The New Space Race

I escaped from Earth and all I got was…

The United Nations is not pleased to inform us that climate change continues unabated.

Meanwhile, gazillionaires like Jeff Bezos and Sir Richard Branson are training to become astronauts.


Maybe. Maybe not.

A long time ago and in this very same galaxy I facilitated an innovation lab with the good folks at NASA and a roomful of guest thinkers from different industries.

The point of the engagement was to help the agency directors understand what it would take to make NASA an innovation and discovery leader in the 21st century.

Part of our work was identifying and dismantling the social norms preventing the directors from seeing the real value of the agency’s brand equity — that is, those dominant, unspoken, and mutual expectations about what NASA is and is not; about what NASA should and should not do.

During the course of our discussion, we floated a simple question that led to a sobering answer. We asked what’s the point of manned spaceflight these days anyway?

“To get the hell off this planet,” replied one of the directors without missing a beat.

Nobody laughed because he wasn’t kidding.

How many years on and the answer remains the same — we need to get the hell off of the planet.

There’s only one problem: manned spaceflight, though possible and indeed necessary, is currently available only to those who can afford it.

That’s a tad disconcerting to members of the 99%, at least it should be, especially since those spaceships aren’t spaceships any more — they’re lifeboats.

There’s only so many of them, and right now only the very, very, very, VERY rich can afford them.

We might figure out how to make spaceflight as affordable as a ticket from Charlottesville to Tampa on Southwest Airlines.

And we might figure out how to build a great, big, intergalactic Ark to hold seven billion plus people, not to mention pairs of all the world’s animals, if we can’t — or won’t — solve the climate crisis.

But will we figure it all out in time so that everyone has a shot at being evacuated to some giant, Death Star-like space station when the moment to quit Momma Earth is upon us?




Founder, GreenHouse::Innovation. Author of “I Have a Strategy (No You Don’t): The Illustrated Guide to Strategy.” @GreatSocialGood

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Howell J. Malham Jr.

Howell J. Malham Jr.

Founder, GreenHouse::Innovation. Author of “I Have a Strategy (No You Don’t): The Illustrated Guide to Strategy.” @GreatSocialGood

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