Petty, Small Behavior, From Petty, Small-Minded People

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Over at the Washington Times, Brandon Weichert makes the case that the infant Biden Administration is taking deliberate and infantile aim at Elon Musk’s SpaceX and its efforts to colonize Mars in our lifetimes:

The FAA did not cite its reasoning behind ordering the cancellation of the launch. Many have speculated that the cancellation was brought about due to safety concerns. After all, in December 2020, SpaceX did a test of the experimental rocket. The Starship prototype made it to a height of 41,000 feet. Once it reoriented itself, in order to allow for the rocket to land vertically, the great silver spacecraft promptly did a bellyflop that ended in a massive explosion. 

Despite this, SpaceX learned many valuable lessons from the December failure that were to be applied to the Starship launch in January. In science, the only lasting failure occurs when one does not test a new idea or hypothesis….

It’s likely that the FAA’s decision to cancel the launch is part of a wider Biden administration effort undo the Trump administration’s vibrant space policy. Plus, former President Trump’s space vision was explicitly aimed at countering advances made by China in space….

Concern over Mr. Musk’s Martian intentions is likely another factor for the FAA’s cancellation of the Starship launch. Last year, Mr. Musk indicated that any future SpaceX Martian colony would not be “ruled by Earth-based laws.” The problem for Mr. Musk is that SpaceX has been awarded lucrative contracts by the Earth-based U.S. government. If SpaceX were to create a colony on Mars, because of the company’s contractual relationship with the U.S. government, Washington very much expects that colony to be an American endeavor. 

I’ve joked (mostly) before that the good news is that Elon Musk is the hero in an Ayn Rand novel, but that the bad news is that we’re living through an Ayn Rand novel. That just got a lot less funny, and a lot more enraging.

Weichert himself notes that the FAA’s possible safety concerns make no sense. NASA itself blew up dozens of rockets on launch or on the pad during the space race with the Soviets. Tragically, we also lost three astronauts during an Apollo test, nearly lost three more on Apollo 13, and only Neil Armstrong’s calm nerves and professionalism saved two more during the Gemini program.

And leave aside the national security and world-historic consequences of turning Mars and the high ground over to Chinese totalitarians, because I can’t think of a single reason why that shouldn’t carry the day all by itself.

There’s also a possibility that some of this is to protect Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin.

The most interesting point is Weichert’s last speculation, also easily the most short-sighted and petty, but typical of how our ideological elites think these days. Sure, it makes sense that Washington wants a Mars colony that’s loyal to the US, and it was probably unwise of Musk to shoot his mouth off about effective independence before he’s gotten there. But there are ways of satisfying everyone.

If DC were judicious and far-sighted, it would realize that as long as there’s a supply line reaching back to Earth, it will have the final say over much of what goes on in a Mars colony, but that at a practical level its direct control will be severely limited. Its best bet would be to do what the British Crown did with Massachusetts when it allowed the General Court to pass any laws that didn’t conflict with British law. Allow Mars to pass any laws that don’t conflict with the US Constitution.

More prosaically, though no less destructively, every “i” must be dotted, every “t” must be crossed before the program is allowed to proceed, which is why so little actually happens. Compare Israel’s Wuhan coronavirus vaccination program with New York’s. Israel set some basic guidelines, and then allowed flexibility in how they’d be implemented. Governor Cuomo threatened to start prosecuting people for giving vaccines “out of order.” Guess who’s vaccinated more of its people? Regardless of how all this shakes out, I’d rather be having this argument then, when there are actual colonists on the way, than now, when we’re still trying to figure out the engineering.

Musk’s dreams are grand, inspiring, breath-taking.

Too bad they’re being crushed by people who can’t stand actual hope.

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