Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Brookings Institution: The Real “Men in Black”?

Is the Brookings Institution – which is primarily an economic security study concern – responsible for the excruciatingly slow scientific progress of space exploration 50 years after Sputnik I?

By: Ringo Bones

In the 20th Century it took us only 44 -or so- years from the first airplane flight to an airplane flying faster than the speed of sound. Why can’t our existing space programs progress just as fast? Ever since that National Geographic documentary about space exploration in which a Brookings Institution report was published. This report advising NASA against reporting findings on the existence of extraterrestrial life to the general public, every coffee shop and internet café in the Far East are now a buzz about the Brookings Institution’s true purpose. But first, here’s a primer on that said institution.

The Brookings Institution is a non- profit public policy “think tank” based in Washington, DC. As the United States of America’s oldest “think tank”, Brookings is devoted (primarily?) to public service through research and education in the social sciences, particularly in economics, government and foreign policy. The Brookings Institution’s stated principal purpose is “to aid in the development of sound public policies and to promote public understanding of issues of national (i.e. the US of A ‘s) importance. Brookings was founded in 1916, when a group of “reformers” (or is that government officials of limited legislative powers dissatisfied with the incumbent administration) founded the Institute for Government Research (IGR), the first private organization in the US devoted to analyzing public policy issues at a national level. The Institutions founder, philanthropist Robert S. Brookings (1850-1952), originally financed the formation of three organizations: The Institute for Government Research, The Institute of Economics, and the Robert Brookings Graduate School. The three were merged into the Brookings Institution in 1927. The Brookings Institute, is currently headed by Strobe Talbott a former Clinton administration appointee in the US State Department.

The “mystique” surrounding the Brookings Institution began in 1958 when the United States Congress created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) under the new Space Act to replace its 1915 predecessor the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics or NACA. Throughout the 1960’s, under US Government behest, NASA adopted a very unusual non-disclosure policy that prohibited their management from releasing information concerning the discovery of sentient extraterrestrial life capable of space travel. The policy was created and fashioned after the Brookings Institution report entitled “Peaceful Uses of Outer Space”. In that report, the Brookings Institution recommended prohibition of disclosure with a warning against the revelation of the existence of extraterrestrial life to the people of America and the world. Brookings Institution thinkers feared (vicariously?) social, economic, and religious upeaval could result. Many now believe that the Brookings Institution’s conclusions were based on the now famous events, which transpired in October 30, 1938, the public reaction to Orson Welles’s radio broadcast of “The War of the Worlds” and the local panic that ensued.

In the 21st Century, humanity’s level of sophistication has surely risen “a few notches” since that 1938 radio broadcast. To me, it’s quite “difficult to understand” how a futuristic agency tasked with the goal of space exploration -like NASA – can be handicapped by a fear, which originated before most of us were born. Are civilian astronauts / “space tourist” immune to the US Government’s “behest” to keep quiet about “ET”? Maybe this is why none of the billionaires are setting up their own space programs in frenzy.

Does extraterrestrial life exist, is the moon landing “staged’? To end the speculation, civilians should be allowed free access to space despite of the dangers and fiscal costs. Sometimes I wonder after all this time there is no photo of the Apollo 11 landing site taken by a space probe –preferably commissioned by a non- US Government entity (Will China or India suffice) - orbiting 100 kilometers above the moon.

In my opinion, it seems like the people in charge of the Brookings Institute were still living in an “Aristotelian Mindset” when they fashioned their “Peaceful Uses of Outer Space” report. It’s a pity that the great literary giants in Europe during the late 15th Century onwards didn’t write “science fiction” the way Gene Roddenberry makes conjectures about “alien civilizations”. I mean, What if William Shakespeare wrote a “story” about how to properly interact with the native peoples of the “New World”?

In Brookings Institutions defense, they are seldom –if ever – taken seriously by the various US administrations that came and went since the end of World War II. Brookings even made it into then President Richard Nixon’s famous “enemies lists”. Brookings even warned the US Government back in 2000 that if the proper financial reforms aren’t done, a credit crunch – as what is currently happening –can occur.

Basing on the existing facts about the case, the Brookings Institution cannot be held wholly responsible for arresting the development of space travel because they merely work in an advisory capacity. Their “Space” policy may be found wanting but at least some of their ideas keep “minor wars” from getting out of hand while Wall Street goes about like its business as usual.

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