The Privatization of Space Missions & The Death Of A National Compact

I have to say, coming across the following two headlines on the very same day really stunned me:

From Wired, part of their This Day In History series:

May 25, 1961: JFK Vows to Put American on Moon by Decade’s End

From the Los Angeles Times:

SpaceX capsule captured by space station crew in historic mission

There can be no more definite symbolic nail in the coffin of the Kennedy-era Apollo program than the news today that the first privately-built spacecraft has successfully docked with the International Space Station. And while the last Apollo mission happened nearly 40 years ago, the program lived on in the sense that publicly-funded NASA remained the only operator of U.S. space missions for so long.

On this very same day in 1961, JFK challenged the American people to come together in support of his lofty goal, and it truly did require the entire country’s participation, from taxpayer dollars to votes that kept legislators and executives in office who supported a national space program.

And, as I was growing up, like millions of other Americans, I was captivated by the media coverage of the Apollo missions, and later the earliest space shuttle missions. I watched the coverage with a sense of ownership — “Mom, Dad, we put a man on the moon!” — and it was the only thing that ever stirred feelings in me that in anyway approached a sense of patriotism.

In stark contrast, the news of the first private ship to dock with the space station leaves me feeling alternately apathetic or sad.

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