“Coca-Cola refreshes you best!”
These should have been the first words spoken by Neil Armstrong 40 years ago as he planted the first human footprint on the moon.
And in exchange for this history-making advertisement, Cola-Cola could have paid the entire $22.7 billion (1969 dollars) cost of the Apollo space program that landed Armstrong and other astronauts on Luna Firma.
The United States is supposedly a proud capitalist country, but you would never know this from our government-dominated socialist space program.
Our former Soviet Marxist rival Russia has embraced capitalist space profiteering, flying wealthy Americans to the International Space Station for a paltry $20 million.
Even middle-class Americans up to age 70 can buy a 50 minute ride on a Russian MiG-31 jet fighter to the edge of space to look down on our curving big blue marble of a planet from 82,000 feet — nearly three times as high as the summit of Mount Everest — for as little as $24,000 on a credit card. And during this flight you can take control of the aircraft!
America's space program, by contrast, is run by dour NASA bureaucrats who have made little secret of their distaste for Russia opening socialist space and spacecraft to paying customers for profit.
Far worse, in America's space program tickets to space have come through politics, not merit or money. Our space shuttle has given rides to Saudi Arabian Prince Salman Al-Saud; to then-Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, and then-Congressman Bill Nelson, D-Fla. in exchange for their NASA funding votes; and to then-Sen. John Glenn, D-Ohio, as a transparent payoff for his political efforts to block removal from office of impeached President Bill Clinton.
Why, then, are we surprised that America's tawdry politicized and prostituted space program fails to excite young Americans?
Born during the Cold War, America's space program continues to look like a machine staffed by apparatchiks who wear gray suits or military uniforms — brave but cool, stiff-lipped robots selected and trained to push buttons, obey orders, and exhibit little spirit of enterprise, adventure, or wonder.
“Our space explorers need to look and sound like the new movie ‘Star Trek,’ ” my wife Ellen observed during 40th Anniversary coverage of the moon landing. “They need the excitement of ‘Star Trek’ — even its flashy uniforms as symbols that these self-confident pioneers are creating humankind's future.”
Ellen is, admittedly, the Hollywood writer in our family, given to romance, fantasy, and idealism — but she is absolutely right.
The Apollo program embodied the pioneering spirit of John F. Kennedy's New Frontier and the optimism of the original “Star Trek” series.
“Star Trek's” craft is the Enterprise, named not only for America's proudest warships but also for our spirit of exploration, adventure, and entrepreneurship.
“Star Trek's” flagship was a government-funded craft in the same sense as were the Pinta, Nina, Santa Maria, and Golden Hind, but Americans also instinctively recognize that its true name is Free Enterprise.
“Star Trek's” Enterprise sought out new worlds and new civilizations neither for conquest nor taxes, but to satisfy the deepest human impulses of curiosity and free, peaceful exchange of goods and ideas.
Humankind's future is out there. As I once proposed to Dr. James Lovelock, founder of modern Gaia Theory and its idea that Earth functions as a giant living organism, our species appears to be not the brains but the reproductive system of mother Earth, destined to spread Earth's life among the stars through seeds with labels like NASA painted on their sides.
But why do this badly via control freak micro-managing socialist government when free enterprise could do it better, faster, and in keeping with the spirit that created our once-free, once-great America?
Will humankind's future be socialist or capitalist, collectivist or individualist? Today socialist bureaucrats are our gatekeepers to space. If this continues, then elitist socialists and their anti-freedom values will dominate the future.
We ought to unleash entrepreneurial space exploration and settlement. Government should step aside, grant to private space enterprise the same kind of risk-rewarding incentivized tax breaks that have been given to race horse owners and movie makers, and let private companies settle the moon, terraform Mars, and stake property claims on asteroids and other worlds.
Even a hybrid NASA-private partnership approach would be better than the purely socialist model America has now. Let Pizza Hut and other companies have their banners on launch platforms and buy the naming rights to space stations, spacecraft, and buildings on Mars and the moon.
Let private individuals and companies become co-investors with NASA in space missions — and let these private enterprises at least share in the cost and profits — as they once did on voyages of exploration and settlement to the New World.
In America we built the railroads not through command socialist bureaucracies but through private enterprise and government land incentives to the builders. This same model could be used to encourage and accelerate space exploration and settlement.
We need to establish the principle that even where government leads the way in settling a new planet, it after a short time must sell off most land and facilities to private capitalist ownership.
We must not settle new worlds with the intent of making them into permanent socialist satraps run by government dictates.
Truth be told, if President Barack Obama succeeds in his policy aims our planet will soon plunge into a new neo-feudal socialist Dark Age that could last for centuries.
The light of liberty that America once held up to the world will be systematically eclipsed, and individual freedom could take half a millennium or more to re-emerge from this darkness.
Humankind's best hope could be thirteen colonies on Mars, distant and independent enough that under the right circumstances they could successfully declare independence from a socialist Earth and create a new free world.
The laissez faire freedom of such human outposts will be the best way to spread the healthiest, most diverse, and fruitful seed of humankind.
Lowell Ponte is co-host of the radio show “Night-Watch,” heard live nationwide Monday through Friday 10 p.m. to midnight Eastern time on gcnlive.com.
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