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Government vs Private Space - SpacePod

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I recently read an article that was a thought experiment on a so-called "dark side" of the private space industry. Now granted, this was on a science-fiction oriented website, and most of the arguments were fueled by the writer's extensive knowledge of many evil science-fiction corporations. But the main point seemed to come down to this, quote "What happens when unregulated companies start going into space?" First and foremost, I'd like to throw out some definitions here. The private sector is not just a bunch of dads who are trying to make a quick buck by landing a reality TV show by hiding their child in a weather balloon and sending him into space. These companies are by far and wide made up many talented, intelligent, and law-abiding citizens who are working very hard to push the boundaries of our human presence in our galaxy and hopefully beyond. Now, keeping this in mind, the government space agency, at least here in the United States, is also made up of some of the top scientists around, and are also working diligently on many human and non-human rated projects. The differences between these two are important. Namely, as the original writer of the article was concerned about, who's pulling the strings? When speaking about the US government space agency, the answer is deceptively simple. Obviously, it's the government. And oddly enough, the simple answer to who controls the private companies is deceptively complicated. Once you pull back the curtain, things feel a little bit more murky. In the government side, you get congress. Now congress chairs are voted on by the people. So naturally it would seem that if people would like to see more space things happen, they would vote in a space-loving chair and we'd all live happily as space-positive decisions continue to be made. Sadly, what actually ends up happening is that the chairs feel that they need to keep or create more jobs in their district and so any pro-space decisions suddenly come with a caveat. You get 'space' but only if you do it in such a way that makes me jobs in my home state. Which translates into things like the Space Launch System. Not a bad rocket, but not the one that NASA would have done on it's own if it was just given the government money to do and use it as they saw fit. So why doesn't this government agency just do what they know would be best to get humans out onto the moon, Mars, and beyond? Well, because their 'owners', for lack of a better term, tell them they can't. The flip side of this is the private space industry, or the crazy ones. These companies all have their own ideas and own money and are doing what is best for themselves. Some are aiming to bring tourists to space, others are trying to eventually domesticate foreign planets. And they are, sort of, allowed to do this however they want. If they want to use solid fuel, they will. If they don't want to have wings, then they forgo them. And if they want to drop their spacecraft from a plane, and launch it midair, well then they do. All of these crazy ideas that people would be downright scared if NASA came along and said, "Hey guys, I think this is what we're going to do now." And that's why it's awesome! But I still haven't addressed the fundamental question, which is "What happens when unregulated companies start going into space?" Now, I don't even want to get into why this is the wrong question to be asking as it makes it sound like Dr. Evil and his band of laser-sharks already have their moon-cannon and backup Mars-cannon in place. The true misunderstanding here is that the private space industry is being perceived as being unregulated. From the regulation of hazardous materials to the background checks on each and every employee, to asking the Federal Aviation Administration which is part of the US Department of Transportation for use of the airspace in which to launch, or even do a flight test. Regulations abound! If the government owns the airspace, trust me, you are not just launching whatever whenever you darn well please! Not to mention that for most of the more-successful private space companies, government is one of their customers! Do you really think that the government would be buying rides with the private companies if they were just unregulated? The whole reason most of these private space companies have been started in the first place is because their founders saw an opportunity to build it better, faster, cheaper than NASA ever could. Not because they are super evil geniuses who are hell-bent on destroying the world. These are the people who are trying to colonize other planets, giving humanity a backup, and ultimately a chance of survival in a universe in which we very well may have been a fluke.

Video Details

Duration: 5 minutes and 3 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: Benjamin Higginbotham
Director: Benjamin Higginbotham
Views: 72
Posted by: spacevidcast on Aug 24, 2013

In an article written for io9 here: author Annalee Newitz asks, "What happens when unregulated companies start going into space?" Cariann has a few thoughts on that and shares them on this opinion piece.

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