Here are excerpts from and article in The Verge.
NASA is opening the space station to commercial business and more private astronauts
By Loren Grush, Jun 7, 2019
Today, NASA executives announced that the space agency will open up parts of the International Space Station to more commercial opportunities, allowing companies unprecedented use of the space station’s facilities, including filming commercials or movies against the backdrop of space.
NASA is also calling on the private space industry to send in ideas for habitats and modules that can be attached to the space station semi-permanently.
Now that is a truly excellent idea. As Elon Musk and many other creative souls have ceaselessly demonstrated, government employees are not the only people on this planet who can generate ideas.
Rather than trying to do everything internally, allow the massive resources of the private sector to provide free creativity.
A new interim directive from NASA allows private companies to buy time and space on the ISS for producing, marketing, or testing their products.
It also allows those companies to use resources on the ISS for commercial purposes, even making use of NASA astronauts’ time and expertise (but not their likeness).
If companies want, they can even send their own astronauts to the ISS, starting as early as 2020, but all of these activities come with a hefty price tag.
Wait! Why the “hefty price tag”?
Is it to make sure only serious and thoughtful ideas are proposed?
But, won’t the realities of production and testing be costly enough to separate the dabblers from the legitimate idea generators?
It’s a significant turn for NASA, which has long been antagonistic toward commercializing the ISS.
Russia is more open to ads and branding on the ISS (as it was with the Mir space station) and has sent tourists to the ISS before.
But NASA has strictly prohibited the use of its side of the International Space Station for commercial purposes.
Up until now, any company wishing to send products to the ISS had to show that there was some educational component to the undertaking or that it revolved around some kind of technology demonstration.
No purely commercial projects are allowed to be sent to the ISS, and NASA astronauts are even prohibited from working on experiments if there’s a possibility that the research will be used to make a profit.
Utter nonsense. Virtually all research may one day be used for a profit.” No one can identify research that never will be used for profits. There is none.
Instead, just consider the irony of communist Russia encouraging commercial ads and branding, while capitalist America opposes profits.
In August, NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine formed a committee to look into ways of opening up the space agency to commercialization, arguing that doing so could provide new sources of revenue and name recognition for NASA.
“Is it possible for NASA to offset some of its costs by selling the naming rights to a spacecraft or the naming rights to its rockets?” Bridenstine said to a group of advisers for NASA in August.
“I’m telling you there is interest in that right now. The question is: is it possible? And the answer is I don’t know, but we need somebody to give us advice on whether or not it is.”
OMG! The idea is not to advance science, but rather to find new sources of revenue for a Monetarily Sovereign government that never can run short of dollars, and in fact has so little use for revenue that it actually destroys all revenues upon receipt.
This is a program that would evolve from idea generation to money generation: “We don’t care if any scientific progress is made. Hey, pay us enough and you can run weddings up there.”
NASA leadership has made it clear that the space agency wants to eventually transition control of the International Space Station and its region of space, low Earth orbit, to the private sector someday.
They not only want to privatize the ISS, but also privatize low earth orbit?? How about, “This Space Property of General Low Earth Orbit, Inc. No trespassing. If you want to pass through this region of space, buy your ticket on the ground.”
It costs NASA $3 to $4 billion a year to operate the ISS, and by handing over control of the station, NASA could have more money to pursue much more ambitious missions, like the agency’s goals of building a new space station around the Moon and sending humans back to the lunar surface.
The U.S. federal government, being Monetarily Sovereign, has infinite money. It cannot unintentionally run short of money, and neither can any of its agencies, unless that is what the government wants.
The federal government could give NASA the $3 to $4 billion a year simply by tapping a computer key.
In 2018, the president’s budget request called on ending direct funding for the ISS by 2025 and ceding operations of the orbiting lab to private companies.
Our current President is just another crooked politician, like the infamous Paul Powell of Illinois, who when talking about patronage jobs reportedly shouted, “I can smell the meat a’cookin’.”
Privatizing ISS and space (!), simply makes crooked politicians salivate.
To help achieve this, NASA commissioned 12 companies to study ways of establishing a heavy commercial presence in this region of space.
Each company detailed ideas for new private space habitats that could either be attached to the ISS or fly free in low Earth orbit.
Such platforms could serve as “destinations” for research and even private visitors, according to NASA, generating revenue and opening up entirely new business models.
Here, the goal becomes cloudy. Apparently better science isn’t the prime consideration, but rather the objective is to “establish a heavy commercial presence in this region of space.”
But why? Why is our prime concern, not to advance science, but rather to establish a commercial presence in space?
Turning away from science, and focusing on commerce, will assure that the wealthiest .1% will own us forever. Any resultant science will be in the hands of the big corporations and their leaders.
