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Sierra Space Is Commercializing LEO to Improve Life on Earth

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In an era in which the pandemic has seized so much of the optimism that reigned during the early 20th century, space exploration dreams can (still) keep us going. And if the positive belief that space travel can benefit life on Earth has evaporated in recent years, Sierra Space is thrilled to bring it back. Amongst the leaders in our organization are two trailblazers: CEO Tom Vice who grew up so awed by every rocket launch he saw as a kid that he pursued an aerospace career and president Janet Kavandi, a veteran astronaut with three missions under her belt.  

Both individuals share a passion for not just journeying to space for its own sake—exciting as that is—but rather, as a chance to improve things on our own planet. The people they lead share the same sunny optimism, mixed with down-to-earth pragmatism. Or, to use another apt expression, the Sierra Space team doesn’t have their heads in the clouds when it comes to the reasons behind what they do. Committed to expanding humanity’s reach beyond our atmosphere, it’s our mission to make daily terrestrial life more enjoyable and rewarding.

At the same time, it’s nonetheless understandable to ask about the benefits of space exploration. Even NASA questioned its own charter to the degree that the last Space Shuttle was decommissioned in 2011. Establishing a presence beyond Earth’s atmosphere, though, is the furthest thing from a self-indulgent daydream. While some might view the whole endeavor as a distraction to escape problems down here, Sierra Space intends to leverage it to usher in unprecedented advancements in medicine, computing, energy, telecommunications, and dozens more critical global economic sectors.

In fact, the presence Sierra Space is seeding in low-Earth orbit (LEO) could one day offer a location for off-planet human civilizations. Already, Orbital Reef is setting the stage for such an ambitious venture. Built in partnership with Blue Origin, it is the first ever mixed-use business park—in space. In the near future, it will be inhabitable by civilians to promote breakthroughs in commerce, research, and tourism. 

Orbital Reef is the next generation successor to the International Space Station (ISS) and the next step in making space more available to more people. Also, by ensuring a place in space, private developers of the beyond-Earth domain are laying essential groundwork for humanity’s transformation into a spacefaring species.

In the process of spawning off-world civilizations, the private-sector space revolution Sierra Space is fostering will make LEO the premier destination for today’s businesses. Over the centuries, various terrestrial locales became economic hot spots due to geopolitical shifts—China for its tea trade, the Middle East for its oil, and so on. Now, the focal point of global industry is ascending off the surface altogether.

Still, despite such rhetoric, it’s understandable to be dismayed by humanity’s formidable challenges. Fossil fuel reserves are depleting, global population is increasing, and geopolitical balances are destabilizing. But now that we are just beginning to possess extraordinary abilities to seek solutions to our problems, why shouldn’t we focus more on the benefits space development might offer humankind?

Beyond enabling advancements in medicine and tech, developing the space domain will offer vastly new ways to reimagine sports, hospitality, and entertainment—to name a few areas. (Even the most jaded jetsetter has never seen the sunrise over the horizon from space.) Also, zero-gravity provides incomparable opportunities for art and leisure. Everyone from entrepreneurs to creatives will soon be able to utilize not just a novel environment, but the fresh and exciting possibilities it provides. Think of the inspired paintings to come; the exceptional poems yet to be written and the films not yet produced. 

Enabling the private sector to live and work in LEO will help revolutionize the materials we use daily, combatting pollution from common materials like plastic. Adding to the environmental benefit of turning our eyes to the stars, we can scarcely imagine the renewable energy advances made possible due to space exploration efforts. 

Developing capabilities beyond Earth is the kind of inspiring initiative needed at a time when so many don’t feel hopeful for the future. Not long-ago President John F. Kennedy galvanized Americans to embark on a space race. His words on this subject have since been termed his “moonshot speech.” Given during the Cold War, the message still speaks to our time. Employing optimism with practicality, it demonstrates what’s possible when a people embrace a purpose bigger than themselves for the collective good. The human story is far from over, and the solution to our problems may well lie outside everything we’ve ever known. 

For all these reasons, let us look up together to better our world together.