citizens elsewhere delighted in the great
space dream, and carried rocketry during the
late 1920s and into the 1930s through a network
of societies. They showed, at least for a
while, that a new technology could be forged
by amateurs. Like their counterparts in astronomy,
archaeology, and palenontology, they made
- William E. Burrows in This
It is not enough just to read about space
exploration, development, and settlement.
You must help make it happen.
Today that means far more than simply writing
a letter to your government representative
at funding time for NASA.
For decades the press took it for granted
that, while there was some general interest
by the public in space, no truly enthusiastic,
grass roots support of space exploration
and development existed outside of the employees
of big aerospace companies and NASA.
In fact, today there exist in the US and around
the world hundreds of public organizations,
large and small, with no government or
corporate affiliation that actively pursue
various strategies to support space exploration
The number of participants in these organizations
is significant and growing. The Planetary
Society, for example, has over
100,000 members and the National
Space Society over 25,000. The
NSS, in particular, relies heavily on a network
of local chapters
whose members energetically pursue a wide
range of projects and activities.
Here we divide the public space organizations
into two types:
advocacy organizations work
to educate the public about the benefits of
space exploration and to sway the government
for greater support for space activities.
R&D groups work on real
hardware such as advanced
amateur rocketry or do in-depth
studies into long term projects
such as lunar and Mars colonization. Some
of these project cross over from purely volunteer
effort to startup business arrangements.
Note that there are organizations that combine
efforts in both of these areas. Also, there
are are local independent space
clubs that pursue their own agendas
outside of the large organizations.
- "new online social network dedicated
to everyone interested in exploring and colonizing
the Moon and Mars. A place where enthusiasts,
professionals, businesspeople and students
can connect, communicate and collaborate,
as we work together towards an exciting future
Space Show - a radio and Internet webcast
program in which host David Livingston interviews
people involved in space exploration and development.
He particular focuses on the NewSpace
community and industry.
The goal is to encourage "human advancement
into space through commercial endeavors"
in honor of writer Robert
Heinlein, many of whose books depicted
a wonderfully exciting future for humanity
Space advocacy organizations push
the development of space by means of political
action (e.g. lobbying Congress), public
education, magazines, conferences, special
events, and any other technique they can dream
Space advocacy spans a wide range
of approaches and philosphies. Many US space advocacy
groups, for example, believe that true development
of space will occur only with private enterprise.
Space is, in fact, increasingly becoming dominated
by commercial business (See Space
Investing.) Most of the annual worldwide
expenditure (around $90 billion) on space
related activities is now for commercial enterprises
such as communications satellites, commercial
launchers, ground stations, remote sensing data
While most of the public still see
space exploration and NASA as one and the same,
some space interest groups go so far as to push
for the elimination of NASA, citing its
failure to produce an economically viable shuttle
and the instances where it has interfered with
commercial activity. (See NASA
The mainstream space advocacy groups,
though, see NASA as still the leader in space
exploration and instead urge it to concentrate
on research and basic science and leave development
to the commercial sector.
NASA and other US government involvement
with space is and will likely remain very significant.
of public funding going to space endeavors
in the US has fallen to a fraction of the levels
in the 1960's. In absolute terms, though, the
billions spent by NASA and the military still
add up to real money.
So many US space advocacy groups
therefore try their best to influence how the
government spends this money. This can be by direct
lobbying or by convincing their own members, as
well as the general public, to contact their representatives
in support of space funding and particular projects
In addition to funding, governments
have tremendous influence on the course of commercial
space development with thelaws
and regulations under which the
commercial sector must operate.
Influencing these space laws
and regulations is becoming an increasing emphasis
for space advocates. The 1998 Commercial
Space Act passed by the US Congress, for
example, occurred primarily because of the efforts
of the space advocacy movement.
Passage of this bill illustrates
how the political sophistication of space
advocacy groups has grown over the years. Many
of the groups were heavily involved, for example,
in keeping the International Space Station (ISS)
project alive and in pushing NASA towards greater
support for new launch technology, especially
Reusable Launchers. (See the Space
Legislation section for more resources
concerning legislative efforts of space activists.)
Note that the battle
over the ISS, the largest space project
since Apollo, further illustrates the wide
diversity of opinion in the space advocacy
community. Many space groups, in fact, opposed
the ISS. They see it as a flying white elephant
that benefits NASA institutionally but does little
to address the real roadblocks to space development,
namely the high cost of access to space
and to working there.
