Just looking at the current budget proposal for NASA, the outlook for the next few years seems to be pretty bleak. After boosting the Space Agency’s budget to $19.9 billion, the Trump administration plans to drop spending back to $19.6 billion a year for the following three years. That means that NASA’s budget will be flat and its buying power will be steadily eaten up by inflation. The level of spending that the space agency is expected to go back to the moon on seems absurd, even given the expected contributions from the commercial sector and international partners.

However, Yahoo News has some great news thanks to a recent Study by Morgan Stanley. The investment bank predicts that NASA’s budget, adjusted for inflation, will be roughly double what it is now by 2040. The level of spending will be dwarfed by money shelled out for military space projects and likely by the private sector.

The problem with predicting the future.

Predicting the future can be a foolish occupation. Most analysts who engage in the practice chart current trends and extrapolate them into the future. However, the future is often determined by disruptive events that move history in a new direction. For instance, if an analysis of what the year 2018 would be like had been undertaken in 1978 it would have assumed that the Soviet Union still existed.

Few if any would have factored that Earth-shaking event into their calculations.

Thus, anything written about the year 2040 may be rendered moot by game-changing events that are hard to predict. The geopolitical situation in that year may (likely) be completely different than it is now. However, we can factor in certain trends.

that are evident today and get some idea of what the future might hold.

Space 2040: Increased spending and falling costs.

If Morgan Stanley is right and NASA is roughly double what it is now, one can add expected investments from companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin, not to mention entities that might not even exist today, and make some startling predictions.

By 2040, people will be living on the moon and exploiting it for its resources. Asteroid mining will likely be a growth industry as well. Access to space resources will spark an industrial revolution, in space, involving the construction of large platforms that will expand everything from communications and navigation to solar power and space manufacturing. The commercial space revolution will be as significant, if not more significant, than the computer revolution of the 1980s and 1990s.

What degree people will have ventured into deep space, starting with Mars, will depend on how far advanced propulsion technology has progressed. To be sure, given the trends, we can expect that the first footsteps will have been planted on the Red Planet.

Whether Elon Musk’s dream of colonization will have progressed can be debated.

Wildcards

Of course, certain wildcard events could disrupt and alter this happy scenario. A major war between the United States and say, China, would eat up resources that would ordinarily be used for civilian space projects and would destroy a lot of space infrastructure. Unwise domestic policies, such as the imposition of a single-payer health care system would drain funding from NASA and inhibit economic growth as well.

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