Americans Need Space, Break Up With NASA


The White House is nixing Bush's moon shoot and using some of the cash to incentivize private space enterprise companies. Reactions have ranged from "About time!" to "But! No! Super-expensive space shuttles are awesome! Also, America! And maybe national security!"

Savvy nerdonaut Rand Simberg applauds the decision, and chastises conservatives for their negative response to what is essentially a privatization of the space program:

If the choice is between having no space program at all, and the current one, perhaps the latter is preferable. But if the choice is spending the taxpayers' money to create wealth and new industries while actually accomplishing things in space and perhaps finally opening it up for the rest of us, versus a wasteful jobs program for Marshall Spaceflight Center, I know which I'd prefer. The new administration plans will take us much more in that direction, and on the rare occasion that it gets something right, true conservatives should be applauding it, rather than recycling hoary tropes about "staying close to home," and "going nowhere." Sadly, it was the misbegotten policy of the previous administration that was doing that. At least in this area, it's change I can believe in.

Via Eric Jon Magnuson


NEXT: From a Nudge to a Shove? Will Behavioral Economics Become a New Form of Coercion?

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  1. I can’t believe those “small-government conservatives” in the Bush White House didn’t think of this.

    1. Not the Bush “While” House?

  2. So bizarre. Up is down, black is white, left is right.

    Yes, I did that on purpose.

    But woohoo, let’s privatize this nonsense and get down to business.

  3. Manned space flight has been a hopeless muddle since Apollo ended. The Constellation program seemed like nothing more than than Apollo redux. Maybe, like the defunct Hummer brand, we can sell Constellation off to the Chinese…

    1. I don’t think you understood Constellation. Although it used an Apollo style capsule, it was a completely different beast. In essence, the VSE created an orbital infrastructure (Ares 1, Ares V, Orion) that could be combined in a variety of ways depending on mission. Much more flexible than Apollo, or the Shuttle for that matter.

  4. Atmosphere. The final frontier.

    1. Sounds like a scam to me.

      1. Boldly to split infinitives like no man has split infinitives before…

        1. A Hit&Run; pop culture reference I actually know!

  5. Either the private sector is going to do space or it won’t get done. People are not going to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on projects that don’t turn a profit. And no one is going to live in space or on the moon until they can figure out a way to make a living there.

    1. Either the private sector is going to do space or it won’t get done

      If by “it” you mean going somewhere other than low earth orbit or worse, suborbital joyrides, then the private sector cannot and will not lay out the billions if not trillions in capital required for meaningful space travel. That’s something only governments have the wherewithal to do, and most of them are broke. Besides, they’d rather spend the money they don’t have on social programs here on terra firma.

      1. The question is why won’t private sector companies spend the billions. They won’t because there is no money to be made in it. And if there is no money to be made in it, why should governments do it either?

        I love the idea of space travel. I also think moving into space is the only long term way we can have extended lifespans. But you can’t get around the fact that you as a human being have to produce at least as much as you consume (generally in the aggregate). If people living on Mars or in orbit can’t produce anything of value why send them there?

        1. why won’t private sector companies spend the billions

          A few are spending it. And they hope to make a profit, but by taking passengers on suborbital trips, not exploration and colonization of other worlds.

          1. Colonizing otehr worlds is centuries away. People compare it to the colonizing of the Americas but the Americas were at least habitable. If Mars was full of virgin forrests, we would already be there. But since it is an airless desert with if we are lucky some water buried under the surface, living there is a real problem.

            1. Colonizing other worlds is centuries away

              Our descendants will have to have a pretty good reason for doing it. At present, no credit-worthy plan exists, nor is there a compelling case for it. Robotics and probes go there fairly cheaply and do it well.

            2. Once they turn on that ancient alien machine lying dormant under the surface, it will generate an atmosphere and Mars will become habitable by humans.

              So get your ass to Mars.

              1. Over my dead body!

        2. If people living on Mars or in orbit can’t produce anything of value why send them there?

          Because it’s there!

        3. Just out of curiosity – do you suppose that with the profits from tourism, the Egyptians have broken even on the pyramids yet?

