“There’s a new word now for that old-school vision of California, and that word is – Texas!” Bill Whittle produced the following video about California’s economic problems and XCOR’s move to Texas.
California needs companies like XCOR a lot more than the companies need California, but the state does not seem to realize that. California’s denial mirrors many of the statements we hear from politicians in DC about commercial space. Like the government of California, they think private enterprise needs the government (in this case NASA) more than the government needs private enterprise.
The recent Romney-Ryan campaign white paper, The Future Of The U.S. Space Program: Global Leadership For American Security, said “Practical plans for engaging international and commercial partners in the next steps beyond the International Space Station have been shelved…. Because of the President’s policies, engineers are moving on. Companies are turning their attention elsewhere. Graduates are aiming for different careers.” That is true, but Congress is as much to blame as the White House, and Republicans as much as Democrats.
Nor does the Romney-Ryan position paper afford much hope for substantive change. The paper still views government as the master and private enterprise as the servant: “NASA will set the goals and lead the way in human space exploration, working from a clear roadmap in partnership with our allies, research institutions, and the private sector.” Private enterprise is almost an afterthought, tacked on at the end after foreign governments and research institutions.
When it comes to space, both Republicans and Democrats view America as a socialist nation where government sets the goals and leads the way. Meanwhile, in the Real America, private enterprise is finally starting to take the lead. In the next decade, thousands of Americans will travel into space – not through NASA or the hot-house plants created by NASA’s CCDEV program to serve the International Space Station but through companies such as XCOR Aerospace, Virgin Galactic, and Armadillo Aerospace.
NASA can adjust and find ways to work in this new commercial world, not as the leader but as a partner. In so doing, it can reach new heights never dreamed of in the past, if politicians will allow it. If they won’t, NASA may go the way of California, becoming increasingly irrelevant to space development and exploration (despite an increasing budget) as the real action moves elsewhere.