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Space Exploration: Private Sector Investment vs Public Sector Investment

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/30/2011 Category: Technology
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 5,478 times Debate No: 19060
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (4)
Votes (2)




We negate the resolution, Resolved: Private sector investment in Human Space exploration

is preferable to public sector Investment. Public sector investment first is critical to defense,

second, private spending is unsafe and efficient and finally public sector investment is critical to

the health of the economy.

First, public sector investment into human space exploration is critical to US defense and

international position. As a NASA press release from October 6th, 2011 indicates, NASA

investment into human space exploration often produces a large number of spin technologies

that can be applied to the military. All modern military rocketry technologies used in nuclear

missiles and conventional weapons were developed by NASA, and outsourced to the military.

Aviation Week states on March 5th, 2006 that modern military technology development will

lie in space technology in the future, and NASA is critical to that process; the development of

military technology would most likely halt if the military was to be refused help from NASA

in setting up inter space jets, or satellites that can strike down any unidentified, moving objects

from space. Without public sector investment in NASA, the United States would be weakened

in military technologies and could easily be defeated by major enemies in a conventional war. In

addition, private companies, who often have contracts with NASA, would be broken from their

contracts and would release valuable high end military technology to China, India, Russia or Iran

in exchange for money. This leaking of valuable US defense technology and the destruction of

our own technological progress would destroy our dominant international position built through

military superiority and make the US a second class country that can easily be threatened.

Second, privatization would result in great safety risks and inefficiencies. As both MIT and

NASA Chief Ron Dittemore have said, "an overemphasis on profit can bias decisions, resulting

in Program weakness with reduction of critical skills and erosion of checks and Balances."A

profit motive will force companies to cut as many costs as possible in order to boost profits.

Unfortunately such costs often include the safety measures that can be the difference between

life and death if something goes wrong. The risks to everyone involved are also enhanced by

the sudden need for inter-agency and even inter-business communication and cooperation. For

example, if a private company faces a severe problem in space, it cannot obtain cooperation from

a competing company who may have a solution since that competing company does not have a

profit motive to help that company; this may pose dangers to astronauts within space.

Third, public sector investment ensures local job growth and protects domestic jobs. Each year,

as stated by the Guardian on October 10th, 2011, NASA uses its 19 Billion dollars to employ

thousands of domestic technical experts and local engineers. A private company, however,

would outsource jobs to different countries, and not hire local engineers. Tens of thousands of

jobs relating to NASA would be lost as a result, as companies can simply hire equally capable

foreign engineers. Also, reducing government spending by cutting NASA would hurt the US

economy. As John Maynard Keynes also states in his General Theory of Unemployment,

reducing public spending in a recession is one of the worst things a government can do, as it will

reduce aggregate demand and cause a cyclical process of job loss, and reduced investment in

the economy. Removing 19 Billion dollars of essential spending in this economy would not be a

wise decision. In addition, private companies such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Virgin Galactic

and Space X often depend on public investment and subsidies to survive. For example, Space X

constructed the Falcon Rocket and Design model for an estimated 1.9 Billion. Without public

contracts, according to MIT and Space Review, many of these companies that depend on public

space investment would go bankrupt; the estimated job losses with a privatization of a space

program would lie in the ballpark of 1 million.

My partner and I negate the resolution for the following reasons: public sector investment

is critical to our defense, private investment is naturally inefficient and unsafe, and space

investment is critical to our economy.


Thanks for the topic jjx.

==Topic interpretation==

The resolution uses the word "preferable." Random House defines "preferable" as "more desirable." [1] The easiest way to determine our preferences is to offer us a choice. Example: which do you prefer, an apple or an orange? You immediately imagine I have an apple in one hand and an orange in the other and you are being asked to choose the one you like better.

So imagine the following scenario: you have $10 million to invest in space technologies. Do you think that money would go to better uses if: 1) you invested the money directly in a company you liked, 2) you invested your money with a VC firm, or 3) you donated your money to the government? If you answered 1 or 2, then you prefer private investment in space technologies.

