Space is no longer just for governments. In just a few decades, it has gone from a tool of the Cold War to a field where private companies are blossoming and new applications are developed with fierce pace.
In the past 15 years we’ve seen the first space tourist blast off, witnessed the rise of cult space corporation SpaceX and heard the plans of a wealth of different companies, from would-be asteroid miners to space habitat construction companies. We may not have let Earth yet ourselves, but private endeavours have – rather ironically – given us a collective sense of ownership of space perhaps not felt since the 70s.
“There’s a growing notion that people can use space themselves as an individual. They may not go into space themselves personally, but they can on their cellphone call down a satellite image that Google has acquired; they can call upon the capabilities of space, particularly of commercial companies in space, to do something in their life that they couldn’t do otherwise,” says James Muncy, space policy consultant, entrepreneur and principle of space policy consultancy PoliSpace.
“It’s almost like a democratisation of space, where space is really coming down to the average person and the average person is getting some degree of access to space that used to only be in the hands of government leaders.”
But this is just the start. Commercial access to space is slowly increasing, and what that could mean for humanity is only just starting to become clear.
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