Earlier this week the unmanned and "privately" owned Antares rocket exploded off the coast of Virginia after launch. The failed Antares launch is part of NASA's on-going effort to privatize our nation's space program.
Going up in smoke in the $200 million launch put together by contractor Orbital Sciences Corporation includes 5,000 pounds of cargo for the International Space Station (ISS), and extensive property damage to NASA's launch facilities.
Already beset by lengthy delays through its contracts with privately owned SpaceX, which ferries food, supplies, and scientific experiments to the orbiting laboratory, the Antares explosion raises many questions about NASA's plan to privatize space projects.
Let's start with this. If NASA is helping to subsidize Antares missions with NASA facilities, classified or proprietary information, and manpower what does this say about the "privatization" of space? How can a firm be private when NASA and the American taxpayer are underwriting "private" adventures, especially when they screw up so spectacularly?
Indeed, why should NASA, which has already given us the very successful Space Shuttle and Apollo missions suffer because a divided and inept Congress freezes budgets and argues over NASA's larger mission (but still finds the money to facilitate privatization)? Why is NASA helping a "private" company go through their data to help them find out why Antares exploded? Who's paying for all this privatization?
Though NASA will continue doing business with the Orbital Sciences Corporations and ScienceX, here's my final question (in this post): With over 1,000 unmanned space missions carried out by more than 30 distinct NASA programs since 1958, why are we outsourcing unmanned missions - that NASA used to do in its sleep - to "private" companies that need massive federal support and subsidies to survive?
My regular readers, and those who have read my book, know the answer to this.