Private Funds Needed to Develop Space Commercially

Article excerpt

Private funds are necessary for the commercial utilitization of outer space, former astronaut Edgar Mitchell says.

While government regulations also are necessary, he said, commercial development in space can only be done with funds provided by entrepreneurs.

"We need the risk taking and capital from the private sector (to commercialize space)," Mitchell said. "Only entrpreneurs can provide the aggressive approach we need."

Besides the obvious industry of rapid telecommunications, Mitchell said other commercial aspects of space include surveyance, manufacturing, harvesting solar energy and "there are so many other applications we really haven't even begun to scratch the surface."

"Take surveyance for instance," he said. "All sorts of geodetic work can be done from remote sensing devices which can look beneath the surface of the earth and get data that are impossible to get in any other way.

"The whole range of mapping or increasing the applied technilogy still have not been developed.

"We have not even begun to tap our manufacturing capacity in space. For instance that's one area where you can make absolutely perfect ball bearings, but no one has determined just how to do this.

"When that becomes economically viable, manufacturers will find the correct market for their products and learn how much more economical it will be to manufacture in space.

"In addition, we must improve our knowledge about solar energy. The space component of outer space provides us with a clean source of energy," he said. "Everyone knows fossil fuel is limited and we must have a source to replace it.

"This is becoming a long-term trend, to find a way to harness all that solar energy to use here on earth.

"Our national interests clearly dictate that we must make entrepreneurship along with public sector and private sector cooperation a basic policy of space exploration efforts.

"This includes launching and getting paylaods into orbit."

But, an untrammeled rush to industrialize outer space can have serious consequences, Mitchell said.

"There is one major caveat here," he said. "All the industrialization of this century has brought us to a crisis point in our environment.

"We must get a handle, and do it quickly, on how to preserve the space atmosphere. As big as space is, its still more sensitive than here on earth.

"There must be a way in which we can harness all the potential of outer space without degrading it.

"As we go into space, we must be careful to clean debris left behind so that we won't ruin space, make it totally unusable to future generations.

"The most critical part is the area of low orbit. …