes a great debt to earlier state investment”, it was now the job of tech entrepreneurs to take space exploration further.
“Private enterprise, not government funding, will conquer the final frontier,” he said.
Citing the likes of SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic – backed by billionaire entrepreneurs- he suggested the Space Race was now a competition between brands rather than governments.
“Many space entrepreneurs grew up at a time when it seemed reasonable for boys to assume that manned flights to the moon and beyond would be routine by the 21st Century,” he said, adding that they now “feel cheated” that further exploration is yet to happen.
He expects that these entrepreneurs will use their wealth to make space tourism “viable while they are around to enjoy it”.
He said there was no “substitute for the entrepreneurial spark, energy and ambition that drives these commercial space companies”.
“Elon Musk’s company, SpaceX, has already become the first privately funded company to successfully launch, orbit and recover a rocket. Reusing this technology for future missions can greatly reduce the cost, encouraging the development of commercial space transport,” he said.
The latest project from SpaceX, in collaboration with NASA, was to launch astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken on a mission to the International Space Station.
The launch, which was set to happen yesterday but was called off due to bad weather, is set to be attempted later in the week.