When NASA shut down its space shuttle program back in 2011, it closed a door but also opened a big window. This open window is now being accessed by private businesses that have the resources and capital to help NASA send a human to an asteroid by 2025 and to Mars sometime in the 2030s. The first step of this plan involves developing a more cost effective way to shuttle astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS), where the current cost is $70 million per seat aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft. So, if you want to hail a space taxi right now, you better have a fat wallet.
NASA just awarded a $2.6 billion contract to Space X and a $4.6 billion to Boeing for the development of a space taxi that charges less than $58 million for a ride to the ISS and back. This is significant not only because it involves private enterprise, but also that the U.S. no longer wants to rely on foreign space programs. This now calls into question what the future of the ISS will be given that it is now used and funded by five space agencies (U.S., Russia, Japan, European Space Agency (ESA), and Canada) governed by international treaties and agreements.
Due to the plunging ruble and tough economic times, Russia has been forced to delay its decision regarding the ISS. Comments have been made that Russia will either pursue the creation of a new Russian space station or will partner with China whose space station is expected to be operational around 2020. The ESA has also not decided whether they will continue to fund the ISS past 2020. While there is a lot of uncertainty regarding what the future of the ISS will be, there is little doubt that governments and private businesses from all over the world are teaming in a race to see who can achieve the next big breakthrough.
On July 20, 1969, the world watched together as Neil Armstrong took his first step on the moon. A lot of time has passed since then and space travel for humans has been limited to moon landings and orbit rides. With the evolution of technology and the involvement of the private sector, I truly believe we will see the global space industry make fundamental leaps in the next 20 years. Competition will heat up once again between different space programs and many see India as a nation who has the resources and motivation to become a significant player. Who knows, perhaps one day I will be able to afford a space taxi.
For more information on Space Taxis, please refer to the following articles:
The Most Expensive Taxis In The World Set To Launch, Literally, Paul Dworin, January 27th, 2015 (http://clapway.com/2015/01/27/the-most-expensive-taxis-in-the-world-set-to-launch-literally123/)
Europe's 'space taxi' prepares for lift-off - unmanned spacecraft opens new chapter for ESA, Olivia Solon, January 30th, 2015 (http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/technology-science/science/europes-space-taxi-prepares-lift-off-5073131)
Indian startups beginning to make their mark in space, Evelyn Fok and Malavika Murali, January 30th (http://tinyurl.com/njnaopq)
NASA’s Journey to Mars: (http://www.nasa.gov/content/nasas-journey-to-mars/#.VMyHjkLLNo8)
For more information about the Corvinus Global Business blogger, go to https://www.linkedin.com/in/kevinmjackson1.