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01/21/2004 Archived Entry: "Militarization of space"

The World Wide Web knows, my estimation of the intelligence of politicians knows no lower bound. Or so I believed, until I heard of the new proposal to build a base on the Moon and visit Mars. Surely, I thought, even G. W. Bush cannot be so credulous or so moronic to believe that this can be done for a paltry $12 billion over five years ...and by the spendthrifts at NASA, who can't even operate a deteriorating shuttle fleet and a leaky space station for $5B a year, and who can't keep the Hubble telescope operational.

Why is Bush, the self-described "conservative," championing one of the most wasteful and bloated agencies ever to emerge from the capital of waste and bloat? Why is he not suggesting privatization, when there are private firms chomping at the bit to develop launch technologies and space enterprises? Why such a grandiose scheme and such an inadequate budget? One theory holds that the Mars project is a scheme to kill the Shuttle, kill the International Space Station, and divert their $5 billion a year to other uses -- but then why throw so many roadblocks in the way of private space efforts?

I think our friend Gordon P. has the answer. He's pointed out that, apparently, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld has bought into the "Vision for 2020" -- sort of a space age "Project for the New American Century" -- that calls for U.S. military superiority (and exclusivity) in space. One thing this would require, which is now sadly lacking, is a "heavy lift" capability: new launchers that can put massive payloads into orbit. (The Shuttle won't lift enough payload, and can't launch frequently enough.) A few billion won't get very far along the road to Mars, but it will pay for a healthy bit of launcher development. And, as it happens, heavy launchers would be the first thing needed by the Moon/Mars program. Moon/Mars is also a lovely "civilian" cover to develop these heavy lifters, which otherwise can't be justified -- weather and communications satellites need only small launchers.

It sounds conspiratorial, but it does cover the facts: the last thing Reichsmarshal Rumsfeld and his "2020" visionaries want is a private presence in space. They want to deny the use of space to other nations...although I'm sure they'll graciously allow modest civilian uses. They also want development and operation under U.S. government control, thus, NASA. This theory is perfectly consistent with other actions and stated goals of the Bush administration. (The timing of the Bush announcement, shortly after a successful Chinese space mission and shortly before a U.S. election, is unlikely to be coincidence.)

Whether the theory is true or not, the response of those who love freedom -- and those who love space -- should be the same: a) call for an immediate halt to the Moon/Mars boondoggle, b) call for the abolition of all restrictions on private space exploration and development, and c) call for NASA to be shut down for good. And while we're waiting for (b) and (c), how about d) call for the immediate declassification, and international inspection, of all U.S. payloads into space.


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