With all the excitement over the Mars rovers, the cries for a visionary manned exploration program are back with earnest. If you are a romantic, then maybe you are moved. But if you are a student of history, the fundamental question of purpose needs to be asked. What is the point of sending living beings to distant planets, when our own earth is a confused mess? The analogy of criticism for a Columbus voyage doesn’t wash. The age of discovery involved expansion and exploration that increased commerce and offered hope for a new future. Long space journeys only gratify the egos of governments.
It should be apparent that backing an unnecessary program and extravagant expenditure, is foolhardy. Examine the misleading argument that the money spent on the program will create jobs. For the junior Flash Gordons in the audience, a rudimentary course in economics 101 is necessary. Public budgets never create wealth. Spending tax dollars to fund government employment only expands the bureaucracy and grows the nanny state. Subsidizing private firms to encourage basic research may seem sensible; however, the difference between educational inquiry and free enterprise business is as wide as the distance to the moon.
Do you remember the proposal, dubbed the Space Exploration Initiative, from the elder President Bush, back in 1989? The idea found little support in NASA, however, and was dead on arrival in Congress when agency officials came up with a kitchen sink of $450 billion.
Compare that cost with the statements from the Mars Society, a pro star trek society! “Figures topping US $450 billion have in the past been touted. While the Mars Society, and more particularly the proposal known as, first formulated by MS President Robert Zubrin, demonstrate the cost of opening Mars to human exploration and colonisation is perhaps a hundred times less than that, going to Mars is expensive . . . But to put it in perspective. Plans being drawn up today put the real cost of going to Mars at between US $40 and US $80 billion – to be spent over a period of between 10 and 15 years!” But look at their economic justification for their Rotten-Berry diet for the venture: “What’s more, the money spent on getting humans to Mars isn’t wasted. It is invested in the scientists, engineers, mathematicians, doctors, support personnel, and others who enable us to build the rockets, design the computers and train the people who will go to Mars. It is money kept on Earth.”
These creatures are like the Trills. You remember them, that combination of humanoid hosts and symbiont worms. The worm is kept in the belly of the host, while the symbiont lives much longer than the host. The fancy of space musing is often the refuge of the parasite. But there is another species that really profits from such boondoggles – the Ferengi. Their society is based on “The rules of acquisition”. Who makes profit, or how it is done doesn’t matter. They are ruled by the Grand Nagus Zek, who is overseer of the financial market.
Even if you believe that it’s the destiny of man to conquer the universe, just how well is he doing? Consider the comments of Alex Roland, a history professor and former NASA historian: “The country is still burdened with the space shuttle, a launch vehicle that was supposed to be so cheap that it would amortize its development costs in its first 12 years of operation. Twenty-two years and $39 billion later we are still saddled with the world’s most expensive launch vehicle. President Reagan promised a space station for $8 billion. The station, now bankrupt and pruned to a mere shadow of Reagan’s heady vision, is at $100 billion and counting.”
OK, let’s be fair and unbalanced! Who else to ask, other than the indomitable Lyndon LaRouche? In his bible for the jet set – The LaRouche Program to Save the Nation – his case for subduing Mars reasons: “The primary objective of the 1985-1986 Mars-Colonization project, was, and still is a broad-based family of fundamental and successive scientific breakthroughs which will revolutionize the practice of science and technology on Earth.”