Saturday, November 8, 2008

Space Exploration

Since the lunar landing of Apollo 11 in 1969, taxpayer support for space exploration and development has dwindled. The issue is not the goals of the space program, because most of them are worthwhile and can have a great impact on mankind. The issue is the cost. American taxpayers prefer to have their money spent addressing domestic concerns. Reduction in government funding necessitates finding “a new, more cost effective approach to funding space projects.” (Boenig ¶3) Business has the greatest motivation to create a solution because it stands to make the most profit. Businesses desiring to profit through space projects and programs are the logical candidates to pay for further expansion in space.

There are three ways in which businesses can succeed where governments fall short. First, and most importantly, private businesses would not be dependent on government funding. Entrepreneurs have the innate ability to make decisions faster and create wealth faster than sluggish government bureaucracies. The flights of SpaceShipOne in 2004 demonstrated that space flight can be privately funded and succeed. Competition would create new technologies or improve on old ones, for example, Scaled Composite’s use of laughing gas as an oxidizer and rubber as the fuel for SpaceShipOne. In a presentation at a Scientist’s Hearing on Space Policy in the U.S. Senate in 1990, Carl Sagan stated “that with alternative technologies and more lenient bureaucratic restrictions, quick, dirty, and incredibly cheap missions of humans to the Moon and Mars are possible.” (Sagan ¶17)

Secondly, private businesses would not be hampered by the shifting political support that has plagued NASA since its inception. The restrictions inflicted by politicians wanting to shield themselves from criticism would be removed. Transferring non-military applications from government hands into private hands will “increase the institutional efficiency, minimize delays, and increase the chances of completion. Therefore, a new self-sustaining industry could develop, the revitalized economy could provide jobs, and the space project could escape the possibility of a premature political death.” (Boenig ¶12)

Finally, through business, the future funding of space programs and projects may become a global endeavor that will fairly distribute the financial burden. Pat Dasch, Executive Director of the National Space Society, anticipated in an article written in 2000, that “Future human missions likely will have major commercial components – vehicles owned or managed by private operators and laboratories provided by multinational concerns.” (Dasch ¶13) International cooperation has been successful in the past with scientists on MIR and with Japanese, European, Russian and American space agencies working on the International Space Station. Cooperation will be integral to future successful space endeavors. Carl Sagan admitted that “the only way for the United States to go [to Mars] is to do it cooperatively. Without such cooperation, the program may remain wholly infeasible.”(Sagan ¶18) Mankind will be presented with limitless opportunities for the nations of the world to unite for something other than a war.

The future of space exploration and development is before us. It has been predicted that “in another decade [approximately 2008] the projected commercial launch capability will grow to the point where trips to the Moon can be purchased competitively…even if no publicly-funded, government-managed exploration program is initiated” (Mendell). Businesses and entrepreneurs are lining up to be a part of that future. What do we have to lose by giving them a chance to put their money where their mouth is? (Works cited available on request)

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