A selection of space policy/politics related links:
- Space Policy Events for March 10-14, 2014
- Obama Launches ‘Cosmos’: ‘The Next Great Discovery Could Be Yours’ – NBC News.com
- Russian tensions add a sharper edge to EELV hearing – Space Politics
- Disaggregation Gets Traction in 2015 Pentagon Budget Request – SpaceNews.com
Neil deGrasse Tyson is an excellent communicator of the wonders of space and science but his statements on the role of private endeavors in science and space exploration are glib and ahistorical: Neil deGrasse Tyson Says Private Companies Won’t Take The Lead In Space Exploration – TechCrunch.
There is no nice, clean line between private “buck making” and high-minded government exploration just for the sake of it. From the Wright Brothers making the key advances in aviation to IBM funded Nobel Prize winning basic research, innumerable breakthroughs in science and technology have been led by private non-governmental ventures.
As Alexander MacDonald outlined in his History of Space Exploration in America (pdf), private funding of large observatories before WW II was manifold and generous while government spending was meager. The Lick Observatory cost on the order of $1.2B in today’s dollars. It wasn’t till after the war that US basic research became heavily supported by the government.
Yes, NASA’s Space Shuttle made it to low earth orbit for 30 years but at an exorbitant price. SpaceX developed an operational rocket and a returnable space capsule for about half the cost ($1.5B) of a single Shuttle flight. Each cargo mission is flown for a small fraction of the cost of a Shuttle flight. Major cost reduction is a major advance in any field. Henry Ford did not invent the automobile but his advances in lowering automobile costs revolutionized the industry.
If SpaceX (or Blue Origin, XCOR, or some other innovative company) succeeds in making an orbital space transport fully and rapidly reusable, the huge reduction in cost will be the key breakthrough to making spaceflight truly affordable and practical. This will “lead” to tremendous benefits for pure scientific space exploration. (See, for example, :SpaceX’s ‘Red Dragon’: Mars Sample-Return Mission Could Launch in 2022 – Space.com.)
Here’s another rebuttal to Dr. Tyson: Neil Tyson’s Confusing Take on Space Commerce – NASA Watch