Space industry hopes eclipse excitement will be rocket fuel for the $500 billion space economy

Millions of people across the country witnessed a total solar eclipse earlier this week, and those involved in the business of space are hoping all the excitement surrounding it will entice more people to join the space workforce.

“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to be in the space industry,” Heather Pringle, retired Air Force major general and chief executive of the nonprofit Space Foundation, told Yahoo News. “We need financial managers, we need human relations specialists, we need all kinds of individuals to help this industry grow and thrive and so that we realize the full potential of what technologies in outer space can bring to help us on Earth.”

A view of the sun reemerging from totality during the eclipse.

A view of the sun reemerging from totality during Monday’s eclipse. (Shannon Faulk/AP)

According to the foundation’s annual Space Report, which was released earlier this week, the number of people working in the space industry increased 4.8% in 2023 (it’s up 30% since 2016). Every state in the country now has at least one space-related organization, the report noted. And the $546 billion space economy — which jumped 8% last year — is on track to become a trillion-dollar industry by 2030.

“The increasing role of space in our lives is a trend that we will continue to see,” Pringle said. “It’s touching almost every human and whether we realize it or not.”

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One of the drivers of the space economy is the race among private space exploration companies — including Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin — to bring people to space.

“What this commercialization trend is going to do is bring more diverse markets, more diverse industries into the space ecosystem that weren’t there before,” Pringle said. “And when we get there, we’re going to have a much broader array of industries participating, things like manufacturing, food and beverage, hospitality, of course, space tourism.”

This image taken from space shows parts of the United States and Canada in the shadow of the moon during the total solar eclipse.

This image taken from the International Space Station shows the moon’s shadow covering portions of Canada and the U.S. during Monday’s total solar eclipse. (NASA via AP)

Pringle sees the commercialization of space as a compliment to NASA, which already employs more than 17,000 people and is, among other things, on a mission to return astronauts to the moon by 2026.

Which is why something like an eclipse is important for both the space industry and humanity.

“It makes me feel part of something bigger than myself,” Pringle said. “An event like a full solar eclipse brings us together. It makes us forget all our differences. And we focus on what similarities we do have and how we’re all a part of this earth and affected by the greater cosmos around us.”

People gather at a cemetery in Brooklyn to watch the eclipse.

People gather at Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn to watch Monday’s eclipse. (Michael Nigro/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

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