On Feb. 6, Space X, a U.S. space development venture, successfully launched its rocket “Falcon Heavy,” which the company touts as the most powerful rocket in the world.
The launch from the Kennedy Space Center, from which Apollo rockets and the Space Shuttle were launched, indicated that the U.S. again stands at the forefront of space development competition.
We were surprised by the fact that this was accomplished by a space venture established by an immigrant, not the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
The payload of Falcon Heavy, in which the venture invested about one billion dollars, is twice as great as those of the largest rockets at work. Space X also successfully recovered the first stage rocket booster for reuse. In this way, the venture attempted to create a new paradigm in pricing in the business of space transport. This is a praiseworthy goal.
Space X CEO Elon Musk symbolizes the embodiment of the American Dream. He is from South Africa and moved to Canada, his mother’s native country. He then enrolled at University of Pennsylvania and emigrated to the U.S. After he launched an online payment service company, Musk established Space X in 2002.
Musk also announced a plan for manned space travel to Mars. Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos also aims to realize manned space flight.
In the meantime, at the end of last year the U.S. Trump administration gave instructions for the resumption of the manned Moon exploration program. Now that we have entered the period in which both the government and the private sectors are competing with each other in exploring outer space, Japan, which lags behind in opening the space business to the private sector, should not sit idly by and watch the progress in other countries.
The space development program of the U.S. was a history of setbacks and recovery. After the so-called Sputnik crisis in 1957 when the Soviet successfully launched for the first time in the world an artificial satellite followed by a successful manned space flight, the Kennedy administration announced the Apollo program, which led to the success of the manned lunar landing in 1969.
The U.S. continued thereafter its progress with the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station programs by using failure as a springboard. A turning point came during the period from 2004 to 2006 under the Bush administration, which announced the retirement of the deteriorated Space Shuttle followed by the beginning of a space transport program by private corporations.
There were voices that criticized the U.S. for ending its leading role in space development. In actuality, Russia took over the lead role in space transport with its spacecraft Soyuz, and China began participating in manned space flight. However, the political decision by the U.S. government to entrust space development to the private sector’s creativity and financial resources eventually led to the success of Space X.
Although there remain many challenges including safety in future manned space flight by the private sector, we endorse the spirit of allowing anyone to venture into the unknown. That is the real “America First.”