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A great rev­o­lution in human affairs is unfolding 200 miles above your head. Vice Pres­ident Mike Pence announced last week at the Mar­shall Space Flight Center that it is a “stated policy” of the Trump admin­is­tration “to return U.S. astro­nauts to the surface of the moon in the next five years.”

July 20, 2019 will mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, and as Pence put it, “We’re in a space race today, just as we were in the 1960s.” And the prize is greater than ever before. Ice, an essential resource for life support and propulsion, was dis­covered on the surface of the moon in 2008, astounding sci­en­tists and throwing open the doors for a lunar real-estate scramble.

Admit­tedly, the words “space race” are no longer the magical incan­tation they once were — several admin­is­tra­tions since John F. Kennedy’s have unveiled new pathways into space that became political bridges to nowhere because of elec­toral change, plodding bureau­cracy, and bud­getary con­straints.

Instead, Pence’s magic phrase that will send Amer­icans to the moon is “mission over the means.” Sending a clear message to the builders of the years-overdue and over-budget gov­ernment Space Launch System, the Vice Pres­ident announced that the gov­ernment would “con­sider every available option and platform to achieve our goals” and “if our current con­tractors can’t meet this objective, then we’ll find ones that will.” Even further, “if com­mercial rockets are the only way to get American astro­nauts in the next five years, then com­mercial rockets it will be.” This sense of urgency, pri­or­i­ti­zation, and focus will get us to the moon.

As incredible as it seems, landing on the moon is hardly the most important news to come out of the fifth meeting of the National Space Council. Many of the goals tar­geted in the Trump administration’s series of four Space Policy Direc­tives were announced as well, such as 5G spectrum real­lo­cation to expand access to space industry, the loos­ening of export con­trols on civilian space tech­nologies, and the imple­men­tation of new ini­tia­tives regarding orbital traffic man­agement, crucial for man­aging ever larger satellite con­stel­la­tions.

While Pence observed that pre­vi­ously the “greatest bar­riers to space entre­pre­neurs have been bureau­cratic bar­riers, sweeping changes are underway throughout the bureau­cracy. Sec­retary of the Air Force Heather Wilson announced a planning com­mission that will set up the Space Force as the sixth branch of the mil­itary within five years. ” The planned Bureau of Space Com­merce will soon become the one-stop-shop for com­mercial space ven­tures. And most impor­tantly, Trans­portation Sec­retary Elaine Chao announced the posting of new launch and reentry licensing rules in a her­culean effort, com­pleting the first update and lib­er­al­ization of the rules in 12 years.

This truly is a rev­o­lution. This isn’t just a trend — it’s bigger than the White House or NASA. Unlike pre­vious eras, the gov­ernment is not the sole actor in space. In the last six months, advance­ments in policy were matched by almost-daily tri­umphs in the American space industry. In November of 2018, Morgan Stanley pre­dicted a trillion-dollar space economy by 2040, driven by what the Department of Com­merce called a “wave of inno­vation” in remote sensing, com­mu­ni­ca­tions, weather fore­casting and imaging that will even­tually expand into habi­tation, tourism, space-based solar power, and mining.

Cell phones, not Apollo, are mankind’s beachhead in space. With 3.5 billion people still not online, com­mu­ni­ca­tions satel­lites are the primary growth market today. Scores of startups are rushing into orbit, pio­neering massive con­stel­la­tions of small satel­lites, not least among them Google and SpaceX’s own planned Starlink network of 1,584 satel­lites to provide global broadband access. By 2021, three giant ViaSat satel­lites (best known for sup­plying in-flight internet) will blanket the whole Earth in the first global cell network.

In Feb­ruary, Israel launched its first space­craft in history to the lunar surface, essen­tially con­tracting a space program wholesale from SpaceX. According to the Council, “access to space is the key enabler,” and 2019 will bring four addi­tional launch vehicles are online. The deepest under­lying trend: venture cap­i­talists poured $3.25 billion into the global space industry in 2018, up 29 percent, an even greater increase than the year prior.

For the Trump admin­is­tration to put the next “man and woman” on the moon in 2024, reelection is almost cer­tainly required. But even now, the Space Council and the Admin­is­tration have replaced pork projects with a timely, focused vision for America’s space presence and are making enduring strides forward in unleashing American space enter­prise.

Most important, the march to space is no longer defined by gov­ernment, as com­mu­ni­ca­tions and launch enter­prises erect the first pillars of a future space economy. You may not see it yet, but the par­adigm shift is broad­ening and accel­er­ating. As com­merce and set­tlers enter space, the final frontier will become mankind’s highest home.

Man moves, halt­ingly, spon­ta­neously, but con­tin­u­ously into outer space, to learn, to profit, and ulti­mately to live. The dis­covery of the New World rev­o­lu­tionized world history — who can imagine how our story will read when mankind finally ven­tures beyond the dim crevasse of its gravity well and sails the celestial seas?