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By Grant Anderson

The past several years have seen a marked increase in the level of attention of the importance of space across a wide spectrum of U.S. national interests and what the private sector space economy promises for our future on-orbit and beyond. New and ambitious goals have been established, Federal budgets have been pumped up to support these goals, new space-focused agencies have been created, and companies both large and small are tackling these new challenges with great energy and enthusiasm.

The fact is, that here and now in 2020, the world finds itself engaged in a new space competition – a new competition involving national economic and security interests, high stakes global prestige, and a rapid growth in technological innovation. In this 21st Century competition, not only are new players entering the competitive arena – but the models and the markets regarding space technology, access and exploration are changing as well. Most critically for the U.S. is the need to continue to encourage the power of the “New Space” economy to stay competitive and agile in space.

It is for these reasons that inspiring space programs like NASA’s Artemis need to be funded and pursued. Artemis is the initiative created with the goal of landing astronauts on the moon by 2024, establishing a sustainable presence, and preparing for missions to Mars. Additionally, NASA’s sustainable presence initiative – known as the Artemis Base Camp – will make use of a lunar terrain vehicle (LTV), a habitable mobility platform (larger, habitable rover), and a lunar foundation surface habitat.

Part of the Artemis program is Gateway – which is intended to provide architecture for future moon missions and which, as envisioned, will be a “permanent staging point for lunar exploration.”

NASA also sees Gateway as important to prepare for a trip to Mars. According to NASA, “NASA shall establish a Gateway to enable a sustained presence around and on the Moon and to develop and deploy critical infrastructure required for operations on the lunar surface and at other deep space destinations.” NASA also indicates that “Gateway shall be utilized to enable, demonstrate and prove technologies that are enabling for lunar missions and that feed forward to Mars as well as other deep space destinations.”

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While certainly ambitious, Artemis and Gateway represent a bold and timely vision for America, one that is necessary in space, but also needed at home on the ground. The truth is that even though America has led in space for over a half-century, space is becoming an increasingly contested domain. Our position in space is being increasingly challenged in a number of ways – from our commercial interests, to modern communications, to national defense. An ambitious national endeavor in space – such as that represented by Artemis and Gateway – is precisely the kind of initiative we need to expand our horizons, stimulate innovation, spur an American space renaissance and keep us ahead in the game.

These programs will undoubtedly require significant funding and commitment, but it is for these overarching national reasons that Artemis and Gateway remain vital.

Additionally, and just as important, these programs will allow for the private sector to advance American interests in several ways – to invent, research, engineer, develop, test and manufacture new capabilities that will help build the nation more broadly. In fact, key to the future of our success in space is the private sector – as it has always been. This is particularly at the small business level – where fast-moving, flexible and innovative companies and entrepreneurs are developing game-changing technologies at a rapid pace. In fact, it is the small businesses who are able to pivot quickly, think outside the box and generate the solutions needed to turn the most daunting challenges into feasible reality or to produce mission-critical sub-systems like life support.

Fortunately for America, harnessing the power of the private sector to accomplish national goals is in our industrial DNA. While national leaders set policy, and Federal agencies lead on key programs, our accomplishment in space would not be possible without the dynamism and the risk-taking spirit of the private sector. This spirit continues today in what is known as the “New Space” economy, where companies of all sizes across the country are developing advanced capabilities for use in space. This spectrum of technologies range from 21st Century computing and software, to communications and remote sensing capabilities, to launch vehicles, new rocket engines and propulsion systems, to small satellites and life support and sustainment systems. It is this economy that will help propel America back to the Moon and eventually, to Mars.

And, much like the space program in the 20th Century, the breakthrough achievements in science and technology for space have benefits and applications here on Earth. The commercial space industry represents a significant area of promise and growth for the American economy, for job creation in key science, engineering and high-tech manufacturing, and for general technology development in the years ahead. A healthy and vibrant space economy helps to maintain and strengthen the U.S. science, technology, and industrial base for comprehensive national security purposes as well.

Looking ahead, as American companies large and small work to advance the nation’s efforts in space, it will be programs like Artemis and Gateway which will not only serve as visionary ways to push the next frontier, but will strengthen the economy, our industrial base and our scientific, engineering, mathematics and research talents and capabilities here at home. Moreover, if America is to maintain its leading edge in space – for everything from national security imperatives to commercial expansion and economic strength – we need to continue leveraging the innovative, agile and cost-effective potential of our New Space economy.

Artemis and Gateway remain crucial to our national objectives – both far in space, and here on Earth.

Grant Anderson, P.E. is the President & CEO of Paragon Space Development Corporation, a recognized leader in life support and thermal control in extreme environments.He holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and an M.S. in Aeronautical & Astronautical Engineering from Stanford University.