NASA and the Rise of Commercial Space Symposium – March 17-19 and March 25, 2021 – Virtual Event

NASA History Program Office Virtual WebEx Symposium

NASA and the Rise of Commercial Space

March 17-19, 2021 and March 25, 2021

Starting March 17, 2021, please join us for a virtual WebEx event, NASA and the Rise of Commercial Space: A Symposium Examining the Definition(s) and Context(s) of Commercial Space. From activities in low-Earth orbit to the Artemis program, the commercial space industry is beginning to take on an increased role as innovator in both space access, commerce, and exploration. This growth of commercial space over the past decades offers the potential for a new paradigm for space exploration—one in which industry transitioned from supplier to partner. Still, many questions remain spanning from the most seemingly consequential “How will humanity explore the Moon and Mars?” to the more foundational, “What is Commercial Space?” Individual panels address a range of topics including legal and entrepreneurial frameworks, advancements during the space shuttle era, and new trajectories at NASA and beyond. Overall, this symposium will explore the evolution of commercial space and examine the historical context surrounding these larger questions. Our hope is that discussion will add an historical framework that will help inform the relationship between government and industry moving forward.

The program kicks off on March 17 with a talk from Eric Berger (Ars Technica) on the early days of SpaceX followed by two days of panel discussions on March 18-19 featuring keynote talks from Ken Davidian and NASA Chief Economist and author of The Long Space Age: The Economic Origins of Space Exploration from Colonial America to the Cold War, Alexander MacDonald. Commentors for panel discussions include S. Pete Worden, Diane Howard, Scott Pace, and Chris Davenport. The final March 25 session is a collaboration by NASA, the ISS U.S. National Laboratory, and the University of Alabama Huntsville. This session features a keynote talk from Steve Lee of Astrosat and a panel discussion with Jason Greene (UAH), Christine Kretz (ISS U.S. National Laboratory), Daniel Rasky (NASA Space Portal Office) and Yusuf Erkul (Kernal Biologics).

The entire event is free and open to the public. No registration required to attend sessions—simply click on the WebEx links located on the program webpage to login during each day of the symposium.


Brian C. Odom, Acting NASA Chief Historian (chair)
Stephen P. Waring, University of Alabama Huntsville (co-chair)
Ken Davidian, Director of Research FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation
Rick Sturdevant, Deputy Director of History at Space Operations Command, US Space Force
Stephen J. Garber, NASA HQ History Office

Link to full program description and WebEx links:

Please send any questions to