- - Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) routinely wastes stupendous money on endeavors that should be undertaken if at all by the private sector.

The latest example is NASA’s flight test of a new space capsule, Orion, the first step in a more ambitious plan for human exploration of the solar system. It includes a Mars landing and the capture of an asteroid with a robotic spacecraft to be dragged into the moon’s orbit to connect with Orion for sampling by astronauts. The cost is estimated at $30 billion, or enough to construct approximately 2,300 new elementary schools.

NASA’s prodigality demonstrates the urgency of a constitutional amendment to prohibit borrowing by the federal government except in times of war declared by Congress.

The agency has spent $4 trillion since May 25, 1961, when President John F. Kennedy announced to a Joint Session of Congress a government goal to land a man on the moon before the decade ended. The purpose was to best the Soviet Union in a scientific-technological beauty contest to impress Third World countries like Bhutan or Burundi irrelevant to our national security. Indeed, the Kennedy insisted that tyrannical governments would be so dazzled by a moon landing that they would immediately renounce power and embrace freedom to become astronauts. He may have secretly hoped that Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschev would refrain from building the Berlin Wall in exchange for a first-class trip to the moon on an American spaceship.

Kennedy further justified NASA’s moon caper as fulfilling an imperative human yearning as thrilling as chasing comets or jumping over mountains. He elaborated: “Space is open to us now; and our eagerness to share its meaning is not governed by the efforts of others. We go into space because whatever mankind must undertake, free men must fully share.”

It is a good bet that Kennedy would have been less ebullient if he had been required to ask his father, Joseph P. Kennedy Sr., to fund the moon shot as opposed to spending government funds.

On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 landed on the moon with Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins. Not a single tyranny was shaken contrary to President Kennedy’s promise. Mr. Armstrong lyrically proclaimed, “One small step for man, one giant step for mankind.” But he was unable to articulate any nexus between the moon landing and national security or other benefit to the United States. It did not promote resolution of the Vietnam War. it did not ameliorate estranged race relations. It did not prevent Charles Manson’s grisly murders. It did not slow the plunge into disastrous wage and price controls. Indeed, the misery index of the entire world was unaffected by the moon landing.

So what was the point? Why not leave to the private sector decisions to go to the moon with private money?

Great scientific advances of mankind do not necessitate government undertakings.

Neither Copernicus nor Galileo received government funding for discrediting the geocentic theory of the universe in favor of the heliocentric.

Issac Newton’s laws of motion were not discovered on the government’s dime. Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin, Alexander Graham Bell discovered the telephone, and Samuel Morse discovered the telegraph without government subsidies.

Albert Einstein’s theories of special and general relativity were developed without government support.

Science for the sake of science is not a proper government function. It is neither an enumerated nor implied power of Congress, and it lacks any limiting principle to control spending.

Consider NASA’s current mission statement: “To reach for new heights and reveal the unknown so that what we do and learn will benefit all of humankind.” Spending money to determine whether cucumbers in space could be made to yield sunbeams would qualify. So would roaming the universe from Mercury to Pluto in search of space aliens while beaming Beatles’ songs at the Big and Little Dipper.

And think what would happen with a Newt Gingrich in the White House. During his 2012 presidential whirl, the futurist promised a moon colony by the end of a second term. Assuming a population of 60,000 needing ordinary creature comforts, nutrition, and armed forces to engage in preemptive warfare against space aliens or asteroids, the annual cost of a Gingrich moon colony would soar into the trillions.Shouldn’t NASA be abolished without delay to avoid risking a Gingrich-like spending calamity?

For more information about Bruce Fein, visit brucefeinlaw.

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