600 million people watched Neil Armstrong take the first step on the moon on July 20, 1969. This event set a record for TV viewership lasting until 1981 when 750 million tuned in to see Charles wed Lady Diana.
Fast forward to 2021. On May 30, SpaceX achieved the highest orbit mission since STS-103, the 1999 Hubbell servicing mission. Boasting the first all-civilian crew, it was a historic event. So, how many tuned into to witness this launch? “We’re still collecting the data, but some of our metrics are saying that peak viewership for the joint NASA-SpaceX launch broadcast across all of our platforms was at least 10.3 million concurrent viewers—the most-watched event we’ve ever tracked,” NASA Associate Administrator for Communications Bettina Inclán said during a news conference on Sunday (May 31).
Despite Deadline raving about how Discovery and Science “soared into the ratings stratosphere” with event coverage on their TV channels, the launch only garnered 7.21 million watchers. It’s easy to explain away the discrepancy based on the fact so many content options now compete for eyeballs. Only a handful of stations existed in 1969. And, of course, there was no internet.
But there may be a simpler reason for the decrease in viewership: an enthusiasm gap. Gone are the days in which President JFK once inspired a space race with his now famous moonshot speech: “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills.”
Still, an all-civilian launch is the stuff of sci-fi lore, a happy story to stir hearts and minds, especially amidst so much bad news about the pandemic. Yet, as the low ratings attest, people weren’t feeling it. Could it be that the public feels locked out of space exploration nowadays? MSN thinks so. “There was a time when sending a guy into space really meant something,” writes Jack Derwin. “Now, it’s just a bunch of billionaires trying to remain relevant after they’ve pillaged the planet they’re leaving.”
Derwin’s not alone in his assessment. Contributing futuristic editor Eric Mack had this to say for CNET. “The spectacle of the billionaire space race also illuminates a sad truth about our future in space as a species: We’ve lost control of our own destiny in the cosmos.”
But Sierra Space is taking a different approach. We don’t agree our best spacefaring days are behind us. Instead, we view the heavens as humanity’s birthright. Through cutting-edge initiatives like Orbital Reef, we’re already building a shared ecosystem in space. A collaboration between Blue Origin for scientific innovation, this “mixed-use business park in space” will facilitate the growth of a vibrant business model for the future. Also, by enabling affordable access to space, we will empower existing and next generation businesses, entrepreneurs, researchers, and governments to create advancements meant to touch the lives of all.
Backed by a collection of space industry leaders, it’s a small taste of the collective good we wish to bring humankind. After all, the most important value we can create in space should benefit life on Earth. The genomic medicine to save a child’s life and energy breakthroughs exemplify dreams worth chasing, possibilities we can create as public benefits from space exploration.
Our people-centric approach comes from our leadership. Here is a brief introduction to the dreamers leading our space charge:
Tom Vice (CEO)
Prior to Sierra Space, Tom served as Chairman, CEO, and President of Aerion Corporation, developing supersonic civil aviation. Before this, Tom was President of Northrop Grumman’s Aerospace Systems sector, an $11 billion global advanced technology business, pioneering space-based observatories, satellites, fully autonomous intelligent systems, combat aircraft, high-powered lasers, and microelectronics.
Janet Kavandi (President)
Selected as a NASA astronaut in 1994 as a member of the fifteenth class of U.S. astronauts, she supported International Space Station payload integration, capsule communications, robotics, and served as Deputy Chief of the Astronaut Office. Dr. Kavandi is a veteran of three space flights, and has logged more than 33 days in space, traveling more than 13.1 million miles in
535 Earth orbits. She’s currently responsible for the company’s space programs, including the Dream Chaser® spaceplane, under contract to
deliver supplies to the International Space Station beginning in 2021.
On February 14, 1990, Voyager I snapped a photo of Earth as it departed our solar system upon the request of astrophysicist Carl Sagan. Taken from 3.7 billion miles away, our planet appears as little more than a pale blue dot.
Remarking upon this image, Sagan said the following: “Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar,’ every ‘supreme leader,’ every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there—on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.”
In the years to come, venturing beyond our pale blue dot will be the life’s work of so many pioneers and visionaries, a herculean undertaking we can scarcely imagine. Confronting unprecedented challenges requires exceptional cooperation. As we look ahead to the stars, let us also peer within. An opportunity exists for humanity to look past what separates us, to recognize we share much more in common than our differences.
Starting today, let’s reimagine space as the great equalizer. Up there we can do things better, beginning with honoring others’ contributions and sharing in the cosmos’ abundance. 2021 wasn’t just the year Earth saw its first civilian mission. It also heralded a new and positive space future—for all.