Honoring the Past, Fueling the Future

July 10, 2017
Sarah Cruddas
July 10, 2017
Sarah Cruddas

When you think of America’s race for the stars, Houston will forever be etched in our history books. An epicenter for space and the home of NASA’s Mission Control, it was also from this very city that President Kennedy set out a goal to the nation – to send a man to the Moon and return him safely to Earth.

Image credit: Bob Gomel

“We choose to go to the Moon. We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” Kennedy echoed from Rice University in the city in 1962. A seemingly impossible challenge at the time, it galvanized the United States to make the impossible possible.

Today the podium where he uttered those remarkable words resides at Space Center Houston. A place which is a reminder of just how far we have come in little more than 50 years and where we will be heading. A future which will translate those remaining sci-fi visions of the 1960s into a reality; expandable habitats in space, reusing of existing space hardware, space tourism, a return to the Moon and footsteps on Mars. To name but a few. Something which will be done not just by governments but by the new commercial space sector also.

Image credit: NASA Neutral Buoyancy Lab

And it is Houston which has been selected as the location for this year’s Space Angels Expedition, known by its official title as Expedition 17. Here, later this year, an exclusive group of Space Angels’ most active investor members will come together for an inside, first-hand look at the emerging private space industry. As well as touring NASA facilities in Houston. The aim; to see firsthand just how far we have come in this new emerging commercial space industry and where we’re headed.

"An incredible amount of progress has been made in the space industry over the past eight years, but much of this still hasn't hit the radar of many mainstream investors.” Explains Space Angels CEO Chad Anderson. “However, it's one thing to hear about entrepreneurs launching and landing rockets in the news, but it’s quite another to see if for yourself. When you go to the factory floor and expect to see a company building/assembling a rocket, but instead see an assembly line of multiple spacecraft being built to take humans to orbit and beyond, I think it makes this real for people.”

Among the companies opening their doors to show just how fast change is happening is NanoRacks. Formed in 2009 with the aim of providing commercial hardware and services for the US National Laboratory on the International Space Station. As of June 2017, more than 550 payloads have been launched to the space station via NanoRacks services. The company work with both private and government organizations globally and in 2015 signed an agreement with Blue Origin to offer integration services on their New Shepard space vehicle.

Image credit: NanoRacks

“Every day at NanoRacks we are building the expertise to own and operate our own commercial space stations - whether that station is a factory, hotel, or satellite deployment platform, we’re going to be the masters of space habitats.” Says CEO of NanoRacks Jeffrey Manber. “From our day-one research labs to space station satellite deployment to in-space operations, our team is mastering each tangible skill and asset needed to operate future commercial destinations.”

However, it is inspiration from the past which is driving forward the future for NanoRacks: “Our vision for the future of space travel is honoring some of the original space station ideas by Wernher von Braun - that is, reusing existing in-space hardware.” Adds Manber. “Today, we as an industry burn up valuable space assets, but why? Because that’s how it’s always been done.” Instead NanoRacks is studying how to reuse spent upper stages of launch vehicles and convert them into habitats. Something which might sound like science fiction, the idea is originates from the 1960s. “We are excited to be the ones who will bring this concept to reality. It’s cost effective, smart, and sustainable for our future as a society in space.”

NanoRacks are not the only ones looking to the future. The Houston area is now a hub for commercial space ventures including SpaceX, Sierra Nevada Corp, and Ad Astra Rocket Company (AARC) – who are working to develop advanced plasma rocket propulsion using a concept which has been in development by the company’s CEO since 1979. "We're happy to present to Space Angels the importance of this technology for the future of space logistics and space transportation." Says Mark Carter, Senior VP of Technology for AARC.

Image credit: Ad Astra Rocket Company

Seeing the work which these new companies are doing matters. It helps inspire investors about why investing in space is so vital. As well as the game changing potential set to come from the industry from the industry. Change is happening and it is happening fast. “Our Expedition aims to provide an inside, first-hand look at the emerging private space industry, nurturing our members’ aspirational pursuits and instilling a sense of awe and wonder, which ultimately fosters their desire to participate in and support the industry." Adds Anderson. It is a thought echoed by Space Angels members: “The exposure to all these kinds of companies is unreal.” Says Don Weidner.

Image credit: NASA

And while those who helped make our ‘steps’ into space believe that the best way to honor what they achieved is to push forward, it is still vital to preserve the legacy of the past. This includes helping to preserve the Apollo-era Mission Control Center. “We are honoring the significant accomplishments of humankind.” Explains Tracy Lamm, Chief Operating Officer for Space Center Houston. “It’s important to restore this National Historic Landmark for future generations and share the incredible work by these flight controllers to achieve a common goal.” Something which would not be possible without the support of the city of Webster, Texas providing a gift of $3.5million to begin the effort and which Space Angels members will be able to see during this years’ expedition.

Our next leap forward into space, through private companies supported by Space Angels members, will forever be standing on the shoulders of those first space pioneers. Which is why although we must continue to push forward in space, it is vital to honor the past.

For more information and to view photo/video highlights of past Expeditions, please visit: http://spaceangels.com/expedition Companies and organizations who’ve participated in previous Expeditions include: SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic, Planet [Labs], Facebook, Made in Space, Terra Bella, Planetary Resources, Spaceflight Industries, BlackSky Global, Ventions, Spire, Kymeta, Tethers Unlimited, Oculus, XCOR, Masten, Final Frontier Design, B612 Foundation, SETI Institute, Museum of Flight, Mojave Air & Spaceport, Boeing, NASA Ames, and more.

Note that Expedition 17 is only open to Space Angels members and their guests. Space Angels offers unparalleled access to deals and comprehensible intelligence to its accredited investor members—making it easy for them to discover, select, and invest in the best space startups. Our members belong to an elite tribe of astropreneurs who are in diligent pursuit of maximizing their personal net worth as well as their contribution towards advancing the interests of humanity as we extend our reach across the universe. Our Expedition aims to provide an inside, first-hand look at the emerging private space industry, nurturing our members’ aspirational pursuits and instilling a sense of awe and wonder, which ultimately fosters their desire to participate in and support the industry.

There’s never been a more exciting time to get involved in commercial space. If you’re ready to start investing in private space companies, we invite you to apply for membership to Space Angels.

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