AN AMERICAN SYNERGISTIC TRILOGY: The Space Program, The Free-Market Economy And Philanthropy

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Dr. V.E.”Bill” Haloulakos is an AIAA National Distinguished Lecturer and a contibutor to The Business Thinker

The Space Program, The Free-Market Economy and Philanthropy, form the earth-shaking and world-shaping triumvirate of American Exceptionalism. The most important part of this “trinity” is The FreMarket Economy, for it is the beating heart that feeds everything else. Because of the aspects and practices of the free-market economy the space program was such a spectacular success and along with the numerous other attributes of the American System, to be enumerated later, vast wealth and prosperity were created that allowed an expandedphilanthropic activities, although they of themselves are the core of the greatest philanthropy known to man which is “Modern-Day Responsible Capitalism”.


Synergy is a mathematical concept, which specifies that one plus one is not always equal to two. Sometimes it is more in which case we say, “The total is greater than the sum of its parts”. This is known as positive synergism and there’s also negative synergism when the “total is less than the sum of its parts”.  The mathematical concept of one plus one is always equal to two is called “the principle of superposition”, i.e. putting one thing on the top of the other, so they just “pile up”. According to the principle of synergism, what the sum of one plus one is equal to depends on the particulars of the case, e.g. when one buys auto insurance as a bundle for two or more cars he saves money as compared to buying them separately. So, one can say that one plus one, synergistically, are less than two because of the lower cost or that it is more than two, because for a given amount of money one effectively buys more insurance. We have and we shall enumerate a multiplicity of items and activities within the American Exceptional System where positive synergism is at work and “like an invisible hand”, to quote Adam Smith, creates a multiplication factor that improves things and situations far and beyond any “normal” (whatever normal is) expectations.


When on May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced before a special joint session of Congress the dramatic and ambitious goal of sending an American safely to the Moon before the end of the decade and returning him safely to earth, he was very sure that we could do it! Setting aside the number of political factors that may have affected Kennedy’s decision and the timing of it, Kennedy may have felt great pressure to have the United States shine, “catch up to and overtake” the Soviet Union in the “space race”, and let the World know what Americans are capable of accomplishing once they set their minds to it. In fact, Kennedy sort of editorialized by adding, “we choose to do these things and more not because they are easy but because they are hard…”! He was absolutely positive that we could accomplish the set goals and perhaps more. There was a newly found Government agency, The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), ready willing, eager and properly chartered to tackle the tasks ahead.

President Eisenhower earlier following the Soviet Sputnik scare had already formed NASA and the Von Braun German Team and many persons who had been instrumental in winning WWII were part of it, in addition to the “inherited” personnel out of the old National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA). In other words the original NASA team was made of 100% “doers” who knew how to organize technical teams, set up realistic goals and also knew how to accomplish them and more, within both schedule and budgetary constraints.

In a parallel effort both the US Army and the US Air Force had initiated ballistic missile programs that were already making critical breakthroughs in key the technologies of rocket propulsion and vehicle design. Specifically, the NASA team was the key in setting up broad technical goals and then would let out contracts to private industry who would actually do the innovative work free of any and all stifling bureaucratic requirements and interference.

With this type of set up, the technical teams led by many WWII experienced experts plus a plethora of new talent that was coming out of our engineering schools by the hundreds of thousands, was able to conduct major technological breakthroughs in record times. This was possible because the teams were free to design, test and modify as necessary without the need to first make presentations and wait for instructions from above. By the way this “instructions from above” was not feasible because the top leadership was composed of “true leaders” who were aware that the new generations of engineers were developing new technological fields and they were the only ones generating and acquiring all the pertinent knowledge to accomplish the goals. So, they were “smart enough” to simply stay out the way and let the new talents flourish and achieve the hitherto unthinkable! The basic NASA structure was merely a “skeleton” crew that would send out Requests for Proposals (RFP) and disburse funds to key teams throughout the aerospace industry, following the receipt of the winning proposals outlining their approach and solution to the posed questions and problems.

The NASA Washington Headquarters Office on rocket propulsion technology, with which this writer was involved, had just one person who would do these tasks. The winning teams would proceed with their work, write and submit short monthly progress reports and then have on site reviews, where the engineers doing the work would present and discuss their progress, with the NASA person being accompanied by another specialist from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). These presentations were usually one afternoon affair and adjustments could be made to the approaches described if necessary. We also had the freedom and the opportunity to conduct tests without any bureaucratic interference and thus we could obtain experimental verifications of our theories and design concepts and/or make adjustments as required.

By way of contrast, in a similar situation today, the NASA audience would consist of dozens of administrators and bureaucrats plus a horde of consultants, who more than likely never were involved in any problems of this type and the most honest of them would admit that they were there to learn instead of instruct. So, invariably such events and situations are not very productive and bespeak of the current status of our Space Program.

