Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Second Space Age

Top to bottom: Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo, SpaceX Dragon, Kistler K-1

This article from Wired posits that we are entering a second "Space Age". I agree. Commercial operations such as Kistler and SpaceX are competing for ISS support contracts. Several suborbital space tourism companies are being built, let by Virgin Galactic and their Burt Rutan-designed spacecraft. China has very ambitious plans for manned spaceflight. NASA's Constellation Program is designing new spacecraft capable of flights beyond Earth orbit. At present, the future looks bright, but any governmental effort that spans multiple presidential administrations is built upon sand, subject to the whims of congress and the Oval Office.

As recently as a few years ago, the very topic of manned missions beyond Earth orbit was virtually forbidden within serious space circles. But today supporters find a serious plan in place to send manned expeditions to the moon for the first time since the Apollo program.

Meanwhile, the United States and Russia, which once competed in a space race, have become frequent partners with one another and with the European Union, while China and India work to one-up each other in celestial achievement.

The various political, technical and national forces have aligned to make the latest push for space the real thing, said Vincent Sabathier, senior fellow and director of space initiatives at the Center for Strategic & International Studies
Fortunately this second Space Age doesn't depend on the actions of any one government. If we don't do it, someone else will, which will be bad for the US but good for humanity, because the colonization of space is essential to our survival.

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