Yet mundane terrestrial baggage will be carried by these adventurous astronauts. Who will be paying? Who will own what? How useful will Mars be? Oh dear, we'll need accountants and lawyers wherever we probe.
Bush is not finding the billions himself. Rather the tab will be picked up by US taxpayers in perhaps 20 yearsâ time. What arrests me is the unchallenged assumption that space exploration must be a nationalised industry. The Soviet effort may be stalled but the Chinese seem committed to joining the race. The European Space Agency is a strange combination of nationalised bodies. NASA is a pure old-fashioned nationalised entity.
I argue we should relinquish the expectationthat space has to be limited to vast quangos. The mindset we all share is an echo of the rivalry between the evaporated USSR and the still dynamic US. The first bleeps of the Sputnik galvanised the US into accelerating its space effort.
What we need is capitalists in space. Capitalism needs property rights, enforcement of contracts and the rule of law. The ideological tussle does not cease once we are beyond the