Capitalism in space: The X-Prize Foundation today announced that it will award the Israeli company SpaceIL a million dollar award should its privately-funded spacecraft Beresheet successfully soft land on the Moon on April 11.
The foundation also stated that it is considering offering other similar awards for similar private achievements. In that context, this article in Science today gives a nice summary of the private companies now working to buiild and launch private planetary probes.
Two companies, Moon Express and TeamIndus, appear ready to fly their lunar landers in 2020. Four others have announced plans, but their schedules and status are less firm. In all cases, these companies are establishing themselves as commercial alternatives to the expensive, government-built planetary probes of the past. Rather than build their own spacecraft, scientists in the future will hire these companies, and attach their instruments to their spacecrafts. And get things build faster and for less money.
Moreover, NASA itself has been encouraging this transition.
From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.
Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.
The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.
He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.
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