          1. The paramids were built for religous reasons. I suppose that if an entire nation decided colonizing other worlds were a religous necessity, we would probably do it.

            1. Religion and politics were one at that point. I don’t think that the Apollo program was all that different.

            2. Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na Leader! Leader!

          2. They broke even years ago. Slave labor is cheap.

            1. The paramids were not built by slaves.

              1. Are you saying Moses lied?

                1. The Paramids were built 1100 or more years before Moses lived. And it doesn’t say anything in Gensis about Jews building paramids. So, I am not saying Moses lied. But Cecil B. De Mil did.

                  1. No shit, Sherlock.

              2. That is correct, though what constituted the “free” population of Egypt likely resembled slaves more than they resembled us.

                1. You know, they didn’t have technology back then. They had this great fertile valley that produced way more food than they needed. So, they had all these extra resources and a lot of time but gadgets to spend it on. So, they all got together and built huge monuments. Not really my taste, but I can understand why in their circumstances they would.

                  1. They are easier to find than flush mounted control monuments from the ’60s in the middle of a forest.

                  2. They also had large surpluses of gold, which they used to great effect politically. I imagine it could have come in handy trying to convince Atep to push a little harder on that massive stone block, too.

            2. Pyramid building requires great expenditure of man hours. The 20-30,000 men needed need to eat, be sheltered and clothed, cared for to some extent. Either they were slaves who had to be guarded by someone or paid labor who had to be incentivized, but I wouldn’t call it a cheap process. Still, they probably have broken even by now.

              1. The pyramids were build by union labor with generous health and retirement benefits, which explains Egypt’s subsequent bankruptcy.

                1. Maybe the break even point is when the whole fucking government is written off.

                2. Actually, I saw a documentary (probably PBS) that suggested that the laborers were part of a pretty priviliged guild with an hierarchical organization not unlike a trade union.

                  And yes, they got healthcare too. Or, at least, that’s what the archeologist determined from skeletons with cleanly set bone fractures etc.

              2. It was like volunteering for national service. They did the building when the Nile flooded. So no one had anything to do for a few months of the year. So, they all showed up and built the paramids a few months a year. The government supplied the food and water. Think of it as Egyptian WPA.

              3. The notion that a culture that had slaves in almost every menial labor slot didn’t use slaves in the brute force labor involved in building the pyramids is just fanciful. Were the stone masons and artists paid? Sure. But I doubt the poor schmucks hauling the stones up those ramps sure weren’t. Or at least not in any way we’d call free enterprise.

                1. Ignore my perfected socialist grammar. Typing is hard.

                  1. Stay strong, comrade! Soon the workers will rise and snap the bonds of grammatical oppression!

                    1. The streets and rivers will flow black from the ink and pixels we will spill, comrade.

                      It will make the Boston Molasses Disaster look like a mere tragedy!

                    2. After the shackles of grammar are cast off, then we shall gnaw off our limbs from the trap that is spelling!

                    3. Writers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your participles!

          3. Please, the Egyptians didn’t build the pyramids…..Everyone knows it was aliens.

      2. SpaceX is doing quite a bit of it without spending billions and trillions. Does access to space have to cost ridiculous amounts of money? I bet it doesn’t.

    2. People will pay to visit. People don’t want to pay government employees to live there.

  6. I prefer the “no government space program at all” option.

    In terms of what the space program has done for weather forecasting alone, the entire NASA budget has been covered many times over. But I see no reason why taxpayers should help the “Bill Gates of space travel” – whoever that turns out to be – to make his billions. Someone is going to make big money in space. If they want the profits, they can put their own money into it.

  7. Don’t pat Barry on the back yet, he is probably just trying to find some money in the budget to fund some program he approves of and try to look responsible also.

    1. I saw that linked yesterday on The Agitator.

      Most excellent mockery.

  8. Sounds like Obama went along with elements of Augustine, probably more for the immediate cost savings than for any political reason. Shave the budget and look like you’re helping rather than hindering manned space exploration.

    I’m with Rand. There’s plenty of pressure to keep the U.S. relevant in manned spaceflight, so if the government is publicly taking the position that it wants to rely on the private sector to really open things up, lovely. Still, the government will have to deregulate or make exceptions in a number of areas for this to work–some of the FAA safety regs along with ITAR will need to change.

