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The future of the United States space program appears to consist of three separate but allied and sequential activities: (a) scientific exploration, (b) commercial utilization, and (c) human habitation of space.
The first activity, scientific exploration, has been under way since the end of World War II when the first large ballistic rocket vehicles became available for launching scientific payloads beyond the atmosphere. It has progressed and grown enormously since that time. It has contributed in uncountable ways to our life style, to our culture, to our world view, and to our storehouse of knowledge about ourselves and our universe. It should and must continue in the future because the information it produces stocks the cupboards of knowledge so that information is available for the second activity: commercial utilization.
Commercial utilization or space industrialization is the second activity. It may be defined as the commercial, profitmaking use of the unique advantages of earth-orbital space for providing services and products for customers on earth. In due course of time, this definition will have to be broadened. Space industrialization amounts to the Third Industrial
Human habitation, space settlement, and space colonization is the third activity. It cannot be expected to take place on
a large scale until space industrialization is established to the level that would justify the presence of large numbers of human beings to conduct and support the off-planet activities of space industrialization. Although we will probably see human beings living in space for extended periods of time beginning in the 1980 decade, such limited habitation could not be considered as full-blown human habitation of space...but it will be a precursor in the evolution of the human presence in the Solar System.
Having laid a foundation based upon some positive definitions, let us look at what these three activities are not.
Space exploration is not the entire space program now or in the future. Scientific exploration and experimentation are not the reasons for having a space program or for doing things in space to the exclusion of everything else. A Congress responsive to the electorate will not be able to justify a large space program based solely upon the pursuit of scientific knowledge. I am personally in favor of doing all the space science that we can afford, including some that may stretch our resources because of unique opportunities such as infrequent cometary passages. I would like to see more space exploration. I venture to suggest that a great deal more space science can be done while riding the coattails of the commercial utilization of space. Historically, a great deal more science is done today
through industrial grants, contract research, and industrial research laboratories than was done before scientists made their historic and tacit arrangement with industrialists a century ago.
Space industrialization is not many things, too. It is not a program or a specific activity. It is not new and it is not something that is fifteen to twenty-five years away in the future. It is not a space station or large space structures. And it is not space colonization. It is government and industry working together for profit, for tax revenues, and for pragmatic benefit in utilizing this whole new ecological niche that we have discovered and will quickly occupy: space.
Space colonization is not the next step in space. It is not the justification for space industrialization. It may not even take place in this century, but it will take place. It will not cost us billions of dollars in a lump sum or even in a series of payments stretched out over twenty years. It will be the logical, evolutionary growth of space industrialization, something that cannot take place until space industrialization is an economic success...just as space industrialization could not occur until space exploration was a scientific and technical success. Space colonization is an attractive long-term goal. But, in the meantime, there is something else that we must do in space.
In the next ten to fifteen years, therefore, the space
program must consist of two elements: (1) space exploration,
Space Industrialization Isn't New
I need not review in detail our accomplishments in space. In general, we have to date explored near-earth space; mapped, surveyed, and sampled the Moon; sent unmanned exploration vehicles to four planets; and landed twelve men on the Moon. But it is near-earth space that is of greatest interest right now because we have spent the last twenty years learning about it. This knowledge has changed near-earth space from a hostile, alien environment to one that is useful.
We can use space. We know this because we have used space in the past. This means that we will continue to do so in the future.
Space industrialization is not new. It began on a specific date: April 6, 1965. On that date, Early Bird was launched. It was the world's first commercial communications satellite built and operated by the Communications Satellite Corporation (Comsat).
Comsat opened the era of space industrialization with this commercial venture. It was a private enterprise operation backed by numerous government supports and incentives. It was not the first such high-risk venture into a new frontier that was supported by and encouraged by a government, and our federal government in particular.
In almost every area where a physical or scientific frontier has become known, available, and ripe for use,
where the risks to private investors have been exceptionally high, where the return on investment times have been very long, and where very large amounts of capital have been required, there has emerged a government-business relationship. This relationship has taken many forms in the past. Examples in the history of the United States include the National Road of the late 18th Century, the canal system of the early 19th Century, the railroads of the mid-19th Century, the water and land reclamation projects in the American West in the early 20th Century, and the telephone and telegraph networks, radio, television, and commercial airlines.
Comsat was a new approach to a new business challenge, a joint government-industry corporation of unique characteristics. It has been successful. It returned its first dividend to stockholders in the fourth quarter of 1970, six years after the initial stock offering. Federal income tax amounting to $5,347,000 was payable for 1970. Comsat has been in a profitable