back to article NASA: The future of space is public/private partnerships

The future of space exploration is going to be dependent on a mix of public and private money, and it's likely that the first Mars colonization missions will be commercial operations. Dr. S. Pete Worden, director at NASA Ames Research Center, told The Register that the agency was firmly enmeshing itself with the private sector …


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  1. Kharkov

    There's good AND bad there...

    NASA doing research and then passing (licencing, I hope) that to the Private Sector? Great.

    NASA doing large projects WITH the Private Sector? That's a bad idea. NASA struggles to act consistently because too many politicians can input into their decision-making, which means that as a partner, they're likely to 'go soft' or even pull out suddenly as budget levels and allocations change year-on-year.

    NASA just dumped ESA when pretty much all they had to do was provide the ride for ESA's Mars Probe.

  2. Mondo the Magnificent

    The China Syndrome

    And while NASA scramble to the private sector for collaboration to help fill the financial shortfalls they're undergoing through budget cuts, the Chinese will continue moving forward with their state sponsored space program which has achieved significant milestones over the past decade.

    Rest assured, as Arthur C Clarke 'predicted' in his book 2061 Odyssey Three, the Chinese will become the superpower of space. They're catching up and will eventually leap ahead of the Russian, U.S. and associated private aerospace industries.

  3. Bob 18


    Can someone please explain to me how manned missions to Mars would EVER be profitable? What on Earth could justify spending all those billions to send people to Mars (and maybe back)?

    1. Antony Riley

      Re: PROFITS?

      Interplanetary LPG shipments...

    2. Poor Coco

      Re: PROFITS?

      I bet, in the longer term, the company that builds a Gauss gun mass-driver in the crater of Olympus Mons to bring Martian minerals into space without using rockets, will make a shockingly great sum of wealth.

      1. Paul 129

        Re: PROFITS?

        Not only that, any greenies (eco freaks) protesting your ecological damage, can simply camp outside and scream till they're blue.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: PROFITS?

        Mining on Mars? That's just dumb; why bother trying to find relatively small amounts of valuable stuff that's buried under a planet's worth of rock? The smart guys will search the millions of asteroids for the one or two made of gold or uranium or whatever.

        On a planet you can barely explore the top couple of kilometers, the asteroids are already in smaller bits than that.

        Exploiting the asteroids won't be done by people either; autonomous robots are the way to go, because you'll need to cover a lot of space.

    3. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: PROFITS?

      And that money is spent *where* exactly? They don't just bundle up fifty dollar bills and export them to space, you know...

      Every dollar spent 'on space' is spent on earth. Employment, education, trickle down... you name it. And while it may not be *profitable* short term to colonise Mars - I'm a huge fan of the asteroid belt myself - the phrase 'eggs in one basket' does seem to have a certain ring to it. We live in an unfriendly universe; let's make it more to our taste.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: PROFITS?

      Maybe Martian programmers are even cheaper than Indian or Chinese ones.

  4. Long John Brass

    A job for PARIS & LOHANs offspring?

    The google X-Prize seems like a perfect fit for the SPB guys!

    As for mining on Mars, wouldn't asteroid mining be easier? ... No need to lob dirty great chunks

    of rock out of the Mars grav well?

  5. Kharkov

    Making it profitable

    Profit is a will o'the wisp once you get beyond LEO. It gets very hard to calculate a financial return on investment once you get out there. That said, there's a lot of mineral wealth out there but going out and getting it and bringing it back turns out to be horribly expensive.

    Given a lot of infrastructure out there (OTV's, station(s) with refining/processing facilities, fuel depots etc) then the cost of going, getting & returning drop a lot, allowing the infrastructure to be paid for, day-by-day. Of course the up-front costs (expensive? Not half!) are the 500-pound gorilla in the ointment.

    That said, the discovery & colonization of the New World really changed the thinking of Europe. New ideas bounced around, back and forth, triggering a lot of tech/society advances and profits.

    Hard to quantify though...

    1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: Making it profitable

      Some would argue that "the discovery and colonization of the New World" had an even more radical effect on the existing inhabitants - and it wasn't just their thinking it changed - life-spans suddenly got a lot shorter...but it was profitable for the visitors, so that's all right then.

      1. Kharkov

        Re: Making it profitable

        Well, yes. Cholera and a whole range of diseases will do that.

        But maybe things will balance out next time. There are no natives on Mars (which is a shame, I loved Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles) but there might, just might, be a few pathogens, viruses & bacteria to thin the ranks of the newcomers.

        Fingers crossed...

  6. Heironymous Coward

    slight correction...

    "exterminating the locals who were living there at the time"

    There, fixed that for you

  7. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Perhaps he meant

    *hiring* commercial companies to get something done for a *fixed* price instead of the open ended cost plus we-tell-you-exactly-what-to-do-down-to-the-wiring-colors way of doing things that NASA has used, which (from analysis of costing for F9) *multiplies* the cost (at a *minimum*) by a factor of 3.

    As for making things pay an analysis of *all* trips from Europe to the "new world" might make an interesting economic study.

    I suspect *most* did not break even and did not get back what their investors put into them. The rest made enough people rich enough to keep people trying.

  8. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Intergalactic Federation King Almighty and Commander of the Universe

    That's rather going to cause some political confusion, when the time comes to welcome our galactic overlords, no? I mean, who's going to defer to whom?

    (Damn, where did the welcome mat go? Aliens stole it, I reckon!)

  9. James Gibbons

    subduing the locals who were living there

    We martians welcome our new Intergalactic Federation King Almighty and Commander of the Universe! (where did you put that earth destructor beam Exigius 12½?)

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