Friday, June 12, 2009

Why NASA is still playing catch-up to Star Trek and China

Thomas P.M. Barnett, writing for Esquire, discusses the private space industry and NASA's future under Obama.
All I can say is, thank God we never created a NASA for airplanes. Otherwise, we'd have to suspend the entire space industry's operations for months on end after every crash, lapsing into periods of official mourning each time some "national hero" was lost in airspace. Forgive me, but compared to all the inglorious ways people die here on earth, there's nothing particularly noble about dying in space — even if nobody can hear you scream.

I know, I know: Space travel is infinitely more difficult and way more expensive than air travel. But you have to admit that, if not for the Cold War and the "race to the moon" and "star wars" and so on, we'd have a far larger and more accessible private-sector space industry than the puny one we've got now. That, and we wouldn't still be dicking around with those disco-age space shuttles.

Think of where we could be now if it wasn't for Washington's bureaucracy and "failure of imagination" strangling opportunities for development of the final frontier. Clearly there's a libertarian/pro-free-enterprise argument to be made here, but I'll trust my readers' intelligence and leave it to you to connect the dots.

Suffice to say that something drastic needs to be done soon to kick-start our space program, before China gets too far ahead for the United States and Europe to catch up. Space is a resource too important to be allowed to be monopolized by any one country.

Further reading:
Andrew Liptak. "Exploration vs. Scientific Modes of Spaceflight." Worlds in a Grain of Sand, June 10, 2009.
Joe Pappalardo. "Private Space to the Government: 'Get out of the way!'" Popular Mechanics, June 4, 2009.
Virgin Galactic, Wikipedia.

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