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The famous Apollo program, that managed to bring for the first time a man to the Moon, cost to the public purse us about 24.000 million of the time . Without including the cost of the infrastructure. Almost five decades of a massive spending which today would amount to about 153,000 million dollars today (138.000 million euro, almost one tenth of spain’s GDP). “Only the Panama canal is similar in size to the Apollo program as the greater technological effort is not military ever made by EE. UU.”, I wrote the own space agency in a historical analysis. And the aim was only to demonstrate to the world the american power in the Cold War. Now, when the intention is to create permanent bases on the Moon to, only a decade later, carrying the first man to Mars ; as well as to exploit the resources offered by our satellite -and that includes from raw materials to scientific opportunities and tourist -, the budget could skyrocket more than their own rockets.

that Is why since the early 2000’s NASA had in mind programs public-private cooperation in which the space agency becomes a sort of “ contractor ” of private companies who take on the challenge of creating projects imagined by the public entity: rockets reusable space capsules that act as ferries, aterrizadores to other worlds. Grouped under the name NextSTEP (“Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships”), the initiative officially established in 2014, seeks “the commercial development of capabilities for exploration of deep space to support missions of human space flight more extensive within and beyond the space near the Earth which extends beyond the Moon”, they indicate in a press release. This is: the space is also open to the private sector.

“An important part of the strategy of NASA is to stimulate the space industry-commercial to help the agency achieve its strategic goals and objectives to expand the frontiers of knowledge, capacity and opportunities in the space,” they continue. “A key component of the partnership model of NextSTEP is that it provides an opportunity for NASA and industry to partner to develop capabilities that meet the goals of human space exploration at NASA at the time that support the marketing plans of the industry.”

that Is to say, NASA to achieve its scientific objectives, and that private companies are able to expand their commercial horizons, whether it be for example testing satellite systems, or devising vehicles that after you have been tested by astronauts, will be able to serve on the next space flight tourist. A strategy “Win – Win” that, in principle, happy to all the parties.

The struggle between SpaceX and Boeing

the dynamic for The attribution of contracts is simple: companies that want to can incur to the objective proposed by NASA, as happened in the mid of this decade, with the new space shuttle . After several years of attempts -and the biggest disaster of the agency, the tragedy of Columbia in 2003-, the public agency cast the final close of the program to create space vehicles themselves. However, depend on the systems Russian Soyuz to transport astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) represents a cost of about $ 85 million (approximately eur 77 million) in just a round trip ticket. It is for this reason that in 2014, under the umbrella of NextSTEP, selected Boeing and SpaceX to develop, separately, systems capsules tripulables them back the independence.

In the beginning, the company Elon Musk received 2.400 million , which developed the prototype Crew Dragon , for its part, the giant aircraft created the prototype CST-100 Starliner after you get 4.200 million budget of NASA. However, the project SpaceX, which is the one that will be manned for the first time by humans today, has always been at the forefront in testing and development, despite having a lower budget.

To succeed, the historical mission of this Wednesday and to be implemented in the next releases us, the Crew Dragon would be a cost savings of up to 30 million dollars per person per trip , because the calculated cost would be about us $ 55 million (almost touching the 50 million euros) round trip the ISS -although this number does not include the original investment of the NASA-. And all this without counting that the capsules Crew Dragon are produced in the own united States and not only would be designed to carry astronauts: the first space tourists that would use these vehicles nor would soon appear, as confirmed by the company of Musk.

Other projects and other companies

But not only SpaceX and Boeing are the only private agents who have joined this renewed race to space. At the end of last month, Jim Bridestine , General Administrator of NASA, announced that the companies Blue Origin (which belongs to Jeff Bezos , owner of Amazon), Dynetics (company Read), and, again, SpaceX had been selected to design, develop or manufacture components of the program, Artemis, that will be the continuation of the Apollo program. In total, the three contracts used 967 million dollars for a period of 10 months .

in Addition, NASA has selected the companies Astrobotic , Intuitive Machines and OrbitBeyond to the sending of scientific instruments and technological demonstrators to the Moon in future robotic missions.

Other countries have also explored other funding sources of space missions without all of the budget rests with a single body: the Agency Spaces European (THAT) not only makes you share to european states and companies within its borders, but that also has partnered on several occasions with NASA, Roscosmos, JAXA and other space agencies international . On the other hand, there are also initiatives to fully private, as is the case of the israeli company, SpaceIL , who tried to send a probe last year to the Moon, although he failed in the attempt. Different ways of tackling the new space race of the TWENTY-first century.