Fundamentally, when you invest your own money, you have a self-interest in making a good investment or you lose your money! The government has no such incentive since it is never held accountable for losing taxpayer money. The government invested in Solyndra, a company that makes solar panels for the International Space Station. Although the government had a report that said Solyndra would go bankrupt within a year, they still gave them half a billion dollars. The reason: a former Solyndra board member was working for the Energy Department and was aggressively pushing for the money.


R1) Critical to defense

My opponent argues that NASA technology is critical to discovering new U.S. defense technologies.

The first problem with this argument is it assumes that if you vote Con, NASA funding ceases to exist. If I ask you: which do you prefer – apples or oranges – and you answer oranges, do apples cease to exist? I'm not arguing we de-fund NASA; I am merely arguing that private financing is a preferable option, if you are given a choice.

The second problem is that NASA DID NOT develop the Air Force's rockets. My opponent never provides a source for this. The Air Force uses the Delta IV rocket, which was developed by Boeing, a private company. In fact, the Augustine Commission did a study of NASA's Constellation Program, which was developing the Ares I rocket in order to replace the space shuttle program. The Augustine Commission concluded that NASA was unable to develop its own rocket and recommended that NASA model its space shuttle replacement on the Delta IV. [2] Today, the flow of expertise is from the Air Force and the private sector to NASA, not the other way around.

The third problem: I don't doubt that my opponent's Aviation Week evidence says "space technology is critical to defense," but I DO doubt that it said "and NASA is critical to this process." Today, the military develops and maintains its own space technologies, including spy satellites, launch vehicles, and a prototype for a plane that can enter space (codenamed Blackstar). The ability to "shoot down satellites" most definitely did not come from NASA.

The fourth problem: national defense spending is not "space exploration."

The fifth problem: my opponent says if we break the contracts, companies would release technology to Russia, China, etc, but 1) we're not abolishing NASA here; 2) NASA doesn't have top secret defense contracts, and 3) defense contracts include non-disclosure agreements. It's treason for a private company to disclose top secret weapons designs to other countries, even if their contract has expired.

R2) Safety

My opponent argues that NASA is inherently safe and the private sector is inherently unsafe.

The first problem with this argument is that the private sector actually has more motivation to keep people safe than the government does. If a private company routinely puts out an unsafe product, it will constantly be sued by customers injured by said product. However, the government has immunity from lawsuits. Private companies have accountability but the government does not. The U.S. government could not be sued for the 1986 Challenger disaster OR the 2003 Columbia disaster, even though both events resulted in the death of the entire crew of astronauts.

The second problem is that the topic is not U.S. specific. Does anyone believe that U.S. private companies, like SpaceX, are less safe than Russia or Georgia (the country's) space program? This year, Russia's spaceship crashed during a routine resupply mission to the International Space Station. [3] Russia has permanently downed ALL space missions until it can identify what caused the crash. [4] In contrast, Space X, a private company, recently ran a successful flight of their Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule. [5] SpaceX flew all the way to the International Space Station and landed successfully.

In fact, this means SpaceX has the ONLY spaceflight capability in the world. NASA's space shuttle was recently decommissioned. NASA's Constellation program, which was developing a replacement for the space shuttle, was cancelled by the Obama Administration after the Augustine Commission reported that the project was seriously behind schedule and overbudget. And now Russia, with the only remaining space capability, has had to down their space program after an unknown problem caused their spacecraft to explode.

The third problem is that my opponent claims private companies would not help each other if one of them was stranded in space. This is just empirically not true. The fishermen on "The Most Dangerous Catch" have gone to GREAT lengths to rescue fellow fishermen, even though they are competing against these rival private fishing vessels. People empathize when their fellow workmen are in distress.

R3) NASA creates jobs

My opponent argues that NASA's budget is key to job creation.

The first problem with this argument is that I am NOT advocating we eliminate NASA.

The second problem with this argument is that NASA does not generate NEW jobs. The largely Republican House Budgetary Committee has shot down the last three proposals for new projects that NASA proposed. In contrast, the private sector DOES generate NEW jobs.

