Thursday, 11 April 2013

Report: NASA and Bigelow to establish commercial space exploration partnership

Report: NASA and Bigelow to establish commercial space exploration partnership, An April 11, 2013 report in the Los Vegas City Life suggests that NASA and a commercial space company called Bigelow Aerospace is about to embark on a partnership to determine how some of the space agency’s long term goals could be accomplished commercially.

According to the report:

“In a nutshell, NASA has decided that the best way to get Americans and American companies back into space is for the government to partner with private enterprise. To provide technical expertise and legal authority for bright, ambitious entrepreneurs to spend their own money on endeavors that will not only re-establish American supremacy in space but also get started on truly exciting long-range projects, including private space stations, as well as permanent bases on the moon, on Mars and beyond.

“NASA has picked Bigelow Aerospace to be a linchpin of this new strategy. The agreement will formalize a series of strategic goals and timetables for the next Space Race. Bigelow’s company would become a clearinghouse of sorts. Its first assignment: to identify which other companies would be most valuable for NASA’s long-range goals, including permanent bases on other celestial bodies, the exploration of the most distant parts of our solar system, and commercial projects that could stimulate the U.S. economy. This is a marriage of American know-how, practical business goals and good, old-fashioned adventure.”

Bigelow Aerospace is a commercial space company that proposes to build a private space station using inflatable modules. It has already deployed prototype modules as tests in low Earth orbit. It has also signed an agreement with NASA to provide an inflatable module for the International Space Station.

Pending the actual announcement of the agreement, said to take place in the next few days, the idea appears to be that private companies would – for example – build a lunar base with NASA providing technical support and perhaps some money, such as renting such a facility or providing direct subsidies.

While the devil is in the details, this development may constitute the other shoe dropping from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden’s statement that there would be no “American led” return to the moon in his lifetime. Perhaps he should have said “NASA led” if details of the impending deal are accurate.

It could be just another study contract that goes nowhere. Or it could be the start of something awe inspiring.

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