Think on this, and think on it carefully: you are seeing a manmade object falling gracefully and with intent to the surface of an alien world, as seen by another manmade object already circling that world, both of them acting robotically, and both of them hundreds of million of kilometers away.

Phil Plait, Bad Astronomy

This is, after all, a triumph of science and engineering paid for via tax revenues, launched and tracked from government-owned land, overseen by bureaucrats, staffed by scientists, engineers, secretaries, janitors, drivers, and everyone else on government payrolls, in conjunction with universities funded wholly or partially by tax dollars, the whole of it subject to affirmative action, smoking bans, and all the rest of the panoply of modern statism. This is a statist venture from beginning to end, and demonstrates the ability of the modern regulatory state to undertake and complete large useful scientific endeavors. There is, so far, simply nothing comparable in the corporate sector, and it’s worth keeping in mind that when people talk about doing away with any but the most minimal state, this is one of the things that’d be done away with along with someone favorite caricature of the pork barrel.

It’s not that it’s logically or conceptually impossible that a mission like this could happen any other way. It’s just that three hundred years in to the industrial revolution and nobody’s yet done this kind of thing any other way. And that’s worth noting along with sheer wonder of the achievement itself.

Bruce Baugh


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