The third problem is that MOST of NASA's budget does NOT go to "engineers," but rather to bureaucracy and equipment costs. According to NASA's own budget breakdown, $3 billion goes to "cross-agency support," i.e. bureaucracy; of their $6 billion "space operations" budget, $3.1 billion of it goes to decommissioning the Space Shuttle and $2.3 billion of it goes to maintaining the International Space Station; of their nearly $5 billion "science" budget, most of it goes to maintaining various telescopes. [6]

Fourth: technically, there is more private sector money to be spent directly on jobs. A study of Aviation Week in 2001 found that $10 billion in venture capital was available each year in the space industry. In contrast, NASA's 2010 budget allocates only $39 million for grants to commercial spaceflight.

In addition, money spent in the private sector has a higher rate of return. NASA did a study which found that its R&D spending had a rate of return of 10:1, whereas studies of the private sector find a return of 23:1. [7]

Fifth: this argument ignores opportunity cost. We could generate far more money and jobs in this country if we took money out of NASA and invested it in the nation's crumbling infrastructure or in education. Not all jobs are "good jobs." Spending $3 billion a year for NASA to hire hundreds of bureaucrats to "communicate between agencies" is clearly a waste.

Sixth: my opponent mentions that the Falcon 9 cost $1.9 billion to develop. That's funny because a NASA study found it would have cost twice as much if NASA had tried to develop the Falcon 9 on its own. [8] Since currently, all but $39 million of NASA's $18 billion budget goes to "itself," that's a lot of government money being spent inefficiently. 99.9% of what NASA does is invest in itself, i.e. investing in an agency with heaps of bureaucracy, that only does OLD projects, and that can't manage to do anything without going vastly overtime and overbudget.

The economy doesn't need old jobs, it needs job GROWTH, which means NEW jobs. Since discretionary spending has been frozen, the House refuses to fund NEW projects, and the House FROZE NASA's exploration budget, the only people who can fund NEW projects are private investors. Only a vote Aff is an investment in our nation's FUTURE.

Debate Round No. 1


Thank you for accepting my debate. Good Luck!

I would like to start by making a few points here. First I'd like to point out that my opponent did not make a case/contentions so he hasn't really explained why private sector investment is better.

Next, I'd like to go over a few of his rebuttals:
He says that defense is not related to the resolution at all, but this is simply not true. Research that NASA has conducted in space and the technology it develops is used in military applications, so space exploration is related to defense. We are looking at which is preferable so which investment effects a countries well being is important.

He agrees that losing NASA would hurt the U.S. defense, but he says we wouldn't defund NASA, we would just use private funds. This does not make much sense. Is he suggesting that private companies would fund NASA? Private sector would invest into their own companies investments and they would seek to make a profit. NASA would then be eliminated, which would hurt our defense.

Next, to the private companies selling technology to other countries. If NASA were to be eliminated, they would sell this technology to other if they got a good share of money, because private companies mainly care about profit. Private companies have no allegiance to any country so it is not treason to the U.S.

On the next point about safety, he says that Private companies are safer. But again read my quote, As both MIT and
NASA Chief Ron Dittemore have said, "an overemphasis on profit can bias decisions, resulting
in Program weakness with reduction of critical skills and erosion of checks and Balances." I think that my opponent can agree that the main general goal of a private company is to make a profit. It has been shown throughout history that private companies are notorious of cutting corners. Take for example BP and the deep horizon oil spill. They cut corners, did not go through proper safety procedures, and a disaster occurred.

My opponent says the topic is not U.S. specific. I guess he is pointing this out for my 1st and third contention. What we must look at in this resolution is what each individual country wants and is preferable to them. Each individual country wants a good job economy and good defense. There is no world economy or world government, so it is not plausible to think this way.

Next, we we talk about jobs. He says we would gain more jobs. But again, we must look at how privatizing would affect America. NASA would hire domestic employees and have jobs kept here. Because Private companies care more about profit they would hire cheaper overseas engineers and employees. This is definetly not good for America. My opponent claims jobs would be created with privitization. But again according the MIT and Space review, there would be a ball park of 1 million jobs lost with privitization. This outweighs whatever his figures are.

