Perseverance and the SPACE Corporation Act of 2021

By  //  February 23, 2021

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The US has always been a global leader in space exploration, and this week that fact is being both confirmed and challenged. As NASA’s Perseverance prepares to land on the Mars Jezero Crater, the rover follows in the footsteps of both the UAE and China.

Perseverance will collect rock and soil samples, demonstrate innovative new space helicopter technology on the red planet and leave behind infrastructure required for the next Mars mission. Both the UAE and China reached the planet’s surface with similar fact-finding missions recently as well.

Our country’s fascination with Mars began with the 2001 Mars Odyssey mission. Odyssey aimed to make the first global map of the amounts and locations of chemical elements and minerals on the surface of the planet.

The Odyssey completed this primary mission from February 2002 through August 2004; however, the craft’s extended operations continue today.

This week’s NASA Mars mission reminds us that other nations around the world are also looking to space exploration to advance their economic, military, and technology goals.

As more nations gain the means for extensive space exploration, the United States must continue to serve as a driving force in space policy, exploration and security. To ensure our global leadership continues, additional investment in space infrastructure and increased participation from the private sector is needed.

The Foundation for the Future, a Virginia-based nonprofit focused on public-private collaboration in space, is proposing the SPACE Corporation Act of 2021 to jumpstart this important next step.

The foundation is working towards August 2022, the 60th anniversary of The Communications Satellite Act of 1962 (COMSAT), as a goal for the fully operational SPACE Corp, with passage of the legislation this summer.

The SPACE Corporation Act of 2021 will create a private-public structure called SPACE Corp tasked with financing collaborative public-private space projects, including essential space infrastructure building.

An investment in the future of space exploration is an investment in skilled jobs and a strong space economy. To accomplish this mission, eliminating current roadblocks to public-private collaboration is key.

The SPACE Corporation Act of 2021 will help create:

■ Loan guarantees through commercial lending institutions to support technology innovation;

■ An investment fund to provide support to new space companies;

■ Grants to small businesses and entrepreneurs in the space sector; and

■ Support for the “public benefit” space infrastructure projects through bonds.

The Foundation for the Future supports federally chartered corporations to move the US forward in space exploration and telecommunications satellite technology.

However, this race to the stars requires a joint public-private sector entity to fund and support collaborative, timely space infrastructure and technology development.

This type of government and corporate partnership is the cornerstone of US transportation achievement, from the creation of the Erie Canal and Transcontinental Railroad to today’s NASA-led space exploration missions.

There is no doubt about it, space exploration now and in the future requires both diligence and funds. If the US plans to maintain its position at the front of the global pack, we need a private-public funding structure and an investment in the infrastructure to reach the goals of the future right now.

Tim Chrisman is a former U.S. Army Special Operations officer, author of “Humanity In Space, A Pre-History of Humanity’s Second Century in Space”, founder and director of Foundation for the Future, a Virginia-based nonprofit organization focused on bridging the gap between civil space and federal policy. For more information, please visit www.f4f.space.

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