Of course, this raises the question: What is the value of the commercialization of space flight, including such ambitious projects as the establishment of a manned base on the Moon or Mars? Personally, I have publicly questioned the viability of such missions at a reasonable cost. While nobody can dispute how such grand goals can enthrall the public, a manned mission to Mars is prohibitively expensive, and I don’t ever see Mars being colonized. If we want to find places for people to live, we could “colonize” remote areas of Canada and Siberia far less expensively.
Either way, the much-reduced cost of using SpaceX to launch objects into space is obviously attractive. It means that scientists can spend more on the scientific instrumentation in their satellites. And, as a scientist who is enthralled by what NASA has done over the years, I can’t help but notice that a reduced launch cost could lead to many more interesting science missions.
The real bottom line is that the commercialization of space will reduce launch costs and that has benefits for anyone needing to lift an object above the Earth’s atmosphere. My interest is in launching satellites carrying telescopes that can survey the cosmos and those that can monitor the wellbeing of our planet. I’m not as interested in the Disney rides on steroids — perhaps because I will never be able to afford such a trip — but if those launches generate income for the companies to devise better and more economical rockets, I’m all for it.
It’s obvious that commercial space flight has advantages for a vast range of customers and the three existing companies will compete to generate revenue. That helps all of us, perhaps by one company being more efficient than the others. And it’s always possible that another company may take up the torch and win the commercial space race.
Let the competition begin.