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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

Brazos County officials are distributing free backpacks, school supplies and gift cards for K-12 students on July 12 from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Bryan High Silver Campus Cafeteria.
Brazos County to distribute free school supplies
‘Back to School Bash’ invites K-12 families on July 12
Nicholas Gutteridge, Managing Editor • July 11, 2024
Texas A&M infielder Ali Camarillo (2) thros to first during Texas A&M’s game against Louisiana at the NCAA Bryan-College Station Regional Final at Olsen Field on Sunday, June 2, 2024. (Chris Swann/The Battalion)
Camarillo, Aschenbeck selected by Athletics, Cubs to round out 2024 MLB Draft
Luke White, Sports Editor • July 16, 2024

Junior SS Ali Camarillo and senior LHP Evan Aschenbeck rounded out the 2024 MLB Draft for Texas A&M baseball on Monday as they were selected...

Bob Rogers, holding a special edition of The Battalion.
Lyle Lovett, other past students remember Bob Rogers
Shalina SabihJuly 15, 2024

In his various positions, Professor Emeritus Bob Rogers laid down the stepping stones that student journalists at Texas A&M walk today, carving...

Chancellor John Sharp during a Board of Regents meeting discussing the appointmet of interim dean Mark Welsh and discussion of a McElroy settlement on Sunday, July 30, 2023 in the Memorial Student Center.
Analysis: Chancellor Sharp’s retirement comes with new dilemmas
Nicholas Gutteridge, Managing Editor • July 2, 2024

Texas A&M System Chancellor John Sharp announced Monday he will be retiring on June 30, 2025.  A figure notorious in state politics,...

Private companies join NASA in America’s next space race


John Rangel

Just before 4 a.m. Jan. 10, a SpaceX rocket conducted its fifth successful supply run to the International Space Station. The rocket’s first stage also attempted an engineering first by coming close to a controlled landing after it detached from the payload.
In any other decade, such a routine resupply mission — and the rocket’s daring landing attempt — would have been NASA’s work. 2014 and the new year, however, ushered in a modern era. Billions of dollars were awarded to private companies to build machines capable of carrying men and women beyond Earth, private rockets exploded and a private spaceplane pilot died. Success and failure abounded, but through it all one fact emerged — private companies, not just government agencies, will help carry America back to a leadership position in manned space exploration.
No other year beside 2014 better highlighted this trend. American ISS resupply missions are routinely launched by private rockets, shuttled by private spacecraft, and managed in part by private control rooms. NASA awarded $6.8 billion to Boeing and SpaceX to develop next-generation craft to replace the retired shuttle fleet. And the Orion capsule, the development of which was spearheaded by Lockheed Martin to carry men and women to Mars and beyond, underwent its first orbital test.
The year’s success, however, was muted somewhat by two catastrophic failures. An Orbital Sciences rocket exploded just seconds after liftoff, destroying supplies bound for the ISS. And Virgin Galactic’s signature spaceplane — SpaceShipTwo — disintegrated in midair after igniting its booster rocket, killing one pilot and injuring another.
These failures raise questions about NASA’s privatization gamble. Orbital Sciences came out of the explosion with few financial scars, but how many failures can a for-profit company endure before it folds? NASA experienced more failure than success at the start of the original space race, at great cost to their budget and to human life. It remains to be seen if a private company is capable of rebounding from such repeated tragedy.
But despite these drawbacks, 2014 showed that space exploration is no longer a game restricted to superpowers who clash over supremacy as a means to showcase military might and ideological dominance. America’s board pieces now include private companies arrayed against a variety of nations, and themselves. Weapons research and national prestige are still sought-after prizes, but just as important are lucrative government contracts, and space’s untold consumer wealth. 2014 was an exciting time — let’s just hope future drawbacks don’t dampen this rising spirit.
John Rangel is an aerospace engineering junior and SciTech editor for The Battalion.

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