politicians rush to undermine the future of space exploration
While it would be absurd to say that nothing good can come from a bill with a number ending in 666, the bill in question here, H.R. 5666, is very much full of terrible news for anyone who is much more interested in actually exploring space and the benefits this will bring to humanity than lining Boeing’s pockets. While pretty much every expert on the subject agrees that what we really need is competition to make spaceflight cheaper and more lucrative, creating viable ecosystems for human to thrive off world, a small group of legislators wants to return to flag planting missions handled virtually exclusively by one company at extremely high prices and double down on technology already obsolete in light of SpaceX’s advances.
With the Trump administration focusing on the Artemis program to turn the Moon into a dress rehearsal for deep space travel, we had an expert approved, long term goal, even if its deadline is laughably unrealistic. It would encourage multiple companies to compete with their best and most effective vehicles to carry out missions while freeing NASA to focus on mission planning in the best possible use of capitalism in a private-public partnership to make big advancements to our civilization. It would also allow us to get a much deeper understanding of how to live and operate in hostile alien environments while being close enough to make our way back to Earth in the event of a catastrophe or emergency.
Ditching all that for another flag planting ceremony, replaying Apollo to prove out Boeing’s new Starliner craft — which not only failed its first test but suffered a glitch that could have led to a disastrous accident in orbit if there was a crew onboard — and rushing off to Mars despite many warnings about the uncertainty of getting humans there safely and keeping them healthy and sane once they’ve landed, is simply asinine. We’re being told that we should stop taking space exploration as the incredibly serious undertaking it is for the sake of lining a donor’s pockets to fart around in Low Earth Orbit with overpriced rockets and glitchy spacecraft, consigning NASA to be little more than a glorified jobs program outside of its JPL branch.
Effectively, if this authorization bill goes through and becomes official doctrine, it will relegate space exploration to the private sector, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But it would lower NASA’s financial and resource bandwidth to participate in this development with invaluable advice and ideas gathered through decades of real off-world experience. The current Artemis and Gateway concepts very much combine the best of both worlds and this bill is nothing less than deliberate sabotage of these programs because Boeing is worried about SpaceX pulling ahead in the private space race and decided to use its political heft to kneecap it and NASA to protect its revenue stream. That’s really all there’s to it.