    I don’t think Rand is properly characterized as a “nerdonaut”, by the way. He’s in the business (aerospace engineer/space consultant).

  9. James Cameron proved that Corporations in space mean alien monsters hugging our faces and blue people getting their trees cut down.
    Liberals should oppose this.

    1. Look, this installation has a significant dollar value attached to it.

      1. Earth people suck.

  10. Wait. This came from the Obama administration?

    “IT’S A TRAP!”

    1. Bolded clich?s are my domain JW.

      BACK OFF!!!

      1. SORRY, MY BAD!

    2. JW, I hope in my heart of hearts that you look like a certain Space-Fish-Man. I’d even call you Admiral. Admiral JW Fishster.

  11. Is Reason advocating the raping of Pandora? You bastards!

  12. Who will be first to colonize the Moon? Space porn companies, that’s who.

    1. That’s where they’ll shoot Not Space:1999 They want authentic low-grav boobies.

      1. You’re close to the third major business–extending youthful looks by living in low or zero gravity environments. I expect Hollywood to relocate to Luna as soon as transportation costs get down sufficiently. Naturally, they’ll need to terraform the Moon in order to do location shooting, unless CGI gets good enough to avoid such necessities.

      2. The first to conquer anti-gravity will be the brassiere industry.
        Hell, Victoria’s Secret is almost there.

    2. Obviously the pot growers will go there first.

    3. All they need to do is get one couple there, shoot one scene, and the market for low gravity porn will explode, figuratively speaking.

      1. I have a physics question: What’s the largest body in the solar system where the speed of male ejaculation exceeds escape velocity? For it is on that world where a new age of porn will be born.

          1. Tim,

            You clearly are not a physicist but a twit. I mean, a wit.

            1. Okay, here’s a benchmark: The escape velocity from the Martian moon, Phobos, is 40 km/hour (24.9 mph).

              I’m sure the Intertubials has the average speed of male ejaculate somewhere, but I’m not willing to search for it from work.

              Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

            2. With an ejaculate speed of 25-70 miles per hour, it would have to be a fairly small asteroid.

              1. I couldn’t find out if it escapes the penis at the same speed it travels the urethra.

                1. I would have bet the entire solar system that SF would be the first to respond

                  Words, they escape me.

                  1. Better yet, I was already looking it up before he asked. We posted at the same time.

                    There is but a thin membrane separating us all, and sex trivia is very pointed indeed.

                  2. Indeed. But I have good news! While Phobos looks to be okay except for the lowest speeds (according to SF’s calculations), Deimos is good even for those not blessed with powerful ejaculators. Its escape velocity is a mere 20 km/h (12.4 mph).

                    Clearly, the porn industry will get us to the moons of Mars, providing adequate spin-offs to allow for the colonization of Mars, a planet largely worthless to the solar porners.

                    1. Newton’s law requires that every action has an equal and opposite reaction: thus your porn scheme would eventually cause Phobos to lose velocity and crash into mars.

                    2. Don’t be silly. To avoid that occurrence, the wisdom that is the space porn industry will, of course, make sure that equal and opposite ejaculations will preserve the moon’s orbital position.

                    3. equal and opposite ejaculations


                    4. Isn’t Phobos that one that’s supposed to be hollow?

                    5. Supposed by whom?

                    6. Russian astrophysicist Iosif Samuilovich Shklovsky. Sagan co-authored a book with him.

                      It’s been disproved… or, at least, that’s what they want you to think.

                    7. Russian astrophysicist Iosif Samuilovich Shklovsky. Sagan co-authored a book with him.

                      It’s been disproved… or, at least, that’s what they want you to think.

