The temperature was 106 today. I had my on summer gardening “Get-Up” as my neighbor calls it. Long sleeves, socks, hat, shorts and gloves. Not gorgeous, but necessary in our weather. Gardening attire is the only time I get a little Cyndi Lauper. I noticed it today especially; we are in the Dog Days of Summer. You may know the Dog Days reference comes from the Dog Star named “Sirius”. The name is derived from the Ancient Greek Seirios (“glowing” or “scorcher”). The Dog Star is the brightest star in the constellation Canis Major. The Egyptians, Polynesians and Chinese use this star to predict weather patterns for planting and navigation. I checked, I don’t think we can see Sirius in our night sky. Astronomers in Las Cruces, will you please let us know if we can.
I was thinking about Sirius because there is another connection to space I wanted to discuss. The connection to Sirius XM radio and DishTV. While on the phone with a colleague in commercial space last week, I realized he was having a dip in enthusiasm for our industry. The Dog Days, and on top of that it was Friday.
In the past, especially when I was speaking to someone in the industry, I had a tendency to get impatient with these types of conversations. It could be as frustrating as telling a Starbucks Barista the importance of getting an espresso shot right. I have not ever had to do this at Starbucks. Yet, we had a pretty good week in the space business last week. Time to connect the dots.
I took another approach. I asked what kind of car he drove to work. Ford Explorer. Oh really! Was he using the satellite radio capability in the Explorer? Oh yeah, he lives in the middle of nowhere, has a long drive to work. Yep, he has Sirius XM satellite radio.
Satellite radio is a consumer space product. Their revenue in 2010 was $2.8 billion. Satellite TV, another consumer space product, had $79 billion in revenue in 2010. I am using a new term, consumer space product. We are at the threshold of a consumer space industry. We have been consuming space products for many years. The consumer space industry has the potential to have a growth spurt again.
Sirius XM radio and DishTV are consumer space product, in fact, Sirius XM radio is carried on some of the Dish TV satellites. Simple definition, you can’t get these two products unless you go to space. The ability to buy space based products monthly is an aspect of what I am calling the consumer space industry. Thousands of Las Crucens have satellite radio, and subscribe to Dish TV.
It took many years, millions of dollars, and visionaries’ years to perfect the applications, and raise the money to make these technologies available in our cars and on our smart phones. We have the potential to bring visionaries to our community, to use Spaceport America as a hub for those innovators to begin to make space more accessible in way I cannot imagine.
I decided I would help you connect the dots, and that way, you may realize, its’ going to take some time to get all the pieces to come together to create new commercial space products. Ask yourself, could you have predicted your car would have the capability to use an Air Force satellite navigation system? Well, that’s what the GPS satellite constellation is, 1970’s Air Force technology, now in the hands of the consumer. It took some time, but we’ve got it. And it is affordable. It is a consumer product. Back to Friday.
Friday was a big day for NASA and space science. The Juno spacecraft was launched on an Atlas V from Kennedy Space Center. Juno is on a five year journey to Jupiter to discover the origin of our solar system’s largest and possibly first planet. We also heard about the discovery of flowing water on Mars on Friday. NASA Administrator, Charlie Bolden said, “The Juno mission and the Mars Exploration Program keeps bringing us closer to determining whether the Red Planet could harbor life in some form…And it reaffirms Mars as an important future destination for human exploration,”. Well, that’s quite a week really. The pictures of the Martian surface and the Juno launch can be viewed on the NASA.gov website. NASA was not having a summer slump last week!