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Enceladus.
March 9, 2006 11:33 AM   Subscribe

There's water on Saturn's moon Enceladus. Here's hoping space tourism can pick up the pace a little.
posted by jrb223 (123 comments total)

 
and here's the AP story on the subject.
posted by jrb223 at 11:34 AM on March 9, 2006


Be sure to dig the videos, and images on the NASA site too.
posted by jrb223 at 11:35 AM on March 9, 2006


The AP story and NASA link disagree with each other? NASA says there is potentially water.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 11:37 AM on March 9, 2006


Damn you, jrb223.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 11:37 AM on March 9, 2006


Here's hoping space tourism can pick up the pace a little.

Why, exactly? So the privileged elite can continue to drain our natural resources for no reason other than their own pleasure? So the government can divert funds that could go towards health care and poverty into flights of fancy that only reinforce the military-industrial complex? So that CNN can cram more empty headlines onto their front page and ignore matters of public health?
posted by jon_kill at 11:38 AM on March 9, 2006


Interesting, its just too bad there is no more science funding at NASA.

I liked the second paragraph of the AP story which started "The surprising discovery excited some scientists..." I wonder which "scientists" were entirely bored by the whole thing.
posted by blahblahblah at 11:39 AM on March 9, 2006


Sorry, goodnewsfortheinsane, I was totally expecting that to happen to me...
posted by jrb223 at 11:41 AM on March 9, 2006


... it's time to build the harvesters.

Water is life.
posted by PROD_TPSL at 11:41 AM on March 9, 2006


Jesus, jon_kill, what crawled into your chest and died?
posted by Captain_Tenille at 11:43 AM on March 9, 2006


Well jon_kill, i mean really pick up the pace, so that I can have a picnic on Enceladus on the cheap... besides, I make a point of not watching CNN, and get all my news from Metafilter anyways...
posted by jrb223 at 11:43 AM on March 9, 2006


I expect that this is the final proof of alien life, but I haven't quite connected the dots yet.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:47 AM on March 9, 2006


Why, exactly? So the privileged elite can continue to drain our natural resources for no reason other than their own pleasure?

Like it's going to happen in your lifetime anyway.
posted by Witty at 11:48 AM on March 9, 2006


Jesus, jon_kill, what crawled into your chest and died?

A bunch of propaganda about the importance of a space program? Sorry if I'm not thrilled by a bunch of pictures of water spewing off a rock that none of us will ever get to when there isn't enough drinkable water on this planet for every person.

However, when the president says you're going to Mars, it seems to have a sedative effect on the population, so I guess it can't be all bad...

I make a point of not watching CNN

I wish no one did, but as it stands, many do, and they're force-fed drivel like this all day when there are more pressing matters to attend to.
posted by jon_kill at 11:48 AM on March 9, 2006


Like it's going to happen in your lifetime anyway.

I wouldn't expect much more from you. Maybe some day you'll care about someone else. Like your children, for instance. Until then, your opinion is about as relevant as NASA itself.
posted by jon_kill at 11:50 AM on March 9, 2006


See the løveli lakes.
posted by furtive at 11:53 AM on March 9, 2006


You're no fun, jon_kill.
posted by unreason at 11:54 AM on March 9, 2006


You're no fun, jon_kill.

SEriously though, does it not bother you that what started out as a bald-faced propaganda piece to "beat the commies" has turned into a national farce that regulary executes entire crews and eats up a significant amount of the national budget, and meanwhile you have to step over three homeless people on the way to work?

You know what I think would be "fun"? A non-biased national health care system like we have in Canada. Apparently, though, gazing at pictures that look more and more like a photoshop meltdown is an important national fixation.
posted by jon_kill at 11:57 AM on March 9, 2006


See the løveli lakes.

And the Majestic Moose.
posted by three blind mice at 11:58 AM on March 9, 2006


jon_kill, you misspelled "joy_kill"
posted by telstar at 11:58 AM on March 9, 2006


Drudge had a headline most of the morning that NASA was going to announce they had found "life" on this moon...

As cool as the real story actually is, it's a bit of a letdown...
posted by WhipSmart at 11:59 AM on March 9, 2006


Maybe some day you'll care about someone else. Like your children, for instance. Until then, your opinion is about as relevant as NASA itself.