                    8. Stupid blog software.

                    9. I hate hollow moons.

                    10. Wasn’t that an Echo and the Bunnymen song?

                    11. “The Killing Moon”

                      Under blue moon I saw you
                      So soon you’ll take me
                      Up in your arms, too late to beg you
                      Or cancel it, though I know it must be
                      The killing time
                      Unwillingly mine

                      Up against your will
                      Through the thick and thin
                      He will wait until
                      You give yourself to him

                      In starlit nights I saw you
                      So cruelly you kissed me
                      Your lips a magic world
                      Your sky all hung with jewels
                      The killing moon
                      Will come too soon

                      Up against your will
                      Through the thick and thin
                      He will wait until
                      You give yourself to him

                      Under blue moon I saw you
                      So soon you’ll take me
                      Up in your arms, too late to beg you
                      or cancel it though I know it must be
                      The killing time
                      Unwillingly mine

                      Up against your will
                      Through the thick and thin
                      He will wait until
                      You give yourself to him

                      Up against your will
                      Through the thick and thin
                      He will wait until
                      You give yourself to him
                      You give yourself to him

                      La la la la la…

                      Up against your will
                      Through the thick and thin
                      He will wait until
                      You give yourself to him
                      You give yourself to him

                      La la la la la…

                      Up against your will
                      Through the thick and thin
                      He will wait until
                      You give your…self to him

                      Up against your will
                      Through the thick and thin
                      He will wait until
                      You give yourself to him

                      La la la la la…

                    12. Well, Peter North can already do this on Earth, so your question is moot.

                    13. One thing to beware of: on these moons, there is a risk that even too vigorous thrusting could result in liftoff of the female partner, depending on position.

                    14. Feature, not a bug. Really, do you think the pornographic braintrust hasn’t thought this all out?

                2. If it travels too fast it’s rape, right SF?

                  1. No, but at the very least it could be considered an assault upon the cervix. Whether the cervix has standing to bring charges is murky from a legal standpoint.

                    1. This comes staggeringly close to Niven’s “Man of Steel, Woman of Kleenex“, except that, of course, Superman is fictional.

  13. Privatization is all good until you get an overbearing regulatory agency strangling it in its crib.

    1. The real test of this new approach will be whether the administration helps or hinders in the necessary deregulation. I have a prediction about which way that will go.

    2. Space flight is dangerous. Too dangerous for our wussified age of Obama. The first time someone gets killed in a private craft, that will be the end of that.

    3. Maybe the Tea Party can get organized, and send a flight in search of Russell’s Teapot.

    4. This is probably already having an affect on investment- the possibility that meddling will pretty much undo whatever progress is made, or that the government will take over whatever the private sector claims.

      Its the same reason private funded research has been dwindling while government funded NSF shit keeps increasing.

  14. Unless there are vast quantities of vibraniun, adamantium and unobtainium on Mars,* there is no fucking reason whatsoever to send people there. Manned space exploration in the present and for the foreseeable future is nothing but a boondoggle.

    As for unmanned probes**, privatize NASA and let them compete with Martin Marietta, the ESA, and Russia.

    * Hell, this also applies to the Moon which is a mere hop compared to interplanetary travel.

    ** I can make a strong libertarian case case that outside of defense purposes, the government should get the hell out of the scientific research biz.

    1. I don’t agree with “boondoggle” unless you mean the government shouldn’t be doing it. In its hands, it is a boondoggle. But it need not be.

    2. The primary problem with your approach is that you assume that there are no valuable resources on either Mars OR the moon. Since the government is the sole keeper of data, if there was Gold, Uranium, Rhubidium, etc. in any of those bodies would they tell us about it?

      Just Sayin’

      1. The primary problem with your approach is that you assume that there are no valuable resources on either Mars OR the moon. Since the government is the sole keeper of data, if there was Gold, Uranium, Rhubidium, etc. in any of those bodies would they tell us about it?

        If the moon were made entirely from gold,rubidium, and uranium it would still make no economic sense to go get it.

        1. Not at government rates, no.

          1. Not at government rates, no.
            Not at the cost of fuel to retrieve it.

            1. Very well. No space porn for you!

            2. Give Pro Lib a chance, hes right.

              IF we had a space elevator or some other low VC way of getting into orbit, there would be MUCH less expense getting shit from space. Obviously thats a HUGE ‘if’, but its not impossible.

