My co-blogger Ken occasionally has mean things to say about Robert A. Heinlein's later libertarian, almost Randian phase of science fiction, and I have to admit that I find parts of it offputting myself, particularly the emphasis on group sex. But Heinlein in his later years was pretty adamant that private initiative was what would ultimately lead to the full exploration of space. Turns out he was ahead of his time on that, as with much else:
During the press event at the Google Lunar X PRIZE Team Summit held May 20-21 at the International Space University in Strasbourg, France, a journalist commented on the prevalence of American teams and asked, "Where are the European teams?"…
Astrium's [Europe's "space plane"] overhead costs are more like those of Boeing than SpaceX Corp. Astrium's failure to secure broad support also isn't surprising for a different reason; the lackluster interest of European politicians (and therefore society) in manned space exploration (and, by extension, human spaceflight). Beyond the issues raised above, the views expressed by European Commission Vice President Guenter Verheugen speak volumes about the attitudes of the European political establishment toward entrepreneurial space activity (NewSpace). Referring to public remarks by Guenter, Astrium Chief Executive Francois Auque said, "I was even told that this project was morally blameworthy because it targets an audience of the rich people."
Although China is showing impressive drive to build its space program, it's certain that when humans colonize Ceres, there'll be no Eurocrats among them. For one thing, they won't need a Commissoner of Purity for Zero-Gravity Cheese. Like Spanish viceroys, they'll try to come later, when others have done the work. But with this sort of attitude, will the Europeans make it at all?
Via Rand Simberg