There has been a great deal of controversy in the last few days on a subject that, in this country, should have been fairly uncontroversial — the greatness of America and its ability to achieve great things. Ever since I gave a speech on my vision for America in space a couple weeks ago, it has been mocked and completely mischaracterized, either out of ignorance, malice, or both, and in doing so, those so mocking have only revealed their own small-minded pedestrian bean-counting lack of both vision for this nation, and their lack of knowledge of either the cost or benefits of opening up space to humanity. Mitt Romney has clearly never given this subject a moment’s thought. To the degree that his campaign has articulated a purpose for space at all, or provided a policy other than getting “top, men,” he has said that the purpose of human spaceflight is to address, quote: “the ‘existential’ objective of understanding the universe and its effects on the Earth, such as climate or the possibility of a ‘catastrophic event’; commercial; the health and well-being of citizens; and defense.”
Note that not a single one of those goals requires sending humans into space. The last three are so vague as to be meaningless in the context of a space program. What does the word “commercial” mean? Who can argue that “the health and well-being of citizens” isn’t a worthy goal, but how does humans in space play a role? And Governor Romney, Dwight Eisenhower established a civil space agency, separate from the Department of Defense, for a reason. We already have a program for defense in space — it is run by the Air Force and other defense agencies, which have as much money for it as NASA’s total budget, so that makes no sense as a purpose for the space agency.
The first straw man that my opponents accuse me of is wanting NASA to build a lunar colony of thousands of people. Anyone who listened to my speech in Florida knows I never proposed such a thing. I was simply expressing an aspiration to see it happen, and if it did, I proposed that it be eligible for statehood. If it occurs, it will be because it is paying for itself, perhaps by providing goods and services to the space-based economy that will develop off planet as the cost of access to orbit comes down in the coming decades from the growing competitive commercial transportation providers. I was simply proposing that NASA establish a base by 2020, the same thing that George W. Bush proposed, and that Governor Romney supported the last time he ran for president. Such a base would prove out the concepts of the utilization of resources on the moon, such as water for life support and propellants, and other materials, that would allow a reduction in the cost of both getting there and living there, and enable the development of a later colony that could pay for itself.
There is a discussion of people using inflated costs.
So, suppose that I’m right, and we can do it for just a few billion dollars? Is there a return on investment (a question that I notice that putative businessman Governor Romney didn’t even ask when he proposed firing anyone who wanted to build a lunar base the other night)? What benefits can uniquely justify sending humans into space to live?
He makes the case for colonization and then finishes with the following
I am not proposing that the taxpayer spend trillions of dollars on another government space program. I am instead offering an affordable vision of how to open the next, and final frontier, the only real justification for sending humans into space at all. I’m offering an opportunity to not just be government astronauts, but for those who simply want to go to seek their muse and fortune, on the principles of free markets and individualism that made this nation great. And I am offering to do so in just the way that this great nation was founded and developed, using existing, or perhaps even smaller budgets than those we are currently spending on NASA that keep it unaffordable and closed to all but a few chosen government employees. I continue to await my opponents’ visions, but if they can’t come up with one on their own, I hope that they will at least stop mindlessly denigrating and mischaracterizing mine for crude political purposes, and that at least on this transcendental issue, they can transcend the pathetic and sorry nature of this so-called debate.