Billionaires take the risks
==To the editor:
In October, Capt. Kirk, William Shatner, age 90, finally made it to space for real, as a passenger aboard Jeff Bezos’ rocket, Blue Origin. Celebrity former athlete Michael Strahan has followed.
Some dismiss it; publicity stunts, they sniff.
So? I say. I’d go in a heartbeat.
Some feel the private space race of the three super-billionaires — Bezos, Elon Musk and Richard Branson — is somehow wrong, indicating outrageous levels of inequality and unfairness. The cynical and envious say they should be contributing to ending hunger and homelessness, rather than investing in space.
Lyndon Johnson started the War on Poverty in the 1960s, aiming to do these very things. Around $15 trillion have since been thrown at the issue, in innumerable and ongoing programs and projects.
Somehow, poverty still exists.
Folks who constantly say how corrupt, wasteful and untrustworthy the government is — now only the government should be able to implement space programs?
“Government is not the solution; government is the problem.” — Ronald Reagan
When I was a kid in the 1970s, NASA’s space program was in full swing. We were told that long before now, we’d have colonies on the moon, perhaps even Mars. Space shuttles were going to ferry people back and forth.
Exciting futures lay ahead.
What happened to all that?
The Cold War ended. Agendas changed, goals and priorities scrapped, funding reduced and reallocated, perhaps even misappropriated.
From dramatically leading the way with brave, celebrated, heroic astronauts, NASA became a budgetary footnote, launching the occasional boring space probe, or squatting at the space station. And we have to hitch rides there.
It’s been said the space program’s future lies in the private sector, because its motivation is success and progress — profit.
Government doesn’t care about those things, nor how much it wastes. Tangible results and real progress don’t matter. To these billionaires, though, results matter; it’s their money.
They didn’t do the work here, themselves.
Who designed and built the rockets? Who did the labor? Made the materials? Who made the instrument components? The seats? Windows? The handholds at the door?
People — and those people were paid, for all of it.
In the asteroid belt is a rock, roughly the size of Massachusetts. Called 16-Psyche, it consists almost entirely of iron and nickel. Worth an estimated $10,000 quadrillion — one, followed by 16 zeroes — if you had all the money on Earth, you couldn’t afford to buy this asteroid.
Imagine mining this rock?
Training, getting there, constructing bases and hiring miners, support staff, workers to transport and process the ores, industries using the processed materials, selling and buying products made from them — that’s a lot of jobs; money in a lot of pockets. An entirely new industry would have to be created — designing and building literal spaceships. Off-world colonization.
These three are on track to do this, not the government. Government dropped the ball on space, decades ago.
People dismissing this as senseless or wasteful miss the point and lack vision.
Good for the billionaires.