The Tea Party… in space?

The Tea Party has appeared in the media for a variety of reasons, but I was surprised to come across an article about their desire to support space exploration. In fact, they have articulated a Tea Party Space Platform, which enumerates their space-related goals and priorities. This seems rather perplexing, since the Tea Party is quite vocal about shrinking government and limiting taxes, and it seems rather out of character to promote an expensive national priority when (as some argue) we have so many urgent domestic problems that should be addressed first.

“Our goal is nothing less than the expansion of American civilization into the solar system,” declares the Tea Party Space Platform. They advocate achieving this through the stimulation of private industry and the free market, with limited government participation. And this will succeed due to fundamental “American exceptionalism”:

“It was American individuals and businesses who pioneered the wilderness, built a continent-spanning nation, and created the most prosperous economy in the history of humanity. […] The United States will settle space as it settled the American continent. The days of Lewis and Clark, and Apollo, are over. This is the Oregon Trail space policy.”

The individual planks of their platform propose first to relax ITAR regulations as they relate to space activity, allowing greater international cooperation, which seems very reasonable. Beyond that, the larger shape of their priorities takes form: reducing taxes and liability for space-related industries; free-market competition for space funds; and requiring NASA to partner with industry (seems a little at odds with “free market”?). Finally, the platform lists areas of technology development for which NASA must work with private companies to bring those technologies to “a commercial operational market”. If I understand this, the platform seeks to funnel technology development funds into private companies to develop and mature those capabilities. It’s not clear to me how much of a change that would be from the status quo; NASA centers do conduct much of the space-related technology development that is needed, but NASA also sends a lot of money to private companies and universities to support innovation and development outside of the agency.

More broadly, I still don’t see why this issue would be one that the Tea Party would find important enough to push for. If implemented, the platform could well lead to increased funds going to the private sector, but there are surely other ways to funnel national funds in that direction. Could space exploration itself be the driving motivation?

“Whether it’s timidity from the White House or Congress’ earmark-laden ‘compromises’, our space dreams will be stuck on this planet unless someone articulates a vision based on economic and technical reality, so that’s what we’ve done.” (Andrew Gasser, President of TPIS)

1 of 2 people learned something from this entry.

  1. Scott Van Essen said,

    August 2, 2011 at 9:53 am

    (Learned something new!)

    As you pointed out, a few questionable aspects; but nonetheless, WOW!!! I never thought the Tea Party would come up with anything I could get behind.

  2. Andrew Gasser said,

    August 4, 2011 at 5:50 am

    (Knew it already.)


    Welcome to the Tea Party in Space!

    I hope you come back often and volunteer. We need people in all 50 states.

    I just wanted to say thank you for posting this. We have people from progressive to libertarian helping us because this is a space platform that everyone can get behind. We are truly non-partisan.

    Andrew Gasser
    President, TEA Party in Space

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