The Daily Mail: Homer Hickam has high hopes for private space exploration

April 6th, 2012

The Daily Mail
April 6, 2012
By Zach Harold

Earlier this week, I had the privilege to have coffee with author Homer Hickam.

The McDowell County native and retired NASA engineer was in town for the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation’s annual gala, where he was the keynote speaker.

He sat down with me for about an hour to talk about his new young adult novel “Crater,” and the future of space exploration in the United States.

Last year, NASA retired the last of its space shuttles (I wrote a story about it). The agency is supposed to develop a new vehicle for space flight but no concrete plans exist right now. Officials have instead expressed hopes private companies will build their own shuttles.

Those privately owned shuttles are still a long way off, but Hickam said reducing NASA’s role in space exploration might be a step in the right direction.

“They’re so poorly managed, and they have so many restrictions on what you can do,” he told me.

He said trips to space and the moon will make a comeback as soon as businesses figure out a way to make them profitable.

“Once a product is defined, entrepreneurs are going to go out there and get it,” he said.

In Hickam’s new book, that product is Helium-3. Futuristic surface miners scrape it from the lunar surface, turn it into a gas, and send it back to Earth. Since it’s the 22nd century, mankind has perfected nuclear fission and the Helium-3 makes a perfect fuel for fusion-powered power plants.

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