I care about my (great-great-grand-)children enough to hope they get a chance to get off this rock and go explore the universe, if that's what they want to do. I also care that they grow up in a society that both values and invests in science and learning, one that thinks you can learn about the universe through study and technology, not just through divine revelation mediated through a religious figure. If interest in a space geyser works towards those ends, I'm all for it.
posted by Asparagirl at 12:03 PM on March 9, 2006


jon_kill, while i don't disagree with much of what you bring up, I like Asparagirl's point more.
posted by jrb223 at 12:04 PM on March 9, 2006


SEriously though, does it not bother you that what started out as a bald-faced propaganda piece to "beat the commies" has turned into a national farce that regulary executes entire crews and eats up a significant amount of the national budget

I've been reading a lot lately about the early days of the space program, and I've had sort of a realization: yeah, it was largely based on nationalistic dick-waving, but it seems like humans, being wired to be tribal and territorial and competitive, are really, really prone to nationalistic dick-waving. And maybe it's better for said waving to happen in a way that expands scientific knowledge, rather than building up a body count. Money that goes into space exploration may not help the homeless people you're complaining about stepping over, but it also doesn't go into missiles.

As for this discovery: way, way cool. Liquid water that far out in the solar system really surprises me. I suppose this makes the idea of there being a liquid layer under the ice on Europa a lot more believable.
posted by COBRA! at 12:09 PM on March 9, 2006


jon_kill, while i don't disagree with much of what you bring up, I like Asparagirl's point more.

I guess that's why the propaganda works.
posted by jon_kill at 12:11 PM on March 9, 2006


What Asparagirl said. You know what? There's always going to be something you could spend money on instead of science. There have been poor people since the dawn of civilization. By your logic, we should never do anything other than to try to feed and treat them. No art, we could be growing food. No music, those musicians should be doctors so that they can treat the sick. National parks are useless, we could be using that land to grow food. No culture, no innovation, no imagination. Being human is about more than material needs. It's also about exploring and learning new things. I'd like to think that the children of the future will have a good health care system, but I'd also like to think that they have something to dream about and aspire to other than having a free root canal.
posted by unreason at 12:15 PM on March 9, 2006


Personally, I'm all in favor of getting humanity's eggs out of one basket.

Space, though, can very easily act as a motivation for many people. Out there somewhere could be a nine year old girl who becomes interested in potential water spewing on a Saturn moon. She turns towards science, which rather than ends with her working at NASA, but somewhere else on science practical to society here on earth.

Its very easy to bash the space program, since we do have a lot of earth bound problems. However, the amount of funding that actually goes towards space is miniscule compared to other expenses in America's national budget. Instead of complaining about a flight to the moon, complain about the bloated Pentagon budget, which has an amazing ability to achieve little with great expense.

Heck. In 2006, NASA has a budget of 16.6 billion dollars. Exxon made about 10 billion in profits over three months last year. 16.6 billion out of a budget of over 2 trillion dollars? We're talking small change.

So the amount of money being spent on space doesn't make me shriek in horror that NASA is stealing from future generations.
posted by Atreides at 12:16 PM on March 9, 2006


No, unreason, private citizens will always be allowed to engage in art, music, the funding of national parks, culture, innovation and imagination.

The mandate of the US federal government doesn't exactly cover appropriating tax dollars to fund space research, does it?

Please don't conflate the rights of the government with the rights of the people, even when the government does so much to do that itself.

Space exploration, mainly by pilots trained by the air force, paid for by the taxpayers, in which the bulk of research is converted into military innovation, in the name of some heavenly mission is nothing to aspire too.

It's also about exploring and learning new things.

I never said anything about not doing these things. It seems that the rhetoric spewed to cover up the abomination that is the space program has worked.
posted by jon_kill at 12:19 PM on March 9, 2006


Ease up, jon_kill, let your spirit embiggen!
posted by schoolgirl report at 12:19 PM on March 9, 2006


like we have in Canada

While I like Canada (hell of a baseball team, btw), I don't get the disconnect. You're railing against NASA ... and ... you're ... Canadian. This is like me waving my fist at the Swedes and demanding they rid themselves of the royal family because it's a waste of their money. Not really my fight, is it?

If anything, Canada can make money selling the American elites some oil and cool technology so they can go shoot themselves into space. This would seem like a good thing for Canadians. If anything, there's a risk of accidents claiming the lives of silly American billionaires. That's a net plus in my book.

But I tell you what ... you enjoy your socialized medicine (I'm envious, don't get me wrong), and we'll spend our money on silly shit, like exploring the universe and figuring out the Meaning of It All.
posted by frogan at 12:21 PM on March 9, 2006


I'm with Jon_kill in the idea that while there are people with survival needs not being met yet, we should not spend media attention and budget money on risky space adventures. And don't pull that 'we need water 'on us, its far cheaper to 'make it' at home then have some ridiculous space convoy. And by the way, the temperature in the sun is -330F. Brrr.
posted by uni verse at 12:27 PM on March 9, 2006


No, unreason, private citizens will always be allowed to engage in art, music, the funding of national parks, culture, innovation and imagination.

