American Consequences - August 2020

THE PRIVATE SPACE RACE

Even NASA now admits this is a problem. During its 2020 budget request, Administrator Jim Bridenstine confessed, “We have not been good at maintaining schedule and... at maintaining costs.” Nor is NASA good at innovating. Their technology was so out of date, says Zubrin, that “astronauts brought their laptops with them into space – because shuttle computers were obsolete.” I asked, “When (NASA) saw that the astronauts brought their own computers, why didn’t they upgrade?” The private sector always comes up with ways to do things that politicians cannot imagine. “Because they had an entire philosophy that various components had to be space rated,” he explains. “Space rating was very bureaucratic and costly.” NASA was OK with high costs as long as spaceships were assembled in many congressmen’s districts. “NASA is a very large job program,” says aerospace lawyer James Dunstan. “By spreading its centers across the country, NASA gets more support from more different congressmen.” Congressmen even laugh about it. Randy Weber (R-Texas) joked, “We’ll welcome (NASA) back to Texas to spend lots of money any time.” Private companies do more with less money. One of Musk’s cost-saving innovations is reusable rocket boosters.

For years, NASA dropped its boosters into the ocean. “Why would they throw it away?” I ask Dunstan. “Because that’s the way it’s always been done!” he replies. Twenty years ago, at Lockheed Martin, Zubrin had proposed reusable boosters. His bosses told him: “Cute idea. But if we sell one of these, we’re out of business.” Zubrin explains, “They wanted to keep the cost of space launch high.” Thankfully, now that self-interested entrepreneurs compete, space travel will get cheaper. Musk can’t waste a dollar. SpaceX must compete with Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and others. The private sector always comes up with ways to do things that politicians cannot imagine. Government didn’t invent affordable cars, airplanes, iPhones, etc. It took competing entrepreneurs and pursuing profit to nurture them into the good things we have now. Get rid of government monopolies. For-profit competition brings us the best things in life. © Creators

John Stossel is author of Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media .

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August 2020

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