Aboard the Starship Private Enterprise

Last Monday, an historic event occurred in the skies over the Mojave Desert. The first privately owned and piloted vehicle exited the Earth’s atmosphere for a few brief minutes. Until then, space had been the exclusive province of governments. This new area of spaceflight suddenly turns dreams into real possibilities for the private sector—and provides an excellent opportunity for government to get out of the space race.

The impetus for this occasion was the $10 million X PRIZE. According to the prize founder, “The aim of the ANSARI X PRIZE is to change the existing paradigm that space travel is only for governments.” The ultimate goal? To help launch a commercial public spaceflight industry.

The Economist writes, “In this area, as in so many others, real progress will happen only when small, innovative firms are allowed to flourish.” Thus, by creating a friendly environment for entrepreneurs, government would let space flight really take off. This would allow the private sector to take over the space market and the government to leave it.

Burt Rutan, the designer of the ship, would certainly agree. After the landing, he waved a sign reading “Space Ship One. Government Zero.” The government should seize this opportunity to get back to the basics by leaving outer space and simply focusing on its core functions. That would be one small step toward a better government, one giant leap for spaceflight.

Tim Keller is an education policy analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland, Oregon based think tank.

© 2006, Cascade Policy Institute. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and Cascade Policy Institute are cited. Contact Cascade at (503) 242-0900 to arrange print or broadcast interviews on this topic. For more topics visit the QuickPoint! archive.

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