Space is not a waste | The Gazette
Elon Musk, CEO and Chief Design Engineer, SpaceX. (Associated press)
The balance between public funding and the creative freedom of the private innovator was recently highlighted in the reinvigorated space race between American companies, NASA and foreign governments.
Elon Musk, Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos relied on advances in space technology pioneered by scientists and engineers at NASA in the 1950s and 1960s. Due to the billionaire status of these tycoons, the exploits impressive from their respective companies were greeted by the media and the public with harsh words.
On my Twitter feed, I have seen thousands of trendy posts criticizing space travel as we have so many lingering economic problems in America and poverty around the world. On another note, experts accuse these private companies of benefiting from a “free spin” of previous government investments in space research and development.
These two critiques ignore several important realities. The US government, in an effort to reaffirm our status as a global superpower, invested heavily to beat China and Russia in the space race of the 1960s and used the scientific advances made by the United States during WWII. World War. As with thefts, vaccinations and earthquake monitoring, a person’s important finding cannot remain private information forever. Patents have expiration dates for this reason.
For example, we all appreciate electricity, lamps and light bulbs in large part thanks to Thomas Edison. No one accuses the lamp makers of stealing Edison’s credit and the personal time invested in the invention of the bulb because there is a common and societal acceptance that some discoveries are made up of knowledge to which many others should access and rely on. Globally, air travel is widely accessible in part thanks to the plethora of private aviation tinkerers and military aircraft design experiences between WWI and today.
The other criticism of space travel is that it prevents global poverty from being solved. This is a common misconception similar to the idea that “$ 1 earned by one person is $ 1 taken from another”.
It also manifests itself in the stolen value of labor theory, a common criticism of a CEO’s salary which is typically quite high compared to an assembly line worker salary. That’s not to say that people shouldn’t be paid a fair and equitable wage, but it’s important to remember where the value of a product or business lies.
The invention, design and function of the iPhone are its true and unique value which cannot be easily duplicated while the person who installs the screen – an important component of the iPhone – can be replaced by another. employee. It is not a reflection on the value of a person’s life, but simply on the ability of a certain task to be reproduced by another person.
Invention and innovation should not and never will be interrupted because tragedy, like poverty, exists at home and abroad. Musk suspending his invention and investment in space travel won’t necessarily mean his backers will invest directly in charity. The money invested in venture capital experiences and products is tied to the chances of future financial success which inevitably benefits the company.
The Apollo mission produced digital flight controls that are commonly used in cars and airplanes today, and the silver-zinc rechargeable batteries common to hearing aids were also the result of technological experiments for the mission.
Libertarians and conservatives are often wrongly accused of trying to cut all government spending and prioritize private spending and decisions over government funding and control. In reality, as with the center-left, policymakers understand that we live in a very complex society where federalism, and sometimes federal intervention or funding, is needed to overcome specific and identifiable obstacles.
For example, with COVID vaccines, the government has invested in these vaccines and a “rebate” in the form of a suspension of FDA regulations has been granted to a few companies.
The US government has supported and continues to support a great deal of space research for national security and, as an indirect benefit, national morale. Today, private companies are appropriating this knowledge and capitalizing on the initial investment. Their discoveries will undoubtedly benefit human development in their race to space.
We should celebrate this urge to discover and this decision to fund privately instead of facing it with suspicion and criticism.
Patricia Patnode is a member of the editorial staff of the Gazette. Comments: [email protected]