Neil Tyson's Confusing Take on Space Commerce

Neil deGrasse Tyson Says Private Companies Won't Take The Lead In Space Exploration, TechCrunch

"Tyson described space travel as "a long-term investment": "It's an investment that private enterprise cannot lead." He recalled the excitement around SpaceX's delivery of cargo the International Space Station, which sparked discussion about whether private companies would replace government as the main engine behind space travel. Tyson's response? "They brought cargo to the space station! NASA's been doing that for 30 years!" The problem, he said, is that it's hard to predict the risk and return on investment on "doing anything big and expensive first." He noted that the first Europeans to come to America were not the Dutch East India Company, but Christopher Columbus and his crew, whose expedition was paid for by Spain. After the initial exploration, there will be opportunities for private companies. "The first trillionaire in the world is going to be the person who first mines the asteroid belt," Tyson said."

Keith's note: Its rather odd that Tyson dumps on what SpaceX has accomplished i.e. that NASA did it 30 years ago (he doesn't explain that i.e the hugely expensive shuttle) but then he says that the person who first mines the asteroid will become a trillionaire. Assuming that the person gains these monetary riches by mining, you'd have to assume that they are a capitalist and that they did this commercially. So, Tyson dumps on commercial operations on space station as being ho hum and then says that the same mindset/world view i.e. commerce will be behind asteroid mining which he seems to equate with exploration.

It certainly sounds like this future trillionaire has taken the lead, demonstrated vision, and clearly thought about things in the long term - all the things that he thinks that only governments can do. If Tyson is expecting our government to create cogent, clearly thought out plans for a long term investment in space - plans that will stimulate commercial ventures such as asteroid mining, well, it would be unwise to look to NASA. NASA changes whatever plans it has every 3 or 4 years. You can get whiplash if you try to plan your business ventures on the basis of NASA plans.

If you want to see the future, look at the subtle messages that can be teased out of the business ventures of Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Bob Bigelow, and Richard Branson. Do they look to take advantage of government business opportunities? Of course they do. Are they limited to seeking government business? No. Do their big pictures/end points require government funding? It would seem not. Government is just a stepping stone along the path toward the exploration and utilization of space. Government is not the path. More often than not government is a stumbling block - as well as a stepping stone.

Going to Mars: Talking Head Vs Rocket Builder, earlier post

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on March 9, 2014 10:19 AM.

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