Author: Michael Shilo DeLay and Anastasia Bendebury

The Need for Scientific Caution in the New Space Race

On May 30th, 2020, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launched from NASA’s facility at Cape Canaveral. Hidden in the roar of the thrusters was the crack of a starting gun for the second era of human expansion: The era of private crewed space exploration was on. During the last era of expansion, voyagers like Zheng He, Vasco Da Gama, and Magellan leaned on territorial rulers for financial support. This set off a cascade of resource-hungry expeditions the aftermath of which we’re still sifting through today. SpaceX, on the other hand, has managed to raise $36 billion USD, primarily through private funding. If SpaceX were a country and its valuation were its GDP, it would have $4.5 million per person, an order of magnitude above the richest country, Luxembourg. They’ve raised the money by promising investors that they’ll turn a cargo transport business into something that will “enable the space flight capabilities necessary to make humans a multi-planetary species.” This era is a complete rewrite of what the future looked like two decades ago, when NASA mothballed …