The mainstream groups, though, see
the ISS, despite its cost and shortcomings, as
necessary for the continued development of a space
infrastructure. This includes the research and
development of microgravity processes and
industries, studies into the adaptation
of humans to the space environment, testing and
development of tools and techniques that will
be needed for exploration of the Moon and
Mars. (See the ISS entry in the Space
Public Membership Organizations
NSS is one of the largest general space advocacy groups
and emphasizes human space exploration. It pushes for
increased space funding, publishes the space magazine
Ad Astra, organizes public events, including one of
the largest annual space conferences, and carries out
numerous other space related activities.
NSS has its headquarters in Washington D.C. and also
has 95 local chapters around the world.
The Society was founded in 1980 by the late Carl Sagan
and the JPL scientists Bruce Murray and Louis Freidman.
It originally was intended to raise support for unmanned
space science exploration. However, the Society has
since become a strong supporter of manned exploration
of Mars, even going so far as to support the Space Station
(anathema among most mainstream scientific organizations)
as a staging base for Mars missions.
Also, the Society gives strong support to SETI
and other astrobiology research. It is the largest of
the space interest groups.
The Planetary Society sponsors a number of projects.
Here is a partial listing:
1: solar sail project. The Society managed
this project with funding funding from Cosmos
Studios, with sail construction and launch by
the Russian Babakin Space Center. Unfortunately, rocket
vehicle failures twice prevented the system from reaching
space for test flights.
The Mars Society was organized in 1998 by Robert Zubin,
Kim Stanley Robinson, and other Mars exploration enthusiasts.
Patterned after the Cousteau Society and National Geographic
Society, it will attempt to raise public interest in
Mars via magazines and other educational activities.
It will also push for increased public funding for Mars
exploration and development and.
The Society reportedly has about 7000
members as of 2005.
The Moon Society is "a non-profit educational and
scientific foundation formed to further scientific study
and development of the moon." It is a spinoff of
Project , which is focused on the development of
commercial ventures on the Moon.
SpaceUp This organization holds "unconference"
events on space in different locations.
SpaceUp is a space unconference, where
participants decide the topics, schedule, and structure
of the event. Unconferences have been held about technology,
science, transit, and even cupcakes, but this is the
first one focused on space exploration.
Long time space activist Jeff Krukin and a group
of notables including actor Walter Koenig and journalist
Lloyd Dobyns have formed this organization. The groups
Our goal is to connect the general public
with the imminent beginning of the second space age,
the age of personal space travel and its effects on
all our lives!
The group had its initial meeting in Raleigh, North Carolina
on January 30th, 2006.
The Archimedes Institute is a non-profit organization
devoted to the study of the legal framework of space
development. This includes everything from government
policy effects on commercial space activities to the
effect of international treaties on asteroid mining.
"...was founded by members of the International
Lunar Explorers Working Group (ILEWG) and other
attendees of the 4th International Conference on the
Exploration and Utilisation of the Moon (ICEUM4).
The new society strives for a human return to the
Moon. Its goal: to expand the presence of humans to
the Moon permanently for the benefit of mankind and
the progress of our species as a space-faring civilisation."
SAS, organized by Henry Vanderbilt, is devoted solely
to supporting efforts to reduce the cost of reaching
space. Although a relatively small group, SAS was quite
influential in obtaining funding for the DC-X,
DC-XA projects and later for the X-33.
SAS has organized a series of informal conferences
each April for the past several years in which many
of the leading individuals and companies developing
reusable launch vehicles have reported on their latest
Raises public awareness of space exploration with many
educational activities. For example, the Space Benefits
program includes such initiatives as awarding the use
of a special logo that indicates a product was certified
as a spin-off of space development. This group has strong
aerospace industry support.
This group organizes the yearly Space Day celebrations
in May to raise public awareness of space. It has strong
aerospace industry involvement.
"organization of people dedicated to opening the
Space Frontier to human settlement as rapidly as possible.
Our goals include protecting the Earth's fragile biosphere
and creating a freer and more prosperous life for
each generation by using the unlimited energy and
material resources of space. Our purpose is to unleash
the power of free enterprise and lead a united humanity
permanently into the Solar System."
This group is extremely active with many projects in
the fire. Its leader Rick
Tumlinson is a long time activist who, for example,
helped to form MirCorp
and was the first to approach Dennis
Tito about a possible trip to space.
