The exploration of space has long been the exclusive province of nations. Now, a significant step has been taken in the direction of privatisation. This is surely a welcome development. At a time of rising tensions between the most powerful nations in the world, releasing a bout of entrepreneurial energy and creativity may well help people, companies – and even nations – to come up with new ideas, ventures and projects to make better use of outer space besides its militarisation and competition for national prestige. SpaceX, the brainchild of Elon Musk, has successfully carried two Nasa astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) in the first mission of its kind completed by a private company. The outspoken hi-tech entrepreneur of Tesla electric car fame can be proud. The most obvious commercial application for manned missions is space tourism. It is, interestingly, pioneered by the Russians with their government space agency, in rides that cost millions but only last hours. Virgin Galactic, founded by British businessman Richard Branson, has been working for years to provide cheaper tours, without much success. The potential, however, is surely there. But, for more serious purposes, the sky is literally the limit in private-public cooperative ventures. China has long sought to dominate the market for launching commercial satellites. Now, though, SpaceX will surely give it a run for its money. However, Tesla has been operating its spanking new US$2 billion Gigafactory 3 in Shanghai, hoping to produce tens of thousands of electric vehicles for the world’s largest car market. For the Tesla boss, there is much room to cooperate with both private Chinese investors and government agencies to explore space-related enterprises. Of course, American officials are extremely suspicious about technology transfer. That is one reason Washington works with the Russians at the ISS, while refusing access to the Chinese. But Musk has long worked with officials from China and the United States, and has earned their trust. Who knows, there may be even mainland entrepreneurs inspired enough to invest in space projects for the private sector. Investors with big visions and ideas like Musk may be just what is needed to channel space exploration beyond competition between the great powers.