(Originally published on Blogcritics.org)
When you hear the words “Space, the final frontier” and “The Federation”, the electrons in your brain are most likely to fire back: Star Trek. Not so quick, space geek. There’s a new federation in town.
The Commercial Spaceflight Federation is an industry association for companies developing the infrastructure and commercial potential of civilian created and run spaceflight. Its activities and realities were explained by Federation Media Specialist Kellie Gerardi at SXSW V2V 2014 at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, July 13-16.
Gerardi explained that the American government-run space program slowly ground to a halt and, with the retirement of the Space Shuttle, many journalists declared it dead. “But you need to distinguish between Old Space and New Space,” she said.
Ten years ago Old Space consisted of two companies, Boeing and Lockheed-Martin, and it cost the government $500 million for each Shuttle launch. Today, in the world of New Space, she explained, there are 40 companies who make up the federation executive membership and dozens more who provide supporting services for spaceflight. “And now,” she said, “SpaceX can conduct a launch for only $54 million.”
Commercial spaceflight can save the taxpayers millions, too. Gerardi said that since the Space Shuttle was retired in 2011, the cost of hitching a ride to the international Space Station on the Soyuz Space Craft has tripled. “Do you think that’s a coincidence? The US pays $70 million in gas for each flight.”
“Commercial spaceflight is democratizing space,” Gerardi said. “It now costs as little as a thousand dollars to send a package into space. High school science classes, for the cost of a medium-sized fundraiser, can send a science experiment into space.”
Gerardi then quizzed the audience. “Can anyone tell me, since Yuri Gagarin made that first spaceflight, how many humans in total have gone into space?”
One audience member guessed 500.
“Close,” Gerardi said. “It’s 542. That’s going to change because Virgin Intergalactic has already signed up 650 clients. And that’s only one company. We are on the edge of the golden age of spaceflight. If you want to be a part of it, you can.”
She then outlined a series of professions that there was a demand for in the New Space industry. Besides the technical specialties you’d guess, such as engineers and programmers, Gerardi said that nearly all the member companies were looking for people with diverse talents. Since many of these companies were founded and run by engineers, they need designers, writers, and other communications specialists to get the word out about their efforts. There is also plenty of room in the New Space for entrepreneurs and startups, she explained.
And then, there’s Mars.
“We have the technology to get people to Mars and establish a livable environment,” she said. “What we don’t have is a way to get people back from Mars.” That has not discouraged people from around the world who have signed up for a mission to Mars. Kellie Gerardi is on the short list of candidates for that trip.
Live long and prosper, Kellie. (@kelliegerardi)
A re-recording of her presentation is available on YouTube.