Forget the Bahamas, I’m Going to Space

Unless you’ve been living under a (moon)rock, then you are well aware that Friday, July 8th marked the last launch of NASA’s space shuttle Atlantis. After 30 years of space exploration and discovery, Atlantis is making its final mission STS-135 to the recently completed International Space Station. This moment in history is a heavy weight to bear for many Americans. We have invested not only a large amount of resources in our space program, but also a significant amount of pride. Our approach in understanding its new direction is much akin to how an artist might reluctantly hold off on his signature paintings in hopes of a masterpiece. Likewise, our leap of faith during this transition is best personified by a child putting pennies into a ceramic pig for college instead of ice cream cones. But what exactly are we saving up for?

For those of you who followed along at last week’s Twitter Town Hall, you may have seen a tweet questioning the future of our space program. President Obama responded that America’s agenda in space should shift and grow, “rather than keep on doing the same thing”. He advised that we should “invest in basic research around new technologies that can get us places faster, allow human space flight to last longer.” According to President Obama, “obviously no space travel is routine, but it could become more routine over time”. He went on to suggest investments in the commercial space travel industry to compliment higher risk innovations that the government will need to take on. (Transcript, LA Times)

I looked at a list of 5 companies already operating in the commercial space travel market decided to see how they have been affected by the last space shuttle and President Obama’s intended direction for the future of our space pursuits. I charted the top three companies from this list and found that they were hugely impacted by the last shuttle launch. Take a look:

Space X, or Space Exploration Technologies Corp, seems to be gaining the most attention in the industry. As an evident key player in our new “space race”, Space X has outlined its competitive edge on a global scale in a recent update.

While it’s true that these companies are receiving very minimal visits a day, it is even more evident that the recent state of affairs is a defining moment for their future. On the brink of a new way of thinking, innovation, and backed by governmental investment, commercial space travel could be the next big bang. The implications of streamlining such a grandiose business are out of this world – literally.

Though the space program is near and dear the American heart, employment is without a doubt one of the most pressing issues Americans are concerned with today. The topic of jobs was the most frequent issue tweeted about to Obama during the Twitter Town Hall (28% of the questions referenced “jobs”). By privatizing the space market, there is the possibility that we are actually leaving room for more jobs than NASA ever created. Space hotels are already in the works (See: Galactic Suite) and there has to be someone who’s going to specialize in space cuisine (Ever witnessed the Dippin’Dots craze?). I looked up the top keywords drawing people to the space travel companies and interestingly enough, jobs were among the top searches. People are already making this connection in their heads and seeing what seems as a “far-away” industry as a viable source of employment.

Whether or not we solve the complex issues of our economy, employ millions of people across generations, or pave the way for giant scientific discoveries, in the least, space tourism will surely spruce up your next family vacation.

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  • Do you think space tourism is ready to take off?
  • What do you think it will take for companies entering this market to be successful?
  • Since site engagement is currently low, what could space travel companies incorporate into their online strategy to draw more visits, attention, and ultimately consumers?
About Jen Duguay:
Jen Duguay joins Compete to take on all things social media. She comes from a social issue background, most recently having worked for the Social Innovation Forum, the venture philanthropy arm of Root Cause, a nonprofit research and consulting firm. Jen's interests include singing, marketing, running, art, making guacemole, and using social entrepreneurship to tackle world issues. She has spent time in Belize and the Dominican Republic working on microfinance initiatives and recently traveled to Kenya where she studied the public healthcare system. Follow Jen @jenduguay on Twitter.