for Burt Rutan and Paul Allen: Now It’s Time to Deep-Six NASA!!!
Jim Grichar (aka Exx-Gman)
by Jim Grichar
Rutan and Paul Allen’s SpaceShipOne won the $10 million Ansari X-prize
Monday, October 4, 2004. The prize, inspired by the $25,000 Orteig
award given to Charles Lindbergh for the first non-stop transatlantic
flight in 1927, was given by Peter Diamandis co-founder and
Chairman of the X-Prize Foundation to the first privately-funded
space ship to reach an altitude of at least 62.5 miles twice within
a two week period and carrying at least one live pilot along with
the equivalent weight of two additional passengers (another 400
Rutan, who helped design, build and pilot the first aircraft to
fly around the world non-stop without refueling (the Voyager in
1986), teamed up with Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen to fund development,
test, and the flight of the SpaceShipOne, all reportedly at a cost
of $30 million. Sir Richard Branson, founder and impresario of the
firm Virgin Airways, chipped in with additional funding and has
purchased the rights to use derivative commercial versions of the
space ship to give paying passengers (at $200,000 per person) a
flight into space, with several minutes of weightlessness as part
of the deal.
many state-lovers will continue to promote the mission of the "civilian"
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), this flight
is the clearest signal that it is time for the Congress to abolish
this $16.4 billion bureaucratic behemoth.
President Bush has sketched out a plan to have the taxpayers pony
up the money to fund manned missions to Mars, which would undoubtedly
cost billions upon billions of dollars, at least if the project
is conducted the way most government programs are run. If
this man-to-Mars project is actually pursued by the federal government,
it would probably lead to an annual NASA budget of about $50 billion.
As I stated in a previous article calling for NASA’s
abolition, it is time to save the taxpayer from wasting approximately
$16.4 billion and turn civilian space programs over to the private
as with the Internet, in which taxpayers funded the initial development
nothing much happened until the private sector grabbed it,
at the right time of course, and marketed a useful product and service.
The same thing is happening with the commercialization of space.
most "salable" of NASA’s current programs is what is called
the Earth Sciences effort, in which NASA funds the design, launch,
and operation of various satellites designed to collect scientific
information about the planet Earth. These satellites collect data
on the Earth’s temperature and other scientific details. While the
U.S. National Weather Service has its own set of satellites, privatizing
NASA’s Earth Science activity would enable the private sector to
these useful activities, but at a much lower cost to those who really
need the services.
rest of NASA activities are more akin to what one would have dreamt
of as a result of reading a Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon comic (for
those of Lew’s readers too young to know, Buck Rogers and Flash
Gordon were comic book/newspaper cartoon characters from the 1930's,
when folks were beginning to envision manned space flight and its
"cosmic" implications). Pipe dreams whoever has them should not be funded by taxpayers.
NASA would also be a great step in promoting world peace, as commercial
ventures invariably are done for profit, not for extending power
over people or territory. And because these commercial ventures
are done at a much lower cost, government efforts even by
the Chinese would be surpassed at a much lower cost. Commercial
markets, just as with the commercialization of the Internet, would
drive the deployment.
U.S. aerospace industry got its start in the twentieth century by
such private ventures as "Lucky Lindy" flying to Paris
to win the Orteig prize in his Ryan aircraft. While Boeing and Douglas
made money building war planes, their greatest success came in building
commercial aircraft (you can make more money building aircraft to
haul people and goods than you can by building aircraft to drop
bombs and kill your potential customers). Other aerospace efforts,
with a hefty dose of private funding (even though many claim that
World Wars I and II led to its development and growth), led to improved
a child growing up in the 1950's, I can remember my father showing
me the 1954 Boeing Airplane Co. annual report (he owned a few shares
of stock in that company at the time), in which the management showed
a picture of the prototype of the Boeing 707. This aircraft was
built on a "gamble" taken by the company’s then-Chairman,
William Allen. Bill Allen had flown in a Boeing B-47 bomber and
thought that passengers would like the more comfortable vibration-free
ride of a jet compared to the propeller-driven aircraft of the day.
Allen committed Boeing to spend under $10 million (it might have
been $5 million or less, but loss of my father’s copy of that report
and my failing memory prevent me from giving a "hard"
number) of the company’s money at that time to build the prototype.
While the Air Force bought a number of these derivatives as tankers
for refueling B-47's and B-52's, Boeing’s great success lay in building
passenger jets, not building bombers.
U.S. aerospace industry, thwarted by sky-high costs, corporate "sclerosis"
and government bungling, has nearly killed off American preeminence
in commercial aircraft and space flight. (Look at the effects that
post-9/11 "airport security measures" have had on Americans
flying and on the number of commercial jets sold by Boeing.)
is the time to end government funding of civilian aerospace by abolishing
NASA (privatizing the parts that can be sold to the private sector)
and letting commercial enterprises in a profit-making manner bring the benefits of space flight to the civilian market place.
This path a negative industrial policy is the only
way for U.S. aerospace firms to regain leadership in this industry.
Grichar (aka Exx-Gman) [send
him mail], formerly an economist with the federal government,
writes to "un-spin" the federal government's attempt to con the
teaches economics part-time at a community college and provides
economic consulting services to the private sector.
© 2004 LewRockwell.com