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Space: The Free-Market Frontier Paperback – December 13, 2002
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From Publishers Weekly
Outer space will languish as an economic vacuum until private enterprise is given its head, according to this dry and doctrinaire collection of papers from a conference sponsored by the libertarian Cato Institute. The contributors include congressmen, lawyers, business executives and an astronaut, and cover such topics as NASAs history, cheaper space travel, opportunities for and barriers to space investment and legal and property rights in space. The essays are sprinkled with sermonettes on the virtues of free markets and the evils of "central planning" and NASAs "self-perpetuating bureaucracy." But most writers are not free-market purists; their main agenda seems to be to channel government space spending to private companies in the form of tax breaks, loan guarantees, prize competitions, lucrative NASA outsourcing contracts and other "government-private sector partnerships." A look at the proposed space businesses shows why extraterrestrial commerce still needs the booster rocket of state subsidy. There are fuzzy schemes to "expand our economy" to the Moon and asteroids and beam solar energy from space, but hopes seem to ride primarily on space tourism and gimmicks like a logo-festooned "space sail" and a lunar rover webcam; how profitable any of these ventures would be, given the expense of operating in the vast distances and inhospitable climate of space, is not discussed. Apart from the already mature satellite business, it doesnt seem like theres much to do in space thats both financially rewarding and feasible, which is why this blueprint for a capitalist cosmos looks more like a welfare program for the aerospace industry.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
Although the Cato Institute, the publisher of this book, did not misrepresent its contents, I was expecting something different. I was hoping for more of a "future of space science" tome so that I could find out more about the specific space technologies which will ultimately work. (The shuttle program obviously has serious problems). What I found instead was a collection of scholarly essays, mostly centering on the economics of the issue, to be read by congressmen and policy wonks.
There is nothing wrong with that, of course. But personally, I would have preferred something more in line with G. Harry Stine's book, Halfway to Anywhere: Achieving America's Destiny in Space, or at least an essay or two picking up where Stine left off in 1996. I'm especially interested in knowing more about the state of the art of single stage to orbit (SSTO) technology. I didn't find much along that line.
What I did find, however, and what made the book more than worth the purchase price was a lucid essay by Dennis A. Tito, the American Businessman who paid his own way to fulfil his lifelong dream of going into space. It was a colorful, competent, and descriptive view of what it would be like for a regular person to go into space. Having been rebuffed by NASA, he went to the Russians who cordially welcomed him, trained him for his "mission," and gave him a very expensive vacation aboard the Russian section of the under construction International Space Station (ISS).
Tito's experiences and his vision for the future of space exploration were inspirational and uplifting in the wake of the Columbia Shuttle disaster. NASA tried to scuttle Tito's adventure, and that same massive bureaucracy has probably succeeded in scuttling the shuttle program.
The solution seems clear to me; we need more free enterprise. Follow the model used in the development of aviation in the 20th century. If you agree with that statement, buy this book.