This begins a series of posts about seeming unrelated issues.
- NASA’s Funding
- Freedom of Conscience
- How The United States Chose To Begin Hostile Action Against Libya
What is the connection? That we will discover in the last post.
I came of age watching man land on the moon. I desperately wanted to see man explore outerspace. I heartily supported NASA. I thrived on science fiction, and I imagined what it would be like if our nation led the way. I joined the Air Force, hoping to be an astronaut. I never became an astronaut, but for four years I worked at Johnson Space Center in Texas. There I became disillusioned.
Although I was desperate to see man explore outerspace, I slowly came to realize that NASA would be of little future use. Politicians had perverted NASA’s funding to their own purposes. Therefore, when I read Space isn’t a job’s program by Rand Simberg, I was sadly sympathetic. He knows all the facts to the contrary. Nonetheless, Simberg retains the futile expectation that Congress can and will fund his dreams of space exploration.
Contemplate the irony. Simberg’s own article demonstrates why Congress will not and cannot accomplish what he wants. Because Congress is accountable to the voters — because congressmen want to get reelected — their funding decisions have almost nothing to do with NASA’s stated mission or his own dreams of space exploration.
Simberg serves as chairman of the Competitive Space Taskforce, an organization with lofty goals. Supposedly, his organization believes in the free market. Yet he expects NASA to “ignite an economic, technological, and innovation renaissance.” NASA? With direction from Congress? When NASA has become a socialist jobs program? Why would anyone expect a socialist jobs program to “ignite an economic, technological, and innovation renaissance”?
When we read what Simberg wrote, why should we expect any such thing? Here are some quotes.
- NASA exists to create new technologies. So what does Congress do?
Last week, the Senate decided to cut almost half-a-billion dollars in funding from NASA’s request for money that would develop technologies needed to make deep-space exploration affordable, while ensuring that janitorial and landscaping services at various NASA centers would survive, thus preserving middle-class jobs.
- When Congress buys new technology, Simberg complains its makes poor engineering choices. To avoid the cancellation of a costly boondoggle, the lost of funds going to their districts, some congressmen connived to keep that boondoggle alive.
Congress responded last fall by passing a NASA authorization bill that demanded NASA build a heavy-lift vehicle with no missions specified or funded, and whose primary requirement was that it utilize “legacy” (i.e., shuttle) components built in those states, and that it work on a “multi-purpose crew vehicle,” which was simply another name to keep the expensive Orion capsule going in Colorado.
Too often what looks like a shortcut sometimes turns out to be anything but shorter. Thus, government funding of space exploration may seem to be the perfect solution, but it is not. Politicians manage government funding, and politicians have their own agenda. Their agenda has little to do with exploring space. The first concern of any politician is to get reelected; that’s their launchpad.
Politicians cannot help themselves. If they want to get reelected, they must spend every cent they control towards that purpose. Hence, even though NASA’s mission is space exploration, too many politicians will consider janitor’s jobs and the money wasted in their state or district of far greater importance.
If Simberg wants an economic, technological, and innovation renaissance, he is going to have to spend his own dime to get it. Even with the help of government, we cannot force other people to pay for the fulfillment of our dreams.
To Be Continued: Part 2, Freedom of Conscience will appear Tuesday.