Lastly, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, we need to talk about funding. In the resolution we are comparing private sector investment and public sector investment. I am defining investment as putting capital/money into a program. Most Private space companies are being funded by NASA such as Space X. According to MIT and Space Review, 99 percent of space companies funds are coming from NASA. Because NASA is funding mainly all projects of private companies, no matter how successful they are, this is PUBLIC SECTOR investment.


Thanks for the quick reply jjx.

==My "lack of a case"==

My opponent claims I "lack a case" and therefore lose. What he doesn't realize is that I gave my case for private sector investment during my rebuttal to his case, or in debate lingo: "I turned the sh!t out of his case."

Here are the reasons I enumerated (in the previous round) to prefer private investment:

1) Today, expertise flows FROM the private sector TO NASA, not the other way around. The Augustine Commission told NASA to abandon its own plans and instead model its next-gen spacecraft on Boeing's Delta IV rocket.

2) The public sector is less safe and less accountable. NASA blew up two crews of astronauts recently and couldn't even be sued. The Russian spacecraft blew up a few months ago with no discernable explanation. In contrast, SpaceX completed a successful space flight to the International Space Station.

3) From 2: since the cancellation of NASA's shuttle-replacement program and the "indefinite downing" of Russia's space program, SpaceX, a private company, has the ONLY human spaceflight capability on Earth.

4) NASA has no new money; the private sector does. The House Budgetary Commission has slammed NASA time and time again and has frozen their "space exploration" budget. If we want new money and new jobs, we need to look to the private sector.

5) NASA spends on useless cr@p. Around one fourth of their budget goes to bureaucracy. That's why their return on investment is 10:1 compared to 23:1 in the private sector. A dollar spent in the private sector goes 2.3 times as far.

6) Opportunity cost. We have better things to spend public monies on.

7) NASA takes twice as long and twice as much money to accomplish the same things as the private sector (see the Falcon 9 study).

8) NASA spends jack on the private sector. The private sector can mobilize $10 billion a year for space, whereas NASA spends around $40 million a year on commercial space ventures.

9) When the government apportions money, it does so wastefully, often due to emphasizing lobbying considerations over smart investing (see Solyndra). If you had $10 million, would you rather invest it yourself (private investment) or give it to the government to invest?

All 9 of these are reasons to prefer private investment.


R1) Military technology

My opponent still maintains that NASA is critical to developing defense technologies. He cites two sources in this round. The first merely lists a bunch of NASA discoveries from the 60's; it DOES NOT explain how these apply to the military. The second source mentions NASA only ONCE and says that NASA benefited from military research into spy satellite technology, NOT the other way around. Better spy satellite technology from the Air Force helped NASA develop better monitoring equipment to watch the Earth. This proves MY point, which is unrefuted, that today the Air Force does its own research into spy satellites and ultra-fast space jets. It does not need NASA R&D. In fact, NASA has no money for new projects. I challenge my opponent to name a new area of NASA R&D spending that would somehow be beneficial to defense.

My opponent still argues "NASA would be eliminated." This doesn't make sense. He never answers my argument that if you are asked "do you prefer apples or oranges," if you pick oranges, you are not forced to defend a world where apples cease to exist. I don't necessarily have to defend that NASA disappears. But even if it did, NASA does NOT have ANY defense contracts. I linked my opponent to NASA's budget last round. He must show me where in their budget the defense contracts are.

Lastly, my opponent asserts its not treason for a U.S. defense contractor to divulge US military secrets to another nation. Yes it is. Being a "private individual" does not exempt you from treason charges. If it were not treason, private defense contractors would sell U.S. secrets all the time to make more money. But they don't.

For example, part of Lockheed Martin's deal with the government is that they can make the F-35 next-gen fighter for us, but they cannot divulge the designs or even SELL the F-35 to any other country without U.S. government permission. [1]

R2) Safety

My opponent still maintains that private companies are unsafe, even though they can get sued but the government cannot. The profit motive creates INCENTIVES for safety. You can't exactly turn a profit if your product routinely kills your customers.

