With both NASA and SpaceX contemplating trips around the moon before the end of the decade, questions are arising about the future of the relationship between the #Space agency and commercial space. As with anything, the answer depends on who one asks.
The future is cooperation between #NASA and commercial space
The LA Times has published a story that suggests that the idea of a NASA/private space race to the moon is much to do about nothing. The fortunes of NASA and commercial space entities are too intertwined to favor a competition between the two. NASA needs commercial space companies such as SpaceX because they can perform certain missions, such as taking cargo and crews to and from the International Space Station, cheaper and with more reliability that the space agency can do on its own. Commercial space companies need NASA because it is a ready source of cash and a core market that is reliable while they develop more speculative lines of business.
Maybe NASA and commercial space companies will compete
Florida Today, on the other hand, suggests that NASA might be threatened by private space’s sudden interest in the moon. Why develop the Orion spacecraft and the heavy lift Space Launch System at great expense if companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin can perform missions for less cost. The idea that commercial space will replace most of what NASA does is an outcome greatly desired by libertarian-leaning bloggers and people who hang around social media.
On the other hand, most individuals who run commercial businesses downplay the idea of a conflict between NASA and the #Private Sector. Their idea is that hardware such as Orion and the SLS are complimentary with vehicles being developed by commercial space companies. Redundancy is something very much to be desired.
However, much depends on what kind of space policy comes out of the Trump White House. Even though SpaceX’s Elon Musk has a history of delivering less than what he promises, the notion of a totally commercialized space program may be attractive to the former businessman. In any case, many expect Trump to lean on NASA and its prime contractors to lower the cost of operating the Orion/SLS system. The approached worked well with the behind schedule and costly F-35. So maybe the future is the carrot of cooperation enforced by the stick of competition.