Skip to Content
Uncategorized

Privatizing Space Exploration

On Wednesday a subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee that deals with space issues held a hearing in Houston that featured several witnesses talking about the potential of privatizing parts of NASA’s new space exploration initiative. The Houston Chronicle summarized…
February 19, 2004

On Wednesday a subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee that deals with space issues held a hearing in Houston that featured several witnesses talking about the potential of privatizing parts of NASA’s new space exploration initiative. The Houston Chronicle summarized an idea from one of the witnesses as follows:

So far, NASA’s Spirit and Opportunity robotic missions to Mars have produced a record 6 billion “hits” on the agency’s Web sites since early January. If only 5 percent of the Web site visits spurred the purchase of a $1 screen saver featuring an image of the Martian landscape, NASA would have earned $300 million.

The problem with this analysis is that the witness confused “hits”–recorded each time any file, be it an HTML file, image, or style sheet, is downloaded–with visitors. A single visitor can be associated with hundreds of hits, depending on the number of files associated with each page and the number of pages that visitor views. Speedera, a company providing web hosting support to NASA, noted in late January that the NASA web sites at that time had four billion hits but just 33 million unique visitors. (This makes sense when you recall that the world population barely exceeds six billion.) This converts that $300 million figure into $1.65 million through January and perhaps $2.5 million by now. Moreover, costs like the high transaction fees associated with credit card purchases, particularly for cheap items like $1 screensavers, would eat away at a significant part of that $2.5 million.

This doesn’t mean privatizing space exploration isn’t always a bad idea. For example, some aspects of the Bush plan like robotic lunar missions might be ripe for partnerships with the private sector, given the existence of entrepreneurial ventures like Transorbital and LunaCorp who have been planning private lunar missions for years. However, people have to be aware that many privatization schemes simply don’t make much business sense.

Deep Dive

Uncategorized

Uber Autonomous Vehicles parked in a lot
Uber Autonomous Vehicles parked in a lot

It will soon be easy for self-driving cars to hide in plain sight. We shouldn’t let them.

If they ever hit our roads for real, other drivers need to know exactly what they are.

stock art of market data
stock art of market data

Maximize business value with data-driven strategies

Every organization is now collecting data, but few are truly data driven. Here are five ways data can transform your business.

Cryptocurrency fuels new business opportunities

As adoption of digital assets accelerates, companies are investing in innovative products and services.

Mifiprex pill
Mifiprex pill

Where to get abortion pills and how to use them

New US restrictions could turn abortion into do-it-yourself medicine, but there might be legal risks.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.