On the 40th Anniversary of Apollo 11: The Government should cancel it’s own moon program

40 years ago today, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin descended to the surface of the Moon while Michael Collins circled overhead. It was a remarkable feat of perseverance, determination and engineering.

As I recount this day, I’m awed by the very thought of it.  Six years before I was born, we seemed to leap off the planet for the first time. A small step, but a giant leap right?

Today, thousands of blogs, social networks, newspapers,  and even traditional news outlets and dinner conversations are discussing this point in history in detail.

Their celebrations, today, seem undeserved.

The moon landings in 1969 were an engineering success but failed completely to create a thriving industry or enable the American people to explore.  It’s 40 years later and we’re years away from even matching what we did before.  We don’t even have plans to surpass our own accomplishments.

On the 40th Anniversary of Apollo 11, I want to look forward to a rebirth of our sense of adventurism, and create a space faring civilization where all of humanity can participate and benefit.

The United States Government should abandon it’s own plans for the moon.

The political landscape of the US Government can’t support a program who’s goals will span many administrations.  President George W Bush announced plans to return to the Moon by 2020, and 5 years later, the new Administration’s first task for NASA was to examine if that plan was a good idea.  Budgets slipped, and the whole industry has spent 2009 wondering what the Administration will decide to do. This will happen again every four to eight years.

The Government should not be in the business of exploration.

The Government should not be in the business of anything.

The Government should be an enabler for its citizens to be explorers and to create an industry.

Why does the US Government have a Space Administration whose goal is to be the global leader in space exploration anyway?

Governments benefit in a number of ways from a thriving Space Industry.  Some of these benefits are:

  • investment
  • spy/war technologies
  • communications technologies
  • notoriety
  • draws high-quality students and scientists from other countries
  • technology resources
  • publications
  • sales to other countries

With the exception of war technologies, if the Government is the leader in the industry in these areas, isn’t that the same thing as getting in the way of it’s citizens ability to be the leader in these areas?

The point of our Government is to SERVE THE PEOPLE.

So my plea to the Government is to start serving us.  Today.

In the early 1900’s, the Government did not create a US Government airline, it worked with private companies, through incentives, tax breaks,  and though the purchase of services from private companies and citizens to create an industry.  Today, for a few hundred dollars, we can fly anywhere in the world in 1 day with almost complete safety.

The transportation industry today, specifically the Automotive industry, recognizes that we need to move our mobility away from dependence on fossil fuels.  The US Government did not create it’s own automotive manufacturing administration. Instead it is helping individuals and companies innovate via incentives, tax breaks, and through the purchase of services from private companies and citizens.

I’m not suggesting we abandon space exploration.  I’m suggesting that the Government stop trying to be the leader and enable leadership in it’s own citizens.  Pour those billions of dollars into competitions, grant programs, and loans.  Private industry will be able to develop a space faring civilization faster and cheaper.

Please NASA, help your citizens be the global leaders in space exploration and industry.

Move over please, you’re in our way.

10 thoughts on “On the 40th Anniversary of Apollo 11: The Government should cancel it’s own moon program

  1. What do you think will happen if you comercialize space? You claim there has been progress from the apollo and later space programs – no investments. What about computers, velcro, memory foam, virtual reality etc. – take a peek at http://techtran.msfc.nasa.gov/at_home.html for a much longer list.Commercializing space would be an error – instead of learning we would stifle and not progress. Just like they killed super-sonic flight, airplanes haven't really changed in 50 years, and all airlines run with major deficits supported by tax dollars – why would we do the same for space travel?

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  2. “Private industry will be able to develop a space faring civilization faster and cheaper.” I keep hearing that line from Independence Day (I know! I'm sorry! Good line, though) “You don't actually think they spend $20,000.00 on a hammer, $30,000.00 on a toilet seat do you?” because, although in the movie, they use this to explain away the funding for the hidden alien dissection camp out in the desert, in reality, this is true. Giving people the opportunity to build their own space program WOULD be faster, cheaper, and more efficient. You make excellent points. Especially the one about waiting every 4 to 8 years with baited breath, hoping that this administration will take us seriously. Of course, that turns all space enthusiasts into a bunch of lobbyists, waving our arms trying to get the president's attention.

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  3. What industry do you work in that you do not see the effect of NASA's successes on our society? In terms of economic and academic achievement NASA has literally paved a technological path for Americans to freely use. I fear what the United States of America would look like if we had been lead by people who lacked aspiration & vision such as yourself.

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  4. Why didn't I think of that?Of *course* we applaud all that NASA has accomplished. But we're looking ahead, and this article paints a clear picture of how the future of space exploration is stifled by the limitations of a government-run program. What is it about privatization that scares some people so? Entrepreneurs can pursue new ideas without the encumbrance of political pressures. They can focus their energies and priorities on the vision at hand, rather than vying for votes and dollars.Let the government serve. Let scientists innovate. I, for one, am all for it.

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  5. What NASA did 40 years ago was fantastic. Since then they've actually gone backwards. They can't go to the moon now- they can't even get out of orbit. And the only chance they have of going to moon in the future – at least a decade from now- and that was with a president open to it- is if every administration starting now and for the next TWO election cycles, agrees that it's a good idea.Going to the moon or doing any sort of relevant space exploration is entirely up to our bloated, self involved, slow moving government. It just won't happen. It's up to the people to get us into space again.

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  6. This is ridiculous – you make excellent points but your conclusion is extreme. Canceling NASA space exploration program in a radical fast strike of somebodies pen would create a huge vacuum for space research and cost the US economy dearly over the long run.The best solution is to continue NASAs space exploration programs while in parallel change the feds policy to bring along the commercial space sector thru what you recommend tax incentives, COTS like programs, and the purchase and increasing reliability on privately provider space services.A radical change like the one you argue for here wont help industry or US leadership and national interest in space, doing more harm than good in the long run.

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  7. I didn't suggest canceling all NASA exploration, just this current moon program. It's a distraction from creating a real industry.I like your open letter to NASA on your blog, you make some excellent points.

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  8. This is ridiculous – you make excellent points but your conclusion is extreme. Canceling NASA space exploration program in a radical fast strike of somebodies pen would create a huge vacuum for space research and cost the US economy dearly over the long run.The best solution is to continue NASAs space exploration programs while in parallel change the feds policy to bring along the commercial space sector thru what you recommend tax incentives, COTS like programs, and the purchase and increasing reliability on privately provider space services.A radical change like the one you argue for here wont help industry or US leadership and national interest in space, doing more harm than good in the long run.

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  9. I didn't suggest canceling all NASA exploration, just this current moon program. It's a distraction from creating a real industry.I like your open letter to NASA on your blog, you make some excellent points.

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