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Who Had the Biggest Impact on NewSpace in the Past Ten Years? Our Answers May Surprise You

In the 20th century, only governments went to space. Today, private companies and citizens build rockets, launch satellites, and cross the Kármán Line as part of a NewSpace economy that soon could reach $1 trillion

NewSpace has made giant leaps thanks to people who believe space should belong to all — and have devoted themselves to that mission. Meet P who had the most significant impact on NewSpace in the past ten years.

Elon Musk

Musk has broken new ground in the sky for decades as the founder of SpaceX. His was the first private company to launch a liquid-fueled rocket, dock a vehicle with the International Space Station, land an orbital-class reusable rocket, fly crewed missions, and carry an all-private crew to the ISS.

SpaceX’s reusable Falcon 9 rocket has revolutionized the sector, completing more than 130 reflights that allow private companies to send people and payload to space at a fraction of the cost. Musk essentially has created a space rideshare system that entrepreneurs use to populate satellite constellations capable of providing global broadband internet, for instance.

What’s next? NASA has contracted SpaceX to land humans on the Moon, and Musk predicts a Mars landing in 2029.

Jeff Bezos

Time Magazine named Bezos, the founder and executive chair of Amazon, as its 1999 Person of the Year for transforming how we shop. The following year, Bezos founded Blue Origin, intending to transform how we think about space.

Like SpaceX, Blue Origin built its ethos on reusability. In 2015, its New Shepard vehicle became the first first-stage rocket system to touch down on land after launch. Since then, the New Shepard system has flown more than 20 missions, introducing the world to commercial space tourism.

In 2021, Blue Origin sold its first commercial seat for $28 million and later became the first private company to carry paying customers on a suborbital spacecraft. The company says its high-payload New Glenn vehicle will “build the road to space,” and its Blue Moon lunar lander will help create habitats on the Moon.

Pete Worden

Worden, an authority on civil and military space, calls planets boring. He wants to visit stars like Alpha Centauri and finally answer humanity’s deepest question: Are we alone? 

The retired Air Force Brigadier General guided the Ames Research Center for ten years, earning the Arthur C. Clarke Foundation’s Innovation Award in 2010 for his work invigorating civil and commercial space exploration. After 40 years in the public sector, Worden joined Breakthrough Initiatives, a visionary non-profit founded by billionaire investor Yuri Milner and the late Stephen Hawking that scans the skies for habitable planets and other life. He also wants to go there.

Worden is the executive director of Breakthrough Starshot, which proposes harnessing light-powered space technology for interstellar travel. Starshot’s mission is to visit Alpha Centauri within a generation, which has been Worden’s vision since he shepherded the 100-Year-Starship Study at Ames.  

Lori Garver

Garver, a former deputy administrator of NASA, helped transform the environment in which companies like SpaceX and Blue Origin thrive today. During her four years at NASA, Garver championed opening space exploration to a private sector that could build and launch systems at lower costs. This made Garver a self-described “space pirate,” with which others agreed.

In her 2022 book Escaping Gravity, Garver detailed how she sought to lower space transportation costs through commercial partnefive rships — and the obstructions she faced from politics and legacy constituents tethered to the old operating system.

As Musk said, Garver’s “heavy lifting” unwound the status quo and created opportunities for space entrepreneurs. Garver called that a “rescue mission” on behalf of NASA and the new space age.

“Lori made a real difference to the future of spaceflight,” Musk wrote in praising the book

Dylan Taylor

Taylor, chairman and CEO of Voyager Space, is incubating the future of space exploration. The company provides digital satellites, propulsion technology, and Earth visualization systems in its suite of space tools. Voyager Space’s holdings incorporate some of the most inventive firms building tomorrow’s sustainable space economy.

Voyager Space’s most ambitious project is Starlab, the next-generation commercial space station. When it launches (planned for 2028), Starlab will feature the first science park in space; research platforms dedicated to physics, biology, and material science; and interior spaces designed by Hilton.

As a space philanthropist, Taylor also founded Space for Humanity, an award-winning philanthropic organization that mints citizen astronauts — two already — to share their life-changing perspectives with the world. Taylor himself is a citizen astronaut, having flown aboard NS-19 in 2021.

Space once belonged to institutions. Thanks to the NewSpace economy, fueled and funded by passionate agitators like these, space will soon belong to everyone.

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