MirCorp: The Little Space Company that Could...
During privatized Mir's first few months, American-financed MirCorp signed an impressive list of paying clients including investment tycoon Dennis Tito, NBC (for Survivor director Mark Burnett's proposed reality show Destination Mir), and quite possibly James Cameron (etcetera). An IPO on Wall Street was being planned, too. Meanwhile, as far as research and development possibilities are concerned, one needed $20 million dollars to get to start conducting microgravity-related research on NASA's pork-laden space station Alpha, but merely $5,000 (yes, five thousand dollars) to get to start conducting it on Mir. Due to privatized Mir's comparatively streamlined bureaucracy and near absence of governmental wastefulness, scientists & entrepreneurs might even have affordably discovered a way to regenerate severed spinal tissue, or cure cancer, using it. Privatized Mir was a media, research & development, and manufacturing facility, and it could have been a source of jobs as well as inspiration for kids to fall in love with math & science like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs did during the Apollo Era, prior to their generating so much economic growth for humanity. Why was Mir brought down, then? Good question!
For starters, MirCorp had to endure constant pressuring of the Russian government by a jealous and overpriced NASA to deorbit Mir in exchange for more tax-supported contracts. Mir, itself, also endured a negative publicity campaign allegedly forced upon the U.S. media in exchange for NASA press passes, special access for interviews of NASA officials, and related government contractor sponsorship of their publications. Consequently, even as the European press portrayed Mir as an impressive monument to human progress, in the U.S.A. Mir was depicted as a "bucket of bolts" and an "orbiting trashcan".
This unfavorable coverage gave political cover to the academic community which shirked Mir at least in part out of fear of irritating jealous & capricious NASA. NASA is, after all, still a source of substantial tax-subsidized academic grants as the following URL shows: http://ec.msfc.nasa.gov/hq/library/Annual99_A.html#NONPROFIT.
Meanwhile, have you heard the story of the relatively economical electromagnetic tether system that MirCorp sought to export from the USA for a launch to Mir from the Baikonur Cosmodrome? It was basically just a long wire, and it was designed to affordably propel Mir to a long-term storage orbit. After more than a year of red tape and hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal bills however, the $2 million tether system was approved for export by the State Department a few days AFTER the Russian government caved in to NASA and ordered the de-orbiting of Mir. Was the timing merely coincidental? To read more about NASA´s hostility towards the American-funded MirCorp, please click here for the Space Frontier Foundation´s official press release. Should our tax-dollars continue supporting such (opportunistically) slow-moving bureaucrats´ salaries?
Isn't the USA supposed to be teaching the Russians
about capitalism, and not vice versa? Why would NASA and its International
Space Station contractors be so resentful of a space station whose annual
operating expenses were just 3% of what NASA's space station's are?
Why wouldn't NASA be more supportive of a space station which cost
dozens of times less to build than its own, even after taking into account
NASA's supposed contributions to Mir's construction?
In response, monopolies can be expected to behave monopolistically. The NASA clique did just that. To avoid losing our tax subsidies, though, they had to come up with an excuse. Thus, they claimed that Mir was simply draining resources from Russia's space program (which the U.S. had contracted with to help complete the otherwise politically doomed space station Alpha). But doesn't increased private sector activity in an industry actually generate more resources and capabilities? Now that Mir is down, who can NASA blame for its own delays and predictable cost-overruns?
By the way, if the privatized Mir venture was allegedly so poorly conceived despite the relative affordability of scientific research on it, is it not at least paradoxical that Mir's staunchest critics simultaneously advocate that we continue spending so many tax dollars on increasing the size of the purportedly worthwhile scientific research-oriented Space Station Alpha, despite its seemingly endless cost overrun$?
This at least USED to be
On the left is NASA´s international space station
during the year 2000.
wi$e to maintain
NASA´s official government agency monopoly?
Which proposed legal reforms could best help our stagnating aerospace industry?