I’m listening to yesterday’s State of the Union address, and it has some interesting things in it.
For instance, there’s a powerful connection between space exploration and the nation-state. Space exploration has gone to the dogs as the nation-state weakened because it has no power to survive as anything other than a mechanism of supporting the mystique of the nation.
Space exploration is extremely expensive. The tangible results that regular people can understand will take a very long time to materialize. The biggest immediate value that can be derived from it is symbolic. Remember when the US and the USSR competed in who’d put the first man or woman in space or on the Moon? In the USSR, in particular, gigantic resources that the country simply didn’t have were poured into the space program because of its value to the national prestige.
This is why the address frames the need to restore the space program in nationalist terms. “Let’s make sure we are the first nation to put a woman on the Moon” is a great symbolic victory for a nation.
The only alternative is to wait for Jeff Bezos to get bored with Amazon and start financing space travel. Of course, the downside will be that yet another huge area of existence will be privatized.