The group is closely affiliated with the FINDS (Foundation
FINDS - The Foundation for the Non-governmental
Development of Space provided grants to businesses,
universities, and other groups that are developing
new and innovative approaches to Space exploration.
The project closed several years ago after giving
out grants to a wide array of projects.
The Earth and Space Foundation (formerly the 2111 Foundation)
provides grants for research related to space exploration,
remote sensing, earth ecology, and other areas. The
"funds scientific exploration that both helps
us to understand the Earth's environment and explore
the frontier of space. ...
This work includes field research that uses space
technology and information to help protect and understand
the Earth's environment and field research that applies
environmental knowledge to help us to explore other
planets. Through its work the Foundation seeks to
fulfil the vision of the Earth as an oasis cared for
by a space faring civilization.
Since its establishment the Foundation has helped
support over 40 projects around the world." -
Earth and Space Foundation web site.
The Foundation resides in Britain and is registered
as a non-profit organization.
Hawaii based group created to "..advance space
exploration and establish human communities beyond
Earth". See their Delphi
Project that seeks "...to define, design
and establish a permanent, self-sustaining community,
'Delphi' on Earth's Moon.".
"... dedicated to the continued study of earth's
moon. This is accomplished through both continued
observation and attention to current research. Our
goals also include the education of our youth through
Center for Humanity and Space Exploration "... dedicated to "a space mission to humanity."
This global mission includes the exploration of space
with international partners, the commitment to global
communities and sustainability, and the development
of socio-economic and knowledge benefits based on
space-related assets." A NASA and San Jose State
for Space Exploration
"CSE) is comprised of a diverse group of small
and large business representatives, students and teachers,
and county/municipal officials and employees who support
America’s investment in space exploration."
Astronauts of America
"... multi-faceted program designed to encourage
young students and adults to become involved with
the exciting world of space science and it's applications..."
A n open site where resources can be posted that are
related to space, especially with respect to colonization.
Aerospace Development Center (NADC) -
"..independent nonprofit, nonpartisan center
supporting the development of space through information
research, analysis, outreach and education. NADC respects
the domain of space as a venue for enhancing quality
of life and the economy. NADC strives to foster a
greater national commitment to advancing space science,
research, exploration, education and commerce through
a private enterprise approach to space development
with appropriate government support."
"The Space Generation Advisory Council
in support of the United Nations Programme on
Space Application (SGAC) is a non-governmental
organisation which aims to represent students
and young space professionals to the United Nations,
States, and space agencies. SGAC has permanent
observer status in the UN Committee on the Peaceful
Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS)."
Societies in Space (USIS)
"Provides legal and policy support for those
who intend to go to space. USIS encourages private
property rights and investment. Space is the Free
Market Frontier. USIS encourages access to space by
those who have the vision and fortitude to go there."
Want Our Future - Inspiring a Future of Exploration
"A grassroots space-based outreach/advocacy initiative
run by students, for students". This organization
seeks to "Inspire students across the country
to dream about their future and recognize the importance
of science, technology, engineering and math in making
these dreams a reality."
"...government, industry and academia have joined
forces with entrepreneurs and venture capitalists
to forge the next frontier in commercializing space
technology and resources by forming the 8th Continent
The first generation of space business was about astronauts,
rocket ships and billion-dollar government projects.
Now, the 8th Continent is organizing and commercializing
an emerging generation of entrepreneurial space-related
business ventures with real profit potential."
Here are some other leading space advocacy
organizations whose membership is primary of professionals
in space industry and government agencies:
"partnership of individuals; Federal, State and
Regional governments; commercial companies; academic
institutions; and non-profits engaged in broad reaching
research and operations programs as well as addressing
the need technically skilled workforce and STEM education
at all levels."
Innumerable space novels and movies over the years
employed the plot device of the eccentric millionaire/billionaire
(depending on what period and inflation rate you assume)
who pays for the space enterprise on which the story
builds. This device both simplifies things so that the
author can get on with the plot and it humanizes the
In the Apollo era, such notions seemed quaint and silly.
Everyone knew you couldn't do anything in space without
tens of billions of dollars and tens of thousands of
government employees to carry out space missions.
Over the years, however, reality and, at a much slower
rate, perceptions have changed. Commercial
space endeavours, especially in telecommunications,
grew to surpass government funding for space. Not only
satellites but also new rocket projects have been fully
funded by private businesses.
