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It’s so nice to know that in times like these we’ve still got a spare 38 billion dollars hanging around with which to facilitate the poking of our nose, yet again, into space. Why this is so important to anyone but the aerospace industry and the Pentagon is beyond me. Especially in light of the fact that we’ve yet to find the will, or the funds, to build a high-speed rail system, or a maglev system, or even a state-of-the-art light-rail system, that would enable us to efficiently and rapidly get around our own country. You may ask, but what about all the advances in other areas such as medicine and the environment that have come about because of the space program? To which I answer, why don’t we just skip space, the middle man – it’s always going to be out there – and put the money directly towards where it’s needed now – mass transit, urban renewal, medicine, a cleaner environment etc., and by doing so create some badly needed jobs in the bargain? Well… Boeing and Lockheed Martin, and their PAC’s, spent a combined sum close to $40 million in the last election cycle – maybe that’s got a little something to do with it. But you know what… *NASA technology, like any technology developed in government-funded research and development programs, is generally not useful to the private sector in bringing new goods and services to the consumer. While a few examples of success exist, the general rule is that the private sector wants nothing to do with technologies developed in federal labs. And this is true for several reasons. The technologies – while sounding promising – are often not tailored to bringing specific goods and services to us consumers. Most firms prefer to use proprietary or patented techniques or technologies in order to earn a better profit. In other words, why use some technology available to every other business, unless you can couple it with some proprietary technique to give you an edge over the competition? Forget all of NASA’s propaganda as to why we must have a space program. It basically exists to build better weapons, and to spy on other countries from way on high, and in the bargain siphons off many of our most productive engineering and scientific minds from the public sector where they could be put to better use to directly improve the quality of our lives here on the ground.

I’ve held this opinion since 1984 when I wrote a song called Goin’ Into Space, which appears on my CD Who Could Imagine. The lyric goes like so:

Everybody’s feelin’ great
It’s like a national holiday
We’re gazin’ up all weepy-eyed
Puffed up to the gills with pride
A hundred eighty miles high
We’re orbiting across the sky
Now I don’t mean to bring us down
But it’s still a bitch to get cross-town
Hey, we’re goin’ into space
I’ll watch it on the tube unless
The junkies robbed my place
It’s a great day for the human race
I’ll catch it on teevee if I can find a parking space…
What a wond’rous sight to see
A triumph of technology
In point of fact the perfect gift
For people who have everything
What a party, what a thrill
Not to mention what a bill
But what’s three hundred billion Bucks
And so what if mass transit sucks
Hey, we’re goin’ into space
It’s much more fun to read about
Than crime or toxic waste
It’s a great day for the human race
What a swell idea to send our
Money into space
Lighting up Tampas with
Dollar bills can be appealing
Lighting Havanas with hundreds
Is another feeling
Betting the rent on a long shot
To win it all
Has to be some kind of juice
But for a taste of a peach,
Or a day at the beach,
I’m into my pocket
But not for no rocket!!
Bang the bugle, blow the drum
Tell the planets here we come
To build a station far from earth
(Just three hundred billion worth)
And when the housing,
And the schools,
And the jobs, and all the fools,
And the water, and the air,
Get so bad then we’ll go there
Hey-we’re goin’ into space
Why’n’t you bring
Some sandwiches
‘N I’ll go get a case
It’s a great day for the human race
We’re all done down here
Let’s go fuck up
Some other place

As I say in the song, I believe The Space Program plays into our thing about having “pride” in our country, and that sending a rocket to the moon will engender in us this chest-swelling feeling of  “boy, are we great, or what?” I, on the other hand, along with a great many others, would feel more pride in my country if we had those other things I mentioned up top… a state of the art mass transit system, cities re-built, new hospitals and schools, a much cleaner environment. The $780 billion (adjusted for inflation) and counting that we’ve spent on NASA could have gone a long way towards implementing these projects. For example, buried in this years NASA budget of $38 billion is $3 billion to build a new space capsule, roughly the same amount of money was spent to build Athens International Airport, a five year project which opened in 2001. It was the European Airport of the year in 2004, and in 2008 won the GreenBuilding award for exemplary energy saving features reflected in the two previous years. 15 thousand people work there, and though I can’t find the statistics on the number of jobs created by its construction I’m sure it had to be plenty. For my money I’d be way more proud of my country with a state-of-the-art energy saving airport, or a new school, or hospital, or streets sans potholes, etc., etc., than any rocket, anytime.

* http://www.lewrockwell.com/grichar/grichar33.html