“Where self-interest is suppressed, it is replaced by a burdensome system of bureaucratic control that dries up the wellspring of initiative and creativity.”

– Pope John Paul II

NASA has grounded future space shuttle flights indefinitely because a chunk of insulation fell off the external fuel tank during launch … again.

You have to wonder about the timing of NASA’s announcement on the grounding of the fleet while the shuttle is still in orbit. The astronauts on board must feel like a passenger traveling down the highway in a 1965 Chevy Corvair while reading Ralph Nader’s “Unsafe at Any Speed.”

Though I’m a big believer in the importance of space exploration and view it as a worthy and necessary investment, it’s becoming increasingly clear that NASA and their government-imposed limitations aren’t the proper answer to the stated goal of colonizing the moon and Mars.

It’s time to allow the private sector to have a crack at it. Yes, prepare yourselves to watch the Pepsi orbiter docking with the Baby Gap space station on their way to the Geico moon base – but it’ll be a small tradeoff for expedited success and greater financial prudence.

Sure, there would still be massive government nosiness, just like in any other aspect of our lives, but not as much as is currently taking place within NASA. The end result of a private-sector space program would be greater efficiency, faster development, and fewer mistakes, because the private sector operates under a word that doesn’t appear in any government dictionary: accountability.

With the government in charge, NASA has gone from awe-inspiring to foundering, almost exactly in line with the onslaught of political correctness in our society. Starting with the Mercury program in the ’50s and early ’60s, through the Apollo program, which ended in the early ’70s, there was the feeling of real progress with the space program, and all with no in-flight deaths.

Men have gone to the moon several times, and now, 36 years after the first lunar landing, ships can hardly get off the ground without incident. Why? Because there’s nothing more counterproductive than a politically correct technocrat.

Space travel is an incredibly dangerous business, and in today’s Nerf-wrapped, sharp-edges-rounded-off world, the government has little tolerance for anything that could cause an owie. Another problem is that the government, defense weapons notwithstanding, is traditionally at least 20 years behind the technological times.

The sloth-like pace of the government is usually a good thing. The attractive feature of monstrous bureaucracy has always been that it corners like an aircraft carrier in dry-dock – making it fairly easy for the fleet-afoot masses to outmaneuver, but in a business such as space travel, there is little room for political correctness wrapped in red tape, and we’re seeing proof of that now.

Maybe the time has come to take some of the billions of tax dollars spent on NASA and offer it to private firms and entrepreneurs. The ultimate goal would be to push the government’s plan of colonizing the moon and Mars forward, while reducing the number of aerospace consumer advocates impeding the advance.

Besides, if the space program were offered to the private sector, some financial burden could be lifted from taxpayers. How? I’d be willing to bet you could pay for much of an entire mission simply by agreeing to have an astronaut step onto the surface of Mars, pull out a flip-phone, and say, “Can you hear me now?”

Free the private sector– and I mean the actual private sector, not contractors who know the PIN to the federal ATM, by offering incentives to anybody who can get the job done. Do that, and by the time NASA gets all the loose thermal tiles super-glued back into place for the next orbital mission dedicated to seeing if the tiles will stay glued into place, there would already be a Starbucks on Mars.

Here’s another incentive: You get there, you own it. It’ll be like a galactic Oklahoma land run. Keeping federal peskiness to a minimum will be key. If the U.S. government of today ran the push west early in American history, Lewis and Clark would still be sitting just outside St. Louis trying to figure out how to keep the wagon wheels from falling off.

Sure, turning loose the private sector on the heavens wouldn’t be without problems. For example, it could be a little awkward walking on the beach with your date, looking up, and saying, “There’s a beautiful Trump out this evening,” but it would be a small price to pay to finally get the space program headed in the right direction.

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