When Elon Musk shows up, the room listen. Musk announced a historical moment with a slight stutter. Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese billionaire who made his fortune through a fashion retail website, is going to be the first private civilian visiting the deep space.
Does this mean we are coming close?
Musk predicted we would become a multi-planet civilization and he won’t be happy until we’ve escaped earth and colonized Mars.
If you believe Musk is always right, just recently in a studio filled with cannabis smoke he also said humans are likely living in a simulation and artificial intelligence might lead to the demise of our civilization. It’s a little hard to grasp what Musk vision is.
Here is what we do know, SpaceX has been growing and hitting milestones at a tremendous speed so is everything else in our society. Ten years ago when people were making tutorial videos about Twitter (check out here), SpaceX’s rockets could barely reach the orbit.
Now when the U.S. President is selling rally tickets on Twitter, the SpaceX Heavy rocket can carry the weight of a 747 jet plane into deep space and come back to earth prepare for the next launch. It is easy to conclude the commercialization of space seems inevitable.
By 2019, SpaceX plans to fly a two-person crew into the orbit. Maezawa, the Japanese billionaire could go to the moon as early as 2023. When he goes, he won’t be alone either. Maezawa plans to take six to eight artists with him, as he already bought out the entire flight to the moon.
This project demonstrates how fast we are closing down the distance between us and the outer space. We also see how commercial crew or space tourism could bring funding to more space programs.
In 2017, the U.S. saw spending on space as a percentage of total federal dollars close to an all-time low. In 2018, the Trump administration further cut down on NASA’s budgets while directing NASA to put man back on the moon with American flags. SpaceX seems to function better with a clear goal and leadership with NASA at its side sharing resources with the company.
However, if space becomes profitable, commercial programs could also present an issue. According to the outer space treaty, which 130 nations have signed,
“the activities of non-governmental entities in outer space, including the Moon and other celestial bodies, shall require authorization and continuing supervision by the appropriate State Party to the Treaty.”
The problem becomes what would happen if the government’s interest clashes that of the company, or other countries. It would be a space race between countries all over again, hunting for resources.
In 2017, Trump picked Charles Miller into the NASA leadership. The former GOP senator and the president of NexGen Space (a company looks for commercial opportunity in space) expressed support for the commercialization and propelled government support for “Moon Express” to look for potential mining opportunities on the moon. That project has missed its 2017 target launch date.
The company’s Chairman Naveen Jain said “when we launch and land on the moon, not only (do) we become the first company to do so, we actually symbolically become the fourth superpower. And imagine the entrepreneurs doing things that only the three superpowers have done before.”
It is hard to predict what will happen if the deal becomes lucrative. As most are hopeful and see it as a new frontier, remember what happened to social media in a decade, the experts have gone from “Strangers may cheer you up” to “Instagram causes depression.”