Saturday, March 24, 2007

A modest proposal

"Be it enacted by the Congress of the United States:

"The Congress has determined that it is in the national interest of the United States to build and operate an American owed permanent base on the Moon.

"The Treasurer is directed to pay the sum of $20 billion to the first American owned corporation or firm to establish a base on the Moon and continuously to keep there in good health at least 31 Americans for a period of not less than three years and a day"

It would work, or it wouldn't. At the end of the day we'd know if a private enterprise could do it or if space must remain the domain of the State. If it does not work it won't cost the taxpayer a dime. If it does we'll have - in some way or another - a manned presence in space and a way of making it all work.

The X-prize proved (again) that this kind of thing works - SS1 cost double the amount the prize was worth. You can argue against theory but this kind of thing works.

Hat tip to JEP for the idea and the verbage.

Update: Balkonur replied to my LJ post
I want to see a permanent presence on the moon too, but I'm not sure this is such a great idea. Doesn't there need to be an economic/policy incentive beyond the prize to justify this? I mean, the X-prize was laudable because it was a private effort and private funds were on the line. Other than the bragging rights, what is at the moon that is worth the government spending $20 billion? Couldn't the prize be a $20 billion contract to continue operating a moonbase and related infrastructure for government use, or maintenance of the infrastructure with common carrier status, or some other type of arrangement in which taxpayers are actually receiving some value for their money?

The problem with a prize like this is that it doesn't prove that a private enterprise can 'do' the moon- in fact it proves just the opposite. A private enterprise shouldn't have to rely on government subsidies to justify its existence. Much of the existing aerospace industry operates in exactly this way already- Lockheed and Boeing, to put it tamely, rely on government contracts. The 'new space' scene seems to want to set itself apart from this sort of business model, which is why I'm surprised to see this proposal.

My reply is here.
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