I have a bucket list and one of the things on my list is to stand on the surface of the Moon and look down on Earth. You can’t die if some thing on your bucket list isn’t done right? Robert Heinlein was the first I think to postulate that space would be better reached through corporations rather than government agencies. I believe he was right.
Some would argue – look the moon was reached by NASA. My response is — did they stay there? The answer is of course is NO. This is very different from how a corporation or entrepreneur would have handled it. Once they got there such corporations or individuals would have tried to figure out how staying there would generate them money. They would have discovered something and made it happen.
Government agencies like NASA are for the most part goal driven but they have incredible difficulty redefining goals to achieve new and better results. There is also the issue funding. A government agency is purely at the mercy of the government to fund it to a certain level. The problem is funding can change depending on the goals of the administration involved in the government. This can mean you can be reaching for a goal and then suddenly – Bam! – your funding as been cut and you can’t achieve your objective and have to throw out everything you have done to that point. This is how government waste happens.
By contrast, a corporation is not at the mercy of others in these issues. They set their goals, get their funding and execute. If funding runs short, the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of the people running the company come into play. From an ethics point of view corporations are not tied down in some cases to what technologies or philosophies they can use to achieve their results. This can be alarming to some but the fact is governments are much more concerned with how they are perceived than corporations are. It is this freedom that will ultimately allow them to lead us to the stars. It is the ability to create wealth and not be stuck with only one source of income that gives them this edge.
People ultimately act in their own best interests. If it becomes the best interest of humanity to colonize other worlds, they will be colonized. The most likely scenario is that humanity will reach out with an eye on profitability.
I hope in the near future to be standing on the moon and looking down at earth, but I strongly suspect that it will not be the NASA logo on the lunar rover that brought me to the vantage point to do so. More than likely, it will be a corporate logo that has figured out how being on the moon is profitable.