'Tea Party in Space' is boldly going out there - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

‘Tea Party in Space’ is boldly going out there

Monday I saw the funniest thing on Facebook. OK, we see a lot of funny things on Facebook, most of it intentionally funny, like this e-card. That’s funny.

Cute_GorgeousSometimes our friends say the funniest things. My old friend Pete can be counted on to make everyone laugh. After Pope Benedict XVI announced his retirement, Pete was the guy who wrote on Facebook, “He’s the first Pope to give up being Pope for Lent.” Now that’s funny.

Then there are those people who, with total sincerity, explain something about themselves that turns out to be so funny, you wonder if they are j/k — just kidding. Because it’s usually a friend you gingerly tiptoe around it until you know if it’s a joke or not.

Then there are the pages that make you go, “Huh?” Things that not only seem out of place, but make you chuckle as well.  One of those humorous moments on Facebook hit when I saw a fan page for a group called Tea Party in Space.

Seriously, Teabaggers who want manned space flights. At first I thought someone was being funny, that they had created this Facebook page as some sort of political satire or to just mock the Tea Party. There’s a lot of that going around on Facebook.

After reading the comments of the people who are a part of this organization and those who like or oppose TPiS, it was apparent this was no joke. So I did a little research. The organization has a website. Well that says something, but on the other hand any yokel with a few bucks to spend every month can have a website — I have one.

The TPiS site is organized with headers for each section. Although there is space provided for any members, advocates or detractors to leave comments on all of their website topics and sub-pages, there isn’t one single comment. So it begs the question: are there members beyond the three people listed on the website as “President,” “Vice President” and “National Coordinator and Director of Operations”?

Judging from the verbiage used in the organization’s “Core Values” and “Platform” topics, they’ve been around for a few years, at least since 2011. They talk about ending the Space Launch Systems program for instance, but as far as I know, the SLS program is still operational.

  • Brief note of clarification: the Space Launch Systems is the new post-shuttle plan to send Americans (and others) into space without having to hitch a ride with the Russians.
  • NASA, i.e. the federal government, is currently building a new rocket system with a multipurpose crew vehicle that will, if all goes as planned, take crews to the Moon, Mars and other destinations like the International Space Station (ISS).

TEA Party in Space wants is to stop the SLS program and put it all in the hands of private enterprise. Indeed, there are companies like SpaceX that are getting into the space race. On May 25, 2012 SpaceX became the first private company to send a vehicle to the ISS. It brought cargo. If you’re into space and exploring it, this was really exciting news.

I always thought they were way out there...so in a weird way this makes sense.

I always thought they were way out there…

That is the main concern of TPiS: promote space travel and exploration for private enterprise and reduce government involvement in it. Along with that is to let the private sector go into space with as little regulation as possible.

They refer to their platform as the “Oregon Trail space policy.” But this is where the TPiS platform gets murky. First they want to do away with the SLS program, but then they say NASA should only get involved in space projects that are entirely and completely for the U.S. government. That would mean the government would need a space delivery system of some sort, like the Space Launch System, unless TPiS thinks the government should contract one of the private companies to deliver their payloads to space.

Also implicit in all their information is that everything that goes into space, lands on the Moon and Mars and beyond, should have the U.S. imprint on it and we should be exporting “American values” across the universe. As their TEA Party in Space platform states, “Our goal is nothing less than the expansion of American civilization into the solar system.” Not human civilization, but American civilization. No foreigners allowed. Well, I would hope they would allow other countries to engage in their own space exploration and colonization.

That would be a nice place to put all of them.

If the Tea Party colonized the moon, would they have an open carry gun law? Where would they strap it?

And who wouldn’t want to have an American footprint in space? We already have them on the Moon and Mars. But many people interested in space exploration would like to see it become an international effort, that we explore space as one species, not 140 different countries competing with one another to claim real estate on other bodies in space.

By treaty the United States shares Antarctica with the other countries that explore the continent. That’s the type of philosophy most people have with space exploration. Call it the “Star Trek Effect.” Right from the beginning the series featured crewmembers from many different cultures and nationalities and in the case of Mr. Spock, a different planet. There was a Scotsman, a Russian, Chinese and the communications officer who was African.

In our Earth’s orbit we do have the International Space Station, a space vehicle that is a home to people of varying nationalities. Most people would like to see that kind of cooperation extend beyond the ISS.

This is the Tea Party spaceman - Andrew Gasser.

This is the Tea Party space man – Andrew Gasser, a retired Air Force veteran.

If you’re thinking, “I’ve never heard of TEA Party in Space before,” you’re not alone. Tea Party member Andrew Gasser, a retired Air Force veteran, founded the organization. He saw that none of the Tea Party groups he encountered (he says he’s a member of three) had any space policy so he decided to start one.

I have some friends who are in the defense and aerospace industries and some who are techno geeks that work in the computer field and I asked them if they had heard of this organization. None of them had heard of TPiS.

One friend I spoke with over the phone asked, “Did you say Tea Party in Space?” Yes I did! “Space? In like Outer Space, or …” Yes, outer space, manned space flight, etc. “I know where this is going,” my friend said, having known me for so many years.

