The Space Shuttle program is winding down. Portions of NASA's funding are being cut or rearranged. Critics are debating if we should bother to send humans to the Moon and beyond at all. These news-bites are hitting the airwaves each day, often times failing to mention why this seemingly bad news is actually incredibly exciting.
The world has seen NASA as their only space and lunar luminary for a long time, but a lot has changed within even the last year. NASA no longer has a monopoly on space exploration, and citizens are beginning to take notice. From other spacefaring nations to commercial entities such as SpaceX and Virgin Galactic, people are watching and waiting for a dark horse to be the spark that makes space exploration accessible to all.
As former U.S. Congressman Nick Lampson (D-TX) stated in the Houston Chronicle this week,
"...an emerging commercial space flight industry made up of proven and established entrepreneurs is now able to provide many of the launch and cargo services, equipment and infrastructure needed to expand our economy and improve our security here on Earth."
Why is this exciting? Collaboration between NASA and commercial entities keeps space exploration on a competitive schedule, something the world has been lacking since the days of the space race. Collaboration also costs less money to taxpayers, allowing for more money to be invested in new innovations that would otherwise get cut. Most exciting of all, we no longer will need to depend on one entity to move our civilization, knowledge, inspiration and understanding of our place in the Universe forward.
Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, stated,
"decentralization and tolerance are the life and breath of Internet".
The same holds true for the survival of space exploration.