Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson says the launch of NASA astronauts via a SpaceX spacecraft represents private enterprise “as a major player in the movement of the frontier of space.”
“This is a step towards making access to space so inexpensive that everybody participates and it’s no longer the purview of governments,” Tyson told Yahoo Finance’s On The Move.
The private company SpaceX, founded by billionaire Elon Musk, is contracted by NASA to launch astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station on its Crew Dragon spacecraft atop a Falcon 9 rocket.
“Launch America” became the first astronaut spaceflight launched from U.S. soil since NASA retired its own shuttle program in 2011. Since then, the U.S. has been paying Russia more than $80 million per seat to shuttle astronauts to the ISS via the Soyuz spacecraft.
“What Space X is doing is attempting, and I think largely succeeding, in just lowering the cost to space,” said Tyson.
“If you lower the cost of access to space and can demonstrate it and re-use all the parts, this is something that’s been fun to watch, as SpaceX brings their rocket bits back from orbit,” said Tyson, referring to the company’s re-usable spacecraft and rockets.
The mission puts the space industry one step closer towards further space exploration, including to the Moon and/or Mars.
Musk has said SpaceX’s satellite business will eventually pay for its more ambitious plans such as eventually colonizing Mars.
“He's a special kind of person...it helped first of all, that he went into this business a billionaire” said Tyson. “With him, he's a visionary that wants to put money where his mouth is.”
“He says I’m going to build rockets, and he starts building rockets,” said Tyson.
“This is a good thing to have in your society. People who have big ideas that dream big and execute on them in the face of naysayers,” he added.
Ines covers the U.S. stock market from the floor of the New York Exchange. Follow her on Twitter at @ines_ferre