Step Aside NASA, Elon Musk Is In Charge Now

NASA’s recent decision to scrub their big moon flight — with rescheduling weeks away — is yet another illustration of how this once mighty federal agency has lost its way. It is already 2022 and the space agency has failed to send another person on the moon for a half century. It is far from tackling the more critical project of visiting Mars.

So with NASA locked in bureaucracy, the momentum has shifted to private industry, which increasingly dominates the burgeoning space industry. Here there is a parallel with what historian J. H. Parry called the “Age of Reconnaissance” in which the initial moves for the creation of the modern world economy were state-sponsored, but the development of the global shipping and the establishment of mercantile colonies was private. Many of the boldest explorers of that era were figures like Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Drake, privateers seeking profits as well as personal glory.

We are now entering the “Commercial Space Age”, replacing the era of state-led exploration. Today exploration is being driven by billionaires like Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson, and a host of young companies like Space X, Relativity Space, Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin and Rocket Lab, which recently announced a mission to explore the gases of Venus.

Government is still a large player in countries as diverse as India, Japan, Russia and Israel. China, which is considering a mile-long spaceship, will not likely allow entrepreneurs to lead its dreams of a galactic mandarinate. But in the West, the drive will not be led to NASA, suffers from what author and space expert Rand Simberg notes calls “risk aversion”.

The reasons for the rise of privateers resonates with that of the sea-going privateers — the lure of lucre. The government’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) estimates that the space industry contributes approximately $200 billion to the U.S. economy and employs 354,000 people today. New research sees that number growing substantially, and projects the global space economy will be worth $1.0 trillion by 2040. This unscripted opportunity, of course, can expect opposition from the green progressives who dub it just a reflection of capitalism’s flawed obsession with growth.

Read the rest of this piece at UnHerd.

Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Roger Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Homepage photo: NASA under CC 2.0 License.

Can Space Save Earth?

The world economy is in the doldrums, pessimism is rife around the world, and most young people, according to one survey, believe climate change means the end of human life on Earth.

Yet a better future beckons, if we can only begin to look outside ourselves, and even beyond our planet. It is in space that we may find solutions to some of our most pressing problems, including a workable energy strategy and access to the precious minerals needed to sustain our prosperity.

Space has always held a special place in our collective imagination. Missions to Mars, the mining of asteroids and the development of space-based human societies have been the subject of TV shows and movies for decades, all speaking to the notion of a human “manifest destiny” that will transcend the inertia of our Earth-bound society.

Despite a decades-long torpor at NASA, the space industry is making a major comeback. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis has just announced that it is formally tracking the industry’s growth, which it estimates contributes approximately $200 billion annually to the U.S. economy and already employs 354,000 people. The global space economy could reach $1 trillion by 2040, according to new research from Morgan Stanley.

This rapid growth reflects not so much the desire to “boldly go where no one has gone before” but — as in the westward expansion across America of the 19th century — our hunger for riches, precious metals and minerals. It has less to do with exploratory zeal and more with maintaining and feeding our terrestrial habitat.

In this quest, government is still a large part of the effort — with serious players including nations as diverse as China, Russia, India, Japan and Israel. NASA, for its part, has spent five years building the Artemis moon exploration program.

But increasingly, today’s return to space is being driven by private sector innovation and for-profit companies, which made 2021 the best year for space growth in decades.

The dominant players now are firms like SpaceX, Relativity, Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin and Long Beach-based Rocket Lab, which has recently announced a new mission to explore the gases of Venus. A recent report from the not-for-profit Space Foundation noted that about 90% of the more than 1,000 spacecraft launched this year have been backed by commercial firms — most notably the hundreds of Starlink internet satellites launched by Elon Musk’s SpaceX. The pace of new launches is now the greatest since the late 1960s during the U.S.-Soviet “race to the moon.”

SpaceX dominates today, accounting for upwards of 60% of all new commercial rocket launches. The company has achieved major technological breakthroughs in recent years, dramatically lowering the cost of spaceflight. Sending people or cargo into space, measured per kilogram, is 85 times cheaper today than when the space shuttle first launched in 1981.

SpaceX is preparing to establish a permanent presence on the moon and launch a crewed mission to Mars, but other players are also driving change. NASA, for instance, is planning new unmanned deep-space exploration. Japan has already started small-scale efforts to test the feasibility of retrieving metals from asteroids, the first attempt to shift mining away from our fragile planet to the vast and, as far as we know, empty areas in space.

