World-Class Companies Like Salesforce Shouldn’t Present Americans with this False Choice
Like many watching Super Bowl VLI last Sunday, I enjoyed the ads as much as the game, except for one in particular. “New Frontier” from Salesforce features Matthew McConaughey explaining, rather convincingly, that space exploration isn’t important and that we should be focusing on what’s happening here on earth.
In fact, investing resources in space technology innovation is investing in our lives on earth, today and in the future. Yes, we have huge challenges down here, but accessing space is one of the main ways we’ll solve the big ones, especially climate change and the consequences of it, like threats to our food and water supply.
This ad, while beautifully produced with a compelling performance from a superstar actor, is misleading, and unfortunately it was seen by hundreds of millions of people. We cannot let this kind of content, or the fact that the most well-known space programs are funded by high-profile billionaires fool us into believing that space exploration is vanity hobby, and not crucial to the advancement of humankind.
The American public is never going to agree on every aspect of how Blue Origin, SpaceX, or Virgin Galactic is spending their billions of dollars of capital, but we should understand that each of these companies are working toward a better life on earth in their own way. We shouldn't be distracted by Elon Musk tweeting about his billions or Jeff Bezos wearing cowboy boots. We can’t let PR snafus or expensive TV ads prevent us from understanding the true missions of these leaders.
SpaceX is focused on making humans multi-planetary in order to secure our future. "The future of humanity is going to bifurcate in two directions: Either it's going to become multiplanetary, or it's going to remain confined to one planet and eventually there's going to be an extinction event." Elon Musk, founder and chief engineer, SpaceX
Blue Origin is focused on reusable rocket technology, as well as moving heavy industries that cause pollution into space. “We're going to build a road to space so that our kids and their kids can build the future. And we need to do that. We need to do that to solve the problems here on Earth. It's not about escaping." Jeff Bezos, founder, Blue Origin
Virgin Galactic’s mission is to be 'the spaceline for Earth.' "We have one planet in our solar system that's habitable, and that's the Earth, and space travel can transform things back here for the better." Richard Branson, founder, Virgin Galactic
Of course, as the founder and CEO of Ursa Major, a company that designs and builds rocket engines, I am biased to say the least. I, along with some of the best engineering minds in the country, have dedicated our lives to advancing space technologies at Ursa Major. I know I speak for all of them when I say that we’re motivated by making life on earth better as well. No one who I know does this work just because it’s cool to launch things into space (even though it is).
We understand that over the course of the past 50 years, technology innovation from space programs has resulted in a better way to warm our homes through solar cells, frustration-free driving with GPS, and safer communities from accurate detection of major weather events like hurricanes and tornados, to name a few.
In fact, the "New Frontier" visuals and voice-over about planting trees, building trust, and making more space for everyone could have been promoting space exploration, not dismissing it.
Today, access to space is protecting our planet through near-earth asteroid detection and mitigation, finding new ways to harness energy for use on earth, and helping us understand the human aging process to prevent and treat certain diseases. Agricultural data captured by satellites is now accessible to farmers and ranchers affordably and in real-time. There are many more reasons to invest in space, and there are also future advancements that we can’t even imagine that will stem directly from these efforts.
So, humbly, to the team at Salesforce and Mr. McConaughey, I strongly disagree with you, but I also agree with you. The new frontier IS rocket science, AND it’s also right here on earth.