When the first people from planet Earth went into space in the 1960s, it was the thrill of a lifetime. But we didn’t stay there long.

The next time people went into space, they traveled as far as our Moon – and we got even more excited. But we didn’t stay long there, either.

While people were going out and coming back, we put machines into space to get things done. Like delivering television.  Forecasting the weather.  Saving lives at sea, disasters on land and exploring the planets.  Keeping the peace, helping farmers grow more food, educating millions and connecting billions. Not always a big thrill – but always making people’s lives back on Earth better.

The third time we went into space, we built space stations and decided to stay awhile. But we still didn’t go far from home.

Business Not as Usual

That’s about to change – because space has become a business, where companies big and small are investing billions of dollars.  They are investing in cheaper and more reliable ways to go there and come back. In technologies to survive in places far from the air and warmth and light of Earth. In ways to find resources and use them to manufacture what we need and to power our spacecraft.

Companies have been making money in space for decades. But they have done it from safely on the ground. The next generation of space will build places to live and work, to make a life in space for hundreds, then thousands, then millions of people. People whose work will benefit those of us still living on Earth with new products and services we can hardly imagine today.

It’s about time. In the Sixties, we imagined that governments would do it all. Now we know there are other ways.  We have been telling stories and making plans about spacefaring for more than a century. Now, someone starting a career today can help make it happen, and someone starting school tomorrow could wind up in a job with the view that only astronauts see today.

It will be hard.  The risks are high. The technology is still being put to the test and the business potential is far from certain.

But for the first time since people began going into space, the opportunity is within our grasp.  Not just to go out and come back to show that we can do it. To go and build a way of life that reaches as far as the light from our Sun. To make sure that – whatever happens to our beautiful, fragile world – humanity will always have a home in the universe.

Produced for SpacNews by Space & Satellite Professionals International

See more stories and videos of satellite making a better world at www.bettersatelliteworld.com

Robert Bell has over 30 years of experience as an association manager and business consultant for both nonprofit and profit-driven and organizations operating in the IT outsourcing, telecommunications, and financial services industries.