These activities are already helping Earth in profound ways. Perhaps the most evident benefit has come in the form of satellite communications. SpaceX, through its Starlink constellation of satellites, beams broadband service to customers around the globe.

The efforts of space companies to provide orbital communications networks have, among other things, begun to bring cyberspace to the developing world. Aerospace engineer and consultant Rand Simberg says the Starlink system is why “Ukraine has maintained the internet through the war.” Sadly, the U.S. government recently rejected a Starlink project to serve rural America.

Read the rest of this piece at Los Angeles Times.

Joel Kotkin is the author of The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning to the Global Middle Class. He is the Roger Hobbs Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and Executive Director for Urban Reform Institute. Learn more at and follow him on Twitter @joelkotkin.

Marshall Toplansky is a widely published and award-winning marketing professional and successful entrepreneur. He co-founded KPMG’s data & analytics center of excellence and now teaches and consults corporations on their analytics strategies.

Photo: SpaceX via Flickr under under CC 2.0 License.

Electric Car Mandates Latest Frontier of Elites’ War on Middle Class

California is working overtime to prove something that is obvious to most middle-class Americans: electric vehicle mandates are something of a scam.

A week ago, California announced it would ban the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035—only to beg residents this week to stop charging their electric cars for fear of breaking the power grid amid a massive heatwave.

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The Democrats’ Green Agenda is Hurting Californians

The once-great state of California is now in a dire condition. With a heatwave now in full force, Governor Gavin Newsom is preparing to cut energy use, which may result in blackouts, brownouts and water rationing.

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The Revenge of the Analog Economy

The last few decades have seen the emergence of two rival economies: an older analog one built on the actual production of goods, and another that profits from financial transactions, images and customer surveillance. The contest between the two has been rather one-sided, with the “laptop economy” the big winner, particularly during the pandemic.

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Rent Forever and Love It

Housing is an industry, but it is also where people live, raise families, and stake their future. Yet increasingly, all around the world, housing has increasingly become just a commodity to be traded, often by foreigner investors, notably from China, as well as by large well-capitalized financial institutions who plan to cultivate a generation of lifelong renters. In the notorious words of the World Economic Forum, “You will own nothing, and love it.” Well, you may not love it, but the first part is coming true.

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The Biggest Threat to the CHIPS Act? The Green Left

The recent passage of the CHIPS act, a $280 billion dollar subsidy, may prove a giant boondoggle. But it also reflects a critical shift in US economic policy away from neoliberal free trade policies to a more nationalistic industrial policy.

This trend may have started with President Trump, but his successor — along with leaders of both parties — have moved in this direction too. The earlier passage of The Act, the Make PPE in America Act, and the banning of the importation of Chinese products made with forced labour in Xinjiang, reflect this new dynamic.

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Free Trade’s Heavy Cost

Free trade and open markets are great ideals. These principles, over the last few centuries, but especially since World War II, have created tremendous wealth, particularly in the developing world. But free markets were made for human society, not the other way around.

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Green Dreams, Inflationary Realities

Global policy and politics, particularly in the high-income world, have been obsessed with dreams of a green economy. Imposing ever-more rigid methods to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as the way to “save the planet” is almost unchallenged in the media, academia, and corporate boardrooms of the developed world. The results on the ground have been less convincing, as the price of everything—from energy and food to construction costs—rises to unsustainable levels Read more

Google: Whatever Happened to ‘Don’t Be Evil’?

When Google went public in 2004, it epitomised technological and entrepreneurial genius. Two engineers had developed a remarkably powerful, easy-to-use search engine, opening the doors to vast amounts of knowledge.

The founders proclaimed their motto as ‘Don’t be evil’, which was typical of Silicon Valley’s decades-old techno-optimism. Stewart Brand, writing in Rolling Stone in 1972, claimed that once access to information became universal, it would turn us all into ‘computer bums, all more empowered as individuals and as cooperators’. It would be a new era, Brand continued, of enhanced ‘spontaneous creation and of human interaction’. The ‘early digital idealists’, noted computer scientist and writer Jaron Lanier in 2014, envisioned a ‘sharing’ web that functioned ‘free from the constraints of the commercial order’.

This idyll is no more. Google and the other Big Tech firms are no longer grassroots creators. They’re now oligarchs and monopolists, exerting undue influence on the market and on politics.

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