Oh, by your leave, mi'lord, by your leave!

Space exploration, mainly by pilots trained by the air force, paid for by the taxpayers, in which the bulk of research is converted into military innovation, in the name of some heavenly mission is nothing to aspire too.

As opposed to private space exploration ventures like the Ansari X-Prize, which are carried out mainly by pilots trained by the air force, paid for by the taxpayers, in which the bulk of research is converted into military innovation, in the name of some heavenly mission? Looks like the government is going to be involved in some capacity, either on the providing or receiving end, of new spaceflight technology. Personally, I have no problem with that--other than the fact that it's bloated and wasteful and private entrepreneurs like Burt Rutan are going to do it better and cheaper. But since I don't see government as the preferred cure for all societal ills, I'm therefore not going to bitch that it sometimes carries out projects that cure no one but inspire many.
posted by Asparagirl at 12:27 PM on March 9, 2006


The mandate of the US federal government doesn't exactly cover appropriating tax dollars to fund space research, does it?

Actually, it does. A majority of US citizens, from whom the government gets its mandate, want the space program to continue. Secondly, a government can pretty much fund anything which it believes to be a benefit to the country and that is not feasible with private industry. Blue-sky research, such as the Internet, has been conducted before by the US government. It's not a particularly new development.

private citizens will always be allowed to engage in art, music, the funding of national parks, culture, innovation and imagination.

Really? So you oppose a government run park service, and national endowments for the arts?

Frankly, I don't see what your problem is. You are not an American. It's not your choice, or your money. You are not paying for this. It's the money of the American people and they have chosen to fund the space program.
posted by unreason at 12:28 PM on March 9, 2006


Oh, by your leave, mi'lord, by your leave!

You're being a little disingenous here. It's clear from the context that I am not conferring anything here, just pointing out that unreason was setting up a false dichotomy, in which either it's okay for the goverment to participate in space research, or it's ok for no one.

As opposed to private space exploration ventures like the Ansari X-Prize, which are carried out mainly by pilots trained by the air force, paid for by the taxpayers, in which the bulk of research is converted into military innovation, in the name of some heavenly mission?

What pilots do with their skills on their own time is their business. I have no problem with the Ansari project, as long as the government isn't kicking in money.

I don't see government as the preferred cure for all societal ills

They certainly take away enough of societies money and spend it in their name. I'm no libertarian, and believe the government does have the right to taxation, providing the money is spent prudently. I'd rather this have been an FPP about the government funding alternative fuel sources, or AIDS research, or even city planning.

In 2006, NASA has a budget of 16.6 billion dollars. Exxon made about 10 billion in profits over three months last year

One is the government, the other is a corporation. What's your point?

That much money would pay for 40000 teachers. You know, teachers that can teach that young girl mentioned above.
posted by jon_kill at 12:35 PM on March 9, 2006


So you oppose a government run park service, and national endowments for the arts?

Both are more likely to be of actual use to the average citizen.

Frankly, I don't see what your problem is. You are not an American.

Would you like all non-Americans to clear out of the thread? I wish I could say the decisions America makes don't effect the rest of the entire world every day, but they do. That kind of power comes with responsibility.
posted by jon_kill at 12:36 PM on March 9, 2006


jon_kill makes some totally valid and rational points. He's dead wrong in the long run. Rationally, the world would be a better place in many ways if we had never moved out of the neolithic - or better yet, never existed at all. We have, though, and the only way that human history is anything more than a story of rapine, short-sighted greed, and crapping in our own water supplies is if it somehow matters that we bear conscious sentient witness to the physical world and the glories of (secular) creation.

That is - if there's no value in seeing the earth from space, in great works of literature, or discovering the Theorema Egregium - then human history and existence is undeniably a Bad Thing. If there is some value to seeing beyond ourselves, to the struggles we have with our own nature and the nature of the universe, then how can you not see the value in discovering water on a distant moon? Do you lack imagination and historical knowledge, or just regret that we exist at all?
posted by freebird at 12:40 PM on March 9, 2006


I'd rather this have been an FPP about the government funding alternative fuel sources

Here's the deal. In the future, we'll have ships equipped with drives that run on hydrogen. Easiest chemical to store hydrogen in and combust hydrogen from? Water. Places with easily accessible liquid water in the solar system? Earth. Mars. Europa. Comets. And now, Enceladus.

Yeah, we could feed starving kids with that money, but we've already budgeted the starving-kids fund in the form of welfare and international aid. And Columbus and Magellan could have stopped wasting money on ships and used it to help poor orphans.

