There are too many in the wake of the two commercial space endeavors which tragically ended during the last week of October 2014 who still believe that the government are the professionals in space flight, whereas the private sector are the amateurs. First was the 140-foot Antares rocket operated by Orbital Sciences Corp that blew up 15 seconds after lift-off destroying $200 million dollars of investment. Then there was the even worse Virgin Galactic spaceship that suffered a structural failure and crashed killing one and injuring another pilot destroying over $400 million dollars of a very unique craft. There seems to be a belief that if the federal government had been involved that these accidents wouldn’t have happened and that only the deep pockets of a looting government can fund such endeavors.
Well, here’s the deal—if it were up to the federal government there wouldn’t have been any crashes, because they wouldn’t be going up into space in the first place. They would employ a lot of engineers to sit in a room and talk about theory, they’d go to lunch and perpetually build spreadsheets of data which politicians and administrators would look at and decide that the risk was too great to act—and that they’d need more data points. This would go on for decades until everyone retires and the program gradually falls away into disrepair—which is the current experience at NASA—which is run by the government. They would not be where Virgin Galactic is today—because there are too many government bureaucrats in the way of their development.
Space travel in the fashion that it should have continued after the Apollo programs—as the Space Shuttles were already well under construction at that point in time—diminished after the rival of Russia collapsed and governments were no longer worried about nuclear weapons falling out of space. The short-sighted government simply stopped worrying about space and lost their sense of vision. They—as a collective entity–were unable to conceive of the type of space activity that Virgin Galactic is pursuing. It is beyond their reach. It doesn’t matter that the government has the ability to throw virtually unlimited amounts of money at space, what matters is that they lack the vision to do so—whereas the private sector isn’t so encumbered.
Now that the federal government is involved in the investigation of the Virgin Galactic crash, it will likely take years to get another ship ready for take-off and testing because of the bureaucratic elements involved. Government does not move at the speed of business and when they stand in the way—very little happens and by the time it does—everybody looses interest. That is the great danger involved from the Virgin Galactic disaster.
Richard Branson was extremely skilled in his press conference stating that Virgin Galactic would remain on course—which was a relief. But even he knows that it will take a monumental effort to get another ship to the phase that SpaceShipTwo was on the morning of October 31st, 2014. Mindless bureaucrats and pin-headed statesman will stand in the way of galactic adventure with a boldness they display in no other endeavor. Politicians and government workers only have valor when they hold up progress.
If not for the movies of The Right Stuff and Apollo 13 what would NASA have used as a tourism hook for the last 15 years at Kennedy Space Center? And what is the Right Stuff—I know, but do you dear reader? I can tell you one thing, government doesn’t have it—and those who work for government either gets it by breaking the law, or by performing it before bureaucrats take over the administrative process. Would Chuck Yeager have broken the sound barrier in today’s Air Force? No. Obama and his senators would have cancelled the funding in favor of making the people in the Middle East, or Indonesia feel better about their collective contributions to science back in a day when some thought the earth was flat. Politicians have no reverence for valor, or appetite for danger. I would bet $100,000,000 dollars that the pilot who survived the crash of Virgin Galactic on Halloween would literally give everything he’s got to climb into the next plane to push the boundaries again—which is what the Right Stuff is all about. Politicians don’t understand that kind of valor. They are too busy figuring out where they want to go for lunch. They don’t risk anything, especially themselves. They are in the business of playing it safe. Test pilots and entrepreneurs like Branson are all about the risk. Politicians loot off the effort of that risk to skim tax money away for their pet programs of election security and demographic maintenance. The Right Stuff was when John Glenn told his wife she didn’t have to pose for a photograph with LBJ when she didn’t want to. Glenn’s effort was what made the voyage into space worthy; it wasn’t a worthless politician who wanted to pose for a photo-op so to gain a few percentage points of popularity to the voting public.
The people of Virgin Galactic have the Right Stuff—they show up for work when nobody cares about the thousands of decisions they have to conquer just to complete one phase of spaceship construction. When there are triumphs, they bang wine glasses together and celebrate. When they go bad, as they did on Halloween of 2014, they attend the funerals and scratch their heads to figure out what to do next. But they do what they do for the life of adventure that valor dictates. Government people don’t understand that yearning and are good for nothing toward that end—they simply get in the way.
So for those who think that these latest disasters could have been prevented if the federal government applied its extensive regulations to the task of space travel—you are sadly mistaken. The only thing that would come of that arrangement is nothing—just perpetual stagnation and a constant desire to reach two points of productivity in their tax payer funded days of employment—their lunch hour, and quitting time. Everything in between those two periods involves stalling productive output until the relief of those times present themselves. So nothing happens. That is why Virgin Galactic is the only hope for those who see space as the answer to so many modern problems. There is no plan B or no government on earth who can duplicate their efforts even with endless budgets. Because it takes the Right Stuff to go into space and Virgin Galactic is filled with them. The people who work in government aren’t.