NASA-Certified Space Taxi
It sure seems like that’s what NASA is doing. NASA has to do something in order to maintain its relevance as the space age dawns in the era of commercial space flight. NASA is still running scientific-exploratory missions to Mars and elsewhere in the solar system, but even this role will be soon be overtaken by private enterprises like Planetary Resources.
From Space.com comes news that NASA has launched a private space taxi certification program. The program will consist of a two-stage “process aimed at ensuring commercial passenger spaceships currently under development will meet the agency’s safety standards, schedule and mission requirements.” Yay, NASA’s record of safety, timeliness, and priorities with minimal bureaucratic waste leaves me reassured.
Budget cuts no doubt have something to do with the certification program as well. “NASA expects to award multiple firms a Certification Products Contract (CPC), each of which will run for 15 months and be worth up to $10 million.” Restrict competition, rake in the dough, ensure the continuation of your own jobs, and retain control of the space industry — all in the name of safety, science, human progress, and protecting taxpayer “investments.”
As I sat on one of those metal benches, retying my shoes after enduring yet another near-cavity search courtesy the TSA, something both rather obvious and rather sad dawned on me. It is, in fact, the answer to the question that heads this post, and that answer, by the way, is “No.” As a matter of fact, “Hell no.” As I sat there, I contemplated how much more intrusive the searches could get before the public rose up and said, “Enough!” Simultaneously, a conversation I had enjoyed with a fellow traveler as we stood in a very long line at the Monroe County (Rochester) International Airport rolled around in my head.
She had quipped, as we inched closer to our turn in the scanner, “I’m just glad that we haven’t had a bra bomber yet.” We laughed, but it was more out of pain than humor. She and I both knew that we were experiencing a real-life reenactment of the Stanford Prison Experiment, and that things would get worse–likely a lot worse–before they got better. (And that’s making the very large assumption, an assumption I might characterize as a pipe dream, that things will ever get better.)
Kurzweil AI reports on a new possibility for the exciting world of 3D printing: drugs. 3D printing could usher in a wonderful new era of unconstrained creativity, which is why, of course, it will be fought tooth and nail by the IP lobby. Consider the mortal threat to drug patents caused by the ability to print a drug. The furor over home recording equipment would pale in comparison, considering the natural union, in this case, between large pharmaceutical companies and drug warriors.
The other aspects of 3D printing also seem to be headed for a collision course with state intervention. Copyrights and patents will surely impede the abilities of people to print just any old gadget, if that gadget is “protected.” Even if it is not protected by a government monopoly, how about printing guns? Both sides of the aisles would have no problem uniting over this threat to the children. Felons, terrorists, and other such unsavory folk could set up a nice black market for such weapons.
I enjoy reading about the new technology being developed, and I look forward to it being freely available to help improve lives worldwide. But it is fairly clear that in order for that to happen, the unholy alliance of business and state must be taken head on. It is important for the developers and supporters of these technologies to actively oppose the inevitable attempts at limiting them. Intellectual property, being privatized tyranny, is a grave threat to these emerging technologies. For a good example of how bad things can become, just take a look at the privatized tyranny of American cotton and tobacco farming 150 years ago. Don’t say “it can’t happen here.” It already did.