These are just the baby steps.

That still a problem for you? Then open up your word processor or email client and write a letter to complain to your local representative. Tell him you won't stand for all this money going to defense, exploration, and discovery when we could be paying teachers' salaries. I say that with no facetiousness whatsoever; this is still a democracy.
posted by brownpau at 12:46 PM on March 9, 2006


Post facto: Oops. Not American. Sorry.
posted by brownpau at 12:47 PM on March 9, 2006


Freebird, you are talking about the difference between a private citizens quest for knowledge, and the governments. If NASA was commited to only expanding knowledge, and could do so through funding backed by a consortium of private citizens, then I would agree with you.

Great works of literature? No need for 16.6 billion dollars worth of federal funding each year.

Theorema Egregium? Gauss discovered that while firmly planted on the earth.

Value in seeing the earth from space? I guess it's pretty. I guess it consumed a ferocious amount of fossil fuels to do it. I guess that worsened the view once you got there? I guess jet fuel contrails will make the earth invisible eventually.

the only way that human history is anything more than a story of rapine, short-sighted greed, and crapping in our own water supplies is if we honor some sort of commitment towards eachothers well-being?

Do you lack imagination and historical knowledge, or just regret that we exist at all?

Sounds like the absurd was reduced quite a bit to arrive at that question.
posted by jon_kill at 12:51 PM on March 9, 2006


Both are more likely to be of actual use to the average citizen.

That is for the average citizen to decide. The American people want to spend their money this way. It is their decision to make.

Would you like all non-Americans to clear out of the thread?

Nice strawman. Look, it's this simple: it's our money. Nothing particularly bad is happening to you because America has a space program. If you were arguing about military funding, you might have a point. But you're not. You have no more reason to object to our space program that I would to object to Canada funding an art program. It's not influencing your life. If you feel that there shouldn't be a space program, you're perfectly welcome to contact your own government and tell them that you don't want your money going to it. I'm an American, and like most of my citizens, I willingly fund what I think of as one of the greatest achivements of human history. That is my right as an American taxpayer.
posted by unreason at 12:52 PM on March 9, 2006


Incidentally, is anyone amused that jon_kill is arguing against this funding using the Internet, a rather expensive US government sponsored project that he would no doubt have decried as a waste of money?
posted by unreason at 12:55 PM on March 9, 2006


What pilots do with their skills on their own time is their business. I have no problem with the Ansari project, as long as the government isn't kicking in money.

But you do have a problem with the money spent on space exploration helping the military-industrial complex--and I'm saying that private space exploration will help the military-industrial complex just as much as public exploration ventures will. Heck, Rutan's company's likely main customer is going to be, who else, the military. And taxpayer-funded initiatives--in materials design, in pilot training, in building the airports that are then leased out, etc.--helps these private enterprises, too.

Basically, whether or not it's taxpayer-funded at any stage (and it nearly always is), scientific exploration and discoveries will eventually end up helping the military create a better and bloodier war machine. Einstein dreams about the atom, and the US ends up making an atomic bomb. That's just how it goes, unfortunately. But that's no reason to say we should cut taxpayer-supported science funding, whether of space exploration or the atom.

And for the record, I think your arguments are the most, um, interesting blend of libertarianism, bleeding-heart socialism, and reactionaryism I've had the pleasure to run across lately. :-)
posted by Asparagirl at 12:58 PM on March 9, 2006


A bunch of propaganda about the importance of a space program? Sorry if I'm not thrilled by a bunch of pictures of water spewing off a rock that none of us will ever get to when there isn't enough drinkable water on this planet for every person.

As the President basically said after the last shuttle explosion, "We will continue to go into space because we must, uh, go into space. In fact, I have this pipe dream about going to Mars even though it's not connected to current scientific progress..."
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:00 PM on March 9, 2006


One is the government, the other is a corporation. What's your point?

The fact that a private company makes nearly as much money in three months as NASA receives in a year.

That much money would pay for 40000 teachers. You know, teachers that can teach that young girl mentioned above.

And you'd rather take away from NASA, than from the U.S. Military to pay for these teachers? Slam the Pentagon, not the space agency. Though, I do wonder how many students teachers inspire with a good discussion of the Apollo program.

I wish I could say the decisions America makes don't effect the rest of the entire world every day, but they do. That kind of power comes with responsibility.

Again. You find America's paltry spending (in comparison to national budget) on its space program a decision which radically affects the world? There are bigger and more bloated targets for this opinion. Sounds more like a personal beef with space exploration in general, than America mismanaging a subject that dramatically affects the affairs of the rest of the world.

