Sunday, November 2, 2014

Space Privitization Udate: Bad Week For The invisible Hand

It looks to me like news articles reporting that Virgin Galactic's Richard Branson and his management team sent their test pilots up in a rocket ship they knew to be unsafe are outnumbered three to one by articles with stirring proclamations by Chief Space Capitalist Branson that he will get to the botom of this and the mission shall go on. The corporate media and the US government aeronautics officials who had for years been giving the go ahead to the Virgin Galactic suicide mission all want so very badly for private, for profit space flight to succeed.

Ringo H.W. Chiu_AP photo
This of course is the second explosion of a private rocketship within one week, and after both disasters it's been pointed out by Cool Billionaire Branson's media idolators  that no matter who's done space flight, it's been dangerous and people have died. What's not being talked about are some fundamental differences, dangerous or not, between public and private space flight.

Remember when for years NASA and its supporters talked about the "spinoff" effect of space flight and the research that went into it? They used to list products and benefits that were NASA spinoffs.

When something's privatized there aren't any spinoffs. Just like with all the research that's going to be done at the University of New Mexico's vaunted public-private partnership business incubator, any private research is immediately patented and unavailable to others. Any spinoffs will be jealously guarded and tightly controlled so they can be wrung for every cent of profit they can produce. If the owners can't think of a way to profit from a spinoff, it will go in the dumpster.

The blossoming of knowledge that results when knowledge is in the public domain won't take place.  The research won't be read by other researchers and won't inspire them. No one will build on it or take it in a new direction. All the benefits that process could have produced will be lost to humankind.

With NASA, as with everything else governments do, it was something we did and owned in common. But we weren't only enriched by the products the research produced. Because space flight was something we had approved of and paid for, in common, it, and the spinoffs, contributed to what makes us human, and social animals. They brought us together in a sense,  and made us think we had something to do with it, and even made us believe there were things in life more important than profit and competition, like the quest for knowledge, the need to know what lies beyond the great beyond, and made us aware of the benefits that can accrue when we cooperate, and are all in something together. It enriched us in multiple ways.

With Virgin Galactic, the only one who's going to be enriched is Richard Branson.

1 comment:

  1. I guess the invisible hand isn't so invisible when it blows up....:(