Space exploration ain’t cheap, even if you’re funded by one of the richest countries on Earth. To raise some extra cash, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine says the space agency will start looking into whether corporate sponsors could buy naming rights or brand placements for its spacecraft, or whether astronauts could appear in commercials.
“Is it possible for NASA to offset some of its costs by selling the naming rights to its spacecraft or the naming rights to its rockets?” Bridenstine said during a recent NASA advisory council meeting, according to the Washington Post. “I’m telling you there is interest in that right now. The question is: Is it possible? The answer is: I don’t know, but we want somebody to give us advice on whether it is.”
There’s no question that space exploration has entered the private era. SpaceX now regularly launches rockets, and Blue Origin is laying the groundwork for a space tourism industry. Because they aren’t beholden to the government’s bureaucracy (nor its strict rules around paying contractors), these companies can often launch rockets more cheaply than NASA.
If finding corporate sponsors funds more missions, can anyone blame the space agency for considering it?
On the other hand, though NASA’s budget in adjusted dollars was highest during the 1960s “space race” era, it’s held relatively steady during the decades since. Maybe just upping its budget would mean NASA doesn’t have to emblazon its next rover with a “Cheetos” logo.
READ MORE: Why NASA’s Next Rockets Might Say Budweiser on the Side [The Washington Post]
More on private space: Private Companies, Not Governments, Are Shaping the Future of Space Exploration