It's 6 AM, and my 10-year old son - an early riser - is telling me about Jeff Bezo's Blue Origin, and the differences between it and Elon Musk's SpaceX. This is a pretty normal conversation for this time of day, and frankly far easier to follow than the typical space conversation my son tries to engage me in.
Let's just say my minor in creative writing never equipped me with a sufficient understanding of nuclear fusion. Most of the detailed science I know is chemistry, and more of that than I would like to admit is from Breaking Bad.
That show taught me that mercury fulminate could be used to blow up a rival drug dealer.
It did not teach me how to go to Mars.
But space has captured my son. He knows every word of Kennedy's "We Choose to Go to the Moon" speech, and watches it, repeatedly, on every device he can get his hands on.
Like JFK and my son, Dr. Sanjoy Som and his colleagues at the nonprofit Blue Marble Space believe there is a greater meaning to space travel.
Because of my son's interest I wanted to learn more about the future of space exploration, and how it is by being furthered by moguls like Bezos and Musk, as well as social entrepreneurs like Som and his team.
Dr. Som was kind enough to answer the questions below.
1. What is Blue Marble Space's mission?
"The mission of our organization is to promote and enable international unity through space exploration by providing scientific and technological services, namely, research, education, and design in the field of space exploration and the Earth system.
The motto of the organization, 'Space exploration begins at home', reflects our belief that a vibrant space program that will allow humanity's expansion into space will require a new mindset of exploration, an internationally aware workforce, a knowledgeable public, efficient resource utilization, and interdisciplinary scientists and engineers."
2. What role do you think entrepreneurship plays in achieving expanded space exploration?
"Entrepreneurship in space is key for a long-term, sustainable, space exploration effort by humanity because companies, unlike agencies, can be more nimble in their investments. National space agencies, because they are essentially tax payer funded, require as one would expect a great deal of accountability and public scrutiny.
This has two main consequences: very large overhead, and risk aversion - two items that can stifle innovation. This is not to say that national space agencies have not been innovative, quite the contrary, but they aren't as nimble as entrepreneurs can be."
3. Why this cause? Why does it mean so much to you?
"I have had a deep passion for space exploration that dates to as far back as I can remember. Science communicators like Carl Sagan have inspired me and a great deal of my closest friends and colleagues to have a certain cosmic awareness - an appreciation for life and Earth that extends way beyond the confines of our planet. Many of them have joined the non-profit because together we can do more than the sum of our individual parts.
Blue Marble Space is first and foremost an organization of amazing people that coalesce under the vision of a belief in a greater humanity. Space exploration is the perfect theater to begin this new chapter, one where being human echoes stronger than ethnic origin, nationality, or religious beliefs, one where this diversity is celebrated as the true beauty of humanity rather than an excuse for violence and bigotry."
Reducing violence and bigotry?
That's the sort of "hard thing" worth achieving that Kennedy spoke about during the speech my son loves so much.
And it's exactly the sort of hard goal that makes a moonshot worth it.