Space is a place; not a program

Space is a place; not a program

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Space is a place; not a program

Message 9 of the Frontier Files

c 1995 James A. M. Muncy

Space Frontier Foundation

This message is another in a series of Space Frontier Foundation essays designed to inform the Internet public about the incredible possibilities awaiting us in space.

The members of the Space Frontier Foundation are committed to a common vision of the human settlement of space. But just as importantly, we’ve all come to some very important conclusions about how that vision might be realized, and therefore what we need to do to make it a reality.

From different starting points, and along many different paths, we’ve all concluded that the current nationalist space programs will never get us space settlements. Even if the world’s governments spent a lot more money. Even if all the world’s space agencies “cooperated”. Even if we waited a long, long time.

It’s not a matter of scale or budgets or time. The problem is with the fundamental purpose and design of our space programs. The painful fact is that our space programs can’t open the space frontier because they weren’t and aren’t designed to do that.

The current programs are what’s left of our governments’ crisis response to Sputnik during the Cold War and the USSR’s counter response. Winning the Space Race required large powerful agencies that would do things in space on behalf of their country. Today, we have smaller, weaker agencies that is still trying to “do” space for us, rather than open up space for us .

The key problem is that bureaucrats see space as a thing to do, rather than a place to be. That worldview undergirds the very notion of a space “program” — an activity performed by the government “for us.” With our money, but without our direct participation.

The fact is space is a place, not a program. Government’s role is to help open space for the rest of us, not run it or do it. But understanding that requires a radical change in the way most people think about space, what space is about, even though it truly reflects and extends our human heritage.

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