Ms. Inglish has 30 years experience in medicine, psychology, STEM instruction, history, and aerospace education for USAF Civil Air Patrol.
Private Space Operations and NASA Projects
For several years, news reports have spoken about the NASA Commercial Crew of private aerospace companies partnering with the American space agency to expand exploration and business opportunities beyond Earth. Competition for NASA contracts has been stiff and escalating company rivalries have exploded on social media.
At the same time, public sentiment in the U.S. has included a growing opposition to space exploration. Many people have posted in social media that space projects are a waste of money that can better be used to fight homelessness, hunger, illness, violence, and war. They also point to explosions of expensive rockets during testing, along with the deaths of astronauts on the Challenger and Columbia space shuttles. Another complaint is that an outer space business park will increase the presence of space garbage currently being fought by a combined American-Japanese project.
Supporters counter with arguments about creating medicines in low gravity unavailable on Earth and the discovery of usable resources on the moon and asteroids as our planet runs short of water and other necessities.
Space Stations Lineup
NASA plans to begin construction of the Lunar Gateway/Artemis space station beyond the moon in 2024, possibly to be led by a woman astronaut, although as of 2021,18 diverse astronauts were assigned to the project.
We have seen previous stations: Sky Lab (1973-1974), Mir (1986-2001), and currently, the International Space Station that is near retirement age. The Chinese are building their own Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) complex, as well as planning a moon base. Blue Origin (BO) has secured partnerships with other companies (SpaceX excluded) to open the first LEO mixed-use office park.
All of these projects have met with controversy, but the mixed-use business park, Orbital Reef, is attracting perhaps the largest criticism.
Orbital Reef expands access, lowers the cost, and provides everything needed to help you operate your business in space.
— Blue Origin website
Aggressive Rivalries of Aerospace Billionaires
Bezos has incurred controversies that include his wealth, his mega-company Amazon that pays no taxes, a costly divorce that left him still wealthy, a rivalry and unsuccessful legal action against SpaceX and NASA over lost contracts; and blatant promotion of paying guests on his Blue Origin spacecraft.
Jeff Bezos' space company filed the lawsuit in August (2021), after NASA awarded a contract to SpaceX. The US Court of Federal Claims ruled against Blue Origin in its lawsuit against NASA.
— Grace Kay, November 4, 2021
Elon Musk used Twitter to comment on the legal ruling by posting a meme from the 1995 movie Judge Dredd that said, "You have been judged."
This type of response will not stop the rivalry, but exacerbate it further. How much longer will the escalating billionaires' battles of words lead to corporate espionage, sabotage, and even violence? Will paying customers be injured as they are caught in the fallout?
Orbital Reef will be the premier mixed-use space station in low Earth orbit for commerce, research, and tourism.
— Jeff Bezos
Is a Business Park in Space a Good Idea?
Outer Space Advertising
Advertising in America, especially political propaganda, has become obnoxious to the point that many TV viewers mute the sound when a commercial appears.
In the 1979s and 1980s, it became legal to mention competitors in commercial ads on TV, resulting in increasingly aggressive put downs of other products and people that has carried over too visibly into political ads.
Many people are influenced by commercial and political adds, but personally, I never purchase anything I see in a commercial and never vote for a candidate whose ads include unsubstantiated vicious attacks on competitors.
Over-the-top advertising will likely place outer space services in front of consumers' eyes soon. While billionaires can afford to be Blue Origin's "paying customers", less wealthy individuals may take out large loans to travel space. Buzz Aldrin proposed a space travel credit card in the 2000s, although I never saw one, but I think several such cards will be in use within the next decade. I foresee bankruptcies stemming from these purchases and perhaps Orbital Reef business park as a whole will go bankrupt.
The Negotiator...In Space
When Priceline moved away from consumer bidding on travel services, galactic star William Shatner found other services to promote. At age 90, he took a BO New Shepard space ride on October 13, 2021, thereby attracting interest in space tourism. Many social media posts about this were negative, accusing Jeff Bezos of using Shatner as a unpaid shill and for overusing the phrase "paying customer" in social media posts and news reporting.
I expect the nonagenarian to act in commercials for future Blue Origin tourist packages and Orbital Reef business use, calling up the image of Star Trek's Captain Kirk. Perhaps BO can enlist some help from a few Ferengi actors from Deep Space Nine for Orbital Reef.
Shatner may work until he dies, but even then, producers can use his large database of vocal sounds to place him in animated and virtual reality commercials. The Bezos empire might profit immeasurably from this. I hope Shatner and his heirs will profit from it.
Previous Businesses in Space
Ohio's Ponderosa Steakhouse leaders in the 1960s contracted to place a restaurant on the MIR space station, but their contract expired before the station was built. Ponderosa officials talked about this for decades to manager trainee classes and I heard it myself in the late 1970s.
In the 1990s, an Ohio physician's group planned to open a cardiovascular clinic on MIR or the ISS, thinking that decreased gravity could successfully treat high blood pressure. The clinic was never approved and there was no room for it.
Restaurants and clinics might become tenants of Orbital Reef in the future and we do not yet know what other businesses might open in the LEO office park, or how likely they are to be successful.
- Aldrin, B. Buzz Aldrin: At 91, I'm still optimistic about America overcoming challenges. Florida Today; July 23, 2021.
- Chappell, B. Orbital Reef is a new commercial space station that Blue Origin says will be operational by the end of the decade. NPR Business; October 25, 2021.
- Hernandez, J. William Shatner boldly went into space for real. Here's what he saw. NPR; October 13, 2021.
- Kay, G. Elon Musk shares meme of Judge Dredd saying 'You have been judged' after Blue Origin loses NASA lawsuit over SpaceX contract. Business Insider; November 4, 2021.
- Williams, M. Blue Origin Announces the "Orbital Reef," the Space Station. Universe Today; October 31, 2021.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Patty Inglish MS