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L. Neil Smith's
Number 562, March 21, 2010

"I'd had better hopes for America."

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Once Upon a Time in the Future
by Jim Davidson

Special to The Libertarian Enterprise

Once upon a time in the future, there were to be private commercial geographical survey satellites. A company named Space Services Incorporated of America developed a team with Ball Aerospace and other suppliers to bid as "Space America." The commercialisation of the LANDSAT satellite system was proposed. It was 1984, and the future was bright.

Hating the thought of competition, Radio Corporation of America teamed with Hughes Aircraft and developed team EOSAT, sleazed the competition, and "won" the contract. The Landsat program remained in the defence contractor (death merchant) sphere where, in 1986, it was bought up by General Electric along with the rest of RCA. General Electric continues to manipulate the government for advantage using lobbyists, campaign contributions, and who knows what else. In 2007, GE did $2.9 billion in death deals with the USA military. Space America went out of business.

Why did this happen? Well, GE spent $19,420,000 for lobbying in 2006. $4,050,000 of this total went to 39 outside lobbying firms including Ernst & Young, BKSH & Associates, Quinn Gillespie & Associates, and Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld according to

So, naturally, having "commercialised" the Landsat program, the government thereafter could rely upon GE/EOSAT to build its own satellites, sell space imaging services in the private sector, and occasionally sell some images to the government. Right? Not exactly.

Instead, NASA and NOAA provided General Electric/Hughes with a $398 million contract to develop the Landsat 6 satellite on 26 October 1992. And with all that excellent money, of course the satellite failed to reach orbit. Presumably Lockheed Martin or one of its predecessors was paid roughly $34 million for this launch failure. According to a NOAA press release "the satellite did not achieve orbit because of a ruptured hydrazine manifold. The separation from the booster rocket occurred properly, however, the ruptured rocket fuel chamber prevented fuel from reaching the apogee kick motor. This failure resulted in the spacecraft tumbling instead of accumulating enough energy to reach its planned orbit." So, not only expensive, but also incompetent.

Here are some thoughts on General Electric from CorpWatch:

On July 23, 1992, GE pleaded guilty in federal court to civil and criminal charges of defrauding the Pentagon and agreed to pay $69 million to the U.S. government in fines -- one of the largest defense contracting fines ever. The company said in a statement that it took responsibility for the actions of a former marketing employee who, along with an Israeli Air Force General, diverted Pentagon funds to their own bank accounts and to fund Israeli military programs not authorized by the United States. Under the settlement with the Justice Department over violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, GE paid $59.5 million in civil fraud claims and $9.5 million in criminal fines.

GE's civil and criminal transgressions stemming from the Israeli military program are by no means isolated. GE is a repeat offender when it comes to Defense Department fraud. The company has repeatedly violated the False Claims Act -- a measure originally proposed by Lincoln to protect federal coffers. When the Project on Government Oversight surveyed defense contractors, it found that General Electric was responsible for 15 instances of fraudulent activity in just a four year period (1990-1994) -- more than any other defense contractor.

So, of course, following these scandals and the failure of Landsat 6, the government went to a straight commercial deal for Landsat 7, right? Wrong. General Electric Company, Astro-Space Division was awarded a $398 million cost-plus, incentive-fee contract for the Landsat 7 Space Segment which includes the spacecraft, payload, portions of flight operations including command and control, payload data processing software, etc. That went well, until the scan line corrector failure in the satellite in 2003. As a result of this failure, about a quarter of the images that ought to be captured are missing.

According to a Crocodyl "the SEC charged GE with committing accounting fraud on four separate occasions in 2002 and 2003" and "The company agreed to pay a $50 million fine to settle the charges." The company, which made $18 billion in profits in 2008 was granted huge benefits under the 2009 Temporary Liquidity Guarantee Program with which GE raised about $74 billion. A Washington Post article on how the sleazy death merchant slimed its way through the financial collapse is archived here.

Once upon a time in the future there were going to be commercial space imaging satellites, commercial weather satellites, and a remote sensing industry for data acquisition and analysis. Today in 2010, it is the same corrupt government-dominated system.

In 1982, Space Industries proposed an industrial space facility. Among other things their crew serviced space station would be able to provide superior microgravity over extended period between servicing. Estimates ranged up to $25 billion per year in advanced materials that would be developed as a result of such a facility being available to industry. So, of course NASA bureau-rats and NASA-bought politicians threw hissy fits and made outrageous claims. Throughout the 1980s, Space Industries struggled to get approval to launch its space station, meant to be serviced by the then-exclusive space access system, the space shuttle.

With some pressure from space enthusiasts, Congress pushed NASA to sign an agreement with Space Industries in 1987 to have the space station free flyer features of the space station program met by the Industrial Space Facility. NASA promised to consider it, but basically lied. In 1988, the White House got involved to help Space Industries raise funds in the private sector to develop their industrial space facility. NASA bellyached that it couldn't lease the facility for arcane legal reasons. Finally, in February 1988 the Reagan administration announced a commercial space policy calling for leasing space platforms from the private sector.

Keep in mind that at this point the Reagan-announced space station program was four years old. It had been announced in 1984 as a program to spend $8 billion to put up a space station within a decade for 12 astronauts. By 1988 it was already behind schedule, over budget, and would have far less volume. As you may know, the actual international space station began construction in 1998, won't be completed until 2011, is designed for a crew of only six, and has cost over $100 billion to design, operate, launch, and service, so far, with estimates running to well over $160 billion for the 30 year life of the program.

