Sound Off: Should We Outsource Our Space Program?



Yesterday, an unmanned RussianProgress M-28M cargo ship successfully docked at the International Space Station and delivered 2.5 metric tons of fuel, oxygen, water, food and other supplies to the crew. This successful launch and delivery came less than a week after a U.S. cargo rocket exploded after launch.


What’s the difference here? The American Falcon 9 rocket was built and launched by a private corporation on behalf on NASA. SpaceX, founded by American billionaire Elon Musk, has convinced Congress that privately operated space flight can save the country money and that both NASA and the Air Force should trust a private company to administrate programs that involve national security.

Russia’s space program is still run by the government.

SpaceX’s explosion comes less than a month after Bill Murray played a corrupt tech billionaire who was trying to subvert the space program for his own purposes in Aloha.

Here’s the question: is space exploration too important for our future to farm out to private companies? Should NASA and the military be in charge of our space programs or should we offload the financial and personal risks to private citizens?

  • guest

    I thought we have been out sourcing it since 2009. That is when NASA was for all practical purposes closed down.

    • XB-70

      What about the Space Launch System/Orion? Being able to have two spaces programs going at the same time is something no other space organization can even dream about.

    • fred Gould

      The shuttles were worn out, incapable of the 100 launches they were supposed to be able to do.

      • Motive25

        They weren’t “worn out”. They were extensively overhauled after every flight. The airframes had plenty of life left in them. They were just too expensive to operate and maintain, and they were too risky to the crews.

      • fred Gould

        Wasn’t the air frames, it was the heat tiles. Where did you work on the space center?

    • Motive25

      The Shuttle- our only means of getting astronauts to orbit- was retired. However, NASA is doing plenty of other things in the science realm.

      • XB-70

        In 2020 the Space Launch System will have a manned misson. They already launched the Orion crew capsule last year. SpaceX and Boeing will be fly astronauts to the space station in 2017. We won’t be dependent on Russia any more.

    • scott

      It should be noted that just a week before the Falcon ship blowing up, the Russians lost one of their rockets.

  • jim smith

    No we should not out source the space program their will be to many short cuts if the civilian do the space program. The reasons profits by the companies doing the program. The government will see that no short are made for safety purpose.

    • Jack

      I agree. When you outsource you loose safety and product control.

    • John

      Personally, a combination of private enterprise and government will likely yield the best results.

      jim & jack, you must be speaking about “cost & product controls” like $500 hammers…. Do you remember those? OR

      How about Obamacare’s software issues? Obamacare was saved by software engineers from Google, Yahoo, Facebook, etc. Do you remember those?

      Oh… you must think government is the end-all.

  • conradswims

    We don’t have a space program!

    • fred Gould

      Have you written your congressman? I travel throughout the SE on business and space is not a national priority.

  • Poul

    He is right. We do not have a space program, but WE SHOULD!!!!!

  • guest

    NASA is now doing scientific outreach to the Muslim world. That is our space program. Obama shifted to money we used to spend on space to social programs.

    • fred Gould

      I was laid off from Kennedy 17 years ago. At that time, we know the program was ending as the shuttles were not going to be capable of 100 launches each. Congress lacked the resolve to fund the space program. Outside of the Space Coast, Huston and Southern California, this is little national resolve to pay for it. Also, the Russians last a resupply mission earlier this year. It happens as space is still experimental and not close to reliable 100% of the time.

  • AIM

    The financialization of the American economy

    American De-Industrialization
    Continues Unabated

    America’s economic elite has long argued that the country does not need an industrial base. The economies in states such as California and Michigan that have lost their industrial base, however, belie that claim. Without an industrial base, an increase in consumer spending, which pulled the country out of past recessions, will not put Americans back to work. Without an industrial base, the nation’s trade deficit will continue to grow. Without an industrial base, stranded in low-paying service-sector jobs. Without an industrial base, the United States will be increasingly dependent on foreign manufacturers even for its key military technology.

    The U.S. is becoming dependent on countries such as UK, Russia, France and Germany for critical weapons technology.

    • Motive25

      SpaceX Falcon 9 launch vehicle & the Dragon spacecraft are designed & built in the US.

  • Charles

    Outsource NASA?

    How’s “NO” grab ya?

  • Keith

    Why not outsource, but hold the contractors to the same product and safety standards as NASA had? I agree that space is not an area to cut corners in any way, especially safety.

  • Frank

    No. We need to get our space program up to speed, we have the best brains and facilities in the world, so put them back to work. The Russians have had many more failures than we ever had, many you never heard about. We are the best and we have proved many times over. Stop paying the Russians and invest in our own country.

  • mkantzler

    If your logic is that private contractors cannot be relied upon to safely perform the space mission while also having a profit motive, then you would not rationally ever get on an airliner.

