WASHINGTON, DC—Resources for the Future (RFF) today released a new installment of Resources Radio: “Space: The Next Great Market Opportunity, with Michael Toman.”
In this episode, host Kristin Hayes talks with Michael Toman, the lead economist on climate change for the World Bank’s Development Research Group. A former senior fellow at RFF who worked closely with former RFF Vice President for Research Molly Macauley to study the economics of outer space, Toman explores opportunities to create markets and generate economic incentives beyond Earth. At a time when private companies like SpaceX send people to the International Space Station, Toman discusses the policy implications of increased private sector involvement in space exploration and the continued role of the government in helping to ensure that space travel is safe.
Notable quotes from the podcast:
- Opening up space to the private sector: “Do we always have to have NASA write the contract and the specifications for the rocket, bid it out to a large aerospace contractor, get it built, then put the experiments on it? … What we were learning, even in the ’80s and well into the ’90s, as well, is: the answer's no. Building a rocket, launching it, and recovering what you want to have come back down is something that companies were doing anyway under a contract with NASA, and it's perfectly reasonable that space launch services could be provided by entities that weren't affiliated with or under contract with NASA.” (10:01)
- Government can work alongside private space companies to reduce risk: In any [regulatory] system the United States has … you could count on certain basic things being there. There would be a national security piece to make sure that you knew what was being launched, and it was being tracked, and the Defense Department could know what was unfriendly. You would have basic safety things. Nobody wants [a ship] to blow up on the pad and nobody wants it to sort of land in the middle of Manhattan … The ways that people met those standards might become more flexible.” (24:45)
- Space junk presents new environmental hazards: “[Space junk] is, in some ways, a lot like air pollution. You've got a number of different sources, you've got a lot of it up there. It's not like you can just tell Mr. Brown or Mrs. Black, “Get your junk out of there,” because it's all just floating around. [But] unlike air pollution, which comes in microscopic particles, these are big hunks of metal and plastic and in some cases, even spent nuclear engines. So, the question is: How do you [prevent] this?” (27:56)
Resources for the Future (RFF) is an independent, nonprofit research institution in Washington, DC. Its mission is to improve environmental, energy, and natural resource decisions through impartial economic research and policy engagement. RFF is committed to being the most widely trusted source of research insights and policy solutions leading to a healthy environment and a thriving economy.
Unless otherwise stated, the views expressed here are those of the individual authors and may differ from those of other RFF experts, its officers, or its directors. RFF does not take positions on specific legislative proposals.
For more information, please refer to our media resources page.