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How does entrepreneurship lend itself to space exploration

I’ve always been fascinated about space exploration, and science fiction movies like 2001: A Space OdysseyStar Trek, and even the original Star Wars trilogy.  As a child, travelling into distant space, discovering new planets, exploring new frontiers and extraterrestrial possibilities, and never returning back to Earth was a vision that has always inspired me.

These memories were brought back to life just recently when I had the exclusive opportunity to meet two Aussie astronaut candidates for the ‘Mars One’ mission, on a Google Hangout.  I was joined by Dianne McGrath and Josh Richards, and together we explored the definition of ‘Astropreneurship‘, and how this new-age term is applicable to the space industry and to entrepreneurship.

The Space Entrepreneurs

Mars One is now planning to take the first four humans to Mars in 2026, on a non-return flight.   Dianne and Josh were shortlisted as favourites amongst over 200,000 applicants worldwide, as a result of their distinct skillset, philosophy to life, and entrepreneurial pursuits.

The global space industry is currently experiencing accelerated growth and has expanded by more than 50% over the past 10 years, according to Space Foundation in Colorado Springs.   The majority of such growth hinges around commercial endeavours from the private sector, led by serial ‘space’ entrepreneurs like Richard Branson (Virgin Galactic), Elon Musk (SpaceX), Robert Bigelow (Bigelow Aerospace), Bob Richards (Moon Express), and Paul Allen (Vulcan Aerospace).

Essentially, more people are desiring to go to space, and has so far attracted celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and Lady Gaga, each willing to fork out $250,000 for a ticket into space for just 2 hours !

Gone are the days, where space exploration is solely reliant on NASA and government funding. Entrepreneurs are now in charge, and private investors are joining the ‘space race’, and exploring new commercial ventures like zero-gravity tourism, satellite and software development, and space exploration on a scale never seen before.

more people are desiring to go to space, and has so far attracted celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio and Lady Gaga, each willing to fork out $250,000 for a ticket into space for just 2 hours !

Astronaut or Astropreneur ?

During my Google Hangout interview, I was curious to understand Dianne’s perspective on the term ‘astropreneur’ and its relevance in her profession.

Dianne is an adventurist, with a strong philosophy in sustainability, and is currently undertaking a PhD in food waste.

According to Dianne, the common denominator between an astronaut and astropreneur is ‘risk taking’, ‘exploring possibilities’, ‘agility’, ‘problem solving’, and ‘trust’. Putting this into a business context within the space industry, Dianne firmly believes that commercial enterprises entering the space market, need to be more agile, take greater risks, and collaborate with other 3rd party organisations to secure new opportunities and remain highly competitive.

On the other hand Josh, a futurist and engineer, believes that an astronaut or astropreneur carries distinct traits like ‘flexibility’, ‘resilience’, ‘having a larger perspective’, and possessing a ‘strong vision’.

Josh’s philosophy to achieving success as an aspiring astronaut hinges around ‘the rule of thirds’. Essentially, one third of people will be sceptic, one third will be indifferent, and one-third will love what you are striving towards and will support you no matter what. The key is to collaborate with the ‘right’ type of people who share the same vision.

Technology and Innovation:

The common thread between entrepreneurship and space exploration is technology and innovation. There is no doubt that success in either industry or profession hinges around these two critical ingredients. Easy access to technology is allowing the industry to accelerate with regards to research, innovation, and collaboration, and has been fuelled by the ‘start-up’ risk-taking culture of Silicon Valley.

Space entrepreneurship requires a lot of improvisation and movement.   For this reason, Space Tango was developed to encourage humanity to think differently about space.  It provides entrepreneurs, scientists and engineers effective ways of working together and collaborating on the same space project, whether it’s about launching a new satellite, creating a new food waste management system for astronauts, or building the next rocket to Mars.

A mix of passion, entrepreneurialism, and outside the square thinking, enabled Aussie entrepreneur Briam Lim to develop DeltaV Spacehub  and Think N’ Tinker. His entrepreneurial ventures are space industry accelerators, and collaborate with start-ups within the space industry in Australia. Brian’s ultimate goal is to further advance Australia’s involvement in the space industry.

Easy access to technology is allowing the industry to accelerate ….and is fuelled by the ‘start-up’ risk-taking culture of Silicon Valley

A fancy new word ?

Coming back to the word ‘astropreneurship’,  I believe this new-age term deserves the recognition and acknowledgement from within the business and space sectors, as well as from linguists or scholars.  A solution to this simple problem, would be to include this new word in the dictionary and acknowledging that such a profession or industry actually exists.  I am perplexed that the Oxford dictionary has still not taken this step.

In the final chapter of my interview with Dianne and Josh, what was revealed is that the use of the acronym ‘preneur’ might actually signify or imply something that is ‘exciting’, ‘innovative’, and ‘technologically advanced’. When it comes to establishing a human settlement on Mars, I cannot think of anything more relevant or critical.

There is no doubt that entrepreneurship and space exploration is here to stay.  The continued infusion of these two sectors will provide humanity endless possibilities, making classic movies like Star Trek no longer science fiction but a new reality for human civilisation.

This article has been exclusively written by Federico Re for BusinessFirstMagazine for the April, 2016 print & online edition.

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