After watching NASA struggle through the eighties and nineties to finally have a fantastic year in 2006, what with the Mars Rovers, Hubble results, Nobel prizes and whatnot, I tend to go back and forth as to whether privatization of the US space program is a good thing or not. Before this year, NASA's steady decline over the past decade from a technology powerhouse into more of a contract-management shop-oriented government bureaucracy that couldn't engineer a successful program under its whithering budget was a harbinger of a private future. That combined with the current Republican administration's general shutdown of fundamental earth and space science in order to support the "return man to the moon" obsession that offers dubious scientific benefits had me completely convinced that private enterprise was the only long term solution.
Of course, just when I had lost hope, the NASA administration changed, and the agency really stepped up to excel this year after a marathon turn-around effort. Was it a coincidence then, that private enterprise also made amazing milestones the same year? Burt Rutan's Spaceship one, funded by Microsoft multi-billionaire Paul Allan, garnered the X-prize,
and now Jeff Bezos, of Amazon.com fame has funded his own first Space success, Blue Origin. Their first launch vehicle doesn't look like much on the launch pad, but in a way, it's the very minimalism compared to the awesomely complex Space Shuttle that is impressive. You can literally see the promise of greatly reduced launch and payload costs.
Do check out the Blue Origin web page for more photos and videos of their recent successful launch, and note that they are hiring! After all, how often do you get a job where people cheer engineers like they are sports celebrities? (see photo below from the Blue Origins launch)
And just think! You could take the short cut and go directly to space without having to become a dot com billionaire first. Not that there is anything wrong with becoming a successful entrepreneur. After all, it's starting to look like the real American dream is starting to become "get rich and then fund Stem Cell Research or space science and technology." I love this country.