There has been marked progress within the space industry. However, all the gains are under threat due to the scandals and controversies surrounding the industry. What is the way forward?
Scandals and the Space Industry Must Never Mix
Opening up the space industry to individuals and local companies was a good move. It created a huge potential for some projects that could lead to the betterment of humanity.
With investments well within millions of dollars, the stakes are high. International watchdogs, government, and other players have a lot to do. Yet, hints of scandals and controversies are finding their way into the industry.
Personal interests, theft of intellectual property, and irregular awarding of contracts are just some cases that have come up.
Anytime you open the market to competition, there are always those who will try to get ahead. For the players, it does not matter how they do it, just as long as they trump the competition.
The Space industry has not been exempt from unsavory characters who are out to taint the reputation. Take the case of NASA that had to rethink its launch to Mars due to undisclosed reasons.
In a 2007 New York Times interview, Dough McCuistion, the Mars Exploration Program Director, acknowledged that conflict of interest was to blame for the delay. He was, however, not able to divulge any additional information that could shed more light on what was happening.
NASA could not seem to keep away from problems. Simon Saw-Teong Ang, an Arkansas professor and NASA employee, found himself on the wrong side of the law. FBI came across some information about his communication with a researcher from Xidian University in China.
The authorities fear that he may have been sharing United States’ research data with China. The court case is ongoing, and if they find him guilty, he may spend up to two decades in jail.
The UK has been stepping up its space programs. It is looking to launch its first rocket and has been establishing Spaceport in different parts of the country.
Catriona Francis, a former government official and proprietor of Catriona Francis Limited. Under her authority, the UK Space firm Orbex landed a £5.5 million grant. That in itself is not troubling; however, hints of a scandal broke out soon after. Ms. Frances has joined the space firm as its new International Liaison Director. Speculation then began on whether the job offer had anything to do with the grant money.
Competition is healthy, but there must be checks in place to avoid scandal. It is a job that involves a lot of different players. The governments must ensure they fulfill their role of regulating the industry.
International players such as the UK Space Agency (UKSA), NASA, and the European Space Agency (ESA) should continue to collaborate and innovate without breaching any rules.
International watchdogs must pay close attention to what all the players are doing. Domestic companies should continue to fight for a piece of the pie while adhering to best practices or regulations.