Space 2.0: A New Space Age

Overview Gary's Book Club author Rod Pyle shares insights from his book "Space 2.0"

On Tuesday afternoon at 4 pm, I’ll be sharing the stage with Kira Blackwell, who heads NASA’s innovative iTech program, to discuss my new book Space 2.0: How Private Spaceflight, a Resurgent NASA, and International Partners are Creating a New Space Age, with a foreword by Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin. The book was published in association with the National Space Society.

The opportunity to discuss the book with Kira is a marvelous alignment, as iTech seeks out cutting-edge technological solutions that are developed outside of NASA — a progressive partnership very much in keeping with the ethos of Space 2.0.

We will touch upon the first space age, in which humans picked the low-hanging fruit of spaceflight by heading into Earth orbit, landing on the moon, and setting up habitats that orbit our planet. The accomplishments of this era of space exploration provided much of the heavy lifting for rockets and spaceflight.

International space agencies and the U.S. private spaceflight sector have benefitted much from the years between 1957 and 2011, when the final flight of the space shuttle completed the International Space Station.

We will then pivot to the new space age that is upon us, the promising developments of the last few years, what possibilities lie ahead in the next decade, and how this new era will fundamentally differ from the first space age. Space 2.0 will have enormous returns of both scientific and engineering advances — each of which hold tangible benefits for all of us — but will increasingly be about direct and indirect economic benefits from space.

Of course, the companies both in the U.S. and abroad that participate in this new era of space development will benefit themselves and their shareholders, but broader benefits await. Vast reserves of valuable natural resources exist beyond Earth orbit, and limitless solar power can be harnessed there and beamed back to Earth, greatly reducing our dependency on climate-changing fossil fuels.

We have already reaped great benefits from orbiting satellites — GPS, banking, enhanced agriculture and optimized transportation all depend on satellite technology. Even retail marketing benefits. How do major retailers like Walmart and Target track each other’s Black Friday sales traffic? With satellite imagery of their parking lots. Orbital profits will expand exponentially as private operators find increasingly clever and profitable ways to provide benefits to all of us from orbit.

But the new space age is not just about commerce and profits. There is a huge and potentially strong overlap between NASA — still the premiere space agency in the world—the international space agencies from Europe and Asia, and private operators like SpaceX and Blue Origin. As Buzz Aldrin has told me for years, the overlap of these three areas holds vast potential for achieving great things in the exploration and development of space, and this has huge implications for everyone on Earth.

Of course, no conversation about the new space age would be complete without a look at some of the inspiring figures who have been pivotal to this new era — people such as Elon Musk of SpaceX and Jeff Bezos of Blue Origin. They have committed vast amounts of their own personal wealth to build new rockets, make them reusable, reduce the cost of operating in space, and ignite the enthusiasm of the public about near-term adventures in space.

There is a strong sense of friendly competition between these two titans and many others operating in what’s collectively referred to as “new space,” and even with NASA, their primary benefactor.

Besides providing launch and cargo services for NASA, SpaceX, Blue Origin, and traditional aerospace companies such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin, who have been working aggressively to keep up with the revolution in spaceflight heralded by the internet billionaires, are constantly seeking innovative, new and profitable opportunities, such as the deployment of tens of thousands of broadband satellites by SpaceX. And their ventures have created a new marketplace for investors both large and small. For the first time, even middle-class folks can invest directly in space-related ventures.

It’s a new era, and our greatest adventure is just beginning.

Rod Pyle
Author of Space 2.0

This holds true for other nations as well. Europe has long worked in association with NASA on space-related ventures and is a partner in the International Space Station and NASA’s new efforts to send humans back to the moon. China and India are also now major players, and both nations have robust human spaceflight programs of their own.

Hopefully, we can set our differences aside, and eventually unite these largely separate programs into a united effort, with the strengths of each nation contributing in a rich and meaningful way.

There are many more moving parts in the new space age, and this presentation will highlight just a few of them. Space 2.0 is not just about space exploration, development and commerce, but is also about one of the greatest business revolutions of our time, and increasing opportunities for direct involvement with space.

Within just a few years, students now studying in STEM-related fields will be able to participate directly in space-related ventures, whether by working for new startups of from university labs and home workshops. The average person will be able to afford short tourist flights, and even orbital stays. Business, energy and health benefits will abound. Space-based solar energy will reduce and possibly eliminate our use of fossil fuels. And eventually, people will begin to live and work off-Earth in large numbers.

It’s a new era, and our greatest adventure is just beginning.

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