Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Defunding Constellation - Prospects for Spacers

The White House has defunded NASA's Constellation program. George W. Bush's plan to go to the Moon and Mars on the cheap is dead. If Bush had thrown more money at the program in his term of office, it might be too far along to kill. Every cloud has a silver lining, however.

Readers of this blog know that it is committed to creating private space ventures. Given the sparse goals of most of the space startups currently receiving money from NASA in their latest round of private space funding, I think this effort, in combination with 1000 Planets, is the best thing out there. Indeed, the White House is doing the same thing that 1000 Planets suggested to them on this issue - get out of the launch business and buy tickets on a private carrier. I would gather that we were not the only ones suggesting this - although if we were first, Norm Augustine owes me an iced decaf Americano.

At first blush, it would seem that the President's action dooms the space industry and consigns everyone in the military who wants to enter the Astronaut Corps at NASA, as well as the current membership, to the ground for the next decade. This is not the case, however.

This initiative opens up the market for spacers of all varieties. To date, to become an Astronaut or mission controller, one could only go one place - NASA. This is no longer the case. If a company wanted to do serious manned space flight, it had to win a NASA contract. This is no longer true. If an engineer had an idea for a neat space drive or vehicle, he pretty much had to dance to the NASA tune and those of its vendors. Not anymore. Space tourists had to bribe the Russians to go up and the price has been increasing of late. This is no longer true.

NASA, by going to a private market, is helping to create an infrastructure that will attract other space tourists. It will provide capability to lift people and equipment that will eventually seek an expanded customer base, thus lowering prices while still remaining highly profitable - thus attracting more industry. All that is needed to get into the game is the ability to hire talent and find customers and financing. Anyone who has navigated the DoD PPBE process or been involved in major systems contracting should have the moxi to pull together a space startup. Anyone who wants to fly a space ship, and has the military training to do it, should be able to find a job doing it if they work hard enough at it. Indeed, this may actually get more people to join the military, since of late becoming an airline pilot has been an unattractive goal, given the way the airline industry has evolved. This changes that.

So, what is a spacer to do if he wants a job? Look to the right pane and see if you fit in and then send an email to