To Infinity, and Behind!
posted at 4:41 am on March 11, 2010 by Dafydd ab Hugh
A little over a month ago, I noted the shift in our spacefaring strategy towards privatizing space exploration and exploitation, a strategy pushed, astonishingly enough, by President Barack H. Obama:
I’m just now picking my jaw up from the floor: Barack H. Obama has just decided to privatize — space exploration?….
It’s a little odd that such a lover of big-government Obamunism and nationalization of private resources would suddenly go all capitalist over the space program; I worry that this will just turn out to be more empty rhetoric. But entrepeneurs can use even empty rhetoric to fly below the radar and actually bring about some of the dreams that Obama has woven, perhaps unintentionally and against the president’s own better judgment. Certainly there is no lack of players champing at the leash to jump into a newly revitalized private space-launch industry….
Republicans should seize this idea to show they’re not just the “party of No,” as Obama loves to claim. Here’s a chance to champion science, space research, and private enterprise and entrepeneurship, all while showing some bipartisan flair! The GOP would have to be utter morons to let this fish loose.
I’m glad I tossed in that final cynical jab at the GOP (which may come to mean “grand obsolete party”); it makes me look less like a Pollyanna, sunny-side up nitwit. For just as we all suspected, the Republicans are so locked into the top-down “command science” that they join their Democratic colleagues in trashing the very idea of private manned space launches:
“As with all great human achievements, our commitment to space must be renewed and encouraged or we will surely be surpassed by other nations who are presently challenging our leadership in space,” Democratic and Republican members of the U.S. Congress from Florida wrote to Obama last week.”
Here is the new plan, as enunciated by the running-dog capitalist in chief:
Obama, in his Feb. 1 budget proposal, planned to increase NASA’s overall funding to $19 billion in 2011 with an emphasis on science and less spent on space exploration.
He would cancel the Constellation program’s Orion spacecraft and Ares rockets, after $9 billion and five years of tests. Constellation is aimed at returning astronauts to the moon in the 2020s to clear the way for a Mars mission.
Instead, Obama would spend $6 billion a year for five years to support commercial spacecraft development and pursue new technologies to explore the solar system in what the White House called “a more effective and affordable way.”
The Florida Republicans shake in their boots, terrified that private enterprise will surely lead to massive job losses (possibly even within the state legislature). But is it now Republican dogma that public spending creates more jobs than the free market?
It’s not just know-nothing congressmen in the Reptile State pushing the bright red panic button about private aerospace development. Here comes President George W. Bush’s NASA administrator, “explaining” — in the sense of “mocking the very idea” — why we must allow government to monopolize spaceflight:
Various members of the far-flung U.S. space community have been troubled by the change, such as former NASA administrator Michael Griffin, who struggled to get more funding for Constellation from the previous administration of President George W. Bush and believes Obama should stick with it.
“There’s a larger issue here,” Griffin said. “Does the United States want to have a real space program? Do we actually think we can have a robust, exciting, world-leading space program by hiring private enterprise to furnish it?”
Why yes, Dr. Griffin; many of us do support exactly that weird idea: In a capitalist state — or even whatever hemi-demi-quasi-capitalist state we currently inhabit — it’s always best to try the market first… and only haul out the big-government guns later, if a screaming emergency arises.
The bureaucratization of space exploration is one of the most disheartening aspects of contemporary society: Here we sit, verging on the sixtieth anniversary of Robert A. Heinlein’s classic, “the Man Who Sold the Moon” (1951); and our “leaders” at NASA still scoff at the preposterous thought that private rocket ships, free-market space colonization, and entrepeneurial expansion to the stars can actually work… maybe even better than Michael Griffin ordering his civil servants to innovate, on schedule.
My God. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. And so far, that’s where it bloody well ends, too.
Cross-posted on Big Lizards…