News / Economy

US Space Plan May Boost Private Space Firms

Space experts say the White House's new plan for space exploration is a boost to private companies that are developing cutting-edge technologies needed in coming years. New funding may propel research and create thousands of new jobs.

When President Barack Obama spoke this week at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, he wanted to assure NASA veterans that he is committed to human space flight. With only three space shuttle flights remaining, critics have said it could be decades before the U.S. space agency can develop a vehicle to take its place.

But the president said he hopes to see bold new missions, including trips to nearby asteroids and Mars, during his lifetime. He said a key to that goal is encouraging private companies to develop new technologies and operate cargo flights and manned missions into space.

John Logsdon, a member of NASA's advisory council, says the private sector has been waiting for that kind of message. "This approach is a signal to the private space community that they can look to government partnerships, government as a user, or even government as an investment partner as they go forward," he said.

One private partner may be the Space X company, founded by Internet entrepreneur Elon Musk. On his trip to Kennedy Space Center, President Obama met with Musk and visited the company's Falcon rocket, which is set for a test launch next month.

So far, Space X and other private firms have relied on private money. But the president's new plan includes $6 billion to fund research and development into new rocket engines and other components.

That funding is a major turnaround in the U.S. space budget, says John Gedmark of the Washington-based trade group Commercial Spaceflight Federation. "Technology development funding had pretty much been zeroed out under the previous plan," he said.

Gedmark says a privately funded study shows that an increase in NASA's budget this year will create nearly 12,000 new jobs. He says new funding for private space firms will create even more jobs.

Critics of the president's new approach say it is a mistake to rely on private space companies, because it could take years for them to develop a rocket capable of carrying astronauts.

Once the space shuttle is retired this year, the only way to get astronauts into orbit will be aboard Russian Soyuz rockets. Under current plans, NASA has agreed to pay Russia to send U.S. astronauts on missions, including trips to the space station.

Supporters of the president's new plan say the U.S. should encourage private firms to help share that role with Russia. Norm Augustine recently led a panel of space experts that reviewed U.S. space plans. "The question arises: do we have less faith in the U.S. aerospace industry to carry our astronauts to orbit, than we have to the Russian space industry to carry our astronauts to orbit?"

Experts agree that the space race between the United States and the former Soviet Union is over, and space missions depend more and more on international cooperation.

John Logsdon says President Obama's new space plan is a challenge not just to U.S. firms, but to space programs in other nations. "Countries around the world will have an opportunity to get involved in this. It is not a U.S. only undertaking like Apollo was," he said.

Logsdon says Europe, Russia and Japan will continue to play key roles, as they do on the International Space Station. But fledgling space programs in India, China and Brazil may also join with the United States to explore space beyond the Earth's orbit.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7893
JPY
USD
107.68
GBP
USD
0.6238
CAD
USD
1.1214
INR
USD
61.185

Rates may not be current.