The US Space Program? It’s a Disgrace

The US Space Program? It’s a Disgrace


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Janet Ybarra
Former Washington Journalist
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press

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The United States used to be about big things: building huge dams to generate electricity, a complex interstate highway system to take us from here to there so much faster and maybe even more comfortably….and, yes, even going to the Moon.

What happened to all that, especially when it comes to exploring outer space?

Too often today, critics like to point out that unmanned probes can explore Mars efficiently and at less cost than with humans.

Strictly by the numbers, I suppose this is correct. But the same thing could have been said about the Moon.

But we still went there, nonetheless.

At the time, we had this outside driver, being competition with the Soviet Union.

We don’t have that today, although how embarrassing would it be if somewhere down the road the Chinese decide to make the trip ahead of us?

There ought to be a more compelling reason, and that is exploring our solar neighborhood ourselves just for the sake of it.

We ought to care both about the science to had, but also the grand sense of human adventure.

Unfortunately, our space program sort of hit a pinnacle with the International Space Station, but really has been fading ever since.

Americans can’t even reach orbit anymore without hitching a ride with the Russians. How humiliating.

And really the blame for this has been bipartisan. Whenever the need for grandiose speechifying about the future of US human spaceflight is called for, presidents of both parties have been adequately grandiose–as long as the heavy lifting, and the bill–all come due on the next guy’s watch.

And, no, the answer is not commercial spaceflight. President Kennedy didn’t contract off the moonshot to Boeing, and neither is going to Mars and beyond.

There are just some projects that are of national scope and national pride….too big to be taken on by one corporation and too big to be owned by one corporation.

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  • comment-avatar
    Zach Webster November 30, 2019

    Boeing was the prime contractor of the Saturn V moon rocket. Boeing is also the prime contractor of the new moon rocket, SLS. Contrary to your implication that NASA builds manned rockets, it does not. All construction has been handled by commercial companies such as Boeing, Lockheed Martin, North American, etc. Without commercial companies providing the manufacturing capabilities to build launch vehicles, NASA would have zero American based access to space… today, or at any point in its history. I can only assume that you are referencing SpaceX as the commercial company you don’t think NASA should rely on. Why? Is it because SpaceX can provide launch services to the taxpayer at half the cost that traditional ‘cost plus’ contractors can? Or is it because SpaceX self funded (no taxpayer monies) a heavy lift vehicle that is the most powerful available today? Or is it because you cling to past glories of the Apollo era, when NASA had an unlimited (and unsustainable) budget? Old space companies such as Boeing have no incentive to reduce costs as long as the old ‘cost plus’ model was in effect. It took a new comer in the aerospace arena to disrupt the establishment, and we the taxpayer and consumers will benefit from the reduced cost to space access and the possibility to reach the Moon and Mars, not to simply plant a flag and leave a few boot prints, but to explore… and stay.

  • comment-avatar

    If you want to be taken seriously when writing articles like this, for heaven’s sake (see what I did there?) find someone to edit your work. This article would earn, at best, a “C” from any high school English teacher. Far too many errors.

  • comment-avatar
    Kay McElvain December 6, 2019

    I don’t agree. In America, private enterprise is almost always better at everything than the government. I was not an Obama fan but I was glad when he decided to let private companies get involved in space. However, it will work better if it is a combined effort.