Imagine if Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Google, et al owned all uses of radio waves, the Internet, cures for cancer, GPS, DNA, computers, gene editing, water on the moon, blockchain, and every other discovery of modern science.
Public science is differently motivated than is private science. Public science, funded by a sovereign government, is motivated by the common good. Private science, funded by the private sector, is motivated by profits.
Ownership of ideas is power. Privatizing the sources of ideas transfers all the power to the wealthiest individuals in the private sector.
“You see, the space agency is looking at probably another 10 years of the ISS being in orbit, and saying, ‘Okay, how do we move forward?’” Jeff Manber, the CEO of NanoRacks, which coordinates shipments and experiments on the ISS, tells The Verge.
“Let’s put our toes in the water on purely commercial projects. Let’s begin to allow tourism. And let’s begin to have the first commercial platforms supported by NASA. And so it’s a very important step forward. This is the beginning of a new chapter.”
Clearly, Jeff Manber “smells the meat a’cookin’.”
There’s nothing wrong with commercial projects, but why do they have to be purely commercial projects? And why is that where we put our toes in the water?
And what makes that a “very important step forward”?
Using the space station will come with some restrictions. NASA is allocating 5 percent of its resources on the station for these commercial activities.
Only 175 kilograms per year in commercial cargo can be sent to the ISS, and NASA crew will only dedicate 90 hours a year to commercial activities.
NASA has also released a list of approved commercial activities that the agency will allow on board. Private astronaut missions to the ISS are limited to two flights a year, and the astronauts will only be able to stay for 30 days.
Right now, the only viable option for crew getting to the ISS is via new spacecraft being developed by SpaceX and Boeing for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which still haven’t flown people yet.
Bottom line, the restrictions are not derived by scientific limitations, but by restricted funding.
We walked on the moon 50 years ago, and since then, politicians have decided not to fund future efforts. Fifty years is an eternity in science.
Imagine the scope of the scientific advances that would have been possible, had the government made dollars available. Rocket ports on the moon to facilitate space travel? The capture of asteroids to protect Earth? Medicine in weightless conditions? Discoveries of life on other moons?
Fifty years of space science stagnation, all because ignorant politicians claimed there weren’t enough dollars — dollars of which the U.S. federal government has an infinite supply.
And still spreading the myth of federal money shortages, the politicians continue to dither about cost:
Using the space station’s facilities will be incredibly expensive. It’ll cost $11,250 per astronaut per day to use the life support systems and toilet and $22,500 per day for all necessary crew supplies, like food, air, medical supplies, and more.
Even power will cost $42 per kilowatt-hour.
Ultimately, one night’s stay would be about $35,000 for one person, according to Jeff DeWit, NASA’s chief financial officer.
Will these folks be rich tourists, hoping to take selfies with the moon, or will they be scientists, hoping to develop ideas that benefit humankind? It doesn’t seem to matter; the only criterion is the ability to pay.
If these people would benefit the people of America, why the desire to charge $35,000 per person? For the same reason American governments pay to educate children, why not pay to educate people in space?
Why is money, of which the federal government has an unlimited supply, the criterion?
Some companies might want to go even bigger and send their own module up to the International Space Station. If they do, NASA has made sure that they will have an available docking port.
Why would a company send up a module? Profits. Why not have the federal government hire the private sector to go up in modules, with the discoveries all coming to the benefit of the populace?
NASA made today’s announcement at the Nasdaq Marketsite, with representatives of more than a dozen commercial aerospace companies in attendance.
And some are already taking NASA up on its new policy. Space habitat developer Bigelow Aerospace, for instance, says it has already booked four private flights of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, and will send up four of its own private astronauts on each mission once the vehicle finally starts carrying people.
Is the purpose of Bigelow Aerospace’s booking four private flights for its own, private astronauts, to benefit humankind — or to benefit Bigelow Aerospace?
And it’s possible that even more opportunities for commercial activities are on their way. NASA executives made it clear that these new policy changes are just the beginning, and that they’re eager to get feedback from the industry.
“This is the beginning of us actively starting open dialogue with the industry to figure out how we can open up space to commercial activities, where revenue can be generated from private sector companies,” said Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration.
If there is anything less intelligent than a federal agency hoping to take dollars from the private sector, I’ve yet to hear it.
The federal government has unlimited dollars. Every dollar taken from the private sector is one fewer dollar for economic growth. That is why federal taxes inhibit economic growth and tax cuts encourage economic growth.
In a healthy economy, the flow of dollars is from the Monetarily Sovereign federal government to the private sector, and not the other way around.
Until the populace understands this, we will have repeats of the unnecessary 50-year lag on trips to the moon and beyond — as well as lags in every field of science.
In summary, the federal government should fund more private access to space to increase the development of worthwhile ideas, not to send private sector dollars to the federal government.
Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
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