Paul Jacob
For July 4th, Independence Day, NASA sponsored a unique fireworks display. America's space agency shot and hit a comet with a rocket. Or, as they like to say, a probe. The impact brightened up telescopes on Earth and in orbit. The images were spectacular.

The NASA people were much enthused — and they've probably thought about that success a lot this past week as the space shuttle sat still on the launch pad, unable to lift off.

Now, I often talk about "unintended consequences" when it comes to government programs, but the comet fireworks had a really unintended consequence. A Russian woman sued NASA for upsetting her astrology charts. She sued to stop the project, and also for the amount of the project's cost — for her "moral trauma." This astrologer claimed that "elements of the comet's orbit, and correspondingly the ephemeris, will change after the explosion, which interferes with my astrology work and distorts my horoscope."

I don't often side with governments against individuals, but in this case, well, I think a lack of true causality in astrology should be easily provable in court. If not, then junk science has indeed gone too far.

But nuisance lawsuits are not the biggest problem we face in exploring and developing outer space. Mankind needs to think longer term. We must encourage space exploration. In fact, that mission is so important that it shouldn't be left to NASA — or to similar outfits in other countries.

We need private enterprise in space.

It makes far more sense for private individuals to risk their capital rather than force everyone to give up yet more of their wealth to the tax system. And it is private efforts, millions of them, both big and not so big, that have moved mountains on earth and will one day tame the vastness of space. Private efforts are the true source of our successes and level of prosperity. Of course, private property and economic well-being rest on a minimal amount of common-sense good government, but it's the actual achievers in the private sphere who drive progress. Government must be humble enough to do what needs to be done and then get out of the way, letting others do the bigger, riskier tasks.

Unfortunately, our current governments are lunatic when it comes to space, and especially our nearest important object in space, the Moon. The Moon, at present, is a huge unused resource. It won't be used, much, until 1967's Outer Space Treaty and 1979's Moon Treaty are repudiated and private exploration and property in outer space allowed and encouraged by decent law.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.