Yesterday’s successful launch of the Falcon 9 and its Dragon mock up reaching orbit is a technical triumph for Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX). The company has proved that space flight can be done cheaper and faster than the current NASA contractor cabal.
Elon Musk the company’s CEO believed that it was important that man colonize space and thought that it would never happen if left to governments and the big aerospace contractors. In 2002 Musk started the company with 100 million of his personal money.
What the Falcon 9 launch is not is a vindication of the Obama administration’s new space plans. It is a fortunate coincidence that companies like SpaceX and Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin are ready to take their shot at supplying orbital services. These companies are the vision of men that made their fortunes in the dotcom age and have spent their money on what they believe is man’s future.
The Obama administration’s space plan is less a vision and more a political maneuver to change the flow of money from one group to one that is more supportive of the Democratic Party. It actually slows the possibility of American manned space flight not enhancing it.
While I believe there is an important place for the private sector in the future of space I also believe that if we want that future to be free a vigorous manned program supported by the American people through their government must exist. Yes private companies can provide services cheaper and faster than the old NASA way of doing things but they can not provide a national vision and carry American values to the stars. Only the people can do that and the instrument of the people is the government.
The current plan abdicates space to the Russians, Chinese and Indians. All fine and brave people but they do not share are belief in the equality of all people and our democratic principals. This is much more than whether man will make it to Mars this century this is about what we want the future to look like. Do we want the future dominated by people who do not believe in freedom for all or do we want a future were freedom is still respected and cherished.