Another friend who builds things for the government he can’t talk about, said, “TEA Party in space? Sounds like a group that wants to cut NASA completely out of space exploration!” Not completely Mr. Smith, but it’s something like that.

The organization did get a mention on the TPM (Talking Points Memo) Muckraker page and of course on NewsMax, but other than that, no one really pays any attention to this organization. No one of any great consequence anyway, not even FoxNews. So it’s no surprise TEA Party in Space is unknown to the general public.

There is a video interview of TPiS founder Andrew Gasser on the Moon and Back website, but like TEA Party in Space, “moonandback.com” is an obscure organization primarily devoted to space tourism. They have a very interesting web site and I would encourage everyone to look it over.

This is America and anyone is free to start his or her own organizations. In fact our national zeitgeist encourages entrepreneurship so I have no ill will towards TPiS or moonandback.com and wish them well. TPiS is probably trying to do something for the common good. Our philosophies are different and therefore our ideas on how to explore space differ, but like many people TPiS sees a place for space exploration in our nation’s future. That isn’t a bad thing by any stretch, but it is silly to align yourself with a political party that has a specific political agenda and then call yourself “non-partisan.”

So I pointed out on the TPiS Facebook fan page, that their claim, “We are a non-partisan political organization,” is factually incorrect because by aligning themselves with an existing political entity, the Tea Party (such as it is), they are subscribing and aligning themselves with a particular political, and therefore partisan, philosophy. Their thinking is that since they praise both the Democrats and Republicans alike for legislation TPiS considers favorable to their cause, they are “non-partisan.”  Well no, it doesn’t, but it does indicate they are open-minded.

What do kids know anyway?

What do kids know anyway?

Tea Party in Space claims to reach out to all parties, Democrat, Republican and Independent alike, but as we have seen over the past four years the Tea Party is inextricably aligned with (and part of) the Republican Party. It is the Tea Party that has dragged the GOP even further to the right than it was when the NeoCons were in control.

There was a terse reply to my, I admit, sarcastic and accusatory comment. The founder, Andrew Gasser, asked some questions, pulling out all the acronyms he could think of in relation to space exploration, but I couldn’t reply! They had blocked me from posting comments on their page. So I sent him a private message and learned something new: we can charge people money to send these private messages on Facebook. Gasser wanted me to pay one dollar to send the message to the inbox he looks at, or I could take my chances on the free message. I decided to take my chances.

One of the traits of people who want you to think they know what they are talking about is to use acronyms as if these are terms that are common knowledge in the general public. They expect you to know, or figure out for yourself, what the terms mean. Acronyms like “ITAR,” CCDev 2,” “SLS” and “JWST.” It’s a cheap form of intimidation.

Just for the record: “ITAR” is the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, CCDev 2 is for Commercial Crew Development and the “2” is for the second phase, “SLS” is of course for Space launch System and “JWST” is for the James Webb Space Telescope, an exciting project that will pick up where the Hubble Telescope leaves off.

Gasser also mentioned ICAP, which stands for the International Carbon Action Partnership, the basis for Cap and Trade. Can’t imagine TPiS is pro-ICAP.

Anyway, Gasser’s spurt of acronyms was supposed to be evidence of their non-partisan efforts. OK, they reach out beyond the Tea Party. But TPiS is a Tea Party group and therefore partisan. As they say on their “Core Values” page, “Espousing TEA Party ideals and American exceptionalism only reinforces to us that we are on the correct path.” As we’ve witnessed over the past four years, the Tea Party has very partisan views. And I’m OK with that, just be honest with yourself about it.

I do have to admit to one error on my part: in my initial message to the TEA Party in Space Facebook page I said their use of the Star Wars font was entertaining. That was incorrect. TPiS informed me the top font is the old NASA font and the bottom is from Star Trek. My apologies. All those space fonts look alike to me.

On a conciliatory note: any efforts by TPiS to encourage space exploration by our government should be welcomed. There’s no doubt that government and the private sector will be partners in space exploration as time goes on, but that’s where our agreements end. Maybe one day we will have colonies on the Moon and Mars, but my hope is that they will be international settlements, like the International Space Station.

Good luck in the future, TPiS. Live long and prosper.

About the author

Tim Forkes

Tim Forkes started as a writer on a small alternative college newspaper in Milwaukee called the Crazy Shepherd. Writing about entertainment issues, he had the opportunity to speak with many people in show business, from the very famous to the people struggling to find an audience. In 1992 Tim moved to San Diego, CA and pursued other interests, but remained a freelance writer. Upon arrival in Southern California he was struck by how the business of government and business was so intertwined, far more so than he had witnessed in Wisconsin. His interest in entertainment began to wane and the business of politics took its place. He had always been interested in politics, his mother had been a Democratic Party official in Milwaukee, WI, so he sat down to dinner with many of Wisconsin’s greatest political names of the 20th Century: William Proxmire and Clem Zablocki chief among them. As a Marine Corps veteran, Tim has a great interest in veteran affairs, primarily as they relate to the men and women serving and their families. As far as Tim is concerned, the military-industrial complex has enough support. How the men and women who serve are treated is reprehensible, while in the military and especially once they become veterans. Tim would like to help change that reality. Contact the author.