The Wright Brothers were the 20th Century’s first major celebrities.  By inventing the airplane they extended Man’s reach into the skies.  Their every move, innovation and success was spread across newspapers worldwide.  Awards were presented, with parades in Paris, Berlin and New York.  These two businessmen from Dayton, Ohio showed us how to fly and made the world a different place.

     Mankind is now poised for the next step and it will be off this planet.  Previously it was a nationalistic competition that drove space agencies to plant their flags on the moon or beyond.  Today a generation of corporate explorers are leading the way.  It is a good bet that their names might become as famous as Orville and Wilbur.

     Several major space related businesses have recently made the news.

     Space X launched their Falcon 9 rocket and delivered supplies to the International Space Station.  It then landed on a floating unmanned barge in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.  Elon Musk’s company is now cleaning it up, testing its engine and plan to send it back up again and again and again. 

     A rocket large enough to put a vehicle into space costs $60 million dollars.  In the past after one liftoff, it would burn up in the atmosphere and fall into the sea.  It costs around $200,000 to fill the fuel tanks and send it back up.  In one smooth landing, space travel got a whole lot cheaper.

     Bigelow Aerospace was part of the last Space X launch.  The Falcon 9 sent up a 5’ by 7’ canister named BEAM to the ISS.  This was attached to the Tranquility section of the station by a robotic arm.  During the next few days it will be inflated into an 11’ by 12’ foot space habitat for the astronauts. The Bigelow Expandable Activity Module will be tested over the next two years orbiting the Earth.

     Bigelow Aerospace makes inflatable space habitats.  Their plans call for compacted modules to be launched, inflated and attached together to build space factories and manned space stations.  Their designs can be modified for deep space travel to the Moon and Mars.  They also have plans for a space hotel.

     United Launch Alliance launches rockets for the United States Defense department and corporations involved in GPS navigation, weather forecasting and space research.  They have sent over 100 satellites into orbit.  They recently signed a deal with Bigelow to build a fleet of rockets to take an  inflatable fleet of space vehicles into the stars.

     Other businesses and their leaders are paving a different path into space.

     Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos owns a space company named Blue Origin.  They have successfully launched, landed and then relaunched their rocket three time during the last four months.  The New Shepard rocket lifts off, streaks to the very edge of space and then returns to gently land on the launch pad. 

      Sir Richard Branson is developing Virgin Galactic, who will ferry tourists to the edge of space.  Their VSS Unity spacecraft will be making regular suborbital flights in the coming years.  Future plans might include visits to a nearby orbiting hotel.

     Orville and Wilbur Wright ran a very successful bicycle shop and built their own way into the sky.  Today’s private companies are planning a tomorrow where space travel might be as common as airplane travel is today.  The world changed when Man learned how to  fly.  The world is about change now that private companies have learned to soar.

      The earliest European settlements in North America were funded by the large, powerful businesses of that era.  Corporations like the Massachusetts Bay Company, the Hudson Bay Company and the British East India Company funded the expeditions that led to the New World.  The corporations of today are leading the way to explore literally new worlds.

     While corporations are often vilified for their greed they should also be praised for their courage.  They are working together to expand Mankind’s horizons.  It was less than 10 years ago that Steve Jobs helped usher in the digital world we live in today.  Since the iPhone went from an interesting gadget to a necessity, cyberspace is where many of us shop, read, learn, communicate and grow.

     Imagine 10 years from now.  Companies are launching and landing rockets today.  Regular people will be boarding a spaceship and gazing back at Earth in a weightless cabin tomorrow.  Inflatable spaceships will be visiting Mars.  There will be space honeymoons, maybe even on the moon itself.

     The Wrights took us to the skies.  Private businesses are taking us beyond.

Published by Ben Amato