Of course, NASA and its death merchant contractors got together and persuaded Congress to renege on the Commercially Developed Space Facility project. Even the Air Force got in on the criticisms, claiming that its needs wouldn't be met (by what was to have been a NASA and commercial civilian project). So, it was killed. By 1989, the project was dead.

Once upon a time in the future, there were going to be industrial space facilities, external tanks from the shuttle converted to lab space and hotels, and an $8 billion space station built and operational in 1994. Today in 2010, it is the same corrupt government-dominated system.

I've told the story of Space Travel Services and our contract in 1990 to put an American on the Soviet space station Mir. I've told it many times and in many different places. Once upon a time in the future, three young entrepreneurs from Houston were going to give away trips into space, had negotiated corporate sponsorships, had hundreds of thousands of enthusiasts eagerly calling a 900 number within a week of their announcement, had tens of thousands of free entries by mail received and in hand, and were -- at the demand of the National Space Council and especially of NASA's George Abbey, arrested on trumped up and false charges of felony gambling promotion of a lottery. The charges were dropped in May 1991 with an agreed injunction that clearly stated that the company had been engaged in a lawful sweepstakes activity the entire time.

Other people have told the story of MirCorp, Walt Anderson, Chirinjeev Kathuria, Jeff Manber, Rick Tumlinson, and a crew of entrepreneurs eager to make the Russian space station Mir available to wealthy tourists. Of course, NASA made sure that the Russians were persuaded (coerced) to destroy the Mir space station instead. Once upon a time in the future, a huge space tourism and space development industry would have centred around MirCorp's facilities. New space station modules, and eventually whole new space stations would have been put in place to serve a multi-billion dollar industry. So, of course, today in 2010, it is the same corrupt government-dominated system. Walt Anderson languishes in prison where he is serving time on a coerced plea bargain on the non-violent non-crime of not filing proper papers with the tax authorities.

Once upon a time in the future, Virgin Galactic was going to be launching tourists into space in 2007. Last I heard, various delays and difficulties had postponed things so that at the July 2009 roll-out of the White Knight 2 carrier aircraft, Richard Branson thought first tourist flights might happen in about 18 months. Once upon a time in the future, Robert Bigelow announced a $25 million prize for orbital passenger service to be won by January 2010. No company claimed the prize.

Once upon a time in the future there were going to be destination resorts in orbit, hotels in the Moon, human settlements on Mars. Dr. Robert Zubrin has pointed out the vital need for frontiers in advancing the human condition -- work first approached by Frederick Jackson Turner with his thesis on the closing of the American frontier in 1890. Once upon a time in the future, it would take only 40 years to raise the atmospheric pressure of Mars so people with breathing masks could walk outside without pressure suits.

Once upon a time in the future there would be tourist flights to go dancing on the Moon, to visit Mars, to see Saturn's rings and hear Jupiter sing. Once upon a time in the future entrepreneurs like Jim Benson were going to stake their claim on asteroids and bring new wealth and new materials to markets here on Earth. Mankind was going to have access to the resources and energy of the entire Solar System.

Today in 2010, it is the same corrupt government-dominated system. The future has been delayed, postponed, and recently cancelled on account of the disgusting financial ineptitude of NASA.

I'm very happy that the Obama administration has cancelled NASA's Constellation program and the idiotic flags and footprints return to the Moon and man on Mars missions. The death merchants who swindle the system for NASA contracts don't deserve a dime. The bureau-rat scum who work at NASA don't deserve a dime. The system has been corrupt, and even with these programs cut, still manages to waste around $18.7 billion a year doing nothing worthwhile -- nothing that could not have been done all this time in the private sector.

NASA is a horrid, hateful, worthless organisation full of clock watchers, corrupt scum, revolving door lobbyists, and future death merchant company lower level managers. In 1988, after very hard work by many dear friends of mine, the NASA charter was changed to make NASA's mission to open the space frontier to human settlement. They have utterly failed in this charge. Instead of opening the door, NASA has been the door. The door has been closed, padlocked, and the entire building condemned.

In my view, everyone who works for NASA should be fired. Every contract should be ended. Every death merchant company should be fined every dollar they would get in contract cancellation fees, and driven out of business if at all possible. All of the buildings of NASA should be sold to the private sector or torn down. All the land should be returned to the universities from which it came, or put up for auction. Every piece of equipment down to the last stapler and paper clip should be sold to the private sector, again, at auction. The Vehicle Assembly Building should be torn down so that no brick stands atop another, salt should be sowed in the ground where it once stood, and a monument should be erected to all the lives lost, all the astronauts incinerated, all the ground personnel killed, and all the entrepreneurs lives ruined by the evil which has been NASA.

Conceived by an enthusiastic Nazi named Werner von Braun who ran a concentration camp near Peenemunde, NASA has been a horror story from its inception. It should be wholly and utterly destroyed.

NASA delenda est.

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Jim Davidson is an author, entrepreneur, and anti-war activist. His 1990 venture to offer a sweepstakes trip into space was destroyed by government action as was his free port and prospective space port in Somalia in 2001. His 2002-2007 venture in free market money and private stock exchange was destroyed by government action in 2007. He's going to Mars if he has to walk. His second book, Being Sovereign is now availble from Lulu and Amazon. His third book Sovereign Self-Defence will be released for Kindle very soon. His fourth book Being Libertarian will be available for free download as a .pdf, being a compilation of all his essays and letters in The Libertarian Enterprise since 1995. Contact him at or


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