playing politics with the future of space travel

The left seems to believe that private space companies will be fine with sacrificing their customers for profit.
inflatable space station
Illustration by MondoWorks

Few things can make people go as full mental jacket as they can when politics is involved. Since politics tend to work on rumors, half-truths, soundbytes, and knee-jerk partisan reactions to just about every topic on which one can even claim to have an opinion, those who make a living dissecting current events can end up with an irrelevant partisan low blow tacked on to the end of a perfectly normal news story. Just take this quote from a short snippet about private space companies from TruthDig and feel free to facepalm away…

The vision is President Barack Obama’s: Let private entrepreneurs take over the space race from bloated NASA. But someone needs to build the rockets and space hotels to make it work. Robert T. Bigelow, of Bigelow Aerospace and the Budget motel chain, believes he can build the space stations, and others will be able to fly paying customers, including NASA astronauts, into orbit — all for less money than NASA and other government space agencies currently pay to transport and host spacemen and spacewomen.

Truthdig is not entirely convinced this is such a good idea. In a year of oil spills, runaway Toyotas and toxic happy meals, we’re not so sure about turning over exploration of the final frontier — and transportation of our astronauts — to private profiteers.

So because a few big name corporations made mistakes like all humans do, all companies are evil and we can’t possibly allow those greedy capitalists to get their mitts on space travel? Yeah, that’s a perfectly rational and valid stance. By this logic, people shouldn’t be allowed to drive cars because accidents happen on a daily basis across the nation’s highways. Get a big group of people together and they will take shortcuts, set up an enormous and unwieldy bureaucracy, and whenever something bubbles to the top, those who actually have to answer for the mistakes will try their hardest to cover their rear ends and save their jobs. TruthDig’s standards would actually eliminate NASA from having anything to do with spaceflight if we consider Apollo 1, Challenger, Columbia, and Apollo 13, and dictate that every airline should be permanently grounded since planes crash in rare and dire circumstances, killing hundreds of people.

Truly, few things turn people as irrational as political scores and the need to adhere to the dogmatic, partisan lines of attack which divide the world into only black and white hues. Not all corporations are evil, soul-eating, seal-clubbing worshippers of money, and not all government agencies are saintly, caring do-gooders. People are different and their behaviors in large organizations can lead to some pretty terrible things no matter where they’re employed and the solutions to our nation’s problems have to account for reality, not for what blowhards on talk shows and partisan political blogs ridicule without offering any solutions of their own. And actually, I do find it a little ironic that TruthDig would indirectly try to support Republican pet projects at NASA while trying to turn the simple truism that everyone has to take responsibility for their mistakes into a political talking point.

[ story tip by WoWT reader Pierce Butler ]

# space // commercial spaceflight / nasa / partisan politics


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