Bernie Sanders makes a dishonest attack on commercial space flight

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) recently took to the pages of the Guardian to launch
a full-throated attack
on Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, and the whole concept of the commercial space sector.

Sanders began by celebrating the Apollo 11 moon landing: “On that historic day, the entire world came together to celebrate the enormous accomplishment as Armstrong’s voice boomed from our television sets: ‘That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.’”

The statement was all very nice, but it was a major flip-flop from Sanders’s position as recently as the 2020 presidential campaign.
According to his campaign website
, “Bernie supports NASA’s mission and is generally in favor of increasing funding for NASA, but only after the needs of Americans on Earth are met first.” In other words, Sanders echoed the critique of the Apollo program from the Left — that money spent on going to the moon should instead be spent on social needs, poverty, the environment, education, and all the rest.

Sanders fast-forwarded over 50 years to the current Artemis program to return to the moon and offered a complaint: “I am concerned that Nasa has become little more than an ATM machine to fuel a space race not between the US and other countries, but between the two wealthiest men in America — Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, who are worth more than $450bn combined.”

The message is: Apollo was good and pure and was undertaken for “all mankind.” Artemis is being done for the benefit of grubby capitalist exploiters such as Musk and Bezos.

One problem is that corporate America made out pretty well during the Apollo race to the moon. The machines that took Armstrong and Aldrin to the lunar surface were built by companies such as Grumman, Boeing, North American Aviation, and thousands of others.

The contracts during Apollo — indeed, during much of the space age — were written on a “cost-plus” basis. That means that a company would build a piece of hardware at whatever cost it required, and NASA would kick in a little more for profit. The arrangement was great for corporate America because it didn’t involve too many incentives to keep costs down.

Starting with the George W. Bush administration, NASA started a different approach with the Commercial Orbital Transport System and Commercial Crew Program. Companies such as SpaceX agreed to build spacecraft on a fixed-price basis. If the cost of developing a spacecraft such as the Crew Dragon exceeded the fixed price, companies such as SpaceX paid the excess. In return, the companies would own the spacecraft, and NASA would rent them as a customer.

The arrangement has thus far worked pretty well. SpaceX is carrying cargo and crew to the International Space Station for a fraction of the cost that NASA used to pay for using the space shuttle. SpaceX is also flying commercial missions such as the recent AX-1.

For Artemis, NASA is rehashing the fixed-price approach for the Human Landing System, which will take astronauts to the lunar surface. SpaceX was awarded the first contract for a measly $2.9 billion. Compare that to the cost so far of the Space Launch System, the heavy-lift rocket that will take astronauts to lunar orbit and back, built under the traditional cost-plus arrangement and coming in, so far, at about $30 billion.

NASA recently opened bids for a second HLS. The $10 billion that Sanders refers to in his article is not a “bailout” for Bezos but an authorization for the entire HLS program. Bezos’s Blue Origin company will no doubt bid on the contract but will not be guaranteed to get it. A motion by Sanders to strike the money from the bill was met with overwhelming defeat on the floor of the Senate.

Sanders even objects to private companies mining the moon and asteroids for precious minerals. The objection is ironic, as some of those minerals, rare earths especially, are needed for solar and electric car technologies that are part of the Green New Deal that Sanders supports. Without those minerals, technology designed to fight climate change is unlikely to develop.

Sanders seems to be in favor of space exploration so long as no one makes any money at it, consistent with his socialist ideology. The attitude is divorced from reality and unsustainable.

Mark Whittington, who writes frequently about space and politics, has published a political study of space exploration titled
Why is It So Hard to Go Back to the Moon?
as well as
The Moon, Mars and Beyond
and, most recently,
Why is America Going Back to the Moon?
He blogs at
Curmudgeons Corner

Source link

Friends, this isn’t the time to be complacent. If you are ready to fight for the soul of this nation, you can start by donating to elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris by clicking the button below.


Thank you so much for supporting Joe Biden’s Presidential campaign.

What do you think?

Written by Politixia

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

“Woke” Has Lost All Of Its Meaning – SXU Student Media

West Bengal Politics: BJP Worker Found Dead; Party Blames TMC Of Murder