Linda Billings, a self-described expert in communications, has just published her take on the recent meeting of the National Space Council, which she refers to, caustically, as a “spectacle.” She quotes from an obscure French philosopher about what such a thing is, as images and words meant to supplant reality. In this, as in much else, Dr. Billings is wide of the mark. The NSC meeting was only interesting to people who follow space policy. It also pretty much tracked reality in regards to what the current state of space policy is.

What is a spectacle?

A spectacle, properly understood, is something that elicits strong emotions, mainly positive, but sometimes negative. It may track with reality. It may not. A professional football game is a spectacle that, at least until the rash of protests by pro players during the National Anthem, would be followed by millions of people. For that matter, the first moon landing was the ultimate spectacle, followed on television and radio by a billion people on a planet that contained three and a half billion in 1969 when the event took place.

A meeting of a group of government bureaucrats and industry executives is not, in any sense of the word, a spectacle. The NSC meeting was interesting for people who follow the ebbs and flows of space policy because it provides a hint of what its direction is going from the point of view of the leading players in space in the United States.

The difference is that while most people were pretty stoked at the notion of a new space exploration push with a lot of private sector participation, Billings was appalled.

Trigger words in the NSC meeting

The Billings piece is well worth reading as it provides a window into the mind of someone who is not only unexcited about space exploration but is more than a little bit frightened by the prospect.

She lists a lot of phrases and words, quotes from the meeting, which triggered her to one extent or another. Toward the end of the piece, Billings reveals the words that irk her most of all.

“We’re right back to the Reagan era of the 1980s – when I entered the aerospace community: deregulation, ‘commercial’ development, deregulation, corporate tax breaks, deregulation.

And so much tired empty rhetoric. It’s discouraging. But I’ll keep paying attention.”

The rhetoric was not, in any sense of the word, “empty,” otherwise Billings would not have become so exercised. In fact, what was said at the NSC meeting is just cause for excitement as it indicates future space policy that regards not only the exploration of space but its economic development as good things worth doing.