              1. Exactly. Porn is a trillion dollar industry. I bet they’ll have no trouble building a space elevator.

            3. If you have a self-sustainable base there.. sending the unobtainium back to Earth is cheap… after all it’s DOWN.

              Obviously that doesn’t mean you need many humans… RC robots are easier to maintain/need no atmosphere…

  15. Government shouldn’t be subsidizing private space exploration, either.

  16. A lot of privatization is really just the government contracting out activities that it has concluded are necessary or desirable.

    There’s no real privatization unless transaction are between the consumer and producer with no external interference or subsidies.

  17. You will know that private space travel has succeeded when Obama attacks it and demands new taxes.

  18. Well, using lunar-produced solar power might be the best chance we have to stop using fossil fuels and to raise the third world into modern standards of living, so there’s profit to be made there.

    1. I was just about to say, the most likely profit to be made from leaving this planet is by returning energy to it.

    2. It’ll take a hell of a long extension cord.

      1. Hmm, where can we find a reflective surface that beams light to earth at night?

        Targeted amplification.

          1. But powering a large laser with energy gathered over a large area wouldn’t be.

            1. Thank you, “Dr. Evil”!

    3. The second most likely industry will be sending politicians out of the planet permanently.

      Expulsion = teh profits!

    4. Eh. Your Lunar collector spends half its time in the dark, and your power beaming has to stay collimated over 240,000 miles.

      Earth-orbit satellites can manage an average in excess of 23 hours a day in sunlight, and will have far less distance-related dissipation of collimation.

      1. It would be easier to launch such satellites from the Moon.

    5. Space based solar power is a joke. Look at the Space station, It took forever to build, is still not complete, will never be as big as intended, may not be able to even survive the end of the shuttle program which it need to make the constant repairs on it that it needs. Any usefully solar power station would dwarf the space station and would have to get along without constant maned visits to repair it. If private industry did it it would be a lot cheaper to build but I doubt if it could be economically viable without some major tech breakthroughs.

      1. bunkerbill, there is a bit of a non-sequitur in your argument. Yes, the ISS is a bloated, but a large part of that is because it was designed by Gov’t space programs to host PEOPLE. Satellites actually need very little maintenance, and its increasingly likely that such maintenance will be done remotely with robotics.

  19. Over/Under on Chrysler getting into the space business?

    1. Nope.

      It will be Boeing, McDonnell-Douglas, Morton-Thiokil and other ‘private’ companies already on the government tit.

  20. Morton-Thiokil

    Jeepers; you kill one lousy schoolteacher, and you’re branded for life.

  21. Since there’s no chance that I’ll get to keep the money, I’d rather the government blow it on cool, unnecessary spaceship boondoggles then sucky, counterproductive social service boondoggles.


    UN climate change panel based claims on student dissertation and magazine article

    Be nice if someone in the US would ever cover this.

    1. in the US.

      I suspect the folks here at Reason were taking this news as a given.

  23. First off, can somebody explain to me about how a bunch of welfare queen contractors taking taxpayer dollars (at gunpoint, the threat of which is behind all tax collections) at guaranteed rates, irrespective of success, and completely not beholden to market forces whatsoever….is the “free market”? What the hell is free market of government contractors? By definition, they’re the antithesis of market competitors.

    Secondly, if the goal of NASA is pure research and exploration, then how why the hell would any business be interested in that? That is almost manifestly a public endeavor.

    Thirdly, the CBC article notes, “NASA would then be a guaranteed customer for the private space companies through 2020.” The ISS is, by virtually every objective opinion I’ve ever heard, a tired and now largely pointless project. So can we assume that, like the objective-free wars/slaughters in the Middle East that this whole privatization of space research and exploration is another excuse for welfare queen contractors to indefinitely keep sucking money from real free market producers in projects that will never end because there’s no goal?

    Fifthly….does anybody know how to cut-and-paste from webpages like that CBC article that now have some sort of block that causes you to just copy their URL?

    1. I assume they were thinking more along the lines of SpaceX, Scaled, Bigelow Aerospace, etc. The big aerospace companies aren’t very private when it comes to spaceflight.

      1. Big aerospace companies aren’t very private….period, I don’t think. But I don’t know exactly how that answers my point about how this blog post has nothing whatsoever to do with libertarianism.

