An economic historian traces uncovers the story of privately funded space exploration from early 19th century astronomical observatories to SpaceX.
The standard historical narrative of American space exploration begins during the Cold War, with the federal government’s efforts to beat the Soviet Union in the Space Race. Given this framing, the more recent emergence of private sector space exploration appears to be a new and controversial phenomenon. But as Alexander MacDonald argues in The Long Space Age, privately funded space exploration had been happening in the United States long before we tried to put a man on the moon.
Since the early 19th century, private observatories had been making discoveries and developing technologies that led directly to NASA’s epochal 20th century achievements. And their efforts were no less ambitious for their time than SpaceX and Blue Origin are in today’s resurgent space industry.The Long Space Age examines the economic history of this centuries-long development, from those first American observatories to the International Space Station.