Friday, March 03, 2017

Bezos to Create Infrastructure for Access to Moon/Space

Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon who also founded rocket company Blue Origin, has announced his intention to provide transportation/delivery service to the Moon, as a way of extending and supporting broader commercial activity in space:

India should also think along these lines, given our natural cost advantages and leadership in space technology. Wouldn't it be great if India's Antrix Corporation could likewise similarly offer delivery services to a place like the Moon? In fact, 2 paying customers have contracted with ISRO to have their individual rovers delivered to the Moon's surface - they are Team Indus and Hakuto of Japan - these 2 privately-financed rovers are scheduled to be sent to the Moon by the end of this year, putting them ahead of ISRO's own direct moon-rover landing mission, Chandrayaan-2, which will happen in late 2018.

But Bezos and Blue Origin are thinking about more than a logistics service to the Moon - their plans are to provide human beings access to space via manned space tourist flights. India's own LVM3 medium/heavy-lift rocket will become newly available this year, with its first developmental flight occurring in about 6 weeks. This heavier launcher will be much better suited for supporting manned spaceflight activities as compared to the lighter PSLV. India too should then consider going after the space tourism market, rather than being left behind. Just as the recent record-setting launch of 104 satellites gave a lot of pride to the country, likewise manned space activities would be an even bigger source of inspiration and motivation in the right direction, given the unavoidable growing importance of space in our destiny.

Recently, ISRO was forced to reject 68 applicants for being overqualified, as engineering people had even applied for lower administrative/clerical positions at ISRO - that's how strongly attractive and appealing the pull is towards India's budding space future.

Given the growing passion among Indians for space technology, motivated by ISRO's track record of successes, and given the natural importance of space for humanity's future, India needs to step up its investment in space access and infrastructure. Antrix Corporation already exists as a commercial arm for ISRO to market its existing space capabilities, and is administered by the Dept of Space. Perhaps there should be consideration towards expanding Antrix, or even creating a new parallel entity alongside it, for the purpose of promoting and offering manned spaceflight and space tourism. This could help expand India's space industry sector, allowing it to absorb more talent and capital, and speed overall development and innovation in the field. Perhaps this new parallel entity could even issue bonds to raise funds to pay for the upfront development costs of the requisite technologies for this goal.

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