In the introduction, I mentioned the comments by Andrew Griffin on the i newspaper article about the financing by space tourists of the SpaceX Moon trip, scheduled for next year. AG believes that the technology developed by NASA should not be used for the benefit of a select few wealthy people. He says “The business of being an astronaut used to be a strange intoxicating pursuit.” The point I would like to make is that it is no longer possible, even for the United States Government, to finance space expeditions on the scale of the Moon landings of the late 1960’s. In the 1960’s, recall that not only was the US financing the Apollo Space Program but also the incredibly costly war in Vietnam.
In the Film JFK, Donald Sutherlands character “X” a former Black ops Colonel, says to Kevin Costner’s character, the District Attorney for New Orleans: “The organising principle of any society, Mr Garrison, is for war.” The DA was investigating JFKs assassination. X was explaining that JFK wanted to end the war in Vietnam and that he was killed because of this, because the powers that be needed to build arms in order to motorise (my expression) the US economy.
As part of FD Roosevelts “New Deal” in the 1930’s, to stimulate the US economy out of the depression, many public works projects on: Schools, Dams, Roads, Airfields, bridges, etc were undertaken and financed by the US government in order to kick-start the money-go-round, the cycle of government spending and taxation that provides money in and out of the hands of everyone involved. This is the principle upon which John Maynard Keynes based his theories of economics.
It seems to me that this type of government sponsored motorising of the economy, could work equally well with either public works or by building armaments for war, to look at it from a purely cold economic view point.
In 19th Century America, it was the so-called “Robber Barons“, that stimulated the US economy. Steel, Railroads, Oil, Corporate Finance, etc. But this can’t be done with space flight. At least not yet. There are no immediate returns. For space tourism to work for the masses then the cost to individual passengers would need to come down in to the tens of thousands of dollars rather than the tens of millions. Is that even economically possible? Another question would be, wouldn’t space tourism just help stream line and perfect existing technologies? To be really economically feasible, to draw in more entrepreneurs, one needs to be able to visit other worlds. To open up new frontiers to actually gain minerals from other worlds and to develop habitation.
If you have seen the movie Avatar (2009, by James Cameron), you will know that it is about the Resources Development Administration from Earth wanting to ruthlessly exploit the mineral properties of the planet Pandora, inhabited by the Na’vi, to their detriment.
So this brings us to the ethics of space flight, which forms another post.