By the way, Canada's defense budget is about 14 billion for 2006. Why not advocate your government to save the world, dissolve the Canadian military, and apply that money to solve the endemic social problems of society? I mean, that should be enough, right? Or do you need another 2 billion to equal the NASA budget?
posted by Atreides at 1:00 PM on March 9, 2006


To be fair, unreason, the Internet was originally developed as a means of robust military communication post-nuclear war. The wonderful "let's all share information, trade 16-color porn .GIF's, and sing kumbaya" aspects only emerged as it was expanded and commericalized; it likely wasn't part of the original funding proposal. Whereas NASA's aims are more explictly "to boldy go where no man has gone before" and sing kumabaya, right from the get-go.
posted by Asparagirl at 1:04 PM on March 9, 2006


My point exactly, Asparagirl. If anything, jon_kill would have objected even more strongly because of its military nature.
posted by unreason at 1:05 PM on March 9, 2006


I love humorless, puritanical Canadian leftists.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 1:06 PM on March 9, 2006


A rat done bit my sister Nell.
(with Whitey on the moon)
Her face and arms began to swell.
(and Whitey's on the moon)
I can't pay no doctor bill.
(but Whitey's on the moon)
Ten years from now I'll be payin' still.
(while Whitey's on the moon)
The man jus' upped my rent las' night.
('cause Whitey's on the moon)
No hot water, no toilets, no lights.
(but Whitey's on the moon)
I wonder why he's uppi' me?
('cause Whitey's on the moon?)
I wuz already payin' 'im fifty a week.
(with Whitey on the moon)
Taxes takin' my whole damn check,
Junkies makin' me a nervous wreck,
The price of food is goin' up,
An' as if all that shit wuzn't enough:
A rat done bit my sister Nell.
(with Whitey on the moon)
Her face an' arm began to swell.
(but Whitey's on the moon)
Was all that money I made las' year
(for Whitey on the moon?)
How come there ain't no money here?
(Hmm! Whitey's on the moon)
Y'know I jus' 'bout had my fill
(of Whitey on the moon)
I think I'll sen' these doctor bills,
Airmail special
(to Whitey on the moon)
posted by Falconetti at 1:10 PM on March 9, 2006


I love humorless, puritanical Canadian leftists.

Well, you kind of lose, don't you?

Anyway...

Would I have objected to the internet? Probably not. It's reason for coming in to being was sound enough: a country's responsibility to protect it's citizens. Would I have preferred it have been a private endeavour? Yes.

Why aren't I railing against military funding? Every country needs a standing army, and this thread is about space exploration. Why aren't you railing against tax cuts for the rich in every thread? Because those threads aren't about tax cuts for the rich.

Why not advocate your government to save the world, dissolve the Canadian military, and apply that money to solve the endemic social problems of society? Because, my goverment can't save the world, we need a standing army, and we already do all we can to help the needy.

A lot of arguments against me have amounted to "You're not American, you don't get to talk", or "Oh well." Is that the expected level of discourse?
posted by jon_kill at 1:15 PM on March 9, 2006


Incidentally, is anyone amused that jon_kill is arguing against this funding using the Internet, a rather expensive US government sponsored project that he would no doubt have decried as a waste of money?

It also makes me wonder if he's ever drank Tang or used velcro for anything.
posted by frogan at 1:15 PM on March 9, 2006


Metafilter: humorless, puritanical Canadian leftists beware.
posted by pmbuko at 1:16 PM on March 9, 2006


Benefits of the Space Program.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:17 PM on March 9, 2006


That would have been more useful with this link to a list of benefits of the space program
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:18 PM on March 9, 2006


ooh, thanks for the Gil Scott Heron, Flaconetti... I think we can use it to change the timbre of this thread: Will the revolution be posted to a community weblog? discuss.
posted by jrb223 at 1:18 PM on March 9, 2006


A lot of arguments against me have amounted to "You're not American, you don't get to talk"

No, they amount to "You're not American, so it's not your money, so why are you so hyper about it?" Nice strawman, though.
posted by unreason at 1:20 PM on March 9, 2006


A lot of arguments against me have amounted to "You're not American, you don't get to talk", or "Oh well." Is that the expected level of discourse?

How about this...

I cannot fucking believe that scientists have found geysers of liquid water on a moon of Saturn, and you see that as a waste of time, energy and money. The Cassini space program is pocket change compared to the trillions of dollars that are lost between the collective couch cushions of the world.

We're all looking at the stars here. Take your negativity and aim it at something else. If you need a topic, I'm SURE everyone here can give you one.
posted by frogan at 1:21 PM on March 9, 2006


Cassini, the probe taking the photos, is a joint program built and run by NASA, ESA and 15 other agencies. It is unmanned (nary an Air Force pilot in sight).

