When you think about who’s in charge of cutting-edge spaceflight in 2018, SpaceX is probably the first name that comes to mind. Maybe Orbital ATK; or Blue Origin, owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. What it might not be is NASA.
NASA was established by the federal government during the Cold War to project American prestige and beat the Soviets, all in the name of space science. But the agency’s image arguably peaked with Neil Armstrong’s steps on the moon; and since then its grandeur has lagged, having fallen victim to a series of failed space missions, deep funding cuts to research, and changing political will.
For over a decade, NASA has been steadily ceding exploration of the cosmos to for-profit companies. And now, each new SpaceX launch becomes a media sensation –— while NASA’s public profile is fading.
But actually, NASA had a lot to do with getting America’s private space industry off the ground in the first place.
VICE News spoke with Dennis Stone, one of the founding members of NASA’s commercial investment program, to hear the story behind the agency’s success in backing private spaceflight.
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