My opponent provided a quote saying "an OVEREMPHASIS" on profits is bad. Companies that overemphasize profits, to the exclusions of all else, stifle creativity. You'll never see Google pressure its employees to eke out more profits. Few private companies that are dependent on innovation OVERemphasize profits. They emphasize them a normal amount. My opponent never provides evidence that space companies overemphasize profits to such an extent that it forces them to cut corners.

My opponent brings up BP, which is ironically evidence of government subsidies pushing drilling companies into unsafely deep water. 70% of the rent on Deepwater Horizon was subsidized. Without U.S. government subsidy, BP could not have afforded to drill that far out. In addition, this is also a massive government failure, considering that the regulatory agency that inspected Deepwater Horizon (the MMS) rated the rig as "perfectly safe" in spite of multiple safety violations that ultimately led to the explosion. This was due to regulatory capture of the MMS, i.e. bribes and lobbying. This is hardly a model of responsible government. And isn't that what my opponent was arguing for?

Also, it's telling that my opponent cannot find an example of corner-cutting in the space industry.

My opponent doesn't respond to the multiple US crashes or the recent Russian crash, nor does he respond to the recent successful SpaceX flight.

R3) Jobs

My opponent claims to offer evidence here that we'd lose 1 million jobs if we privatized NASA. He never provides the actual sources for this. Also, this makes no sense. NASA employs only 18,000 people. [2]

Also, if we spent $18 billion more on education, we could easily hire MORE than 18,000 people. For the price of NASA's budget, we could hire 18,000 teachers and pay them each ONE MILLION DOLLARS per year. NASA is hardly prioritizing jobs in the way it spends. Remember how I already showed how 25% of its budget goes to bureaucracy and another 50% goes to maintaining old equipment?

My opponent also claims private companies would outsource engineering jobs. However, not all engineering jobs are the same. We can easily outsource computer engineering. But a recent article in Time Magazine pointed out that some of our largest employment gains this year came from aerospace engineering in the private sector (mostly commercial jets). Apparently the US has the best aerospace engineers, so companies don't outsource those jobs.

Also, we need NEW jobs, not old jobs, to get rid of our 9% unemployment rate. If NASA has no NEW money to spend, it's not exactly hiring NEW people. Only the private sector has new capital to spend. You want jobs, vote for the private sector. My opponent never contests that the private sector mobilizes $10 billion a year in the space industry.

R4) Funding

My opponent cites two sources to show that 99 percent of private sector funding comes from NASA. However, he doesn't REALLY say what his sources are. Can I get an author's name, publication date, article title, url, etc?

I provided evidence from NASA's own budget that NASA only spends $39 million a year on private space ventures, whereas private sector investment in space numbers at least $10 billion a year. My opponent never really explains how the $1.9 billion Falcon 9 program "couldn't survive" without NASA's paltry million dollar contributions.

[1] Christopher Preble, The Power Problem
Debate Round No. 2


jjx1 forfeited this round.


Forfeit = I win
Debate Round No. 3
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by 16kadams 6 years ago
F-16 he likes space exploration thats ok
Posted by 16kadams 6 years ago
Pro is rampaging, and also NASA is dying so the new companies need donations. 1 private sector dollar = 4 government dollars.
Posted by thett3 6 years ago
"According to MIT and Space Review, 99 percent of space companies funds are coming from NASA."

You need to provide more evidence before you make bold claims like that
Posted by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 6 years ago
How many debates are you going to do on the same topic?
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by F-16_Fighting_Falcon 6 years ago
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Total points awarded:04 
Reasons for voting decision: Forfeit and Pro's arguments were not refuted by Con.
Vote Placed by Chrysippus 6 years ago
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Total points awarded:04 
Reasons for voting decision: Conduct point to Pro for the forfeit. SP/G seemed fine all around. Both sides argued well, but Pro presented much the better case. Con spent valuable time picking at things like dissolving NASA which were tangential to his case; and was proven materially incorrect on important points.