Lessons Learned From Failed Mir Effort Fueling New Commercial Ventures


Alan Boyle has reviewed Michael Potter’s film, “Orphans of Apollo,” for his Comic Log website. He reviews the lessons that the failed effort to commercialize the Mir space station taught people:

The biggest lesson is that you want to have the government as your customer, not your enemy. “I think the slightly more commercial and realistic and politically savvy entrepreneurs who are now investing in private space understood where Walt went wrong,” David Chambers, who was MirCorp’s vice president of strategic planning, says in the movie. “And they’re prepared to play nice with the various governments that they need to play nice with.”

The examples are legion: SpaceX’s Elon Musk has received millions from NASA to develop a new rocket and spaceship (with a crucial Falcon 9 launch planned this year). Scaled Composites’ Burt Rutan has benefited from government contracts as well as investments from billionaires such as Paul Allen and Richard Branson. Robert Bigelow, a billionaire himself, is hoping government business will eventually help sustain his own privately funded space station program. XCOR Aerospace, Armadillo Aerospace and many other “New Space” companies rely on government contracts to keep the money coming in while they work on their rocket revolution.

Potter said he’s applying the lessons from “Orphans of Apollo” in his own work with Odyssey Moon, one of the teams entered in the $30 million Google Lunar X Prize competition.

“We don’t view ourselves as competing with NASA,” he said. “We’re just a gear in the cog. You want FedEx to the moon? We’ll take care of that. … We’re pretty typical, if you compare us with a lot of Silicon Valley tech ventures.”

Good stuff. Anxious to see how Odyssey Moon fairs in its effort to commercialize lunar travel.