This woman could take us to infinity and beyond
A NASA astronaut probably won’t be the next person to take a small step for man on a planet or moon a giant leap away from Earth. The US space agency is a shadow of its former self, facing death of a thousand budget cuts. Its space shuttles are retired, their replacements canned.
It’s far more likely that the next footprint on the moon will be sponsored by a cashed-up entrepreneur. Think Richard Branson, the airline tycoon who founded Virgin Galactic. Or think American hotel chain billionaire Robert Bigelow, who wants to build a space station.
Or maybe think Gina Rinehart. Stuff NASA, we could have GINA: a Ginormous Investment in National Aerospace, sponsored by our very own chief mining magnate. Our richest person could put an Australian on the moon. Maybe even build an Australian colony. It would be revolutionary: for her, and for the country. And she could do it.
Don’t believe me? Look at the numbers. Rinehart currently has an estimated wealth of $20 billion, enough money to fund all $17.7 billion of NASA’s budget for this year and still have a healthy $2.3 billion to splash around, say, at the dogs or on the pokies. If output of iron ore, coal and commodity prices continue to rise over the next few years, her wealth has been projected to balloon to $US100 billion. And she’d probably overtake Bill Gates and Carlos Slim as the world’s richest person on the way.
The entire Apollo program that put Neil Armstrong and many others on the moon cost US$24 billion (at the time), a number that may well have increased with inflation and the cost of new technology. But considering the profits she makes, surely a sustained colossal investment into an Aussie space program over a period of 15-to-20 years would yield serious results.
What’s in it for Gina Rinehart though? We already know she’s a bold thinker. She once explored the feasibility of using a nuclear bomb to create a harbour on Australia’s north-west coast, according to The Guardian. But what it would really do is solve many of her issues.
Ms Rinehart has a big publicity problem. She’s having a public spat with her kids and threatened to revoke their ransom insurance if they don’t cooperate with her demands. She’s hoarded a colossal amount of wealth. She’s opposed to the tax man taking a few of her many billions away from her. It’s fair to say many Australians don’t like her.
Few Australians can sympathise with the problems of the super-rich. Several years ago Bill Gates was developing symptoms of I’m So Obscenely Rich That People Are Starting To Hate Me too. He started the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and it turns out Bill’s billions might just eradicate malaria from the face of the earth.
A similar act from Gina Rinehart in the form of an Australian manned space program would be a bow in the tie of our national prestige that we never thought we could accomplish. Planting the Australian flag on the moon or Mars would utterly transform the way we see ourselves on the world stage. Rinehart would become a national hero.
Who’d give a rats about that pesky mineral resource rent tax after that?
And by investing in the space race, Rinehart would be spreading her wealth to thousands of Australians—the Apollo program, for instance, employed over 400,000 Americans. This in an Australian industry that would thrive with substantial investment.
Dr Ragbir Bhathal, an astrophysicist with the Search for Extraterrestrial Life (SETI) initiative at the University of Western Sydney, told The Punch late yesterday afternoon that Australia has enough expertise with space and astronomy that we could and should have a space program.
We’re already world leaders when it comes to space science and tech. For instance, Australia (with New Zealand) has a one in two chance of becoming home to a gigantic radio telescope array, which would make us pioneers in astronomy at a time which David Reneke from Australasian Science Magazine already says is shaping up to be the space science’s “golden age”.
Rinehart could herald in a “golden age of spaceflight”. But there’s one more, less grandiose, reason why Rinehart might want to become Queen of The Stars: wealth.
She knows a lot about extracting iron ore from deep holes in the ground. There’s a giant rock made of valuable materials floating in the sky above us. Could you imagine the mineral dollars lying below the Sea of Tranquility?
Rinehart could have a monopoly on the moon’s resources. Her current bank balance would be raised to the power of billions. That is, she could build herself temple made entirely out of million-dollar notes. We’d be richer as a people, and she’d be well, even more unthinkably rich.
President John F. Kennedy, the man who pointed the US space program at the moon, is famous for saying: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but for what you can do for your country.”
This is what you can do for your country, Ms Rinehart. And yourself.
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