Space Tourism Is No Waste - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Space Tourism Is No Waste

The commercial space industry is set for takeoff. The small list of companies offering commercial space flights is set to grow this year, with Virgin Galactic recently announcing that it is still on track to begin commercial flights. Despite the excitement surrounding the growing investment in the space tourism industry, not everyone views this development favorably. Private space flight has provoked backlash from some who see such activity as a selfish waste of money. Last spring, progressive Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), for example, pointed to billionaires’ space flights as a reason to favor wealth redistribution.

However, progressives’ social objections to private space flight are misguided. Not only do they unfairly demonize wealth, but they also disregard the fact that space tourism has the ability to bring about improvements to humanity both on Earth and beyond.

There have always been and always will be imperfections with civilization that can be highlighted in attempts to justify delaying investment in new technologies. Thankfully, that has not stopped innovators throughout history. The freedom to choose the best investment of personal funds is a key ingredient in allowing society to become more prosperous over time. The state lacks the incentive structure needed, i.e., profit and loss, to invest as efficiently as private parties, and the fiscal tools at the government’s disposal — taxing and spending — do not make society wealthier. Investment in the development of better goods and services in the market is what ultimately raises the living standard for everyone, and developments in space tourism will be no different.

Much of the negativity surrounding commercial space flight has to do with its enormous cost. It’s true that, for the vast majority of people on Earth, taking a ride up into space is wildly unaffordable and extravagantly frivolous — just something the ultra-wealthy do for fun. But space flight will not be so expensive forever. As the great economist Ludwig Von Mises once wrote: “The luxury of today is the necessity of tomorrow. Every advance first comes into being as the luxury of a few rich people, only to become, after a time, an indispensable necessity taken for granted by everyone.” (RELATED: A Dawn of Democratized Space Travel)

Back in the early days of commercial airplane flights, for example, only the wealthy could afford to fly. In the 1930s, a round-trip ticket from coast to coast in the U.S. cost $260, which is equivalent to over $4,000 today. Televisions, another luxury good, were once only affordable to the rich but have since become a staple in households of all income levels. Radios, cars, personal computers — the list goes on — were also once products that only the wealthy could afford, but they have since changed everyone’s lives for the better.

As entrepreneurs innovate and are spurred on by the competitive forces of the market, commercial space flight will also one day become more widely available. And increased space access brought about by cost reductions will allow us to realize the benefits that can ultimately result from space exploration.

Much like past technological developments, it is impossible to foresee exactly what will come of the growing space industry. But as companies compete to grow their space tourism businesses, there will be a market for space hotels, space parks, private space research facilities, and more. This will create jobs and allow humans to spend more time in space learning about the universe we reside in. The innovations made by private space companies to lower the cost of space access will allow for more frequent satellite deployments, facilitate access to asteroids and other planets to mine raw materials, and impact current activities on Earth in ways we can’t even imagine.

Entrepreneurs engaged in spaceflight development have grand visions. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has said that he hopes to place humans on Mars and elsewhere, thus allowing our species to colonize other parts of the galaxy. Former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has said that he envisions moving heavy industry and Earth’s energy production to space as a way to protect the environment of our home planet. For our species to realize any of the potential benefits of space exploration, it is necessary that entrepreneurs shoot for the stars, so to speak, and develop the technologies that will reduce the cost of space access. (RELATED: Musk Is Using the Free Market, Not Government Censorship, to Fix Twitter)

The possibilities are endless, and without entrepreneurs taking risks and taking the first steps that will build the foundation for greater innovation, those possibilities would be far from reach. Progressives’ shunning of investment in space tourism is misguided, and private investment in commercial space flight is no waste.

Benjamin Ayanian is an Innovation Fellow at Young Voices, an organization for young, pro-liberty commentators. His writings have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, Yahoo News, and more. His Twitter is @BenjaminAyanian.


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