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I Need My Space

In December 2019 President Trump announced the creation of the United States Space Force and the proposed budget for 2021 allocates $18 billion to the newly formed agency. NASA, the preeminent space agency, will be allotted $25 billion. Details on personnel reassignment are forthcoming. NASA's shuttle program, the primary vehicle for manned space flight, was retired in 2010, so the formation of this new space agency seems curious, considering the majority of contemporary space innovation is coming from the private sector.

I spent an Audible credit on The Space Barons by Christian Davenport, choosing it over Rocket Billionaires by Tim Fernholz. The Space Barons examines the founding, flights and failures of Elon Musk’s Space-X, Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin, and Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic ( and in Virgin Galactic's case, predecessor companies). Space-X and Blue Origin have developed a contentious rivalry as each seeks to best their other in developing re-usable rocket technology. Their space race is one over government contracts, patents, and the right to ferry supplies to the International Space Station. Eventually Musk & Bezos have designs of extra-planetary colonization. Blue Origin sees itself as the fabled the tortoise to Elon Musk's brash & cocky hare, going so far as to paint a tortoise on its coat of arms.

Virgin's main goal is to launch of commercial service to fly passengers on low-earth-orbit flights from air-launched spacecraft. The degree of difficulty is lowered by the absence of finicky rockets. Virgin Galactic is the only public company of the trio, and after a Morgan Stanley buy recommendation in December 2019, $SPCE has been testing the limits of verticality, rising from $7 at the time of the note to $36 as of this writing.

Experts agree: Space is Hard. While they are no longer "ankle biters" to established space behemoths like Boeing & Lockheed Martin, these trio of upstarts are still light years away from proving their safety & reliability.

Journalist Kara Swisher talks to Columbia University astrobiology director Dr. Caleb Sharf about the feasibility of humans colonizing Mars.

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