Meanwhile, super-cheap amateur
satellites and COTS (Cheap-Off-the-Shelf)
exploration probes like the Lunar
Prospector demonstrated that low cost space
enterprises could accomplish substantial tasks in space.
From these developments, we have seen the proverbial
rich space mogul emerge and begin to fund projects that
can make a real difference in the development of space.
In the world of business startups, funding often cannot
be found from conventional sources such as banks and
venture capital firms. Instead, a so-called angelinvestor is found who supports the initial costs
out of his or her own pocket.
Similarly, "space angels" are now
putting serious money into innovative space endeavours.
Using very low cost approaches, the projects can carry
out exciting projects that NASA does not have the money
for or, as in the case of space tourism, has stood in
the way of.
Founded Amazon.com and has over 1.7 billion dollars
worth of stock. Around 2001 he quietly started a small
company called Blue
Origin. Exactly what it is doing isn't publicly
known but it is said to be developing suborbital rockets.
Bezos was physics major as an undergraduate at Princeton
and I also heard a rumor that he was in SEDS
while in college. If true that certainly indicates
this space venture is no lark but something he is
deeply dedicated to.
Founder of USWeb has given funds to the Planetary
Sagan Productions, and helped with the Cosmos
1 solar sail project. Known for New Age type beliefs
that combine science and spiritualism.
Project Voyager - organization founded
by Firmage to fund a wide range of conventional
and unconventional projects.
Motion Sciences (formerly International
Space Sciences Organization) - funds both conventional
and non-conventional science projects.
The co-founder of the video game company Origin Systems,
which was sold to Electronic Arts in 1992 for $35M.
He is vice-chariman of Space
Adventures and was an early investor and trustee
of the X PRIZE. He is the son of former astronaut
Garriott, who flew on Skylab.
CEO of Livedoor,
a Japanese firm that does "networking, consulting,
e-commerce, e-finance and software development."
He is a space enthusiasts and has started a project
with a Russian firm to develop a space tourist system.
A wealthy telecom entrepreneur who first became known
to the space community when he made a large investment
, which was trying to privatize the Mir space station.
In May of 2005 it was announced that he would join
with the Canadian
Arrow rocket builder to form a suborbital space
tourism company called PlanetSpace.
Founder and former chairman of Infoseek which was
sold to Disney in 1999. According to the Economist
magazine, he contributed" to the Mars Direct
project, to simulate Mars exploration on Earth."
I think this refers to the Mars
Society's various projects. The Society's home
page lists the Kirsch
Foundation as a sponsor. The Foundation also supports
After gaining two hundred million dollars in 2001
from the sale of Paypal, which he co-founded, Musk
invested $80M in Tesla,
$20M in the Solar
City solar power company, and $100M in SpaceX.
By the end of 2008, he was nearly broke but outside
investments in Tesla and a NASA contract to deliver
cargo to the ISS saved both companies. By 2022, the
success of Tesla (which acquired Solar City) and SpaceX
had made him, at least on paper, the richest person
in the world.
SpaceX leads the world in total annual delivery of
launch mass to orbit using the partially reusable
Falcon 9 rocket. By mid-2022, over two thousand Starlink
satellites had been put into orbit to provide global
internet services. The fully reusable Starship rocket
system is well underway and will help fulfill Musk's
long term goal of creating a permanent settlement
(streamed) at Stanford in which Musk discussed
SpaceX and briefly outlines some of his long range
Co-founder and president of Google
who became a billionaire after the company went public.
He joined the board of trustees of the X PRIZE Foundation
Another co-founder of Google
who became a billionaire after the company went public
and a space enthusiast. He is a member of the "Vision
Circle" of the X PRIZE. Supported the sponsorship
of the Google
Lunar X PRIZE. Has reserved a ride to the ISS.
The billionaire Microsoft co-founder,who passed
away in 2018, funded Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne
project. He later founded Stratolaunch,
which built Roc,
the world's largest airplane by wingspan, to air
launch rockets to space. After his death, the
company focused primarily on hypersonic vehicle
The telecommunications mogul gave substantial
funding to several space projects, most famously
to MirCorp. Unfortunately, he was arrested in
early 2005 for tax evasion and pleaded guilty
to the charges in September 2006. He says that
subsequent challenges to the tax charges resulted
in the government prosecutors essentially admitting
in court that the charges were invalid. However,
his guilty plea means his conviction stands. He
was in prison until he was released in 2013. He
is still interesting ini pursuing space projects
and has attended at least one space conference.
for Walt Anderson - after losing access
to his money and in turn his legal representation,
his friends set up this stie to help raise
money for his defense.
