So the space shuttle Discovery has flown its last mission; it's been
towed over the nation's capital like a bruised Chevy after a
demolition derby before being deposited at the Udvar-Hazy air and
space musuem in northern Virginia.
Other space junkers -- Atlantis and Endeavour -- are being retired like
Brett Faver in a pair of Crocs, too, bringing to end an underwhelming
three decades of fruitless and tragic exploration of low-earth
Let's face it: Once we beat the Russians to the moon, the national
rocket grew limper than Liberace at a speculum convention. NASA has
been dining out on a single 1969 hit longer than Zager and Evans.
The good news is that amateur hour is now over and the private space
race has begun. Where two Cold War superpowers failed, let a thousand
business plans bloom!
The future of space is in the hands of the guys behind Amazon, PayPal,
and Virgin. The force of competition will create endless possibilities
and unimaginable technologies. No more talking about how the space
program brought us Tang and Tempur-Pedic mattresses. We're going to
Mars, baby, in business class.
Virgin's Richard Branson has already signed up more stars than there
are in heaven and his regular press releases read like the headlines
at TMZ: Ashton Kutcher, Katy Perry, and Angelina Jolie have all
reserved space on the first civilian flights to the great beyond.
The International Space Station will continue as a government run
intergalactic DMV, but at least the spaceships shlepping materials and
mouthbreathers to and from it will soon be operated by private
vendors--at an expected 90 percent discount. That should put plenty
more celebrities --and civiliams-- in the mood to join the 30-mile-high
The founder of BudgetSuites, Robert Bigelow, has already launched
experimental modules and is dreaming of putting affordable hotels
--complete with bedspreads soaked in alien DNA—in orbit and PayPal's
Elon Musk has said he wants to die on Mars. Preferably in a colony
established by SpaceX, his company that's hell bent not just on
leaving Earth but getting to the Red Planet in style.
Nobody knows exactly how private space exploration and
entrepreneurship will play out. But's its a lock that the next 30
years won't resemble our government-run space program's decades-long
failure to launch anything more inspiring than Josie and the Pussycats
in Outer Space.
About 2:30 minutes.
Filmed by Joshua Swain and Jim Epstein. Edited by Meredith Bragg. Written by Nick Gillespie and Kennedy, who also hosts.
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