Commercial Space Race Underway!
|The rocket that Neil Armstrong rode: Apollo 11's Saturn V lifts off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida on July 16, 1969.
LONDON — For decades, the space race was seen as being mostly about national pride. Getting there first mattered most, whereas pushing the frontiers of science and technology took a close second.
The first man in space, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, was proclaimed by the Kremlin as Citizen of the World and hailed as a sign of communist leadership. Watching NASA astronaut Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon made Americans grin in triumph and forced Soviet leaders to grit their teeth.
Even today, national pride may be fueling space launches, for instance, in places like China and India, both emerging players in the space game, according to space industry experts at a Nov. 20 summit here. On Nov. 5, India’s national space agency, the Indian Space Research Organization, launched a spacecraft dubbed Mangalyaan to Mars. China, which a decade ago became the third nation to send its own astronauts into orbit, is currently building a lunar rover and a space station, while also planning its own unmanned mission to Mars. [See photos from India's first Mars mission]
Not everybody believes this kind of space race, or one between countries, is delivering real value. "Going to the moon didn't bring a lot of commercial value to the U.S. It was just a great pride for the nation," said Mohammad Riaz Suddle of the National Space Agency of Pakistan.
Going to the moon "might not have brought direct commercial value" to the United States, said Chad Anderson, director of European Operations at the Space Angels Network, "but the impact on the economy was huge."
That may be especially true now, as the space race shifts from nations to commercial enterprise. Space offers plenty of business opportunities, at least in the eyes of the space enthusiasts coming to the International Space Commerce 2013 Summit in London, where entrepreneurs, investors and state-sponsored space organizations gathered to discuss ways of making space exploration profitable.
READ MORE: Space.com