Moon to be private colony – NASA

4 Apr

IF mankind ends up colonising the moon, it is likely to be led by a commercial enterprise rather than a government.


So says NASA administrator Charles Bolden, who believes nations will no longer venture into space alone, but in collaboration with each other and with private industry.

Maj-Gen Bolden, who flew into orbit four times on the US space shuttle program which ended last year, says governments will lead the way in space exploration, but not in getting access to space.

“We have now got to the point where NASA should have nothing to do with it (access to space),” he said in an address today at Sydney University.

“We have run the tests, we have been flying for 50 years, we know basically how to get humans off the planet and into low-earth orbit.

“Our private industry partners have built every single space craft we have ever flown.

“NASA has never built a single human-rated space craft.”


Maj-Gen Bolden says private industry will build, own and operate space craft from now on, and NASA will buy their service.

“I will pick up the phone and say, ‘I’ve got a crew of three wanting to go to the International Space Station next August’ and they will say, ‘cargo or just crew?’, and I’ll say, ‘crew’, and that’s the way it’s going to be done.”

The question for NASA will be whether to adopt the “taxi model” or the “rental car model” – whether to have astronauts dropped off and picked up, or whether to have them trained to launch and return themselves to Earth, leaving the private company to check the craft for “dents and dings and stuff like that”.


At some point a private enterprise such as Boeing might decide it wants to establish a colony on the moon.

“NASA has no vision of establishing a colony on the moon,” he said, “but there are countless commercial enterprises who do.”

He described the US-Soviet partnership on the International Space Station as a model for co-operation between “former arch enemies who locked horns and were getting ready to mutually destroy the planet”.


Only governments could control space exploration, he said, because only governments were willing to accept the risks.

“We are going to lose people,” he warned.

“You need to be able to accept that. Governments can handle that a little bit easier than private industry.”

The US is still the dominant leader in space exploration, despite the end of the shuttle program, Maj-Gen Bolden said.


He praised Australia as an “incredible” partner through its space tracking stations, saying: “You have been with us since the early days and you will be with us for the foreseeable future.”

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