An article about Beal in the January 13th, 2005
Wall Street Journal reported that Beal had made
a series of successful investments and his wealth
had increased into the billion dollar range. Perhaps
Mr. Beal will eventually return to the greatest
race of all and try again to contribute to private
Jim Benson died on October 10, 2008. In 1995 after
selling a successful software firm that he had
founded, Benson looked around for other challenges.
Reading about the riches of the asteroids, he
decided to get into the space business and created
Intially the goal was to build a spacecraft to
go to a near earth asteroid to prospect for resources
that could be mined. Working with several reputable
space scientists, the company designed such a
probe and tried to convince NASA to agree to buy
the data that would be supplied by it. In such
a data purchase arrangement, Spacedev would take
all the risk in building and launching the spacecraft
based on future return from selling the knowledge
gained. Unfortunately, NASA was not receptive
to this approach.
Spacedev purchased the intellectual property of
the firm Amroc that had developed hybrid rocket
technology in the 1980s. Spacedev used this expertise
to develop the hybrid rockets used to power Scaled
Composite's SpaceShipOne vehicle that won the
X PRIZE in October of 2004.
Spacedev also built a robust business in developing
small satellites and was eventually the company
was purchased by SNC. Benson had left the management
of Spacedev in 2006 to pursue development of a
suborbital space tourism vehicle with a new venture
that he formed called Benson Space Company. Unfortunately,
in the summer of 2007 he was diagnosed with the
brain tumor that led to his death. Benson Space
was subsequently closed.
Owner of the motel chain Budget
Suites of America, Bigelow is reportedly worth
several hundred million dollars. He expected to
spend up to $500 million to develop a space based
hotel/tourist business. He built Bigelow
Aerospace from scratch and launched two prototype
inflatable habitats successfully and later installed
a prototype inflatable module on the Int. Space
Station. After promising to develop a full-scale
module for the ISS, Bigelow suspended activities
at the company in 2020, citing the pandemic shutdown
challenges as well as a lack of NASA funding.
See also Investing
- New Business Concepts and Space
Tourism - Space Hotels.
Co-founder of Id
Software and a key programmer for games such
as Doom and Quake. ID was subsequently sold ZeniMax
Media in 2009. Carmack continued to do programming
with the new company.
While probably not in the hectomillionaire range
like some of the above, Carmack has substantial
means to pursue his amateur rocketry interests.
He funded a couple of teams in the Space Frontier
Foundation's CATS contest in the 1990s and then
decided to pursure his own rocket projects with
Initially formed mostly with volunteers, the goal
was not only to build high altitude vertical takeoff
and landing rocket vehicles but to build them
within small budgets ($100k or so.) He finds this
more challenging than simply throwing money at
the task. (He chose the VTOL approach since such
vehicles can be tested incrementally and frequently.)
He became very adept at rocketry in a remarkably
In August 2013, Carmack said he was putting Armadillo
into "hibernation" while seeking outside
investment. Armadillo had flown three "Stig"
reusable sounding rockets in 2012 and early 2013
and each failed to reach space. Continuing to
fly such vehicles was more expensive than he could
support. See this article for details about his
Armadillo Aerospace in "hibernation mode"
- NewSpace Journal
The first space tourist is reportedly worth several
hundred million dollars made with his Wilshire
Associates investment firm. When he returned
from his famous trip to the Space Station, he
promised to find ways to help more people experience
the joy that he felt while in space. Initially,
however, Mr. Tito said he would not make any investments
in space enterprises, stating the lack of significant
near term markets, and will just make speeches
promoting space. Dennis
Tito cautious about space tourism future - Spaceflight
Now - Jan.28.02.
Mr. Tito later was involved in a handful of space
development projects such as becoming a trustee
of the X PRIZE. He also initiated a project to
develop a crewed Mars fly-by mission but this
was eventually set aside.
...[for] "the America’s
Cup, the average team spends sixty to eighty million
dollars per year for a zero cash prize.
The Formula One race car teams spend 250 million dollars
per year. Imagine if all of us had 250 million dollars
per year to improve our vehicle, where we could be
going." - Peter Diamandis, founder of the X-Prize
contest, speaking about the relative expense of funding
a sub-orbtal rocket project.