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During production of this issue, we marked the 50th anniversary of a huge moment in US history: the Apollo 11 moon landing. I wasn’t around then, but the momentum it created was part of my childhood.

My most vivid early memory of the US space program is the first test flight of the prototype Space Shuttle Enterprise in 1977. I remember watching it on a television in the laundry room of the apartment complex where I lived with my mother. I was five.

From that day forward, I followed the shuttle program with excitement and dreamed of what life might be like when I was an adult, when people would surely fly on these ships just as easily as on airplanes, and some would even live in space.

WANING INTEREST
But that isn’t what happened. At least, things didn’t turn out as I expected. The shuttle program gained momentum and was a resounding success for the United States. The first flight to enter orbit was that of Columbia on April 12, 1981, and when Atlantis completed its 12-day mission on July 21, 2011, and the fleet was retired, 135 missions had been flown by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

As exciting as those early flights were, trips to space became routine and the public largely lost interest by the Nineties. While important, the shuttle missions lacked the glamor of the moon landing. For various reasons, the triumph of the Apollo program was never repeated. And as we entered the fifth decade after that feat, the United States found itself with no way of its own to get people into space.

BUSINESS BOON
That really matters because our future is in space. Not just for those who care about science, but for those building businesses.

In 2018, a record $415 billion was spent by governments and companies on services related to space, many involving satellites for entertainment broadcasting and weather forecasting. Such spending is expected to increase by $181 billion by 2040.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There are enormous natural resources to be mined from asteroids, and this could become a multi-trillion-dollar business. The microsatellite industry is expected to be worth more than $7 billion by 2022. And then there is leisure.

MOONSTRUCK
Space tourism may still seem like science fiction, but will be a reality before we know it. Efforts that began in 2004 have been slow going, but technology is catching up.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX plans to carry civilians to the moon as soon as 2023, and one of the first passengers will be Japanese entrepreneur and art collector Yusaku Maezawa. The billionaire has conceived and is funding a space tourism mission called #dearMoon, which will carry him along with several other artists on a six-day tour around the moon.

While #dearMoon might sound like a vanity project, it’s one way the private sector is driving technology, and developing tools and capabilities, that can be put to use by a wide range of industries.

Although the dreams of my childhood may have been delayed, it looks like they are going to come true after all. I just need to be patient for a bit longer. While I wait, join me for a look back at the what started it all—the Mercury and Apollo programs—beginning on page 18.

Christopher Bryan Jones is Editor-in-Chief of The ACCJ Journal. Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, he has lived in Japan since 1997.