It was launched on a Titan IV rocket (nary an Air Force pilot in sight).

Cassini will costs $3.4 billion in its lifetime and is the last high-cost mission of its type launched. Since then probe missions have gotten smaller and cheaper.

These kids would probably be happy to send Mr. Kill into space.
posted by Captaintripps at 1:21 PM on March 9, 2006


Here's a thought: with the discovery of liquid water, maybe Enceladus hosts lifeforms which could some day evolve, become intelligent, learn to communicate, and radically hijack online discussion threads. It's an exciting idea.
posted by COBRA! at 1:22 PM on March 9, 2006


Incidentally, does any one know of any reputable ways of donating or investing small amounts of money for private space programs?
posted by unreason at 1:23 PM on March 9, 2006


We're all looking at the stars here. Take your negativity and aim it at something else. If you need a topic, I'm SURE everyone here can give you one.

So the expected level of discourse is, "I disagree, go away?"
posted by jon_kill at 1:24 PM on March 9, 2006


It also makes me wonder if he's ever drank Tang or used velcro for anything.

I was going to make a similar comment, but then I looked it up just to be sure, and it seems Velcro wasn't developed by the space program, it was just used extensively.
posted by Cyrano at 1:26 PM on March 9, 2006


Velcro wasn't developed by the space program

My bad, then. But I believe we get the point -- space programs often deliver useful advances in unforeseen areas.
posted by frogan at 1:29 PM on March 9, 2006


Yep: the X-Prize Foundation is a 501(c)3 non-proft. Their next prize contest looks like it's for the automobile industry, not the space industry, but they will also be running the second year of the X-Prize Cup in New Mexico this October. (I hope to go this year.)
posted by Asparagirl at 1:31 PM on March 9, 2006


It's reason for coming in to being was sound enough: a country's responsibility to protect it's citizens.

Strategically, space will be the ocean of the future. The nation which controls space, will establish a good amount of security for itself.
But, er, didn't you complain about the military implications of space developement earlier?

Space exploration, mainly by pilots trained by the air force, paid for by the taxpayers, in which the bulk of research is converted into military innovation, in the name of some heavenly mission is nothing to aspire too.

Oh, you did.

Because, my goverment can't save the world, we need a standing army, and we already do all we can to help the needy.

And who exactly is out to destroy Canada? I mean, when a tactic used by Americans to stay safe in hostile lands is to claim Canadian citizenship, that says something about Canada's enemies...or lack thereof. You argue that NASA's budget could be better off spent else where, apparently thats just the right amount for Canadian security, as well as 40000 teachers.

I do agree with you, John, that I think America should be the leader in the world on improving society. I would rather see money spent to improve living conditions for starving children in Kenya, than on a war in Iraq. All the money we've sunk in that affair could most certainly have been put to a better non-military use elsewhere.
posted by Atreides at 1:34 PM on March 9, 2006


So the expected level of discourse is, "I disagree, go away?"

Yeah, pretty much. Well, maybe not the "go away" part -- you can keep beating your dead (Canadian) horse for as long as you like. We're not going to change your mind (and on the Internet, no one would admit it, even if it were so).

We disagree. Moreover, I think you're being tremendously short-sighted. The space program has its fits and starts, but ultimately has ginormous short- and long-term benefits for nations and for mankind, which have been enumerated elsewhere in the thread.
posted by frogan at 1:35 PM on March 9, 2006


Anyone who says the space program is a waste of resources is an idiot.

They are the same people who would have stopped Magellan and others, saying their voyages were a waste of resources while people were dying in straw hovels.

It's a long-term investment, to be sure. But if we hadn't started spending a lot of money on the space program fifty years ago, you wouldn't have your GPS, and direcTV, and Velcro.

Fifty years from now, who knows what you'd be giving up by being so damn near-sighted. Maybe the cure for cancer. Maybe a way off this rock. Maybe super-Velcro.

Even aside from the material rewards, this country NEEDS some god damned pride right now. Our current national pastime is silently lamenting our corrupted leadership. Maybe it's time we had something to root FOR instead of so much to root against.
posted by JWright at 1:36 PM on March 9, 2006


Velcro® was invented by a French Swiss.
posted by Captaintripps at 1:39 PM on March 9, 2006


The current US space program is fairly inefficient, but that is largely due to policy decisions at higher levels of government. That being said, compared to the budget for the Department of Defense, it's the best value going.
posted by blue_beetle at 1:41 PM on March 9, 2006


Anyone who says the space program is a waste of resources is an idiot.

Okay, I'm outta here.
posted by jon_kill at 1:43 PM on March 9, 2006


I don't have a GPS or DirecTV, and Tang tastes like shit.

But we're sure sticking it to the Soviets, huh?
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:47 PM on March 9, 2006


Don't let the airlock hit you on the ass as you're leaving.
posted by Captain_Tenille at 1:47 PM on March 9, 2006


I don't have a GPS or DirecTV, and Tang tastes like shit. But we're sure sticking it to the Soviets, huh?

Hah! We're #1! We're #1! We're...hey, where'd everyone go?
posted by freebird at 1:51 PM on March 9, 2006


Do you have a cell phone, Curley?
posted by Atreides at 1:54 PM on March 9, 2006


Mynd you, m00se bites Kan be pretty nasti ...
posted by Zack_Replica at 1:56 PM on March 9, 2006


Do you have a cell phone, Curley?

Yes. And I hate it more than I hate Tang. If no space program means no cell phones, I want to go back in time and punch Alan Shepherd's pregnant mother in the gut.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:00 PM on March 9, 2006


The space age really began when scientists in Nazi Germany built the V-rockets to pummel England.
After WWII, the German scientists were snatched up by USSR and USA and the rocket programs refined. Each country (suppposedly) feared that the other would mount space based military rockets and rule the world.
Investigating the universe is a mild byproduct of what could have been.
posted by Cranberry at 2:03 PM on March 9, 2006


THE YEAR: 2209 CE

THE PLACE: Earth, where socialist and environmental policies provide universal health care, clean water for everyone, and a myco-chicken in every pot. Man has ignored the temptations of space and turned his gaze inwards.

"Breaking news today: 1054198 Persephone, an 200 kilometer wide asteroid, is on a collision course with Earth. Leading neuroastronomers calculate the impact will take place in central Asia. All higher-life forms will be killed."

Thanks, jon_kill!
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:05 PM on March 9, 2006


If no space program means no cell phones, I want to go back in time and punch Alan Shepherd's pregnant mother in the gut.

And you can thank the good people at NASA for that time machine.

Not yet though, I'm posting this from 2143.
posted by bondcliff at 2:06 PM on March 9, 2006


Good God. I agree with Optimus Chyme. I think the world is about to end! :)
posted by unreason at 2:08 PM on March 9, 2006


I want to go back in time and punch Alan Shepherd's pregnant mother in the gut.

Alan Shepherd's fetus could kick your ass.
posted by frogan at 2:12 PM on March 9, 2006


I want to go back in time and punch Alan Shepherd's pregnant mother in the gut.

Funny.

Alan Shepherd's fetus could kick your ass.

More funny.
posted by Atreides at 2:19 PM on March 9, 2006


Hey, Jon_Kill, have you considered that your money is better spent feeding the poor than on computers (which will eventually end up in toxic landfills) and bandwidth (helping to finance a corporation that likely does more to damage our environment than any single person every could?)

Yet you buy a computer and pay for bandwidth anyway. Was it the propaganda? Was it that you find your own entertainment and education more important than poor people or the environment? Or is it that you recognize life is more than just sitting around eating food and waiting to die, and you find it useful and enjoyable to use a computer in this fashion, even though the companies that make the products and sell the services are bad for the environment?

Just asking. :)
posted by davejay at 2:20 PM on March 9, 2006


I think jon_kill started out with some decent points and then got shrill and didn't respond to criticism well.
posted by Tikirific at 2:23 PM on March 9, 2006


Can we get rid of the hundreds of billions infarm subsidies before we cut the dozen or so of NASA?
posted by Captaintripps at 2:31 PM on March 9, 2006


I hope Jon Kill will still be monitoring this thread out of sheer curiousity. The whole velcro, tang argument for the space program is weak and I cringe every time people trot this one out. Everyone seems to think the space program has benefits but no one can really enumerate them. Well here goes:

JonKill's philosophy while seemingly rational is pretty simplistic. You can't solve societal problems by simply throwing money at them. You can hire all the teachers you want but if kids have no reason to go or care about school, the teachers won't do crap. If the society has no high tech jobs, and all of your engineering jobs are taken by 50 year old men-- because there has been no job growth -- then why should kids go to school?

Two things here: 1) The space program isn't solely responsible for our high tech jobs, but that 16 billion pays a lot of scientist and engineers salaries (we don't just jettison it into space), and the space program plays an important role in inspiring kids to pay attention in science class. 2) The argument that private industry will take care of this by itself is BS. The US has declining rates of kids graduating with science and engineering degrees, and private industry is just farming out the labor to foreign countries who are pumping out scientists and engineers as they are growing rapidly.

