NASA’s support of SpaceX’s moon voyage highlights bigger ambitions

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NASA released a statement in support of SpaceX following that company’s surprise announcement that it will be sending two people around the moon sometime next year. The comment actually says a lot despite not saying very much, and could be a sign that the growing private interest in space will help propel renewed and expanded achievement from the public sector, too.

In its response (full statement below), NASA says that commercial partnerships “free the agency to focus on developing the next-generation rocket, spacecraft and systems to go beyond the moon and sustain deep space exploration.”

This actually almost amounts to shade, a sort of aerospatial “been there, done that” from the U.S. public space agency: ‘Oh yeah the Moon? Sure, yeah, the Moon was really cool SpaceX — back in 1969. I guess it’s still pretty cool, especially if you haven’t been or whatever. We’d be okay with going again, of course, but like Mars and Jupiter are just taking up so much of our time these days, which is just like so exhausting but so cool at the same time, you know?’

It’s not actually that petty, of course — NASA has long been hoping to build out a bustling space-based economy bolstered by private companies. And that will indeed help it devote more resources to pushing the boundaries of space exploration, which is more closely tied to its mandate. But it’ll have private competition there, too, with SpaceX and others already expressing interest in Mars and beyond.

Bottom line: It’s going to be a very good time for space hobbyists and enthusiasts.

Here’s the full statement from NASA regarding SpaceX’s announcement [Update: The website hosting this statement appears to be down currently, but the comment is included here verbatim as it originally appeared]:

NASA commends its industry partners for reaching higher.

We will work closely with SpaceX to ensure it safely meets the contractual obligations to return the launch of astronauts to U.S. soil and continue to successfully deliver supplies to the International Space Station.

For more than a decade, NASA has invested in private industry to develop capabilities for the American people and seed commercial innovation to advance humanity’s future in space.

NASA is changing the way it does business through its commercial partnerships to help build a strong American space economy and free the agency to focus on developing the next-generation rocket, spacecraft and systems to go beyond the moon and sustain deep space exploration.