These are exciting times for the space industry. The Administration has released a budget proposal that redefines the direction of our national space program, placing launch responsibilities on an untested but capable commercial sector. This shift has raised considerable concerns in Congress surrounding safety, technology, and our overall global leadership in human space flight. These concerns are valid, and in fact offer a valuable alternative for the future of NASA undertaking a noble mission ensuring the safety of emerging commercial ventures in space, akin to the role of the Coast Guard in space.
An independent commercial space sector holds great promise for economic revenue, as has been shown by the successes of the satellite industry. It is too soon to say what promise manned orbital space flight holds, but it may certainly be agreed that such promise can best be explored through private enterprise. The Administration's intent to move launch responsibilities opens opportunities for this exploration.
This shift, however, must be made responsibly. As with any industry, the government has a responsibility to this emerging commercial space sector in the form of regulation, research and development, and asset protection. In other transportation industries, the government provides support to diverse companies in the form of ambulances, the Coast Guard, and other agencies.
How important is this to an independent commercial sector? Consider for a moment that you were planning a trip across the country and back, and needed to buy a car for the journey, from an immature auto industry. However, that car was custom-built, relying on technologies that weren't yet in widespread use. Furthermore, it had to carry all of its fuel, supplies, and air for the entire journey lasting a few weeks or possibly longer; and if anything went wrong, or the car broke down, you would die with the entire world watching in horror. How much would that car cost; compared to one with access to a tow truck?