“Just Read the Instructions”
Except perhaps for some psychopaths, everybody hopes that the four members of the Inspiration4 mission (watch a video) will safely return to Earth. One remarkable thing is how, just a few years ago, most people would have not believed that a crew of civilians would soon orbit the earth in an adventure financed by a billionaire (Jared Isaacman) on a reusable and already-used spacecraft built by the company of another billionaire (Elon Musk). That only military missions flew to space in the past half-century illustrates how our societies are militarized.
We cannot know in advance what new and unexpected possibilities individual liberty and entrepreneurship will open, just as we may not know which ones have been foreclosed by government regulation and standardization. One does not have to love billionaires to understand this idea, dear to Nobel economics laureate F.A. Hayek. In Law, Legislation and Liberty, Vol. 1: Rules and Order (University of Chicago Press, 1973, p.56), he wrote:
Since the value of freedom rests on the opportunities it provides for unforeseen and unpredictable actions, we will rarely know what we lose through a particular restriction of freedom.
Some surrealistic poetry and fun is part of what we missed before. The first stage of the rocket, also reusable, came back to Earth and landed on one of SpaceX’s drone ships, this one called “Just Read the Instructions.” Elon Musk certainly did not just read the instructions.
The Economist writes (“SpaceX Sends the First-Ever Civilian Crew into Earth Orbit,” September 16, 2021):
The Inspiration4 mission was conceived and paid for by Jared Isaacman, the founder of Shift4 Payments. Very rich entrepreneurs going into space has been something of a trend in recent months, with Richard Branson being flown to 85km in a rocketplane built by Virgin Galactic, a company he founded, and Jeff Bezos reaching 107km in a capsule launched by New Shepard, a rocket built by his company, Blue Origin.
Mr Isaacman’s trip is different. It is being undertaken not to show off his own wares but to enjoy the possibilities afforded by someone else’s—specifically those of SpaceX, a company founded and run by Elon Musk—while at the same time raising money for St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.
Is it surprising that none of our loving governments thought about all that before? The Economist seems to subliminally suggest that what’s happening is not really “a democratisation of space.” That is not the point. But it is a big step in opening space to consumers willing to pay for it, quite probably at decreasing prices.