Next month NASA will send SpaceX, its first privately owned vessel into space, opening up the market to space tourism, which could help the economy.
"Venturing into space could eventually resemble taking a trip on a cruise ship," British entrepreneur Richard Branson said.
SpaceX is owned by Elon Musk, founder of PayPal. It is taking 400 kilograms of dried food to the International Space Station (ISS) in a capsule, Dragon from its own rocket, the Falcon 9, when it leaves on April 30th.
According to Forbes, the capsule can hold seven people, but it will be unmanned for the first trip. Forbes also said, "And the next goal for SpaceX is to send a crew to the International Space Station."
This means that the U.S. will not have to rely on foreign space programs such as the Russian space program, a big step for NASA.
IOL news says that, "its demonstration flight to the ISS next month... is a key test for the private sector, following the space agency's decision to axe its space shuttle program." SpaceX's success would allow other businesses to step in and utilize these opportunities to expand their own business. George Nield, associate administrator for commercial space transportation at the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), spoke to IOL news about the positive role this could play in the economy.
“Based on market studies, we expect to see this type of activity result in a $1 billion industry within the next 10 years,” he said.
Musk told the BBC that he has plans for commercial vessels to not only go to ISS, but also to Mars.
“My vision is for a fully reusable rocket transport system between Earth and Mars that is able to re-fuel on Mars – this is very important – so you don’t have to carry the return fuel when you go there,” he said. BBC says that Musk thinks he could have people going to Mars in 10-15 years for a reasonable cost.
Though these plans may ultimately end up saving the government money with cuts to NASA funds it would no longer need, and tax revenue from space travel, for the time being NASA is asking for more money.
SpaceX's first launch has a lot riding on its success. Its failure could mean even more cuts to NASA's programs, funding and opportunities. Its success could mean the opening of a new space tourism industry and the boom of NASA's technological advancements.