James C. Bennett suggests that there is a need for an agency devoted to the burgeoning space industry. NASA and the Air Force aren’t prepared to deal with the increasing amount of civilian, commercial space flight. Bennett explains the need for and benefits of a Coast Guard-like organization for space.
Space travel beyond Earth orbit also resembles maritime transportation more than aviation in that it is conducted in “voyage mode” rather than “sortie mode.” Aircraft operations are typically timed in hours rather than days or weeks. . . . Oceangoing ships, on the other hand, can stay at sea for weeks or even months, and so their accommodations are designed to be habitable, and their crews able to operate autonomously for extended periods. Maritime crew practices, traditions, and rules have evolved over centuries to preserve effectiveness under such conditions. This suggests that for operations in near-Earth space, in which vehicles are in sortie mode, organizational culture ought to be similar to that of aviation, whereas for extended operations in deep space, an organizational culture derived from maritime practices would be preferable.
The maritime metaphor makes sense to science fiction fans. Naval and maritime ranks are used in science fiction taking place on spaceships. For example, Star Trek uses naval ranks and Firefly would be a merchant vessel. Both ships are commanded by captains. (By contrast, the Air Force-focused Stargate series have their spaceships commanded by colonels.)