The Future of Space Commercials (or is that Commercial Space…?)

This is very cool.  This is the promo video for the next generation of privately-built low-earth orbit heavy lifters, the Falcon Heavy from SpaceX.  What I like about this is, basically, it’s a commercial for a spaceship.  Appropriately weighty music track, great imaging, and the brag lines are like any other commercial for any other industrial product.

When I was a kid reading stories about the future of space travel, it didn’t occur to very many of the authors that there would have to be advertising to go along with their services.  One of the many things not quite gotten right.  Also, many of them were pretty vague about who was actually running the space lines.  Oh, some of them alluded to luxury cruises, which implied a Cunard-style commercial firm behind them, but it was not often put front and center, so you could be forgiven for believing it would all be government-run, financed, built, etc.

Well, one of the basic ideas behind NASA was always that it should be a research and development program to create the technologies that one day folks like Virgin and SpaceX would use to create private enterprises.  It looked for a long time like that was never going to happen.  Space travel is really damn expensive and the pay-back on investment is really long-term.  In the quarterly-statement cycle into which most businesses are locked these days, it seemed unlikely any visionaries would scrape together the funding to, you know, build it.  But that’s happening now, although sometimes it feels like a snail’s pace.  But it’s happening.  Who knows?  It might be less than a decade before a commercial shuttle starts docking at the ISS.

The commercials, though—that’s where NASA really dropped the ball back when they were a force to be reckoned with.  Heinlein chewed them out for not having a decent PR department and I still believe part of the reason they get so little support is that during the whole moon-landing decade, everything you saw on tv was boring.  (It’s unfair, I know, but consider it from the average 12-year-old’s viewpoint comparing the endless, static “simulations” of the Gemini and Apollo vehicles in orbit to any then-current SF show, like…Star Trek…?  What would you rather watch?  NASA bored themselves out of popular support.)

But it didn’t die and it’s still doing great cutting-edge stuff, but now it’s fulfilling the high-end expectations of its purpose and we’re getting cool stuff like SpaceX, Virgin Intergalactic, and others.  Ad Astra!

Published by Mark Tiedemann