Space: The final ad frontier

Time for another trip into the far, far, far-out frontiers of free enterprise. Today, Spaceship Hightower takes you into a curious time warp where big government metamorphs into big business.

Take a close look at the brand new International Space Station, largely developed by NASA and funded by us good ol' American taxpayers to the tune of $40 billion.

But according to a report by Gannett News Service, now that our government has put this orbiting outpost into space, the metamorphosis is already under way to turn over a third of its capacity to private corporations. Indeed, a NASA study has quietly identified 13 categories of businesses that can make use of the space station, ranging from biotech firms to -- brace yourself for this -- advertising agencies.

Great. We spend 40 billion big ones and we get an orbiting billboard? We're bombarded with way too many ads as it is, not merely through the media, but everywhere we turn. City buses are now entirely wrapped in product promotions, apples come with little stickers promoting movies, the hallways of our public schools scream "Coca-Cola" and "Nike" at our children, and even standing at a self-service gas pump means enduring electronic promos for assorted products. Having covered every space on earth, must corporations now be allowed to cover space itself?

Not to worry though: NASA officials say that "good taste" will be required for any outer-space ads. Sure.

They can say this, but NASA won't really be the arbiter of how companies use the space station, since it's planning to remove itself from management of the commercial portion, turning this responsibility over to a sort of outer-space chamber of commerce controlled by the corporations themselves.

Our nation's space program ought to serve public need ... not private greed.

Jim Hightower is an author, radio commentator, public speaker and political sparkplug from Austin, Texas. For more populist commentary, visit his website.

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