Last year at ISDC in Huntsville, Jeff Greason gave a rabble-rousing address wherein he maintained that the obvious, but unspoken word in current space policy was “settlement”. Not any specific program, but settlement.
This year in Washington D. C., Jeff made a much more important statement; this time concerning commercial space and how to create a viable settlement.
Thinking about his observations of the scary paradigm shift down which NASA has begun to be dragged kicking and screaming, I am reminded of the politics in Colorado in the 2004 -2006 congressional campaign. There were six or so special interest groups working to select a candidate. But the environmentalists would not support the labor union candidate because his constituents favored mining and harvesting forests. The women’s rights group would not support the environmental candidate because he was anti-abortion. And so it went.
A politically astute gentleman, with considerable means, arrived to discuss the issue with the groups. He pointed out that if any one group withdrew from the coalition, they would lose the election, and the opposing party would elect a representative who was going to vote against each and every program that the respective groups wanted.
He also pointed out that if this program oriented withdrawal of support were repeated state by state, then congress would be controlled by people who would roll back gains that each group had achieved over the years.
On the other hand, if the groups agreed to compromise, to be willing to accept that in Colorado their candidate had to stand for mining and foresting in order to be elected, and they could show other coalitions in other states the same need to compromise and support an underlying need to elect people who supported most of their positions most of the time, then they would control congress and each of their issues stood a good chance of advancing. Although any individual congress critter might vote against an issue to satisfy their local situation, the majority would vote in favor. And finally, if a compromise candidate were truly supported by all, he would contribute a million dollars to the campaign.
Now, in space policy, we have the Moon Society advocating for a Moon program. And we have the Mars Society advocating for a Mars program. We have the Planetary Society. We have the National Space Society. We have the Commercial Spaceflight Federation. We have many groups advocating for their program. And it is easy for the congress critters to ignore us. No one has a very big voice.
What is needed is for all to advocate for the paradigm shift that Jeff discussed. Settlement, no matter where it will be or when it will be, will only be successful if we can migrate each step along the way (to wherever we go) off of the NASA budget and into the commercial sector. And we can only do that if we create the conditions that allow individuals, free people, to own the assets (labor and capital) that not only allow for subsistence, but for excess capacity, for success and failure. It is the excess capacity that will eventually result in wealth and trade.
It is past time for the central planning of all space exploration efforts. We must all be advocating for the chaotic market within which commercial space can succeed. The combined voice will be strong enough to make a difference in the space policy debate.
Dr. C. David Fischer, Jr
[Ed. Note: The thoughts expressed here are the author’s, and do not reflect the thoughts or policy of the Phoenix Chapter of the National Space Society nor the National Space Society.]