Will the purpose of sending more humans to the Moon and eventually Mars be to help the people of the United States and the rest of the globe, or to further enrich the billionaires?
On July 20, 1969, 650 million people around the world watched in awe as Neil Armstrong fulfilled President John F. Kennedy’s vision. In just a few decades, the United States has accomplished what seemed unthinkable just a few decades ago. We managed to put a man on the moon.
On this historic day, the whole world came together to celebrate the huge achievement as Armstrong’s voice echoed from our televisions: “It’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind .”
In just eight short years, the United States, led by our extraordinary NASA scientists, engineers and astronauts, has opened up a new world to humanity. And while the whole world rejoiced, there was special joy and pride in our country because this was an American project. It was our funding, our political will, our scientific ingenuity, our courage that had accomplished this milestone in human history. We had not only “won” the international space race, but more importantly, we had created unimaginable opportunities for all of humanity.
After billions of dollars in taxpayer funding, the American people are going to have to make a very fundamental decision. If we are going to send more humans to the Moon and possibly Mars, who will control the enterprise and what will be the purpose of this exploration? Will the goal be to benefit the people of the United States and around the world, or will it be a vast mess to make billionaires even richer and open up outer space to greed and corporate exploitation?
Fifty-three years later, following a huge push to privatize space exploration, I fear NASA has become little more than an ATM to fuel a space race not between United States and other countries, but between the two richest men in America – Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, who are worth over $450 billion combined.
Right now, if you can believe it, Congress is considering legislation to provide a $10 billion bailout to Jeff Bezos’ space company Blue Origin for a contract to build a lunar lander. The legislation comes after Blue Origin lost a competitive bid to SpaceX, Musk’s company.
Bezos is worth around $180 billion. In a given year, he paid nothing in federal income tax. He is the owner of Amazon, which in any given year also paid zero federal income tax after making billions in profits. Bezos has enough money to own a $500 million mega-yacht, a $23 million mansion in Washington D.C., a $175 million estate in Beverly Hills and a $78 million estate on 14 acres. in Maui.
At a time when more than half of the people of this country are living paycheck to paycheck, more than 70 million people are uninsured or underinsured, and some 600,000 Americans are homeless, should we really provide a multi-billion dollar taxpayer bailout for Bezos to fuel his space hobby? I do not think so. Let’s be clear though. This problem goes far beyond a simple contract for Bezos to go to the moon.
The reality is that the space economy – which today consists mostly of private companies using NASA facilities and technology essentially for free to launch satellites into orbit – is already very profitable and has the potential to become exponentially more profitable in the future. Bank of America predicts that over the next eight years, the space economy will triple in size to $1.4 billion — that’s a trillion with a ‘t’. In 2018, private companies made more than $94 billion in profits from goods or services used in space – profits that could not have been made without generous subsidies and support from NASA and American taxpayers. The satellite business is growing rapidly. SpaceX alone plans to launch tens of thousands of its Starlink communications satellites over the next few years.
In addition to launching new satellites, companies like SpaceX will make substantial money from the “space tourism” business. Recently, three extremely wealthy people each paid $55 million to visit the International Space Station. The good news is that if you’re a billionaire tired of vacationing in the Caribbean, there are exciting travel opportunities for you. The bad news is that US taxpayers are subsidizing part of this trip. And while it might sound like a bad sci-fi movie today, decades from now the real money to be made won’t come from satellites or space tourism, but from those who figure out how to mine lucrative minerals on asteroids.
In fact, Goldman Sachs and famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson predicted that the world’s first billionaire will be the person who discovers how to mine and exploit natural resources on asteroids. NASA has identified more than 12,000 asteroids within 45 meters of Earth that contain iron ore, nickel, precious metals and other minerals. A single 3,000 foot asteroid can contain platinum worth over $5 billion. Rare earth metals from another asteroid alone could be worth more than $20 billion. According to Silicon Valley entrepreneur Peter Diamandis, “There are twenty trillion dollar checks up there, waiting to be cashed!”
The questions we need to ask ourselves are: who will cash these cheques? Who, globally, will benefit from space exploration? Will it be a handful of billionaires or will it be the people of our country and all of humanity? As it stands, following the Space Act of 2015 which passed the Senate with virtually no debate on the ground, private companies are able to own any resources they discover in space. . In other words, the taxpayers of this country who allowed these private companies to go into space will get a 0% return on their investment.
Now is the time to have a serious debate in Congress and across our nation about how to develop a rational space policy that doesn’t just socialize all the risk and privatize all the profit. Whether it’s extending high-speed Internet and affordable mobile phone service to remote areas, tracking natural disasters and climate change, establishing colonies on the Moon and Mars, or operating asteroids, the scientific achievements we achieve should be shared by all of us, not just the wealthy few. Space exploration is very exciting. Its potential to improve life here on planet Earth is limitless. But it also has the potential to make the richest people in the world incredibly richer and incredibly more powerful. When we take that next giant leap into space, let’s do it for the benefit of all of humanity, not to turn a handful of billionaires into billionaires.
Summary of news:
- Even though Jeff Bezos has a wealth of $160 billion, Congress could bail out his space company
- Check out all the news and articles from the latest space news updates.