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Jason Silverman is a life support systems engineer at SpaceX.

Since 1972, no man has returned to the moon, and progress in exploring new frontiers has moved at an undemanding pace. So why hasn’t America unified behind a large scale space program like Apollo in the 1960s?

We have become risk averse, and our politics have centered on more Earthly considerations, explained SpaceX life support systems engineer Jason Silverman, during a seminar at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library, as part of “Earth to Moon” the Library’s 50th anniversary commemoration of the moon landing, presented by AT&T on Saturday, July 20.

The moon landing ended the space race. The end of the Cold War two decades later meant an end to the costly policies and posturing of great super power competition. In 1966, NASA accounted for 4 percent of the Federal budget. Today, it accounts for less than half a percent.

At this point in history, America had a peace dividend.

Though NASA has been successful in robotic exploration like the Mars rover program, the U.S. government could never again support a sustained space presence on the scale of Apollo.

“Apollo was always on borrowed time despite the Soviet rivalry,” Silverman explained. “The public could only support it for so long.”

Silverman argued that the future of human space travel lies in innovation from the private sector, from companies like Blue Origin and SpaceX.

These companies and other entrepreneurs are opening possibilities to explore deeper into space, and offer new opportunities for economic growth.

This includes reusability of space craft for multiple missions, the ability to carry heavy payloads of experiments and resources back to Earth, and space refueling.

Silverman was especially enthused about the prospects of megaconstellations — thousands of orbiting satellites that would hover across the globe and provide capabilities such as world-wide broad band.

“Expect for the future entirely new industries that we haven’t even thought of become possible,” Silverman said.

Silverman remains optimistic about American’s collective will to pioneer into new frontiers in space.

“It’s the incredible vision and passion from all around the space community, combined with sustainable resources that come from a solid business model, that make me optimistic we’re in what will be remembered as the real space age,” Silverman concluded.