Economic History Of American Space Exploration (speaker: Alexander MacDonald, NASA)

Friday October 26, 2018 12:00 pm

Abstract: The rapid expansion in goods and services, that involve infrastructure located in space, presently ext ends to GEO, where Nations and corporations have placed hundreds of satellites that provide billions of dollars worth of communications and meteorological services. Closer in, satellites provide a variety of scientific, navigation, and commercial services, while humanity’s ninth and largest space station has been completed. On Earth, government agencies, corporations and individuals plan for the expansion of economic development to the lunar surface, the asteroids, and Mars.

This lecture will examine the long-run economic history of American space exploration – the boundary expansion process that precedes economic development – in order to extract some of the underlying lessons and trends useful for engineering economic development in the solar system. The financial history of early American astronomical observatories, the conceptual development of spaceflight in 19th century American space flight fiction, the early 20th century development of liquid-fuel rocketry technologies in the private-sector, the political history of the Cold War Space Race, and the contemporary rise of private-sector space activities through partnership with NASA, will be discussed. The argument will be made that the origins and early growth of American space exploration were within the private-sector and that the current rise to prominence of American private-sector space efforts like SpaceX and Virgin Galactic is not a new phenomenon but is rather the re-emergence of a long-run trend.

Biography: Senior Economic Advisor, Office of the Administrator, NASA Headquarters. Founder of NASA’s Emerging Space Office. Author of Emerging Space: The Evolving Landscape of 21st Century American Spaceflight, Public-Private Partnerships for Space Capability Development, and Economic Development of Low-Earth Orbit. Executive Staff Specialist at NASA JPL, former CMU research faculty member, collaborator with USRA while at NASA ARC. Economics degrees from Queen’s University in Canada (Bachelors), University of British Columbia (Masters), and Clarendon Scholar at the University of Oxford (Doctorate). Inaugural TED Senior Fellow and received the AIAA History Manuscript of the Year Award in 2016.