James Bacchus, writing at the The Hill’s Congress Blog (where we’re told “lawmakers come to blog”) asserts that American competitiveness in space will be improved by having more taxpayer funded space programs (or perhaps better said, by sustaining space make-work programs).
First consider the location and context of this argument: it is made in The Hill’s Congress blog. That suggests the audience is…Congress. In the olden days, John Dillinger used to rob banks “Because that’s where the money is.” Now the focus is on Congress and places where (former) Congressmen sometimes come to blog.
But the argument Bacchus puts up, that taxpayers need to fund more NASA in order to keep more NASA, is one of circular non-logic, full of assertions and void of argument. The culmination is this:
As we see it, the space shuttle Discovery was rightly named. If America stands for anything, it stands for discovery. Our historic task as Americans is to discover more. It is to use our freedom to extend as far as we can the ultimate reach of human experience, knowledge, and understanding. To fulfill this task, we must reach for the stars.
“Our historic task as Americans is to discover more”? “It is to use our freedom to extend as far as we can the ultimate reach of human experience, knowledge, and understanding”? Please. The writer for philosopher Casey Kasem advised with just as much conviction (and probably more wisdom) that we should instead “keep our feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.”
The United States needs capability from space and that capability is always information: communications, signals, images, relays, and the likes. Is a robust space industrial base desirable? Yes. Is it required from a national security point of view? Yes. Does it need to be led by government? No.
Commercial space is the way of the future and most clearly so for manned space flight.
Government has shown it’s not good at this sort of leadership. Let’s give commercial space a chance to succeed and give government a chance to follow (or at least get out of the way).