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(This is the seventh in a series of blog articles written by the Providence Engineering Academy students. In this article, 12th-grade student Todd shares why privately-funded organizations may be a better choice for space exploration.)

Space travel. It’s been around since 1961 when the Soviets launched Yuri Gagarin into space. But who has been sending people into space here in the United States? For the longest time, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Jet Propulsion Laboratories (JPL) were the sole authorities on spaceflight. That all changed when SpaceX, the first private space agency in the United States, was founded by Elon Musk in 2002. Since then, there have been 76 launches by SpaceX, and 26 launches by NASA.

But what is the difference between these two agencies? NASA is a public, government-owned organization and SpaceX is a private company that has not yet launched an IPO. So which organization takes a better approach?

Although NASA has a bigger history in the space travel industry, the real facts lie in the fundamentally different ways the two organizations are run. NASA is entirely funded by the government, so it gets its money from taxes and loans the government takes out. SpaceX is completely private, so its only money comes from its own profits and money from investors.

In my opinion, privately funded space organizations are the way to go because of the way they are funded. At the time of this writing, the United States national debt is around $22.8 trillion, and we have spent around $601 billion dollars on NASA so far. This money should be spent on other things such as working on shrinking the national deficit.

On the other hand, SpaceX has not gone public yet, so we do not know their current revenue and value. Though we do not know the numbers yet, we can say for sure that SpaceX does not contribute to the national debt, which is a very good thing.

One additional factor that sets the two groups apart is the ability to reuse rockets. SpaceX’s flagship rockets are the Falcon Heavys. The company boasts the ability to reuse its rockets after they have been recovered. This is a smart, cost-saving strategy that further proves that space travel should be privatized.

Regardless of the organization, one thing is for sure: space travel is here to stay, and the opportunities are ripe like never before.