The International Space Station, photographed by an astronaut aboard Space Shuttle Endeavor on February 10, 2010. A new committee on the NASA Advisory Board is facing increasing commercial opportunities aboard the Orbita Laboratory
Imagine NASA astronauts smiling on cereal boxes, and Mars rovers sporting company logos as well as racing cars.
Regulations currently hold such scenes in the realm of fantasy, but that could change soon. NASA creates a new committee that will investigate expanding commercial activities and collaborations in near-Earth orbit and beyond, NASA Administrator Jim Briddenstine announced Wednesday (August 29).
"We may be talking here ̵
"I'll tell you, there's interest in that right now," he added. "The question is, is it possible? The answer is, I do not know, but we look at the committee to consult, whether or not."
The new Regulatory and Policy Committee will be part of the NAC. Chaired by Mike Gold, a lawyer who also serves as vice president of regulatory, political and government contracts for space technology company Maxar Technologies in Colorado.
Gold also spoke at the NAC meeting. He highlighted the possibility of liberating NASA astronauts in the commercial sector – for example, by filming advertising on board the International Space Station (ISS) and supporting products on Earth, both of which are currently banned.
Solving the reins in these various ways could not only raise money for NASA, but also significantly increase agency media reach and exposure, Gold and Bridenstine said. The result could be a much larger pool of astronaut candidates in the future, as well as many more children who are inspired enough to choose a career in science, math, engineering or technology.
Gold emphasized that commercial activities like the ones described above are inevitable, so the US is in danger of losing to foreign competitors if they do not loosen some of their regulations.
"It will happen," said Gold. "The question is, will it happen in America?"
The commercialization of the near-Earth orbit is already in progress. For example, both SpaceX and Northrop Grumman launch robotic cargo missions to the ISS. And SpaceX and Boeing are beginning to move the NASA astronauts to and from the Orbit Lab; If the current schedules are met, the first manned flights of these private spaceships will take place next year.
But the possible activities of Bridenstine and Gold would definitely usher in a new era – and the NASA chief seemed to realize that some people are not comfortable with flight suits that make astronauts look like NASCAR drivers.
"I have seen many things there that can be provocative," he said to Gold after finishing his presentation. "And I want to make it clear that we have not made any provisions, nor have we anticipated the outcome of the committee that you chair."