The Pros and Cons of Privatized Space Exploration

Not everybody is over the moon about it

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Last week, Avatar director James Cameron painted a rosy picture of privatized space exploration, suggesting that the president's anemic NASA budget will clear the way for competitive market forces to jump-start the industry. In the days since, others have come forward to praise Obama's plan to divert national funding to private aeronautics companies. But not everyone is thrilled to see NASA become such a low priority for the government (and almost no one has echoed Cameron's sentiment that "rockets really run on dreams").

  • While America Rests, Others Won't  Charles Krauthammer is dismayed at the thought of the U.S. falling behind other nations. "Sure, decades from now there will be a robust private space-travel industry. But that is a long time. In the interim, space will be owned by Russia and then China."
  • NASA Is Irreplaceable in the Public Imagination  In a New York Times roundtable, John Logsdon argues that "the principal benefits from human spaceflight are intangible, but nevertheless substantial." The moon missions of the '60s instilled in Americans a sense of "international prestige and national pride," something Logsdon thinks is best produced by initiatives at the federal level.
  • A Sensible Division of Labor  Foreign Policy's Esther Dyson thinks Obama's proposed marriage of public funds with private development resources is for the best. Dyson reaches back into the past for a telling analogy:
The U.S. Defense Department may have created the Internet, but had it kept control of the technology, it's unlikely the Web would have become the vibrant public resource it is today. That credit goes to the investment and activity of private citizens and private companies, starting in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
  • What Would Marx Do? Probably Not This  At The Huffington Post, James Bacchus dryly points out that the president's vision for a private space industry doesn't square with one of the most common criticisms leveled at him. "If the President is a socialist, as so many of his adversaries claim, his space proposals certainly don't show it. He wants to stake the future of much of the U.S. manned space program on the success of free private enterprise."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.