Yesterday, President Bush proposed an extra
$1 billion dollars in spending for NASA over the next five years as part
of his plan to put a permanent base on the moon and land astronauts on
In a speech prepared for delivery Wednesday, Bush is calling for a
lunar base to be established within two decades and a manned landing on
Mars sometime after 2030, an official said.
The proposal comes after members of Congress and others have called for
a new national vision for the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration, urging a human space initiative that would reinvigorate
an agency wounded by last year's loss of space shuttle Columbia and
trapped by expensive projects that limit manned spaceflight to low Earth
Bush, speaking with reporters Tuesday on a trip to Mexico, said his plan
centers on human exploration of space.
"The spirit is going to be one of continued exploration ... seeking new
horizons and investing in a program that ... meets that objective," he
His proposal for $1 billion over five years, in effect, would provide
startup funds for highly complex projects that could take decades and
may require hundreds of billions of additional dollars to complete. [AP]
The space program is funded by tax dollars—the redistribution of wealth
from one person to another. While space research is perhaps the least
offensive recipient of government funding, the fundamental problem
remains: space research has nothing to do with the legitimate function of
government. And while it is often argued that the value of technological
spin-offs justifies government involvement in space, it must not be
forgotten that those spin-offs are the fruit of a poisonous tree.
It’s also interesting that for all the prattling about competition being
so important and antitrust being the Magna Charta of free enterprise, few
take issue with the government’s monopoly in space. What businessman could
hope to compete with the government lifting payloads into space? How high
is the regulatory burden placed on vehicles built and launched by private
enterprise? Where the justice in a tax-fed government agency deciding what
is to be the priority in mankind’s development of space?
But perhaps the cruelest aspect of the government’s involvement in space
is the fate of the scientists and engineers who do produce incredible
technological achievements. The men and women who make spaceflight
possible are heroic. Yet as the Apollo space program showed, when these
engineers and scientists achieve all that is asked of them, they will see
their budgets slashed and their achievements ignored. I say the work of
these heroes ought not to hinge on the political whims of the day.
And today’s space program does look like an exercise in whim worship. What
value comes from re-landing men on the moon, or landing men on Mars, when
robotic probes can more efficiently carry out the mission? Why do we have
a space station that is more a platform for giving idle ex-Soviet space
engineers something to do with themselves than a means for engaging in
groundbreaking scientific research? Freedom in space—freedom from
government funding, control and prioritization—would put the best minds
where they would bring the most value, and not subject these minds to the
misbegotten whims of their political masters.
The pioneering of space is an incredible achievement of mankind and of the
United States in particular. It is said that this renewed interest in
space comes off the heels of the Columbia disaster, and is meant to serve
as a tribute to their memory. Perhaps, but I say the best tribute to the
heroes of space exploration, both living and dead, would be bring to wilds
of space the same level of freedom that once made it possible for men to
settle the wilds of the American continent.
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