Frank White, the author of the iconic book “The Overview Effect,” comes to the defense of the Obama space policy and makes the usual mistakes that such defenders make. Those mistakes mainly derive from thinking that the Obama policy is something that it is not.
White suggests, in his World Policy blog piece, that Obama has not only set free space entrepreneurs to fully realize the potential of space as a venue for making money but has also allowed NASA to embark on a new, exciting voyage of exploration. Neither supposition is true.
Obama’s commercial space policy consists of paying a select number of private companies
massive subsidies to build space craft that would be used to service the International Space Station. That is all that it does. It does not encourage the creation of private markets in space nor does it foster sources of private capital. It is the space faring equivalent of Solyndra, fitting nicely into Obama’s model of crony capitalism, not the entrepreneurial, free market kind that he accuses opponents of the plan of abandoning.
White stumbles past the abandonment of the moon, a source of vital resources such as water that can be used to sustain deep space exploration and moves on to tout Obama’s mission to an asteroid with Mars as a destination at some distant date. He fails to note that the program is not only underfunded, but lacks a firm destination and a target date. It is as if John F. Kennedy had declared, “We choose to go — somewhere by — sometime.” Not quite as inspiring as going to the moon by the end of the 1960s. Nor is it as sustainable.
White engages in hyperbole when he says this:
“I still believe that President Kennedy made the most important space policy decision of all time when he committed America to go to the moon. But President Obama’s decision to give the private sector a chance ranks second, because it changes everything once again.”
White goes on to suggest that because of Obama, sometime, hundreds of people will be flying into space, experiencing that phenomenon that he described in his book, which changes human perspective in ways that are unpredictable. Obama’s policy only guarantees that a handful of government employees will continue to fly to the International Space Station, but on privately run rather than government run space craft. If hundreds of people are poised to fly in space it will solely be the result of the efforts on entrepreneurs despite and not because of President Obama.
Obama’s decision to essentially cripple space exploration and to establish a public/private partnership for space transportation cannot be reasonably compared to Apollo. It more resembles Richard Nixon’s decision to establish a government space line, using the space shuttle, while ending the Apollo program. It has every potential, unless changed, of having the same effect of having Americans stuck in low Earth orbit for another generation.