        Libertarianism is the Astronaut Farmer or the Ansari X program. (If true libertarians – rather than the phonies involved with this blog post – want to see a hilarious mocking of truly independent private aeronautics just trouncing the hell out of welfare queen military contractors, I refer you to Ansari X winner Burt Rutan’s speeches.)

        1. My money is on SpaceX getting men into orbit first (for the private sector). It”l likely do some NASA contracts, too, but if the U.S. government is merely one of a number of customers, that might not be so bad from the libertarian point of view.

          I wonder what the military thinks of all of this?

        2. Was the operation in AVATAR Libertarian?

          1. AVATAR has great special effects and good action sequences.

            The rest SUCKS.

            1. What most people don’t realize is that Cameron actually filmed the thing in Upper Volta and had an entire tribe of pigmies spray painted blue by crop duster. Then he brought in Blackwater Corp to gun them down with Cobra helicopters.

            2. Thank you for your opinion on a movie.

              As long as we’re declaring our opinions, I think that Excalibur is awesome.

              Where does that get us?

              1. To agreement! I like Excalibur, too.

                1. Anil nathrach, ortha bhis bheatha, do thuar dh?anamh!

                  1. Hey, don’t say that too much, or you’ll lose your girlish good looks.

                    1. “Look into The Eyes of the Dragon AND DESPAIR!”

          2. Hey, after reading the writer of this blog post celebrate government contractors….I’m not sure I even know what “libertarian” even means anymore!

            But, in Avatar, the RDA is a consortium of companies that are granted a monopoly on space travel and the resources derived therein. So….no. (Unless these bizarre new libertarians now decree that government-mandated monopolies are now “libertarian”!)

            1. I think that a company/consortium that was granted a monopoly on the exploitation of space would be just as successful as the South Sea Company:


              [I can’t get hyperlinks to work since the switch to threaded comments.]

            2. Hey, after reading the writer of this blog post celebrate government contractors….I’m not sure I even know what “libertarian” even means anymore!

              Drugs. Diversity. Sodomy.
              Vote Libertarian!

              1. I think that most sincere libertarians would say that your drugs are your business, your butt is your business, and your crowd is your business.

                As to why some dude would be so fixated on other dude’s butts….I could only speculate. So I won’t.

    2. Point one: Agreed. Corporate welfare bums are worse than the welfare bums on the street.

      Point two: A great deal of ‘pure research’ was funded by private individuals and corporations in the past. This was partly for corporate PR and private egotism. They also found that there was this surprising tendency for ‘pure researchers’ to turn up very profitable ideas. One the whole, they tended to do it on much smaller budgets than government programs.

      Third point: Shut the ISS down. As you say it is pointless. There is no reason to keep shovelling money to big corporations.

      Fifth point (what happened to four? is it classified?). You’re on your own. The CBC isn’t market driven.

      1. What? Are you crazy? Russian porn companies are taking over the ISS in 2020. Zeroish gravity, man!

      2. Re: Private people doing pure research (space or elsewhere):

        Of course it exists and has always existed. (Although, it’s my understanding that much of the ‘pure research’ traditionally handled by universities is now still actually being done by them, but then a company will finance 10% of the research (taxpayers the remaining 90%) and keep 100% of the results proprietarily. But I guess that’s another matter.) Personally, of course, I think that independent research and exploration is absolutely wonderful. The Ansari X prize is an example of this and I’m sure that there are many more examples.

        I’m just saying that, by and large, space research is so costly and so rampantly speculative that it’s just silly to expect there to be any natural business interest in it.

        But I think the main point of my first post was a big, fat WTF? to the “libertarian” celebration of this, and it’s good to see that we agree on that.

        1. LEO launch companies could probably turn a profit right now.

          As I said upthread, the improvements to weather forecasting alone have paid for all of NASA many times over. There is a natural market for the information they provide – insurers, farmers, airlines, shipping companys – who would gladly pay for the information if it were not being provided to them as a “free” government service already.

          Throw in communications satellites, GPS, earth surveys, resource exploration and you already have enough customers for a profitable space launch company.

