Space travel companies, not government-backed space agencies such as NASA, have been headlining more missions than ever before. And according to experts, it's a very risky ordeal.
University of Chicago space historian Jordan Bimm believes so, saying that the likes of Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and Richard Branson might be unable to make the wisest or most ethical decisions concerning space travel, reports BusinessInsider.
Bimm further states that these space travel company owners' plans for the future present a wide variety of problems. Bezos, for instance, has designs for letting people live off-world in space stations. Musk's plans have him fixated on establishing an entire city on Mars. But Bimm states these entrepreneurs can't really be trusted with instituting "just and humane" social and political orders in their planned off-world settlements.
So far, both Blue Origin and SpaceX have declined to comment on Bimm's statements.
Is Space Travel Being Taken Over by Private Companies?
When the space race began at the tail end of the Cold War, it was dominated by national governments. Only the likes of NASA have the funds and technological capabilities to conduct space travel, but that has changed.
Companies such as SpaceX, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic may not have done something as grand as sending humans into other worlds--something NASA has already done with the Apollo moon missions. So far, they've only managed to send people to the edge of the Earth's atmosphere, in a place far enough to induce weightlessness. But that's just the beginning.
According to The Conversation, these corporations are doing space travel way faster than if governments were left at it alone. And it's not just the big names. Try Googling the term "private space exploration," and you'll see lists mentioning as many as 10 different firms. One can now say that a new space race has begun, and the private sector almost solely drives it.
This is already evident with Blue Origin and SpaceX locked in a tight race to develop improved reusable spacecraft, evidenced by the former's 'Project Jarvis.' NASA is even awarding multi-billion-dollar contracts to these companies to help them out with future missions, like the Artemis moon mission planned for 2024.
A New Age for Government Space Agencies
Jordan Bimm also predicted a radical change in the role of government-backed space agencies like NASA, especially in this age of privately funded space travel.
With multi-billionaires spearheading the development of new technologies and techniques, government space travel agencies could be relegated to support roles in the near future. Instead of planning and executing the missions themselves, these agencies will likely serve as some regulatory and advisory function to any private company doing space flights.
There's also the fact that space exploration is opening up to almost anybody. While not really a bad thing, the change is very drastic. Before, you could only go to space if you were a talented engineer/scientist or a decorated soldier who's passed extreme vetting processes. Now, all you need to do is have enough money to buy a ticket to space.
It's impossible to tell what the future holds for space exploration. But for now, the private sector is changing the game, and there's no denying that.
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Written by RJ Pierce