    Right now, the private space industry is still in research and development, a transitional period. SpaceX is suffering no more than NASA did before the successes of launching Shepard and Glenn into space in the Mercury program, before which, blown-up rockets were the norm, not the exception. NASA is also still in a period of transition, with its Orion vehicle and programs for payload, Moon and Mars objectives, and one of the launch vehicles NASA develops must also be capable for intercept missions to asteroids.

    If there is to be a focus upon criticism, other than the lack of foresight as to the Shuttle’s cost and life, it is NASA’s failure to have a parallel program for a reliable, replacement, payload vehicle. The ongoing cooperation with Russia on the ISS made the option of relying upon its launch-vehicle program an easy way out, one which should only be viewed as a temporary measure for many of the reasons already cited in the discussion, including preserving and perpetuating America’s space-technology and industrial capability, where important transitions to commercial products has been the norm, regaining and maintaining the lead in space, maintaining a capability to independently access ISS and take the initiative on missions of U.S. interest, space defense, and to provide maintenance on costly satellite systems.

    America cannot be a world leader in economic, scientific and military presences if it is not also a leader in space, and depending upon any other nation for launch vehicles, especially where co-manufacturing is not in place, is not the way to leadership or future security.

  • Motive25

    There are several misleading statements in this article: (1) it does not mention that a Russian Progress vehicle failed in April, before the Dragon launch. (2) SpaceX does not “administer” the resupply program for ISS. The international partners operating ISS (principally the US and Russian Govts) do. NASA simply contracts with SpaceX to purchase cargo delivery services to ISS. (3) The article does not differentiate between unglamourous, technologically unchallenging tasks like hauling cargo to low Earth orbit, and sending astronauts to the Moon/Mars/an Asteroid. The former is hardly “space exploration”. The latter most definitely is. The question not addressed in the article is: what should the Government do/how should it spend its money, and what should/could private industry do? IMO, Govt needs to stay out of the business of hauling toilet paper and Tang to an orbiting apartment house, and instead focus its energy, dollars and technology on exploring outside of Earth orbit, assuming the taxpayers want to pay for it.

  • wtpworrier

    No, we should not. If the other countries want to join in with us, that’s good, but we should keep control of our own space program.

  • Jim Allan

    The US space program is an embarrassment to the United States: internationally countries see us as faltering and not being able to follow through on what we have started. We are so involved with political squabbling that it is a wonder that Washington is getting anything done. We need strong leadership and vision to get the U.S. space program back on track.

  • Leon Suchorski

    The reason that it is called the ISS, is because that means that it is the INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION. It has been constructed from parts from all over this world. True, there have been countries that did not contribute, but I do not believe that they are omitted from science endeavors. To rely on one country for the launch vehicles to resupply and return the residents, is a foolish dream. You are either committed to only ONE launch vehicle for all purposes, or you are committed to that one person or country’s whims as to when they will launch. With several choices, you always have a back-up.

  • FASnipeHT2

    NASA was a great Gov’t agency. Working with multiple private corporations to built the best that could be built. I would love to see more Mars project started. We need NASA to launch our satellites and continue to push scientific rocket propulsion science.

  • Thunder350

    Nasa is the brave Indian warrior that asks for a few arrows and an animal skin for water, with a mission to explore the rim of the environment of the tribe. When they return with information of new and vast resources, the entire tribe benefits, not just the warrior. When you stop letting that warrior explore the world, you limit the entire universe for that tribe.

    The budget of NASA should be greatly increased. (I’m glad to see most agree) The “we can’t afford it” talking points is one of the biggest lies told by any anti-science politician. The entire history of NASA has been paid for with under 4/10th of a penny of America’s tax dollar, and almost everything people use today can be traced back to NASA and the research they’ve done. We can easily afford to invest in our future, and have an incredible return on that investment, we just choose not too. Look up any speech or NASA budget committee meeting by Neil deGrasse Tyson, and find out the facts about America’s budgeting, and what it is we’re robbing ourselves, our children, and our childrens children from having by not investing in science.

    Unfortunately, the only real way the budgeting will increase without replacing stone age politicians in Congress, is if Russia/China starts sending people to space in a manner during the cold war, and if that happens the current America will hand over billions to corporations like Boeing to deliver behind schedule, over budget, and underperforming platforms…

    And before someone ask what NASA has given us, here is a “small” list of what NASA has contributed to society… The mouse, communications satellites and weather monitoring (hurricanes, wildfires, volcanoes, etc), Healthcare workers being able to monitor multiple patients at once, cochlear implants, cataract detection techniques, lifesears, breast cancer screening, insulin pumps, water filters, attention getters, UV coatings, scratch resistant glass, memory foam, safer more efficient planes, cars, and roads…. all of these and THOUSANDS of other things, can all be traced back to NASA and the work they’ve done for decades. Not to mention their current mission to send humans to Mars, and student climate of Earth, Venus and Mars to help people understand the effects of climate change.



  • guyg

    We need a well funded Space Program.We cannot and should not depend on Russia or China.This is like a bad nightmare .