          I suspect that we have only scratched the surface (or to use Sagan’s metaphor, ‘dipped our toes in the ocean of space’) in terms of what profitable enterprises can be carried out in space.

          As for the “large amounts of speculative capital” objection: Deep drilling platforms cost around $1 billion a pop. That looks like a pretty big chunk of capital to me.

          1. Great! Terrific!

            I’m in agreement with you: explore, research, capitalize, compete, open, innovate, etc., etc., etc.

            So….why do the companies need to steal taxpayer money (at gunpoint, as always) to do this if it’s so lucrative? And why is a libertarian website celebrating free market-free government contractors?

            1. Er, source of this item) is hardly a libertarian site.
              Maybe that would be easier to see painted blue in 3-D.

            2. Can’t speak for KMW or Reason, but where in my posts have I advocated giving taxpayer money to corporations?

              1. Citizen Nothing:

                I have no idea about the identity politics of National Review, and I really don’t care. I have no idea what relevance the political identity of some magazine has to this discussion.


                I don’t know that you ever did advocate for government contractors. Maybe our wires got crossed because I responded to your remarks about the commercial prospects of space travel with a comment saying that that disproves the need for publicly financing it.

                But I have no intention of applying labels to total strangers at an internet message board.

                1. Aw, shucks.

                  It’s been so long since I’ve had a good flamewar.

                  1. So, what happens to that robotic arm that your people gave us? Do you get it back?

  24. If Obama really wants to cut some unnecessary spending, how about getting the US the fuck out of Iraq? I saw a statistic published recently that claimed the US is spending, in inflation adjust dollars, the cost of the entire Apollo program roughly every 1.5 years in Iraq. That is pretty staggering.

    1. I have a cunning plan: Convince the CIA that there are weapons of mass destruction on the Moon and on Mars.

      1. That’s easy.

        Just don’t tell them that Edgar Rice Burroughs and H.G. Wells wrote fiction.

        1. Yes, that’ll save us the trouble of making anything up. We should have a couple of hundred thousand soldiers in space within a couple of years. At a cost of a few trillion, but hey, it’s all just electrons, anyway.

          1. “We must oppose the Lotharian threat. The Green and Red Martians will greet us a liberators. We will make our base in Helium and travel by airship to Ptarth. Our Earthian strength will give us the advantage.”

    2. Nixon knew that the time for retreat is in the second term.
      Obama knows that as well.

      1. Nixon didn’t derive anywhere near the level of support from anti-war constituents that Obama did, and he certainly didn’t need them to win a second term. If the US is still in Iraq in large numbers in 2012 there won’t be a second term for Obama; there might not even be a second nomination. At least there shouldn’t be if those who saw Obama as the candidate to get us out of Iraq have even a shred of principle and integrity.

        1. At least there shouldn’t be if those who saw Obama as the candidate to get us out of Iraq have even a shred of principle and integrity.

          That’s a helluva big “if” ya got there, sonny!

  25. The reason this is happening is clearly because the “space industry” is a Republican constituency, and thus ripe for the cutting in a Democrat-dominated government.

    However, that doesn’t make it a bad idea.
    I think things are almost at the point that private industry could privately finance a robotic mission to mars purely for the public relations benefit.

    Pathfinder was done for something like $200 million as I recall. I can totally see Microsoft financing a rover mission and calling it the “Microsoft Mars Exploration Rover” or something, just because having their name on a robot on Mars would be awesome publicity.

    1. Awesome, unless somebody forgets to convert feet into meters while programming the retro rockets.

      1. Hey now!

    2. Apollo II: This Time It’s the Real Thing. Sponsored by Coca-Cola.

      1. APPLE i-Rover.

  26. Are you ready for spacecraft that look like NASCAR vehicles?

    1. I’m not only ready, I demand it!

      I just realized that I did the Coke and the Moon thing last week: “Apollo 11–brought to you by Coca-Cola. Drink refreshing Coke. . .on the Moon! That’s one small sip for a man, one giant gulp for mankind.”

