When the president, in a rare fit of fiscal sanity, proposed cutting back on NASA, the subsidized sector of the high tech industry — the military-industrial complex — felt a shiver.
The first, I hope, of many.
NASA has long had a special, high-toned place in that hierarchy of government-funded industries. It’s the civilian wing of the military’s industrial juggernaut. As if to prove that government can accomplish things, NASA actually landed men on the moon. And it kept an ungainly shuttle program going long after its rightful expiration date.
But it’s time for private enterprise to take over in the space industry.
Still, questions remain — at least in the public mind. As a fascinating MSNBC article put it, “Can private companies build and operate space vehicles safe enough to carry astronauts?” The article’s author, James Oberg, focuses on the emerging market of space taxis, but does ponder the possibility of putting real astronauts out in space, privately. He consulted skeptical NASA engineers, who wondered how unsubsidized, for-profit businesses could mimic NASA’s record.
Where’s their collective experience?
Answer: Let most of NASA go, and that experience would be up for hire.
Our hopes for the future conquest of space depend, in part, on ceasing to subsidize it. Congress and the president should embrace that future, and realize that it is time to relinquish their control over another whole industry.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.