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Astronaut Ansari discusses space entrepreneurship

By Sarah Frazier     2/12/15 5:42pm

Astronaut Anousheh Ansari shared her thoughts on the role of entrepreneurship in space exploration at a Feb. 6 lecture in Duncan Hall.

“There's a lot happening now in the space industry that, if I were to talk about 20 years ago, people would think I'm talking about science fiction," Ansari said.

Ansari said private space companies made many of the major developments in space exploration over the past few years, such as the launch of SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft.



“People didn’t think [launching Dragon] would be possible in such a short time,” Ansari said. “Technology is evolving at such a rapid pace that it’s making these things possible.”

Ansari said she hopes that private spacecraft may be able to replace or supplement the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to carry astronauts to the space station.

“Hopefully, soon we’ll have Dragon carrying astronauts [to space],” Ansari said.

According to Ansari, the development of in-space 3-D printing is another step toward cheaper, more accessible space travel.

“It will completely change the dynamics ... of access to space,” Ansari said. “This means we don’t have to carry everything to space anymore.”

Jones College senior Ben Lewis said he believes progress in creating partially reusable rockets is one of the most significant recent developments in private space exploration.

“I would say the reusable first stage on SpaceX [spacecraft] is the most exciting thing happening right now,” Lewis said. “It will cut costs hugely.”

Ansari said one of the most effective ways to find efficient solutions for space exploration is a prize model, such as the Ansari X prize, which she funded in 2004.

“As an investor, [the prize model] really reduces risk,” Ansari said. “It makes people focus on one idea. I’m only paying when someone wins.”

There are plentiful opportunities for people with great ideas to find funding, according to Ansari.

“If you have an idea ... you can’t say ‘I’m just one person,’ or ‘I don’t have money,’” Ansari said. “There’s so many ways you can launch ... If you want something bad enough and you constantly look for opportunities.”

Ansari said she believes the next goal in space exploration should be a manned mission to Mars, though that may require intermediate steps.

“To go to Mars, we need to spend more time on the Moon ... as a stepping stone,” Ansari said.

 



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