Solar Power vs Nuclear Power in Space

February 13, 2001

By Robert L. Anderson

Today the Associated Press reported about the NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft which has successfully crash landed on the Eros asteroid, and is still sending back data. The amazing thing about this marvelous feat is that the spacecraft has been operating for five years, traveling 2 billion miles to reach an orbit similar to that of Mars, on SOLAR power, not nuclear power.

NASA and the nuclear power industry say this type research and exploration cannot be done without nuclear power. But wait a minute. The scientists over at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory have apparently done what the whole government program could not accomplish. (One could draw a parallel to the Craig Venter gnome project compared to the under financed public Human Gnome Project). But the government program is not under funded, it is over funded. Then what is wrong?

The government space program is not capable of doing research in the public interest because it has been captured by the military industrial complex which is using our space program to produce profits for its stockholders, not help the planet.

The NEAR project come today while the University of New Mexico and NASA are holding a conference in Albuquerque on nuclear power for space programs at which Bruce Gagnon and others held a strong and visible presence.

The NEAR reveals how blind, wasteful and dangerous can be public sector science when it has been taken over completely by private industry. This reminds me of the American auto giants like GM who in the 1960s wanted to keep selling big, heavy, fuel guzzling monster cars and the Japanese started building fuel efficient quality cars. The result was a revolution in the auto industry which has in some ways benefited us all.

It is scary to think that these same dynamics are being repeated in the Vision 2020 program of the military to dominate space, for these same profit motivated corporations. It also points to the great research and breakthroughs we are missing with our space research driven by the private sector.

It is clear we are witnessing a misguided space program which is wasting our money and resources. This logically comes with the failure of the political system which has produced an illegitimate president in the most powerful country on the planet.

This political problem is holding back true scientific advances like discoveries for health problems and poverty and is also pushing our planet closer to war on the ground and in space as our country tries to establish in space the first large weapons systems - systems which require nuclear power. The NEAR space craft, about the size of a small car, out on a 2 billion mile drive through space has blown a gaping hole in the NASA/military-industrial complex theory that only nuclear power can be used for space research. Then again, the NASA/military program is not about research but about domination of the planet, pure and simple.

We need to tell the NEAR story far and wide.

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