In their “priceless” advertising campaign, MasterCard offers that playing TPC Sawgrass, going to a baseball game, or buying your son an electric guitar are cherished things. In fact, these things are alleged to be so cherished as to be priceless even though they can, if fact, be charged to your MasterCard.
With that laid down as background in one of your cerebral folds, now segue with me to the topic of outer space and the potential of earth-orbiting objects to collide with one another. It turns out that USSTRATCOM’s Joint Space Operations Center has sent over 400 collision warnings to Russia and China, along with another 250-plus to other USG and commercial entities.
The cost to Russia and China? Approaching or at zero. To the commercial entities? Approaching zero.
So, while there is no free lunch, if it’s free to me, I’ll take it.
The number of maneuvers performed? More than 100.
Value of collisions avoided? Unstated but likely to be significant.
Now ponder this SAT-like question:
Security free-riding is to NATO as _________ is to space situational awareness:
a) The Marshall Plan
b) Global Zero
c) The World
d) Your mother
(Note: correct answer is “c.”)
Space situational awareness: the mission that ate the USAF space budget? As few things are truly priceless, the challenge is to balance cost and risk instead of perpetuating an existent moral hazard.
Solutions might include space-licensing, insurance, escrow tools, or the likes. As these sorts of agreements are long-lead items which would affect legacy (and future) space systems, it isn’t too early to start thinking about how to get off the current “U.S. pays” path.