On Monday, NASA announced plans to once again put human beings on the moon, and to build a base on or near a lunar pole. The base will be the hub for future missions to Mars, or so it is planned.
This announcement will bring on the usual criticisms, chiefly Ã¢â‚¬Âhow can we spend billions and billions of dollars on this with all the problems here on earth?Ã¢â‚¬Â
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve often argued that, if done properly, the exploration of space is a social program.
Space travel is a huge undertaking, one that excites, motivates and is remembered by us for the rest of our lives, not to mention handed down to succeeding generations. What other social program does that for people? How many kids will grow up to reminisce about gathering around the living room, giddy with nervous anticipation and jaw-dropping marvel, to watch the arrival of Uncle BillyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Social Security check?
The word “check” is the operative word here. Other social programs are an easier sell, and if there’s one thing a politician likes, it’s ease. Though fueled by money, the ultimate goal of the space program is not a fiscal one (though maybe it should be — we’ll get to that in a minute). The space program is only limited by imagination, and its goal boundless. A terrestrial social program’s limit and goal is the bottom of your pocket. One is much easier and more convenient to reach than the other. The nearest star system is about 250 trillion miles away. Your wallet is on the dresser. Which is the government more likely to focus on first?
With the government in charge, NASA has gone from awe-inspiring to foundering, almost exactly in line with the onslaught of political correctness in our society. Starting with the Mercury program in the Ã¢â‚¬â„¢50s and early Ã¢â‚¬â„¢60s, through the Apollo program, which ended in the early Ã¢â‚¬â„¢70s, there was the feeling of real progress with the space program, and all with no in-flight deaths.
Men have gone to the moon several times, and now, 36 years after the first lunar landing, ships can hardly get off the ground without incident. Why? Because thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s nothing more counterproductive than a politically correct technocrat.
Space travel is an incredibly dangerous business, and in todayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Nerf-wrapped, sharp-edges-rounded-off world, the government has little tolerance for anything that could cause an owie. Another problem is that the government, defense weapons notwithstanding, is traditionally at least 20 years behind the technological times.
After President KennedyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s challenge to land a man on the moon and safely return him to the earth, it took eight years to reach this goal, and with primitive technology by todayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s standards. Now, weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re shooting for 15 years out, and IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll bet that wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t even happen.
In a dangerous business such as space travel, there is little room for political correctness wrapped in red tape, and weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re seeing proof of that with some recent NASA problems and disasters. The truth is, NASA has become skittish, and, as any test pilot will tell you, this means that itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s time to step aside and let somebody else take the wheel.
I do think itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s time to further privatize space exploration if any of our goals are to be met, and on time. The government, and quasi government, has had their shot, so to speak. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s time to give capitalism a chance.
HereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s another incentive for the uber-wealthy with ambitions of heavenly conquest: You get there first, you own it. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll be like a galactic Oklahoma land run. Keeping federal peskiness to a minimum will be key. If the U.S. government of today ran the push west early in American history, Lewis and Clark would still be sitting just outside St. Louis trying to figure out how to keep the wagon wheels from falling off.
Sure, turning loose the private sector on the heavens wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t be without problems. For example, it could be a little awkward walking on the beach with your date, looking up, and saying, Ã¢â‚¬Å“ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a beautiful Trump out this evening,Ã¢â‚¬Â but it would be a small price to pay to finally get the space program headed in the right direction.
ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s good to see some planning to go back to the moon, but if the government is in charge of it all, there will be some serious setbacks in this endeavor; it will take three times longer than it should, and cost four times as much.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Business as usualÃ¢â‚¬Â wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t cut it with a project of this scope, and if we do insist on business as usual, that will be the day that IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll agree that, indeed, the money would be better spent here on earth.
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