Search This Blog

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Entrepreneurs and Government in Space

Space the final private sector or governmental frontier?

After watching NASA’s cost overruns for decades, the idea of the private sector heading into space has been quite intriguing. Entrepreneur Richard Branson, for example, has started up Virgin Galactic, which is focused on space tourism.

Unfortunately, though, even private space ventures cannot completely disengage from reliance on the taxpayers.

Consider the following from a Washington Post article titled “New Mexico Moves Ahead on Spaceport” on May 10:

Many hurdles remain -- including environmental approvals and certifying the space-worthiness of Virgin Galactic's radical White Knight Two and SpaceShipTwo -- but the project got a major boost last month when voters in a second New Mexico county approved a sales tax increase to help pay for the spaceport. New Mexico officials are gleeful that they were able to persuade residents of Sierra County, a large and sparsely populated area with an average age of 55, to vote 2 to 1 for the tax increase.

"The space business is a very, very difficult one, and you never know what lies ahead," said Kelly O'Donnell, chair of New Mexico's Spaceport Authority, which was conceived in 1990. "But we're moving ahead just as we hoped." …

O'Donnell said that once the federal government grants the permits, construction can begin quickly, because the authority has the $200 million it needs from the state and county governments.

Excuse me, but was that New Mexico’s Space Authority? And voters gave thumbs up to a sales tax hike to build a spaceport? And apparently, other states and nations are working to get in on the spaceport act.

The ideas of space tourism and perhaps the private sector even venturing further into space are both fantastic and exciting. But there is absolutely no reason why the taxpayers should be subsidizing such entrepreneurial dreams. Let entrepreneurs and investors risk their own resources, not the taxpayers’ money, in building spaceports.

No comments: