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Stop whining, we're living in the Space Age
September 4, 2013 7:05 PM   Subscribe

Look, I get that some of you want to go to Mars even if it means dying there. I know you're bitter that there are no giant ads for Coke on the surface of the Moon. But what would it say about our species if we let you go and do stupid shit like that? The fact that our scientific community is mostly on board with not murdering you to explore Mars is a good thing. The fact that we are trying to figure how to safely and sustainably build on the Moon before doing it — that is a sign of progress.
posted by Brandon Blatcher (59 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Minor note, the article is incorrect about the first space station. It was the Soviet's Salyut, not Skylab.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:09 PM on September 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


That Mars One colony looks suspiciously like Burning Man.
posted by evil otto at 7:37 PM on September 4, 2013


That was kind of a delightful rant. I am not quite as much an optimist about space as Annalee is, but if we ever do see that wondrous science-fictional future in space, it will be because of the optimists.

Also Annalee is delightful in person and I (self-link) really enjoyed her book.
posted by restless_nomad at 7:38 PM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


I know you're bitter that there are no giant ads for Coke on the surface of the Moon.

I highly doubt anyone is bitter about this.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:38 PM on September 4, 2013


I get that some of you want to go to Mars even if it means dying there.

Sending people to the Moon to die is a great long-term goal. (to eventually die of extreme old age, in comfort, surrounded by their friends and family)
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 7:41 PM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


Heaven's Gate was more likely to travel in space than Mars One.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:44 PM on September 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think we should back the heck away from Syria, figure out how to unwind the Petrodollar project, then get our collective ass in gear to go to Mars and beyond.

The science was worked out in the 1960s... it's called Project Orion. 1300 TONS of cargo to Interstellar space for the fallout of a single 10 Megaton bomb. Less than 150 days to Mars... with 1400 TONS of cargo... so... 1/2 of an Olympic swimming pool, or perhaps something more useful.
posted by MikeWarot at 7:52 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't expect Mars One to get to LEO, much less Mars, but it has soured me on human spaceflight beyond Earth orbit in general* (even though I'm desperate to go to space). Their renders and goofy reality TV approach have me convinced that the first people on Mars (or the Jovian moons and other interesting places) are going to see it as raw material for remodeling, and not a unique place worth understanding and protecting.

I look at the latest Curiosity images almost daily, and it's obvious that we have so much to learn from that world. Scheduling a move-in date is shamefully premature.

* And I finally got around to reading Red Mars. It didn't help either.
posted by ddbeck at 8:10 PM on September 4, 2013


Her premise is wrong. Lots of good arguments against it are made in the soon to be published book Safe Is Not An Option: Overcoming The Futile Obsession With Getting Everyone Back Alive That Is Killing Our Expansion Into Space.
posted by Sophont at 8:20 PM on September 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


I was reading a book about the Apollo Project to my 2 and 5 year old girls tonight. They love space and rockets and whatnot. They asked if I wanted to go to space, and I said, yes but space travel can be dangerous and I'd be sad for them if something happened to me.

It's tough explaining to kids why we aren't in space since there's no good reason that we spend all this money on war and "defense" instead on solar power satellites or moon based on astroid mining.

We could do so much except for short term greed and fear.

I hope the next generation is better.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 8:20 PM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't expect Mars One to get to LEO

But you see, getting you, just you, is not that big a deal. The cost of a few flights from NYC to Sidney. Now if on your trip to Australia you needed to take your apartment and all the food and water you would use on your trip, the cost of airfair would be way up there.

One word: asteroids.
posted by sammyo at 8:21 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


The fact that we are trying to figure how to safely and sustainably build on the Moon

We're not trying particularly hard in the overall scheme of things.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:21 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not so sure that I agree with at least part of the premise of both articles: human exploration has always been associated with tremendous risk to life. Less than 18 starving men arrived in Spain in a single, leaking ship after Magellan's circumnavigation of the world, from an original complement of 270 men and a fleet of five vessels. Or compare Ernest Shackleton's (reputed) advertisement for the Endurance expedition:
Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success.
Two of the 135 Space Shuttle missions resulted in a complete loss of crew, yet we still had astronauts - some of the best, brightest, and most accomplished people on the planet - clamoring to get on the last flights.

As unlikely as the success of Mars One is, I don't believe that anyone promoting the mission should be disparaged for taking the chance.

I worry sometimes, in an existential way, that we have traded risk for security as a species: that we will stay on a sweltering planet and be content with looking through robotic cameras at other worlds while we slowly suffocate on this one.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 8:47 PM on September 4, 2013 [9 favorites]


The fact that our scientific community is mostly on board with not murdering you to explore Mars is a good thing.

Not really, no.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:01 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


We were willing to go to Antarctica for no really good reason and so many people died there.

There are so many more who would be willing to go to Mars and perish attempting the journey. That's not to say that they'd be willing to die to make a bridge out of corpses that would join our two worlds though.
posted by Slackermagee at 9:01 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, I don't think so, it'll just take a massive crisis that terrifies the military-industrial complex into action. If, say, China makes a manned moon landing, I guarantee suddenly our "ROBOTS ARE MUCH BETTER" position will violently change and funding will massively increase.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:01 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I like what Dr. Chris Kraft, "the man who oversaw NASA's first steps into space" has to say about why we shouldn't be sending people to Mars and why this idea is causing good people to leave NASA, and how instead we should be figuring out how to explore outside the solar system.
posted by eye of newt at 9:12 PM on September 4, 2013


Not only are we actually visiting every damn nook and cranny in our solar system — and sending back some of the most awe-inspiring images and data you've ever seen — but we are not doing it like idiots. We are exploring before we shoot our fragile little bodies out there into the radiation-saturated unknown. That is what a smart species does. Back pats for all the Homo sapiens who decided to send a robot to Mars before sending astronauts.
This is all quite right but I think it's missing the point in many cases. Some people actually miss the heady do-or-die, damn-the-torpedoes, brass-balls past of the cold war and the space race.

We've all heard the story about how Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier with a broken arm, right? Even though that's more-or-less irrelevant to the historical event? There's a reason. We all know what happened on Apollo 13, even though it was, in the grand sweep of history, a pretty minor event. How many of us - even the space fans and science geeks among us - can explain in any detail what happened on Apollo 12?

Stories of courage in the face of danger, of glorious acts of derring-do, really are heroic and inspiring. And for better or worse, "heroic and inspiring" is all that most of the John Q. Public observers of the space program ever wanted from it, and is all they ever got from it. Some have even come pretty close to saying that's more-or-less what a manned space program is for, that the psychological effect it has on the people on the ground at home may be the main point of the thing.

Mind you, I'm not especially nostalgic for all that cold-war macho stuff myself. In fact, I suspect the last 30 years of manned space exploration has been a colossal waste of resources. Statistically speaking, we humans are all stuck right here, on Earth, together, and we will be for a long, long time, maybe forever. It's high time we stopped pretending that wasn't the case.

But I think the mass appeal of that space explorer stuff may have more in common with other mob sentiments - war, pro sports, gladiatorial combat, politics, etc - than we would like to believe. You're never going to get people excited by pointing out that the new way of exploring space is safer. Robert Falcon Scott is famous. Apollo 12 commander "Pete" Conrad is much, much less famous.
posted by Western Infidels at 9:15 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


So I really don't get space versus the seas. Space: barren rocks, lotsa miles. Oceans — same high technical difficulty, filled with awesome shit we know nothing about. It must be the TV shows. Need more underwater ships and families with robo-fishes.
posted by dame at 9:21 PM on September 4, 2013 [2 favorites]


dame, seems like a false dichotomy. The number of people now living who will go into space is, no matter how ambitious we want to get, in the low hundreds at most. Billions and billions will stay down here and lots of them will explore the seas.
posted by George_Spiggott at 9:24 PM on September 4, 2013


How does sending people on a one-way trip to Mars equal murdering them? If they can live there indefinitely, at least in theory (it's a high-risk environment, of course), and go voluntarily, it's not particularly different from sending people on other dangerous missions.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 9:34 PM on September 4, 2013


We have spent for more money on an area not full of transparent, sulphur-breathing monsters. I just think oceans would have a better return. In fact, the last undersea exploration base closed last year.
posted by dame at 9:34 PM on September 4, 2013


That still doesn't make it either-or. When they take money away from NASA they don't put it into oceanography. They put it into 20mm cannon rounds made of depleted uranium and proceed to sow the soil of the middle east with them at high velocity. Soil that has towns full of people on it.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:01 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think it's more of the technological hurdle. If we can't establish a successful colony somewhere down deep in the Pacific, it's kind of silly to think we could put one on the Moon (much less Mars).
posted by straight at 10:11 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


This usually comes up in some form: why are we spending money on space when people are hungry, when schoolteachers are spending their own money on supplies for their students, etc? Well the problem isn't that we spend money on space instead of those other things, the problem is that we don't spend money on those other things because we don't. You could drag what's left of NASA out back and shoot it and you won't get another pair of flippers for a marine biologist or a single subsidized school breakfast out of it. Because the reason we don't spend on those things is not because we'd rather spend it on the space program. We don't for whatever reason we don't. Because tax breaks for corporations. Because defense spending and well-connected contractors. The space program, such as it is, is one of the more implausible scapegoats.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:14 PM on September 4, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's disturbing that people would choose death on Mars over life eternal here in the undying lands of Earth.
posted by 0xFCAF at 10:24 PM on September 4, 2013 [10 favorites]


I think it's more of the technological hurdle. If we can't establish a successful colony somewhere down deep in the Pacific, it's kind of silly to think we could put one on the Moon (much less Mars).

There have been several underwater habitats.

Also, the challenges are establishing a habitat in a high pressure environment are rather different than establishing one in a vaccum.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:26 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not talking about money; I'm talking about interest. Every time the Internet whines about space I just wonder about the seas. Which are, to me, OBVIOUSLY way more interesting.
posted by dame at 10:33 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Thus: Sea Trek. Battle-atoll Aquatica.
posted by dame at 10:34 PM on September 4, 2013


I basically understand and agree with this, at least to the point where I'm not going to argue with someone as knowledgeable as Brandon Blatcher about the details of it all - Brandon knows the ins and outs of space travel better than I ever will.

But my idealism runs something like this: as a world superpower, I can think of no greater moral mandate than that of making war a relic, a concept of the past. That sounds fanciful, but in relatively recent history we have made, for instance, slavery an understood universal wrong. It still exists in places to be sure, but it is no longer accepted as it was for most of human history as a simple aspect of human culture. I believe the same is and should be understood to be true of war, and that we could be close to that tipping point.

Post WWII it is odd to imagine European nations or North American nations going to war with one another. Beyond simple weariness from the World Wars (for which one would hope the absolute devastation of WWI would have done the job) it appears that so-called "First World" civilizations have realized that there are far more effective and non-violent ways in which to settle differences and pursue their interests.

And America, for all of its willingness to involve itself in proxy wars and extraneous struggles and everything else, has interestingly helped to set a good example in some areas in this regard. For one thing, building strategies around minimizing human loss of life is still fairly novel (though a mixed bag at best in its effectiveness.) For another, the ingrained attitude in American foreign policy of picking a defeated enemy up off the dirt and clapping it on the back is about as old as the country itself. The "Special Relationship" with the U.K. is almost as old as the constitution, and Japan, Germany and Italy are industrial world powers now at least in part due to post-war U.S. alliances (among alliances with others.)

What does this have to do with space travel or anything else, you wisely and wearily ask? Only that our military budget is mind-bogglingly large when it could be spent on other things which will be more relevant to a future that the U.S. (and increasingly China) is in an essentially unique position to create, which is one in which soft power is the currency, and soft power runs on inspiration.

Perhaps, perhaps NASA is just researching the best ways to do what it needs to do and we should all chill out. Perhaps it is adequately funded. Or perhaps it should once again be front-and-center in America's national PR campaign of Doing the Impossible. When we accomplish milestones in space exploration, they are not just U.S. accomplishments, or Russian accomplishments, or Chinese accomplishments. The true milestones are human accomplishments and transcend borders.

Because for all the proxy wars and paranoia, perhaps the most notable aspect of the showdown between history's two most powerful quasi-empires was when they "fought" each other by racing to get people on the moon, when all the while they could have obliterated each other many times over and chose not to.

Space exploration means something beyond just what it means in terms of the science gained (which is far from insignificant in itself.) It focuses our attention on what we are capable of achieving together instead of what we are capable of committing against each other. It opens eyes with wonder and engenders a hope for the future.

And so if people want it all to hurry up, well... The experts know what they're doing and with space travel we should want nothing less. But it'd be really great to have some of that good stuff again, you know what I'm saying?
posted by Navelgazer at 10:49 PM on September 4, 2013 [3 favorites]


That Mars One colony looks suspiciously like Burning Man.

This is one of the things I really like about Burning Man: it's the closest I'll ever get to visiting another planet.
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:03 PM on September 4, 2013 [1 favorite]


Imagine if all the defense contractors suddenly realized they could convert from war machines to space exploration machines without a terribly huge overhaul of their facilities and products. The guys making drones switch to making camera robots. The guys making missiles switch to rocket boosters. The guys making fighter jets and bombers build shuttles instead. And they all instruct their pocket congressmen to just swap the binders they keep NASA's and the military's budgets in.

Wouldn't that be something.
posted by rifflesby at 11:06 PM on September 4, 2013 [7 favorites]


I don't think the question is whether or not it's ethical to let people risk their lives for space exploration; space travel will always be a risk. The question is more : at what point does it become a sensible risk? And I think the Cracked article is merely pointing out that perhaps the technology required to settle Mars hasn't reached the "it's worthwhile to stake lives on it" point yet. As for the i09 link, good points all around. However, I do agree there is a whole hell of a lot more we could be doing to fulfill our space exploration ambitions. But of course, it always comes down to politics and budgets and funding and things like that. Sad, really.
posted by evil otto at 11:36 PM on September 4, 2013


We're no way near being able to colonize Mars. Antarctica, which is an easier place to colonize by orders of magnitude, has only one base, which needs constant resupply. Talk to me about colonizing Mars when we have a truly self-sufficient city in Antarctica.

Though if we're talking suicide missions to Mars, why not send convicted Death Row inmates? That way we'll kill two birds with one rocket.
posted by happyroach at 12:11 AM on September 5, 2013


Presumably you are thinking of MacMurdo Station, but there are dozens of other bases in Antarctica. I'm not sure what you mean by "truly self-sufficient" - is there any city on Earth which qualifies? They all depend on food and power shipped in from elsewhere.
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:47 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


The article fails to understand that there is nothing particularly worthwhile about merely living a long life on earth. If you were given the choice between a wild adventure that may result in death in a few years or another 50 years of mostly tedious say office work, or worse (cleaning toilets) what would you choose? MARS!! Bring on the adventure!

There is nothing in-itself valuable about a long life - although modern society / technology / pharmacology etc seems intent on convincing you that being "alive" is more important than the actual conditions of your life. (ie this seems to be the message of the Pro-life movement as well - that one should be "awestruck at the wonder of life" and not bored by the tedium and pointlessness of modern society.
posted by mary8nne at 1:26 AM on September 5, 2013 [10 favorites]


happyroach: "Though if we're talking suicide missions to Mars, why not send convicted Death Row inmates? That way we'll kill two birds with one rocket."

Paging Snake Plissken.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 1:30 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, saying Antarctica has "only one base" is fantastically wrong; the US alone has six. And while they are not self-sufficient, here's the thing -- they do not need to be. Some of them grow things that are exceptionally more necessary such as fresh produce, but still, it's actually less expensive to supply them than to devote the resources to agriculture and the like, which would necessarily include personnel other logistical needs, ballooning the size of the research facilities and diluting their mission.

Even so, they are often considered as guinea pigs for techniques we would need on Mars, and the author of the Red Mars series in fact visited Antarctica himself and wrote a novel set there, having previously done much research on the topic.

More to the point, however, is probably the political basis. Nations who participate in the Antarctic Treaty are bound to certain requirements, and maintaining that civilian scientific presence is part of that. There are at this time no political imperatives that would require a human presence on Mars, but a Mars Treaty along the same lines in the next 10 to 25 years is not difficult to envision. Almost certainly, assuming the current nation-state political structure of the world does not radically change, if one space power chooses to go there, others will find a way to compete (or co-operate as the case may be, in the ISS mode).

So I really don't get space versus the seas.

I will tell you this: I feel we, as a species, have a responsibility to diversify our environment. The sea is still on Earth, and Earth is just a little blue marble with the thinnest of veneers of atmosphere in just the right orbit for the sun we have. Shame if something were to happen to it.

That said, I don't really know why the romance with the underwater environment waned as unequivocally as it has. (I love The Abyss, mind you.) I think there has been a tremendous amount of across-the-board advance in engineering that lets us do the stuff with the sea that we currently value doing, like deep-sea drilling for oil. And it's a damn shame that we think so little of the oceans as a repository for human sustenance, that we've made so little progress on oceanic pollution, and that we haven't done more to create sustainable fisheries and oceanic agriculture. A lot of that is probably down to modern agricultural advances on land, though -- from petroleum-based fertilizers, to GMO crops, to deep-aquifer irrigation, all of which and more have conspired to make land-based agriculture more efficient -- and more efficiently distributed -- than we could have imagined back when Popular Mechanics was publishing all those illustrations of Jetson-like families in wetsuits. I hope we get back to paying attention to the sea before we lose our chance to save it.

But really, I see this as two sides of the same coin. It's sort of absurd for us visionaries to be carping at one another when the vast majority are concerned only with who gets the best tax break and how many jobs are created by this subsidy and so on. We have people elected to Congress who want to eliminate all scientific research that doesn't directly result in a commercial product, for Pete Conrad's sake. These are dark times to be a visionary.
posted by dhartung at 1:47 AM on September 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


I highly doubt anyone is bitter about this.

“Mr. President, Sir, the Russians have painted the moon red!”
“Well don't just stand there; send someone up there with some white paint to paint “Coca-Cola” on it!”
posted by acb at 2:14 AM on September 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thr second link is today's reminder that it's entirely possible for both sides in a debate to be wrong.

It's true that Mars One is a dumb publicity stunt with no hope of success. It's true that unmanned missions are awesome and orders of magnitude more efficient at producing interesting science than human spaceflight. But, it's also true that human spaceflight is something people care about and that it could do more intetesting things if increased risk and one-way trips were on the table.

Fundamentally, unmanned missions and human spaceflight are different kinds of things. One is a science program, the other a public works project. No matter how often political motives require that we wave at space probes or astronauts photograph
funny looking candle flames, it's a mistake to confuse the two. While I'd love to see more money and attention go toward science, public works projects also serve a purpose. To claim that a one way trip to Mars is a wasteful way to learn about Mars is to miss the point.

On a personal note, if you invited me on a credible one way trip to another planet, I'd ask a lot of questions, but it's likely I'd say yes. Adding a 20% chance of dying before landing probably wouldn't change my answer. As someone with an immensely fulfilling life on Earth and excellent professional qualifications to assess the risks and bemefits of the trip, I claim that dismissing all would-be volunteers as fools who need to be protected from themselves is, at best, naive. Weighing risk and hardship against rewarding experiences is something we do all the time in our personal lives and when running our cities. How strange to insist that space exploration, among all human endeavors, be risk free. (Whether all the people who don't personally get a trip would choose well to fund the adventure is a very different question.)
posted by eotvos at 2:34 AM on September 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Military spending: cut it, or let the children starve and Mars stays empty.
posted by blue_beetle at 4:37 AM on September 5, 2013


Right now the first human to walk on Mars is being potty trained in China
posted by Renoroc at 4:52 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I worry sometimes, in an existential way, that we have traded risk for security as a species...
I agree - - though I might frame it as having traded short term profit for select members of our species for the long term profit of us all.
posted by fairmettle at 4:55 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Perhaps, perhaps NASA is just researching the best ways to do what it needs to do and we should all chill out.

NASA is government agency. It does whatever the President and Congress says it should do, no matter if it doesn't receive adequate funding for those projects.

I made this post because I'm tired of Mars and focusing our attention there, when there's tongs of other interesting bodies that could be explored.

Humans aren't ready to land on Mars and won't be for some time. Low Earth orbit (LEO) and the Moon should be the focus. Humans need to figure out how to not only live in space or an celestial bodies, but also how to build and launch other ships in those native environments.

How many of us - even the space fans and science geeks among us - can explain in any detail what happened on Apollo 12?

Hell, how many can explain in any detail what happened on Apollo 11? Those details just aren't important to the general populace.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:20 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I keep hearing how 'out of touch' I am about this, but don't all the issues get resolved if we build the launch-to-GEO capability to build space-based solar/beamed microwave satellites on-site? Once we're sending good-American Union Construction Crews to GEO and supplies on a regular schedule, isn't building Mars-Probe-One just a natural progression -- Since we have all them micro-g certified union construction workers already there?

Of course, it's probably easier to have a 2 day cruise, 3 days at Lunar Vegas and 2 days back than sending them up and down the gravity well all the time for R&R...

Once we got Chinese food, gambling, and whores on the Moon, the rest of the universe is ours for the taking.
posted by mikelieman at 5:36 AM on September 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


If I knew that I had a chance for a one way ticket to Mars, with 50% chance of dying either during the journey or on the first few years, I would raise all kids to adulthood, transfer all assets, and get on the ship.

