Sekerci: U.S. government should fund private space companies, not NASA

Burak Sekerci, Columnist

Space is the next frontier for humanity and there are endless possibilities in our vast universe. The first big leap in space exploration was to set foot on the moon, which NASA accomplished several times. The other next leap is to set foot on Mars to create a colony for humans to live. However, this is a bigger feat than going to the moon because Mars is much further away, a 250-day travel compared to the moon’s 3-day travel.

NASA has been sending probes, satellites and rovers to Mars for almost 50 years now. Although this is progress, it might be difficult to meet future goals of space exploration since NASA does not receive significant help from other organizations. NASA has built the International Space Station and conducted the space shuttle program, but the Mars program has seen less attention than the former two.

In recent years, entrepreneurs saw the opportunity and created companies like SpaceX and Sierra Nevada. Boeing has also expanded its space program. For the past year or two, with the rockets they have built, these companies have been carrying cargo, essentially building and transferring some of the infrastructure for NASA. One of the most important features of these companies was the fact that they were not regulated strictly by NASA; it wouldn’t tell them how to build their rockets. This freedom led to faster expansion with these programs bigger, faster and more capable rockets were built.

But in 2014 the U.S. government chose to fund NASA projects instead of private companies, a huge mistake. Private companies such as SpaceX can build whatever NASA builds faster, cheaper and better. For example, SpaceX’s Falcon rocket can carry much more cargo than the SLS rocket of NASA, while costing only the equivalent of 1.25 years of the SLS’s funding. The Falcon rocket will also be released at an earlier date than the SLS, which would allow time for more extensive testing.

Private space companies are the future of space exploration. They are the missing part in this long journey. With the financial and structural help from private companies, NASA can focus on astronaut education, scientific research and organization of space trips. This arrangement could prove useful for both the Mars mission and create the basis for future missions.

By funding private companies, the U.S. government can create the breakthrough that the world needs. Why not give more money to aid expansion? Developing the space industry would increase competition and push firms to create better products, which is one thing that NASA lacks, at least since the Cold War. Now, NASA competes with few others, which may extend deadlines, slow production and stagnate creativity.

The U.S. government should know the best choice for the future of space exploration lies in private space companies, which have the ambition, the competition and the brains to build whatever rocket NASA needs to go the Red Planet. In addition, NASA should not be regulating private companies, and instead guide them in a progressive direction. NASA should be organizing and directing future space missions, educating astronauts and conducting scientific experiments that space exploration also needs.

Burak Sekerci is a McCormick sophomore. He can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].