Private ventures enlisted for space race revival

Lunar landing system
An artist’s conception shows a landing system in lunar orbit. (NASA Illustration)

RENTON, Wash. — Fifty years after the landmark Apollo 11 mission blasted off for the climax of the U.S.-Soviet space race, officials from NASA and the Air Force highlighted the role of commercial space ventures in running a new race for American leadership on the final frontier.

Clayton Turner, deputy director of NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia, noted that the space agency was born a little more than 60 years ago, in the wake of Sputnik’s launch and the dawn of the first space race.

“For a lot of that time, NASA was the only player in town. NASA and DOD [Department of Defense] were the only players in town,” he said here today at the Space Frontier Foundation’s annual NewSpace conference. “For the next 60 years, the next 100 years, that is not going to be the case, and that is a great idea.”

Turner said most of the airplanes flying around the world today are built by commercial enterprises, with governments purchasing services as needed. “That’s what we want to think about for space development,” Turner said.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributor to GeekWire and Universe Today, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," past president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing.

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