Might NASA Kill the Commercial Space Race? : Discovery News
Picking one company now also means that the individuals aren’t carrying the risk in developing their systems. With full NASA funding, the taxpayers are the stakeholders, and its easier to spend money when it’s not yours. But it could turn out differently. It could be that the individuals behind these commercial ventures have the tenacity and moral fiber to stick with the goals of on schedule low cost launch systems that don’t compromise safety even when they aren’t financially responsible.
If the bill is passed, it’s likely SpaceX’s Falcon 9 and Dragon spacecraft will be the commercial system of choice, selected before the demonstration flight this month. It’s really putting the cart before the horse. It’s possible that SpaceX’s founder Elon Musk’s enthusiasm and goals of contributing to humanity’s future in space — he’s tweeted that “Making large scale rocket propulsion landing work well is a critical step towards a fully reusable Mars transport system… which is the critical breakthrough needed for life to become multiplanetary” — will break the cycle of a single contractor leading budget overruns and slipping schedules.
It’s a shame, really. Allowing commercial enterprises to bear the financial risk of the next phase of space travel would free up NASA resources to focus on things private industry can not yet make profitable. Scientific endeavours, far- and deep space probes, early stage research… all with long-term benefits that now are being forfeited to old-fashioned political thinking.