Before I talk about privatization of space travel, I want to outline the relationship between space researchers in the United States and Germany. Germany's Aerospace Center is part of the European Space Agency, and thus cooperates with space programs such as NASA on a global scale through that union. Germany and the United States have cooperated on a variety of missions, and aided each other in seemingly every major operation in recent memory. Without going into too much detail, these missions include sending vessels to Mercury, Mars, prominent asteroid belts, and moons of multiple planets in our solar system. Due to high costs, one of the most collaborated upon tasks has been in the actual transportation of astronauts and cargo into space. This issue and how it is approached greatly affects both the United States and Germany, because neither currently has an internal method of getting people to the International Space Station to perform research.
Thomas Reiter, the German astronaut in charge of the International Space Station within the European Space Agency, notes in an interview that the United States has recently closed their own space shuttle program and must now rely on Russian vessels to transport Americans into space. Germany faces the same issue, and Reiter notes that one of the upcoming alternatives is using privatized shuttles from companies such as SpaceX. This is the first time in history that non-government agencies have a chance to play such an important role in space research, and this is where we get to the fun part: what does privatization mean for space research and space travel for the world?
Many, including myself, quickly let their minds imagine up a place in which privatized space giants can offer unprecedented flexibility and funding that government has never been able to give. Some have imagined that this would result in rapid advances in space technology, and vastly increasing the number of people that could actually have a chance to travel into space. However, this is probably not the case, at least for the foreseeable future. Astrophysicist Neil Tyson can tell you why in this video by "Big Think".
Putting the dreams of space enthusiasts aside, this development as real implications for the United States and Germany. As two of the strongest world economies, both countries are at the forefront of space research and privatization will determine how they conduct missions in the future. NASA currently has six private companies working with it to send vessels into space, and there are several leaders in a race to literally become the space version of Fed-Ex. How that process shakes out and how the new industry is formed will determine the direction of space travel for decades to come.