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A Not-So Average Day for Mankind: July 20, 1969, “The Eagle Has Landed” and the New Space Economy

“Houston, Tranquility base here. The Eagle has landed.” Those were Neil Armstrong’s words on July 20, 1969 that changed the course of human history forever.

Space travel has grown by leaps and bounds thereafter, and mostly fueled by the space race, has now evolved to what is called the “Space Economy.” Over the past few decades, the space program has earned a bad reputation for being too costly. After all, taxpayers spend tens billions of dollars yearly to fund the program.

But what about the other benefits? The intangible benefits are enormous and, quite honestly, more difficult to quantify — some examples include scientific discovery, inspiration and, potentially, expansion (more on this later). The monetary benefits are staggering as well. The NASA Economic Impact Report showed that Moon to Mars activities, investments in climate change research and technology, and other space activities generated more than $71.2 billion in total economic output in 2021 and supported almost 340,000 jobs nationwide. Through NASA’s partnership with small businesses, industry, academia, and other entities, it has created jobs for most of the 50 states.

Here’s the thing: what we know as the Space Program has now evolved into what we call the “Space Economy.” When the space shuttle program ended in 2011, new players both in the private and public sectors began to participate. What was once an activity centralized with the government and defense companies became decentralized, and included private entities with deep pockets. Currently, these business activities entail the use of satellites and the tremendous information and access that these provide. The new space economy is now exploring human travel into space and a sequel to the space race has begun.

The new “Space Race” entails which billionaire gets first-mover advantage.

The incentives to partake in this new space economy are very enticing, and are not limited to just ferrying wealthy people across the earth’s orbit. There’s the potential for pharmaceutical companies to conduct research in zero gravity conditions, or manufacturing processes that may be advantageous in certain conditions that space may be able to offer. I mean, we’re talking about the stuff in science fiction that could now may very well be a reality. This new space economy is expected to grow within the next decade to $1 trillion and the growth is mostly fueled by lower costs, greater technological capabilities and hungry investors willing to take on a piece of space. There’s even talk of creating space cities where tens or hundreds of people can live and work in…the possibilities for scientific discovery and financial opportunities are endless.

An artistic rendering of a space city created by Rick Guidice in the 1970’s. Nasa Ames Research Centre Photograph

The acceleration of growth in space technology has never been this impressive and the economics of space have never been this compelling. While uncertainties and challenges are still in the horizon, the energy that currently surrounds this industry, fueled by optimism and inspiration (and possibly by a lot of Star Trek episodes), the potential seems to be too great, too fascinating to forego. I guess, there’s some inspiration to be gleaned from Capt. Kirk’s parting words: “….to boldly go where no man has gone before.”


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