Following President Kennedy’s famous tax cuts the economy boomed and there were more than sufficient funds available for the Space Program, and Congress made the necessary provisions that the programs were adequately funded. So, the results were phenomenal advancements in rocket propulsion and vehicle design technologies that enabled us to design and build a multitude of launch vehicles, upper stage rockets and satellites. We went from the Redstone to the Saturn V rocket in five years! There were the companies that developed the large booster rockets, like the 1,500,000-pound-thrust

F-1, and the 230,000-pound-thrust liquid hydrogen (Temperature 423 degrees F below zero!)  J-2 that propelled the Apollo to the Moon, but there were also numerous other companies, some new and some subdivisions of the old large companies, that developed the low-thrust small attitude and reaction control rockets that control, maneuver and stabilize the spacecraft in the low or zero-gravity space environment. This awesome technological leap can now be seen in the space parks (I personally call them “cemeteries”) located in Cape Canaveral, Florida, Huntsville, Alabama and Houston, Texas where all these vehicles are on display. Thus, in addition to the existing major aerospace firms, the multitude of the new small and medium size companies that sprung all over the country, literally employing thousands of engineers, created an explosion of technological innovations and developments that allowed us to land on the Moon on July 20, 1969.

It was indeed a breathtaking sequence of events the likes of which had not even been dreamed of as possible before. But they did happen and they did so because the engineering research, development, design and manufacturing operations were allowed to proceed without any bureaucratic interference. Those were the days that American exceptionalism shone for the world to see and it was not uncommon to find many department heads who knew or understood very little about the tasks of their subordinates. It took a very special person indeed to manage such operating groups of innovators. In fact I do recall articles in the Harvard Business Review magazine discussing and analyzing the tasks of locating such new breed managers to head departments composed of such new talent.

As always there were complaints about the costs of such programs but as it has turned out it was a grand bargain, especially when we consider the millions of technological spin offs in weather and communications satellites, computer technology, lasers, medical applications and on and on… The ultimate result is the Internet and many millions of millionaires created by the new technology.

It is to be noted, however, that all this became possible by the free-market American economy, which functioned in an unfuttered manner and created a tremendous amount of new wealth that also allowed an enormous number of new philanthropic activities, one of the most notable being the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Actually this entire enterprise of the Space Program and its follow-on technology spin offs are really the best form of philanthropy for they have benefited an untold number of humans worldwide. The entire world is busy googoling, tweeting, texting and facebook-liking, transmitting photos at the speed of light everyday and they drive, walk, or hike around via GPS navigation.  The next thing in the American horizon could perhaps be the natural extension of these “miracles” to the field of teleportation! We used to say, years ago, that America’s poor had cars and TVs, now we can add that America’s poor have laptops, i-phones, i-pads, etc.

This is the American Synergistic Trilogy, the almost unbelievable Space Program, the Free-Market Economy and the benefits to the entire humanity which we choose to call True Philanthropy! Like the heart beats, nourishes and keeps our body functioning so is the Free-Market Business System nourishing our enterprises, our lives, and our philanthropic activities.


A recent special event that vividly illustrates the American Synergistic Trilogy, as discussed in the above article, is given below. Go to their web site, to get the details, and make sure that you do not miss the man who is pedaling with one leg only!

On April 26-28, 2012, twenty servicemen and women wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan joined President George W. Bush for a 100-kilometer mountain bike ride in Palo Duro Canyon State Park. As part of the George W. Bush Presidential Center’s Military Service Initiative, the W100 highlights the bravery and sacrifice of the warriors wounded in the global war on terror, as well as those organizations that have made continuing commitments to supporting America’s heroes. The three-day event provided an opportunity to highlight the good work of military support organizations, and was sponsored by several companies and individuals that have generously contributed their time and resources to support America’s servicemen and women. The 2011 W100 was the first event for the Military Service Initiative of the Bush Center.

Now, this is what true philanthropy is! The synergistic combination of the American Free-Market System, the American Space Program and its multitudes of spin off technologies that are helping our wounded warriors and many millions of other people around the world!

As of this writing, May 2012, there are some signs of private enterprise entering the space business so there’s great hope that “the good old days” will be back soon and this time permanently.

The author:
Dr.  V. E. “Bill” Haloulakos, Adjunct Professor of Engineering at West Coast University for 30 years and recipient of WCU’s highest award,
Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. Member of Board of Trustees.
Aerospace Science Consultant/Rocket Science Professor, an AIAA National Distinguished Lecturer and the Distinguished Engineering Educator Award Winner

One thought on “AN AMERICAN SYNERGISTIC TRILOGY: The Space Program, The Free-Market Economy And Philanthropy”

  1. CONGRATULATIONS! This article is informative, educational and persuasive. Nice work!
    This article is truly a grand slam home run. Call it a “moon shot.”

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