Project Moon at knows full well the importance of experts; hard work is worth nothing if inappropriately applied. So daily we’ll be listening to expert talks, reading through expert papers, bugging experts with phone calls and picking expert brains for the what, how, when and why of space tourism, space technology, space transportation and space industry developments.

And, all the while, we’ll be keeping you informed of the most dramatic insights gleaned from them.

For now, below are some of the views and opinions of four distinguished experts on the space industry today.

Dr. Patrick Collins

Dr. Patrick Collins is world-renowned expert on space economics, space tourism, reusable launch vehicles and space solar power, on which he has produced numerous papers and books. A professor of economics at Azabu University in Japan and Collaborating Researcher with the Institute for Space & Astronautical Science, there are few aspects of Space Exploration on which he us not fully informed. 

On the subject of space commercialisation, Dr. Collins advocates the development of the industries of space tourism and space solar power, both of which through his extensive economic analysis show a capacity for big returns, should the companies involved apply themselves appropriately.

Regarding space tourism, Dr. Collins’ research has revealed it to be in high demand, with many people willing to put aside huge proportions of their monthly income for the chance of floating in space and ogling their planet home.

But cost effective space flight is required, he says. And the development of cost effective space flight requires a shift from a history of strapping missiles developed for military purposes to spacecraft and shooting them to the stars, to a future in which existing knowledge of airplane design and airline operation is utilised.

The development of space tourism and the solar power industry, he says, “Require not new invention but rather innovation involving existing engineering knowledge and technology which are currently used separately for rockets and airplanes”.

These insights predated a spectacularly successful collaboration between the space industry and the most innovative aircraft design and manufacturing company, Scaled Composites. A collaboration that in 2004 saw the appearance of SpaceShipOne, a sub-orbital flight craft that is now being modified by Virgin Galactic for use in its upcoming sub-orbital flight operation offered to paying space tourist – over 500 tickets for which have already been sold.

“Aiming at the commercially required cost target for space transportation,” Dr. Collins continues, “Will give a chance for the space industry to cease being a capital absorbing activity and contribute to economic growth as a normal industry.

Jay Barbree

Jay Barbree is a highly experienced and respected space correspondent, the only correspondent to have covered every manned space mission in the United States, starting from 1961. Jay Barbree has worked solely on space travel for his entire career.

NASA’s recently initiated Commercial Crew Program (CCP) has received mixed reviews from experts in the industry; the program effectively outsourcing to private industry the development of spacecraft and launch vehicle systems for the delivery of astronauts and cargo into space.

For Jay Barbree, the program represents a significant drop in NASA’s standards. With a seemingly significant amount of patriotic feeling, Jay Barbree refers to the agencies 50 year history of achievement in which the organisation “either flew with the best and most experienced, or not at all”.

To Barbree, many of the companies to which NASA has awarded its contracts are neophytes, with little experience of what is required. He see’s little or no benefit in the program, bemoans the end of an era and cites the massive layoffs it will lead to at NASA.

Michael Lopez-Alegria

Michael Lopez-Alegria has served as NASA astronaut and commander of the International Space Station (ISS). He holds the records for the longest spaceflight (215 days), the most number of Extravehicular Activities (EVA – i.e. spacewalks) (10) the most EVA time (a total of 67 hours and 40 minutes). He is now the president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation.

Contrary to the view of Jay Barbree, according to Michael Lopez-Alegria the Commercial Crew Program will invigorate, and in fact, already has invigorated, the space industry.

In a recent article in Aviation Week Lopez-Alegria identifies that a recent study by NASA concluded that the design, development, test and evaluation of private contractor SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket would cost US$625 million less than under the previous NASA arrangement.

“Whence all the savings?” he asks. “Stable design requirements, leaner management and less government oversight all contribute.”

Further still, “The commercial crew effort [is] better structured to absorb technical glitches than traditional, single-string procurements. With multiple competitors in each program, no system design or approach is exactly duplicated”.

According to Lopez-Alegria, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is taking taxpayers money and using it to stimulate cost cutting innovations in the space industry.

John M. Logsdon

John M. Logsdon is a Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at George Washington University and holds a B.S. in physics and Ph.D in political science. Logsdon has been the author of a number of books on space exploration and was the director of George Washing University’s Space Policy Institute from 1987 to 2008.

According to Logsdon, while the golden era of NASA’s space exploration program, the Apollo mission of the 60s and early 70s, was a time of great achievement for which the U.S, and perhaps even the world, should be proud, its impact on spaceflight and exploration, particularly in America has, on the whole, been negative.

The singular purpose of the Apollo missions was to get to the Moon before the Russians did. Once achieved there was little, bar preserving and taking advantage of the infrastructure and workforce this had created, to guide future space endeavours.

Logsdon therefore welcomes recent U.S. government initiatives to use the knowledge, infrastructure and technology developed by NASA over the last 50 years, along with a substantial proportion of its funding, to build a private sector capable of transporting people and cargo out of the Earth’s atmosphere and beyond.

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