It has been a great month for private sector space ventures. SpaceX’s Dragon capsule returned safely to Earth after a perfect mission to the International Space Station. Virgin Galactic received an experimental permit from the Federal Aviation Administration. Planetary Resources announced plans to mine asteroids for nickel, platinum and other metals.
We are at a historic turning point. One that is long overdue. The private sector is finally leading the way into the new frontier. This is as it should be and reflects the established course of history. In the 1400s, government-financed explorers blazed the way across the Atlantic and then gave way to private ventures, with Royal Charters, that colonized the New World. In the 1800s President Thomas Jefferson authorized Lewis & Clark to explore and document the Louisiana Purchase, but generations of individuals and families made their own way West. Presidents Lincoln and Grant issued rights-of-way for transcontinental railroads, but private individuals laid the track and operated the trains.
Most technology breakthroughs occur because of private initiative and funding. For every invention arising from warfare or government labs, there are tens of thousands that come from geniuses like Thomas Edison, Orville & Wilbur Wright, and Bill Gates. These people passionately pursue new horizons not to seek government contracts, but to create something that has not previously existed. They push the boundaries of invention and creation because they see how things could be and have the will and the intellect to make a new reality.