Richard Garriott thinks we are heading into a new golden age of human space flight. One of the first things he mentioned in his SXSW talk was that just over 500 people have left the planet in 50 years of space flight. While he’s happy to be one of those people he agrees that number is dismal. When you factor the costs involved of sending those 500 people to space, the number is especially bleak. Just look at the overview of the International Space Station (ISS) it cost tens of billions to develop and a couple billion to maintain each year. The Shuttle was a couple hundred million per seat and the Souyoz, while cheaper, is about $50 million per seat. These enormous costs are one of the barriers to advancing human space exploration.
In May of this year, SpaceX completed the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) demo for NASA showing they could take on the job of cargo taxi to the International Space Station (ISS) for NASA. In October, SpaceX celebrated the successful launch and return of its first of twelve contracted Commercial Resupply Service missions to the ISS. SpaceX is not only the first private company to achieve this goal but it’s doing so at a 90% cost reduction to the taxpayer. SpaceX is making money and NASA is saving money. Job well done; mission accomplished. Not quite. (more…)