      1. 7-11 might kick-in for you to change that to “one DOUBLE GULP(tm) for mankind”

  27. Imagine the free market magic if the two mars rovers, instead of “Spirit” and “Opportunity” were knowns as “Bud” and “Bud Lite”…

    1. You laugh, but Budweiser probably spends more money on SuperBowl commercials than it cost to put together SpaceShip One … I could look that up, but I’m feeling too lazy from all the beer I’ve been drinking.

      Anyway, Honda spend millions of dollars building a humanoid robot called ASIMO just so they could say they could, so I see no reason why some similarly enterprising US company (clearly not one our automakers, however), would think it a bad idea to plaster the competition with a bad-ass demonstration of their engineering skills.

      Anyway, GM just swallowed $45 billion in government funding and spent it on union paychecks, which is several times the entire annual budget of NASA, and more than it would have cost to put people on the moon again.

    2. Don’t forget the hastily put together Bud Dry rover that never made it Mars.

  28. I wonder if we’ve not been visited by wide scale intelligent life because they can’t get here any more easily than we can get there, or because they don’t need an iPhone.

    1. Or maybe they are intelligent life forms and want nothing to do with us.

  29. How are government subsidies of commercial spaceflight a ‘privatization?’

    1. Mo’ better private.

  30. The reason this is happening is clearly because the “space industry” is a Republican constituency, and thus ripe for the cutting in a Democrat-dominated government.

    I find it unlikely that a workforce as heavily unionized as the “space industry’s” would be a Republican constituency.

    Seeing this from Central Florida were I can practically see launches from my backyard, I can tell you that this is a bipartisan issue.

    The shuttle shutdown could result in somewhere around 17000 lost jobs, 7000 at the Cape itself and the rest in support and dependent functions.

    And that’s just Brevard County, Florida. It says nothing about the affect in Utah, Texas and Alabama and other NASA-contractor heavy spots.

    You’d better believe that Senator Bill Nelson (D) and the local Representative (whose name escapes me but is also a D) are all over this.

  31. Astronaut Senator Bill Nelson.

  32. I find it unlikely that a workforce as heavily unionized as the “space industry’s” would be a Republican constituency.

    I didn’t find it heavily unionized when I was working on the ISS program at Johnson Space Center. Maybe the janitors and such – it’s a government contract, so, public service employees unions, etc. But it’s largely subcontracted out to Lockheed Martin, Boeing and other large defense contractors.

    In some ways, the space thing is just a way to funnel money to the “military industrial complex” when there are no wars going on.

    It’s true that there are lots of Democrats who are hawks and defense industry stalwarts, but the defense industry is generally thought of as a Republican client. (Halliburton, KBR, etc., etc.)

    Although, yes, it’s often used as a big jobs program. So it’s hardly a small-government Republican kind of thing. It’s a big-military Republican style thing, and that meshes well with the Democratic pork thing, at least for D’s that are at least slightly hawkish.

    However, at the moment the D’s would rather blow the pork wad on “green energy”, so we can spend hordes of cash on economically unviable windmill technology, instead of on economically unviable spacecraft technology.

  33. Awesome, unless somebody forgets to convert feet into meters while programming the retro rockets.

    On the other hand. If Microsoft can fly a probe to Mars running a Windows operating system that doesn’t crash once one the entire journey, they might put a big dent in Apple’s market share.

    1. Apple has a share of the computer market?

      1. OK, fine. If Apple can fly a computer to Mars running OS X they might put a dent in Microsoft’s market share.

        Macs vs. PCs! In SPACE!

  34. Already, President Obama’s call to privatize NASA research and development saves taxpayers millions.

  35. The problem with space is the cost to get there–and that is largely the result of low rocket exhaust velocity which requires that the rockets be mostly fuel. Few years ago I scoped out a power satellite program. Done with conventional rockets, something twice the size of a Saturn 5 would be taking off every hour.

    You need to boost the exhaust velocity from LOX hydrogen at about 4.5 km/sec to around 8 to get 1/6th of the liftoff mass to LEO. Air breathing to 28 km and laser heated hydrogen above that looks like it could do the job, but only at around a million tons per year.

    But that’s what a serious space based solar power project would need.

    Keith Henson

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