Dogma in Space, or why did the US scuttle the shuttle now?

by Chris Zappone

One of the best examples of the folly of freemarket fundamentalism in the US is what has happened to the US space program. More specifically, what has happened to NASA’s ability to put satellites in space. With no disrespect to SpaceX, the Ideology demanded that the US government, arguably the most successful outfit in space, exit the regular payload delivery business, because, well, private enterprise could do it better. Why? Because Ideology said so. Now, we have Elon Musk’s SpaceX, winning a contract to put two US military satellites in orbit. In the freemarket world, this is a triumph. Finally, we have gotten big government out of space. Not everyone saw the wisdom, particularly the pioneers of America’s space program like John Glenn or Neil Armstrong. They found it baffling that the US should cede its capabilities. According to Armstrong the space race was “an exceptional national investment for both sides.” Space programs are complex. The idea of adding another layer of complication, through a bidding process and a vetting around security and technology seem unwise. Particularly at a time when the US should be looking skyward as the technological competition heats up with China. Why does this kind of competition matter to the US, where poverty is on the rise and infrastructure is in need of repair? Because space programs build technological know how, they create demand for better teachers, and for faster computers. The US is not going to find another avenue of sustainable growth without technological advancement. Space vehicles also embody what Ivy League anarchist Dave Graeber called the poetic technology….That was something very much part of the calculus of us kids of the Cold War. You took pride in your nation’s air- and space-craft. Some, like star man Neil Degrasse Tyson would argue that US needs a space race with China with the goal of colonizing Mars. Why such competition? Listen to the words of Neil Armstrong describing the value of the Space Race during the Cold War. Competition, tension, even, but a completely desirable outcome instead of conflict.