14 de octubre de 2019
Hispanic World

3 Billionaires in forefront of privatizing space exploration

By Jorge A. Bañales

 Journalist and author Christian Davenport - EFE in an interview on Sept. 30, 2019, in Washington, DC - discussed how billionaires Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Richard Branson are in the forefront of space exploration by the private sector.  EFE-EPA/ Jorge Bañales

Journalist and author Christian Davenport - EFE in an interview on Sept. 30, 2019, in Washington, DC - discussed how billionaires Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Richard Branson are in the forefront of space exploration by the private sector. EFE-EPA/ Jorge Bañales

By Jorge A. Bañales


Washington, Oct 1 (efe-epa).- After amassing fortunes amounting to tens of billions of dollars, magnates Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Richard Branson have turned to their "real passion" by getting involved in space exploration, which the US government is starting to move away from funding.

The private sector is seeking to make space "more accessible," going beyond what NASA has done to date, said journalist and writer Christian Davenport in an interview with EFE, referring to the US space agency.

Davenport, who covers the space and defense industries for The Washington Post, is the author of "Space Barons," for which he interviewed Bezos, the founder of Amazon; Musk, the creator of Tesla and PayPal; and Branson, who founded the Virgin Group.

In addition, Davenport spoke with Paul Allen, who was Bill Gates' partner in creating Microsoft.


A Different, Cheaper Model


Space travel remains "very expensive," said Davenport, and so what the private sector is developing is a new model for exploring the off-Earth zone, especially with the idea of making it more affordable, and even accessible to the public.

Until very recently, space exploration has been enormously expensive and has been paid for exclusively by the federal government.

However, now private firms are developing reusable rockets to ferry equipment and personnel into orbit, thus cutting the cost of leaving Earth.

Of course, NASA had the space shuttle program as its flagship mission from 1981-2011, reusing several space shuttles for 135 missions to build the International Space Station, a project costing $100 billion and participated in by 15 countries.

However, NASA announced that it will end its participation in the ISS in 2024 and in the face of this "withdrawal" the private sector is presenting alternatives to keep the US in space.

The two rivals in the space sector that receive the most attention in Davenport's book are Musk, with Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), founded in 2002; and Bezos, with Blue Origin, established in 2000.

The two moguls say their reusable rockets will bring costs down substantially and allow the development of "space tourism."

Even Branson's Virgin Galactic has suggested that a trip into near orbit could be available for about $250,000 to interested - and wealthy - people, while it costs NASA about $50 million to send humans into orbit.


Possible Futures


The vision of the "space barons" over the long term is being guided by the technologies that their companies develop, Davenport said.

"I think people would tell you that they don't know, frankly, what the purpose is or what they would find, in fact that's the whole point of exploring" during future private missions to the Moon or Mars, said Davenport.

There are a few things that they do know, however. "On the South Pole of the Moon, we now know that there is a lot of water in the form of ice ... Water is hydrogen and oxygen, and that ... can be used for rocket fuel," he said.

Davenport said that the magnates are taking a long-term look at the future of humanity, noting that Earth has limited resources and an ever-growing population. "Musk talks about if (a) big catastrophe befall(s) Earth, all our eggs are ... in this one basket, and so that's why he wants to (colonize) Mars, to ... have a ... Plan B. That's his ultimate goal."

"What Richard Branson wants to do with his company, Virgin Galactic, is build a spaceship ... that goes up just past the edge of space ... and then comes back down. And that could be seen ... as a plaything for the rich ... It's sort of the ultimate vacation," he said.

"Others would say that if you have that experience, if you get away from Earth, and you see Earth from space - astronauts talk about how profound that is - ... how we're on Earth all together," he said, adding that Bezos' argument is that our Plan B should be to take care of this planet rather than focus on colonizing new worlds.


The Privatization of Space Exploration Still Needs Regulation


Davenport says that space exploration has brought benefits for all mankind, but with the participation of the private sector in space activities new legislation is required.

For instance, space tourism has very few regulations governing either protecting people or property.

"What the private sector wants to do in space is, first and foremost, make getting to space more accessible. They want to make it more affordable and they want to do it efficiently," Davenport said.

