Space expert Rick Tumlinson says the Isle of Man is leading the race to make privately funded missions into space in the same way that Portugese explorers led the way to discovering the world in the 15th and 16th centuries. Mr Tumlinson is regarded as one of the most influential people in the space industry and is co-founder of the Space Frontier Foundation which promotes increased use of space by the private sector. Here is his view of the Isle of Man’s place in the business that is called NewSpace.
As a child of a British mother who spent years growing up on the larger island near you, and a friend of some of those leading the charge I have been following the growth of the Manx space industry and have become ever more impressed with your nation’s grasp and understanding of the revolution now underway in this area. After a half-century of spaceflight dominated by ‘Superpower’ governments, smaller nations and entrepreneurs are at last joining the game – and the stakes are potentially enormous.
I am gladdened to see some of your leaders understand this, and are acting to getting you in the game early on. Humanity is not just on the verge of not just opening the next New World as my continent was known, we are about to enter an ocean that can carry us to New Worlds without end.
Its shoreline is just a hundred miles overhead, but it has taken decades for us to begin to realise its potential, and we are just beginning to understand how it can change our lives and futures. The Isle of Man, like Portugal in its time, stands in a position to leverage this new frontier far beyond what its own geographical size or economic might would lead one to think.
Just as Henry the Navigator’s vision placed that tiny nation in the forefront of exploration and trade dominated by the ‘Superpowers’ of the 15th and 16th century, the vision of a band of leaders on your Island has catapulted you into a lead position in this new space race – if you stay the course. Indeed, NewSpace is the name we give this industry. Far from pie in the sky dreams, the business of opening space is real and well on its way to making money.
Led by folks such as Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com, Elon Musk who created Paypal, motel magnate Bob Bigelow and groups like Excalibur Almaz, we are just years from the first regular commercial spaceflights to and from the first commercial orbiting space facilities and hotels. Even NASA has begun to notice and is about to spend billions of dollars on NewSpace firms to carry its own payloads and even astronauts to and from space.
By setting itself up as a home base, banker, broker and investor/supporter of these leading edge firms, the Isle of Man has the potential to help lead a historic revolution not only in spaceflight, but human history as we begin to tap new and limitless sources of energy, materials and inspiration and eventually build the first permanent human communities beyond the Earth.
Size does matter in some things, but vision, intelligent planning and bold action will win the day far more often. The people of Mann should be proud and excited by what your government and business leaders are doing. They need your support and understanding, and to not be weighed down by Luddites who can’t see beyond their own noses.
I say here’s to you. Sail on my friends, sail on, the universe awaits!