Being tone deaf is not a good way to fund a government space program

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit.

Yesterday the House appropriations committee’s released budget numbers that included no additional funds for commercial space, limiting the subsidies to $312 million, the same number as last year and significantly less than the $850 million requested by the Obama administration.

This is what I have thought might happen since last year. The tone deaf manner in which the Obama administration has implemented the private space subsidies is leaving all funding for NASA vulnerable.

The political needs of Congress encourage them to fund the pork of the program-formerly-called-Constellation because it maintains the jobs that already exist in their districts. Unfortunately, the program-formerly-called-Constellation will not get us into space, and when that program fails over the coming years it will become increasingly likely that Congress will eliminate it entirely, faced as it is with terrible federal deficits and a crushing debt.

At the same time, those same political needs give Congress little incentive to fund the new private space efforts. As these companies are new, they have no vested interests in Congressional districts. Faced with the need to find things to cut, it is very easy for Congress to cut or trim these subsidies.

The result: all funding for NASA goes away.

As I have said repeatedly, this might not be a bad thing. Eventually freedom, competition, and the need to get into space will force the creation of a new space industry, and to have that industry blossom outside the control of government is certainly a better thing in the long run.

The problem will be that it might take five to ten years for that to happen. And that is going to be a very painful time for those space cadets out there who desperately want the United States to explore the solar system.


Every July, to celebrate the anniversary of the start of Behind the Black in 2010, I hold a month-long fund-raising campaign to make it possible for me to continue my work here for another year.

This year's fund-raising drive however is more significant in that it is also the 10th anniversary of this website's founding. It is hard to believe, but I have been doing this for a full decade, during which I have written more than 22,000 posts, of which more than 1,000 were essays and almost 2,600 were evening pauses.

This year's fund drive is also more important because of the growing intolerance of free speech and dissent in American culture. Increasingly people who don't like what they read are blatantly acting to blackball sites like mine. I have tried to insulate myself from this tyrannical effort by not depending on Google advertising or cross-posts Facebook or Twitter. Though this prevents them from having a hold on me, it also acts to limit my exposure.

Therefore, I hope you will please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.


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  • looks like we are still working against each other to make the transition to private space more painful instead of less painful its a shame . we have got to turn the corner and start making things better . comon lets get together and find a common vision we can all work toward! thanks for the post good info^^

  • Thanks a lot for the blog post.Much thanks again. Wonderful.

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