If I knew that I had a chance for even a two way ticket to Antarctica, I would turn it down even if it included free cash in the envelope.

You cannot say that Antarctica doesn't have something and use it to extrapolate why Mars wouldn't either.

We have a military that risks death every day. A lot of them would jump at the chance to go be astronauts. This is not as impossible as we are making it sound. But yes, we need to be willing to let people die for it. Even pretty schoolteachers. (which I think radically changed our notion of what was acceptable)
posted by corb at 5:45 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


We have a military that risks death every day. A lot of them would jump at the chance to go be astronauts. This is not as impossible as we are making it sound. But yes, we need to be willing to let people die for it. Even pretty schoolteachers. (which I think radically changed our notion of what was acceptable)

Or just send grizzled old coots who look like Bruce Willis up there.

Another option is to do what Britain did some two centuries ago and set up a penal colony on Mars. The US and China both have enough convicts to make it justifiable, and surely the resulting society couldn't turn out worse than Australia, could it?
posted by acb at 6:14 AM on September 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


We have a military that risks death every day.

There's a real risk of death just commuting to the office. It's all about how much risk each person is willing to accept for the perceived reward.
posted by mikelieman at 6:15 AM on September 5, 2013


His thoughts were red thoughts: "I know you're bitter that there are no giant ads for Coke on the surface of the Moon.

I highly doubt anyone is bitter about this.
"

It's pretty clearly a reference to Heinlein's "The Man Who Sold the Moon" I think.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:49 AM on September 5, 2013


Two weeks!
posted by dr_dank at 7:47 AM on September 5, 2013


But yes, we need to be willing to let people die for it.

What work is this sentence is doing and to whom does "we" refer? Because in fact, "we" are willing to let people die for "it." No one much cares if people are willing to die for Mars—the popularity of the Mars One charade is proof of that. No one much cared if the Heaven's Gate "astronauts" were willing to die to get to Hale-Bopp, either. It's possible, maybe likely, that I'll live to see one of these yahoos actually expire on Mars one day. Bully for them. OTOH, if "we" refers to a collective will on a national or international scale to abet that willingness to die for Mars and a concomitant devotion of resources, well, then that's a different proposition entirely.

Personally, I can't fathom the desire to spend the rest of my life off-planet. I like air. And water. It has an appeal as a very grand and expensive act of suicide, but it isn't science.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:20 AM on September 5, 2013


How many of us - even the space fans and science geeks among us - can explain in any detail what happened on Apollo 12?

Actually, it's a great story. The Saturn V rocket was hit by lightning as it launched.

Pete Conrad and Al Bean hard-landed the last 2-3 feet to the lunar surface instead of soft-landing (and yelled out "Oh shit!" at 110:32:36 as they did).

And so on. Great stuff!
posted by zooropa at 8:45 AM on September 5, 2013


A Coke ad on the moon would be so wrong. It's clearly the shape of the Pepsi logo.
posted by dosterm at 8:56 AM on September 5, 2013


It's pretty clearly a reference to Heinlein's "The Man Who Sold the Moon" I think.

Thanks for that. I haven't read that one.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:06 PM on September 5, 2013


The US and China both have enough convicts to make it justifiable, and surely the resulting society couldn't turn out worse than Australia, could it?

Australia is one day out from the most horrifying election of my memory, with both major parties pledging to variously murder the poor, burn the poor, beat the poor with sticks, mince the poor, bundle up the asylum seekers and fire them into the sun, censor the internet with fire and bibles, cut funding to research and use ground up researchers for road base, and generally being the worst people on earth.

So this is maybe not the best comparison right now.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:10 PM on September 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


"The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday - but never jam to-day."

I'm sure it's very good jam, but as a child of the space age - conceived before it and born into it - who has seen great projects proposed, ballyhooed and then quietly mothballed, I am less sanguine than Annette about ever seeing any of that jam.
posted by Autumn Leaf at 3:45 AM on September 15, 2013


Here's why everybody is freaking out about methane on Mars
posted by homunculus at 5:08 PM on September 20, 2013


Alien frontier: see the haunting, beautiful weirdness of Mars
posted by homunculus at 9:46 AM on September 21, 2013


This is what life on Mars will be like
posted by homunculus at 7:46 PM on September 24, 2013


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