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.”
Co-blogger Ryan McMaken is quite right to give President Obama credit for cutting the space program.
Sadly, however, it looks like Obama is already backing down on those cuts.
No surprise there. If Obama thinks it’s okay to spend trillions on everything else, how can he justify cutting this? It’s not like budget constraints have meant anything to him otherwise. In Obama’s world, if something is important, then you spend government money on it without regard for the budget (much less the impropriety of spending other people’s money). So when he comes under fire, what can he do? Say that he doesn’t think space travel (or science) is important? Of course not.
Under a new proposed compromise, the government will still build the Orion rocket that it had intended to use for new moon missions — it just won’t send it to the moon. Instead, the Orion will go to the space station and then just sit there in case we ever need it as an “escape pod.” (Really.) That way we can still show our commitment to space and science and stuff, and the military-industrial complex and NASA employees will still get paid.
But what about all the expense? Not to worry. The WSJ informs us that by not scrapping the Orion program, Obama “will help Lockheed and the government avoid significant termination costs associated with shutting the Orion project down.”
Phew! Glad we taxpayers (and especially Lockheed Martin!) will now avoid all those costs of… not spending anymore.
(Cross-posted at LRC.)
Obama has done one decent thing and moved to cut funds to the space program. Neil Armstrong has condemned Obama for it. There are two thoughts that immediately come to me as a result: 1. “So what?” and 2. “Who cares what Neil Armstrong thinks?”
Arguments in favor of the space program are based on two things: sentimentalism and militarism. The militaristic argument is the more sophisticated one. The space program, behind its veneer of civilian purpose, has always been a military program founded to improve rocket technology, and eventually, to provide the United States with military superiority over space itself. The sentimentalism is the rationale that most Americans subscribe to as they get misty eyed over fantasies about “the human spirit” and “destiny” and all those other concepts from Hollywood adventure films.
From a pragmatic point of view, the space program is nothing more than a massive socialist spending program with militaristic intent, but which benefits handsomely from hysterical and maudlin appeals to hope in the government’s ability to accomplish anything provided enough time and taxpayers’ loot. [Keep reading…]