Since I first went online I have had a custom of writing up my forecasts for US election results as 'Rix Pix' - first as an email to friends, then as forum messages, finally as blog posts here.
Several of my predictions here were so risibly bad as to make the point of why it is much better to predict the distant future, or at least the midfuture: I won't be around to be embarrassed. When it comes to election forecasts, it is much better to predict the past. But you already know the outcome, so I won't belabor it. (Obama won.)
On the other hand, I have read claims that Kim Stanley Robinson's hard SF novel Forty Signs of Rain features a superstorm called Sandy. But I haven't read the book, and Google offers no clear yea or nay. Can anyone here confirm or refute the story?
In any case, not until after the election did I find out that the outcome might turn out to be specifically relevant to space travel. Apparently Obama's re-election was welcome news at NASA, which will now push ahead with plans for human missions to translunar space and ultimately Mars.
Some of the usual provisos are in order. To say the least, space was not a first-tier issue in the campaign. It was not even a 20th-tier issue. I voted for Obama for purely terrestrial reasons, and I have no reason to think that he is particularly clueful about space. Very few politicians / statespersons are, and truth to be told it is not currently very big in the job description. Maybe in 2312 things will be different, but not now.
But as I have suggested here before, space fits into a broader policy context. And according to the Slate piece linked above,
Mitt Romney had spoken plainly about his plans to re-evaluate the purpose of government-sponsored space missions, thereby leaving agency officials uncertain that their ambitious plans would remain feasible under a Republican-controlled executive branch.I did not trouble to look up whatever boilerplate the Romney campaign had about space exploration, any more than I looked up the Obama campaign boilerplate. I am certainly not going to do so now. But it is not hard to read between those lines, in terms of the current-era Republican Party. If you make 'small government' an all but religious doctrine, there is not a lot of room there for ambitious things like exploring the Solar System, in person or robotically.
Libertarian militarists would no doubt make an exception for military space operations. But for reasons somewhat exhaustively beaten to death on this blog, Realistic [TM] military space operations are, for now and a long time to come, confined to Earth orbital space. Sorry, no Space Force missions to Saturn.
Space exploration is a large, costly, and difficult enterprise, without short-term profit. It is not one that private enterprise is likely to undertake, or should be expected to undertake. But it is the sort of enterprise that governments can and do undertake. We have, after all, visited every major planet in our system.
And for what it is worth, private enterprise has always been involved. Our rockets are built by contractors, not by government arsenals. No deep principle is involved here, so far as I am concerned, but the approach seems to work. SpaceX is new, while Boeing goes back to barnstorming days. Their operating environment is far from an ideal free market (what, in the real world, isn't?), but some sort of competition keeps them on their toes. Anyway, space rocketry doesn't allow very much room for error.
But all that said, space exploration remains a public enterprise, and almost certainly will primarily remains so into and through the midfuture. The distinctly libertarian-leaning space community may find this an inconvenient fact, but do not expect it to change.
And that concludes my soapbox sermon for this cycle. We will return to your regularly scheduled blog shortly.
On a much more somber note, but relevant to topics discussed on this blog, it has now been 94 years since the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
The image of President Obama was unimaginatively snagged from Flickr.