He went on to say that with private sector development of commercial space, or near-space travel, a flight from New York to Madrid - which currently takes six hours in a passenger jet - could be done in just an hour with a passenger space vehicle.

Histórico de noticias
Hunter Biden to step down from foreign boards if father wins presidency

Washington, Oct 13 (efe-epa).- Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President - and front-running Democratic presidential contender - Joe Biden, promised on...

Quito devastated by strike over economic adjustments

Quito, Oct 13 (efe-epa).- The Ecuadorian capital on Sunday morning looked as if an earthquake had struck, with streets blocked and blackened by bonfires and...

Trump: There's a very good chance we'll reach a trade deal with China

Washington, Oct 9 (efe-epa).- President Donald Trump said Wednesday that there is a "really good chance" of reaching a bilateral trade deal with China, one...

US, Colombia to expand alliance to reduce coca production by 50 pct. by 2023

Washington, Oct 9 (efe-epa).- US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his Colombian counterpart, Carlos Holmes Trujillo, are meeting on Wednesday in...

Raphael: I'm a very happy person, I've done what I wanted

By Ruth E. Hernandez Beltran

Trump confirms he will not cooperate with impeachment investigation

Washington, Oct 8 (efe-epa).- President Donald Trump, via the White House counsel, confirmed Tuesday that he is not planning to cooperate in the impeachment...

Ambitious interdisciplinary exhibit gathers work of 43 modern Cuban artists

By Lorena Canto

Taxi drivers take over Buenos Aires streets again to protest vs. Uber, Cabify

Buenos Aires, Oct 8 (efe-epa).- Hundreds of taxi drivers once again took to the streets of Buenos Aires on Tuesday to protest the activity by ride-hailing...

CBP: Undocumented migrants detained on US border up 88 pct. in 12 months

Washington, Oct 8 (efe-epa).- The number of undocumented migrants apprehended on the US-Mexico border increased by 88 percent in Fiscal Year 2019 (from...

EFE's relaunch wraps up 75th General Assembly of IAPA

Miami, Oct 7 (efe-epa).- With the election of Christopher Barnes as the new president of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) and a luncheon offered...

Ecuador gov't bracing for arrival of thousands of indigenous protestors

By Daniela Brik

Federal judge throws out Trump's attempt to avoid releasing tax returns

New York, Oct 7 (efe-epa).- A federal judge in New York on Monday rejected President Donald Trump's lawsuit attempting to block having to turn over his tax...

Dog found alive a month after Dorian flattened Bahamian island

San Juan, Oct 7 (efe-epa).- A 1-year-old dog was found alive under the rubble of a building that collapsed when Hurricane Dorian hit Marsh Harbour, Bahamas,...

Brazilian indigenous leader hopes for Synod results on Amazon crisis

By Carlos Meneses Sanchez

Memories of Bolivia's dictatorship being kept alive in La Paz cemetery

By Gina Baldivieso

Exhibit lets visitors stand in the shoes of domestic violence victims

By Jorge Fuentelsaz

Trump asks China to probe Biden family's business dealings

(Update 1: Adds Pelosi's press conference remarks)

Boeing: Return of 737 MAX jets is in final phase

New York, Oct 2 (efe-epa).- Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said Wednesday that the firm is working with regulators in the "final phases" to allow the...

Wall Street deep in the red, Dow down 500 pts on recession fears

New York, Oct 2 (efe-epa).- Wall Street increased its losses from the previous day by mid-session on Wednesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial average losing...

Democrats accuse Trump administration of obstructing impeachment proceedings

(Update 1: Adds Trump's remarks and House Intel Committee response)

Zuckerberg: If Warren wins in 2020, we'll fight her plan to split big tech

San Francisco, Oct 1 (efe-epa).- The cofounder and CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, promised his employees to "fight and win" if Democratic presidential...

Ecuador announces it will leave OPEC in 2020

Quito, Oct 1 (efe-epa).- Ecuador, the smallest member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), will leave the organization on Jan. 1,...

3 billionaires in forefront of privatizing space exploration

By Jorge A. Bañales

House demands Giuliani's Ukraine docs, McConnell will try Trump if forced

Washington, Sep 30 (efe-epa).- Three committees in the Democrat-controlled US House of Representatives on Monday subpoenaed Rudy Giuliani, President Donald...