It isn’t very often that we get to see our wildest dreams come true (or start to come true), but I just did. Back in 1981, I began working as a lobbyist, with numerous visionaries throughout the country, trying to talk the Regan Administration into saving NASA. During those days William Proxmire ruled, literally retarding the growth of government funded science in the US. He would do just about anything to destroy funding for space sciences and NASA. We called it Progress vs. Proxmire.
Those who like to damn the GOP for being anti-science need to think back to the 1970s & 1980s when the Democrats basically killed much of NASA & William Proxmire was known as “Progress vs. Proxmire”. He destroyed the work of so many scientists working with government funding. The only thing that saved gov’t funded science in this country was the election of Ronald Reagan & the work of a little-known, unimportant Congressman from Georgia, who was so low in the pecking order that they were scraping his basement office for black mold. His name was Newt Gingrich.
I was there working as a lobbyist trying to save NASA from the Democrats and their budget cuts. I was the only woman on the National Coordinating Committee for Space. We worked with Strom Thurmond, Newt Gingrich, the White House Science Office (under Reagan), NASA, Carl Sagan, Gene Roddenberry, and anyone else who dared speak out against what the Democrats were doing. I was there. I know what happened. I’m so sick of people talking about how bad Republicans & Conservatives are when it comes to science. The only reason NASA is still alive is because of Ronald Reagan.
This is everything we ever wanted during those years of fighting to save NASA. My whole theory was the way we settle the Moon & Mars was to find gold or other precious metals and just sit back, enjoy the new version of the California Gold Rush. When you compare the logistics, the danger, and the complications getting there, it may be easier to get to the Moon or Mars than it was for the 49ers to get to California. I suspect, fifty years from now we will see a new version of the Tombstone story, on the moon. I have waited nearly 35 years of my life to see an article like this. We need to keep governments out of it, and for once, just let libertarians have their own way. Can you imagine the science fiction which will come to life? It won’t necessarily be the nuts & bolts but it will be about human interaction.
If what we think is available in space, the future is going to be as much or more about human issues that it will be about hardware. Not long after people, just the average Joe or Joellen figures how to tinker their way to the Moon – and they will, changes will begin. The only way to prevent them from getting there is an unholy alliance between governments and corporate interests. Even then, once enough people are off-planet it isn’t going to matter. Someone will be pissed with the status quo. They’ll get good and drunk one night and so something a little drastic to that load of coffee and tea brought up from Earth. They’ll blow up the landing vehicle and declare ‘no taxation without reputation’.
And so – it will begin. History will repeat itself. Only, I don’t think it will take 150 years the way it did, here. Not only do we have the example of history, but a different mind-set. There will be differing situations, but once someone realizes that there are diamonds on the surface of Neptune, they will figure out a way to get them.
BTW, this may go down in history as the best thing Barack Obama ever did – signing into law the right for private industry to mine in space. It could be the most long-reaching, and humanity saving law any president has done. If I’m right, he won’t be remembered for the ACA, or even trying to start WWIII. He will be remembered for enabling private development of space.