“I think we are at the dawn of a new era in commercial space exploration.”–Elon Musk
Nothing accelerates technological development like competition. It was the competition between the US and the Soviet Union that put a man on the moon in 1969, decades sooner than it would otherwise have occurred. The finish line of that race ended the competition, and we haven’t gone back since. But a new competition, multi-faceted and far more diverse, has begun. The commercial development of space figures to re-accelerate our push into the final frontier. If you’re a fan of space exploration and exploitation, stay tuned, the next few years are going to be exciting.
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Space exploration/exploitation/tourism—United Launch Alliance and Bigelow Aerospace have announced a joint venture to place a habitat in lunar orbit by 2022. While they describe fully how they intend to get it there, they don’t yet say who will inhabit it or what it might be used for. Anyone want to rent a lunar-orbiting apartment?
—Richard Branson says his Virgin Galactic commercial space venture will launch its first astronauts into space in about 4 months. He also says his program will do more for humanity than Elon Musk’s ambitious SpaceX plans to colonize Mars. Branson vs. Musk is not exactly USA vs. USSR; in fact, it might actually be more sustainable.
–Branson and Musk aren’t the only billionaire-sized egos in space. Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin announced a breakthrough that brings it one step closer to launching sub-orbital space tourism flights by 2019. They successfully test fired their new BE-4 rocket engine.
—While NASA progresses at a snails pace in returning US astronauts to the moon, it’s ramping up the effort to detect nearby, habitable earth-like planets. How they will ever get us there is another question, altogether.
Artificial Intelligence–Elon Musk says that the AI in a Tesla will soon be able to predict your destination and bring you there without asking. That’s good; half the time I have no idea where I’m going. Seriously, though, that’s amazing–and kind of creepy at the same time.
—The New York Times reports that tech giants are paying big bucks for the services of Artificial Intelligence experts. The deals they offer them often include signing bonuses and multi-year contracts, sometimes resembling those offered to professional athletes.
–Dubai and India are both jumping on the A.I. bandwagon, as far as government monitoring and regulation is concerned. Dubai is appointing a minister of artificial intelligence, while India is establishing an expert panel to advise government on policy.
Biotechnology–An Italian neurosurgeon says he will conduct the world’s first full head transplant in December of this year. And you were skeptical of self-driving cars.