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Privatizing Outer Space?

Reported by Judy - June 21, 2004 -

Part of the Fox News (read "Republican) philosophy is that government is bad, and everything government does, it does badly. "Fox News Live" is now reaching ...

into outer space to extend that philosophy. That's why Jon Scott, on June 21, was devoting so much time to promoting the launch of "Spaceshipone" by a group of private investors.

At 9:15 a.m. EDT, Scott mentioned an upcoming "milestone" in space history when a private plane would venture into space. At 9:33 a.m., Scott gushed that the launch would be "this century's equivalent of the Wright Brothers." William LaJeunesse picked up the theme, at that point, calling the attempt by a private company to put someone into space "historic." He bragged that the company had spent just $20 million, "a fraction of what government spends."

At 9:38 a.m. EDT, Scott cut short an interview with Benjamin Netanyahu to go back to LaJeunesse as the plane carrying the space ship headed down the run way, with La eunesse repeating that the launch "really is a remarkable achievement" compared to the way the early Mercury program operated and that it is "being done on a shoestring ompared to what NASA spent, what government spends," and that it was done by 40 guys in a garage, just like the Wright Brothers in their bicycle shop. LaJeunesse explained how the flight was part of the competition for the X prize, a $10 million prize for the first private company to put someone in space.

At 9:45 a.m., Scot figures out that the flight doesn't qualify for the X prize because it's not high enough. Oops!

All this chortling about private enterprise doing it better than government overlooks all the heavy lifting that government did back in the 1950s and 1960s to spend the money and take the risks to get people into space. Now that government has spent all that money, Fox claims that private enterprise should come in and take the credit --and profits -- from future benefits.

Look for private companies to start staking out "ownership" of parts of space in the future, claiming portions of the universe as their own, much as 16th century explorers claimed parts of the "New World" for European monarchies.