In Part I we asked Why Aren’t We Dealing With Extra-Planetary Supply Management on a Daily Basis? We decided that while it was a fair question, it wasn’t an easy one, for a number of reasons which include, but are not limited to, cost, time requirements (for a mission to Mars), and human safety (as some asteroids hurtle through space at 30 km/s, which is roughly 3 times the expected speed of a rocket-propelled shuttle). In Part II, after examining these issues, we decided that the primary reasons we aren’t yet on Mars and dealing with extra-planetary supply management on a daily basis are lack of funding and lack of focus. We also decided that both the US and China should provide this funding and this focus because it would solve a number of problems both countries are facing. Today, we explain how this focus, and a new space-race to Mars, is what is needed.
In our last post, we identified these problems facing the US and indicated that they could all be addressed, if not solved, by a nation-wide focus on a mission to Mars.
- High Unemployment
- Continual Decline in Manufacturing Jobs and Expertise
- The Housing Crisis
- Privacy Issues
- The Drug War
- Unfunded Liabilities
- A Collapsing Dollar
Consider the root causes of these issues. The collapsing dollar is primarily due to the stagnating economy and lack of faith therein by the global investment community, unfunded liabilities are due to declining tax revenues, which in turn are due to economic decline and high unemployment, which is due to a lack of jobs, which is partially due to continued job loss to other countries and a lack of talent, which is due to lack of training. The housing crisis is also a result of unemployment and the economy, since it’s a result of people not being able to pay their mortgage and declining property values as a result of a weak economy. The drug war is ongoing partially due to a lack of funding but also due to a lack of technology and programs to detect and prevent drugs from entering the country, and privacy issues are due to a focus on internal vs. external surveillance, which in turn is partially due to an overfunding of military efforts.
So what if you corrected the funding, and focussed on meeting one big challenge, like the US did in the 1960s? You’d need talented people to meet this challenge, so you’d create jobs. Initially you wouldn’t have enough qualified people to fill the jobs, so you’d train them. As a result, employment would be lower and the output per person would be higher, as they’d be trained. In addition, since you’d need to create newer and better technology, and do it quickly in-house, you’d not only bring back manufacturing, but take it to a new level. The housing crisis would vanish. In addition, more employment and more innovation, which would have the side effect of developing new technologies that could be sold around the world, would prop up the economy, increase taxes, and decrease unfunded liabilities. Some of the necessary sensor technology would likely spark advances in technologies that could be applied to border security and drug tracking, without invading privacy, and advances could be made on the war on drugs. The only thing the space race wouldn’t address is the privacy issue, which could be solved simply by turning off the technology that monitors residents and citizens beyond a reasonable point and directing that funding to the new space race.
Moreover, it would also fix many of the problems facing China. As per Mitch Free’s recent article in Forbes on how Nothing Is As It Appears in China, China has some serious problems. The big ones we noted in our last post were:
- the need to maintain an appearance of success and save face,
- 1.3 Billion citizens to keep happy and 930 Million to keep employed,
- population growth that can’t be adequately managed by the one-child policy,
- factories that need to run and products that need to be consumed, and
- corruption and the age-old tradition of bribery.
An appearance of success is important in China. That’s why the streets of Shanghai are lined with beautiful buildings, striking architecture, elaborate homes, and professionally marketed businesses even though the layouts are sparse and the offices bare or even unfinished on the inside. In addition, the government, needs to provide the appearance of stability, productivity, prosperity, and optimism in order to keep calm and order over an unprecedented population living on the edge of poverty. One has to remember that in China, the 1% control nearly 70% of the country’s wealth, which is double what the 1% control in the US. And even the one-child policy is not managing the growth the way the government wants. First of all, those that can afford to pay the fine and have a second child. Secondly, those who can’t afford to pay a fine and have a second child, especially in rural areas, will favour male children, even though families in most rural areas will be permitted a second child if their first child is a female. (This is evident by the fact that China will soon have 30 Million more men than women of marrying age.)
In addition, in order to keep its citizens working, if it has no other option, China will not only keep factories producing goods that the market doesn’t need or want, but will keep building entire cities in preparation for an urbanization that just doesn’t happen. For example, one Chinese State Owned Enterprise (SOE) produced 60,000 machines in the last year that are manually operated for a global market that only buys automated machines. Even though the market is no longer there, the machines were produced just to keep workers employed. In addition, in an effort to get rural citizens into affordable urban housing, China has been building as many as 10 new cities a year, some the size of New York and London, to accomodate hundreds of thousands or millions of residents, that never arrive. These beautifully planned, fully finished “ghost cities” designed to accomodate large populations only have a few thousand residents, who are primarily infrastructure employees and construction workers. (Forensic analyst Gillem Tulloch estimates there may be as many as 64 million empty apartments in Chinese ghost towns.)
Now imagine what would happen if China declared that its mission was to be the first country to land on Mars? It would likely start by taking all of that money being used to build “ghost cities” and directing it at R&D establishments. It would move the brighter workers out of the factories and into R&D labs and re-tool the factories producing useless machines to produce proto-types and components for rockets, shuttles, and other space vehicles. It would be able to keep just as many people employed, but it would be working towards a meaningful, useful goal. In addition, it would increase its rate of innovation, improve its GDP, and not only cement itself as the world’s second largest economy, but accelerate towards the point where it could potentially overtake the US, which would make it enormously successful in the eyes of its citizens and allow it to not only save, but gain, face in Asia (where face is important). And if it happened to figure out how to successfully create workable, maintainable artificial gravity in a manner that was hydroponic friendly, it could be the first to colonize Mars, which could help to solve its population problem (especially if it can also figure out how to mine water from asteroids).
The only problem that isn’t directly addressed is corruption, but if the population is focussed on progress, and not capital gain, corruption is less of a problem.
So bring on the space-race to Mars. The world will benefit! (A rising tide lifts all boats. And what tide is bigger than the tide that controls 1/3 of the world’s economy?)