Science & Technology

To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Since 1972


Rep. Bill Posey (R-Fla.) is pushing a horribly named and poorly conceived bill aimed at securing more funding for NASA, a federal agency whose greatest public relations coup may have been the Phil Spector episode of I Dream Of Jeannie.

Rep. Bill Posey, R-Fla., has introduced H.R. 1641, the "Reasserting American Leadership in Space Act" or the "REAL Space Act". In the vernacular it is being called the "Back to the Moon Bill."…

The key wording of the legislation is a directive to NASA to plan to return to the moon. "The National Aeronautics and Space Administration shall plan to return to the moon by 2022 and develop a sustained human presence on the moon in order to promote exploration, commerce, science and United States preeminence in space as a stepping stone for the future exploration of Mars and other destinations. The budget requests and expenditures of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration shall be consistent with achieving this goal."

More here.

Unsurprisingly, the bill's sponsors all have a constituent base related to NASA ventures. A separate version is wending its way through the Senate, though given President Obama's canceling of the Constellation boondoggle (a rare dollar that the prez declined to borrow), it seems unlikely that successful votes in Congress would lead to Americans on the moon in just a decade.

Or strike that, publicly funded Americans on the moon or elsewhere in outer space. The private space biz seems to be doing just fine, though it's troubling to see how NASA is subsidizing some of it.

Just to get the week started, here's a recent blast from ideological gas giant Michael Lind at Salon, which combines anti-Rand and anti-Heinlein invective, the conflation of government activity with legitimate areas of human flourishing, and an apocalyptic vision of Islamic terrorists dive-bombing from way, way, way up there:

If there is no compelling argument for government-sponsored human spaceflight, there is no convincing rationale for private commercial spaceflight, either. The Robert Heinlein wing of science-fiction fandom has always combined Tea Party-style anti-statism with a love of big rockets. Now that the dead hand of the NASA bureaucracy is out of the way, will visionary billionaires inspired by Ayn Rand inaugurate a new age of commercial space travel for the masses?

Don't count on it. There might be a niche market for a few space-planes or rockets to take bored plutocrats into orbit for a joy ride. But investors would be wiser to invest in private bathyscaphes offering tours of the Mariana Trench. After 9/11, can anyone believe that the world's governments are going to foster a regime of laissez-faire toward private space shuttles that could be hijacked for suicide missions from orbit, or that might disintegrate over several time zones?

More here.