Basically, the US has to grow, and has to be challenged on all fronts. Without this, it will stagnate and rot and no matter how much tax money you pump into social programs you won't solve the problem.
posted by spaceviking at 2:51 PM on March 9, 2006


and a myco-chicken in every pot

Mmmmmm... shroomy myco-chicken...
posted by ernie at 2:51 PM on March 9, 2006


And who exactly is out to destroy Canada?

I do! Canada delenda est.
posted by kirkaracha at 3:10 PM on March 9, 2006


Everyone seems to think the space program has benefits but no one can really enumerate them.

Well...

Now, I'm sure people can quibble with many of the things on this list (DirectTV? Disposable diapers? Golf balls?). But I have a hard time understanding how anyone can dismiss it all. The very first entry on the list -- The most accurate topographical map of the Earth -- is by itself worth the price of admission.
posted by frogan at 3:10 PM on March 9, 2006


Cool. Water. Wow. I’d’ve thought we’d find some on Mars first. Still - way cool.
Kinda figures though. Water is a nice molecule.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:27 PM on March 9, 2006


Asparagirl, and others:
Exploration is not the grand meaning of the human race.
Humanity is equal to being humane to people in need of survival.

And this comes from a adamant Science Fiction fan.
posted by uni verse at 3:29 PM on March 9, 2006


If that's true, Uni verse, isn't all of human history mostly a bummer? Let's agree that it's silly to think the Grand Meaning of the Human Race is really any one specific thing. Being humane is certainly one aspect of it. To me, bearing witness to the wonders of the universe is another. These goals may confict at times, but honestly, funding the Space Program isn't one of them, when you consider all the horrific crap we spend much more on.
posted by freebird at 3:33 PM on March 9, 2006


Exploration is not the grand meaning of the human race.
Humanity is equal to being humane to people in need of survival.


Let's do both. And as long as we're whining about the budget, we can start by dismantling the bombers.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 3:35 PM on March 9, 2006


You know, if we never started space exploration we'd never had noticed the huge holes in the ozone or the melting of the ice caps and whatnot. So, uhm, er...ya, space exploration is good.
posted by furtive at 3:40 PM on March 9, 2006


Exploration is not the grand meaning of the human race.

Thanks for that. Let us know how the quest for fire and the whole living-in-caves thing works out, willya?

And as long as we're whining about the budget, we can start by dismantling the bombers.

Oh hell yes.
posted by frogan at 3:44 PM on March 9, 2006


If that's true, Uni verse, isn't all of human history mostly a bummer?
That's quite an understatement.

Let us know how the quest for fire and the whole living-in-caves thing works out, willya?
If you had to give up modern comforts for someone's life, would you? Most of us don't do it every day.
posted by uni verse at 3:48 PM on March 9, 2006


Exploration is not the grand meaning of the human race.

Says who?
posted by puke & cry at 3:54 PM on March 9, 2006 [1 favorite]


If that's true, Uni verse, isn't all of human history mostly a bummer?

That's quite an understatement.


I have to disagree - it was intended as hyperbole. I refuse to view history as a tragedy, though I understand why one would. For similar reasons, I decided long ago that I don't buy any philosophy that involves me not existing or not having free will, really being in a dream, being fundamentally evil, or what have you. The reality is that very few people live their lives as though their life didn't matter or was a mistake, so why pretend?

Similarly, I enjoy the existence of humanity and the Grand Beautiful Joke of its history far too much to really believe it's a Tragedy. So I guess we're working from different axioms. I cannot imagine getting out of bed in the morning believing that the statement "all of human history is a bummer" is an understatement, and frankly, I question your honesty in saying you do.
posted by freebird at 3:56 PM on March 9, 2006


I enjoy the existence of humanity and the Grand Beautiful Joke of its history
In history, I see no joke, I see grand failures in which power corrupts forever. I see the "civilized" societies have failed to sustain principles of brotherhood for thousands of years. I can see a very long sustained tragedy, and in the lives of many I know. For those in life not fortunate enough to be born in the increasingly sparse upper class I do think society is now and a bummer and history of the human race also. If you can't imagine life this way I know you are not alone.
posted by uni verse at 4:07 PM on March 9, 2006


If you had to give up modern comforts for someone's life, would you?

You said exploration is not the grand meaning of the human race. I (sarcastically) countered by saying were it not for some innate urge to explore, we'd still be living in caves.

So now you're conflating your own point and misinterpreting mine. Nicely done. Want to go for the trifecta?

It is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.

-- Alfred Tennyson, "Ulysses"

posted by frogan at 4:07 PM on March 9, 2006


uni verse writes "If you had to give up modern comforts for someone's life, would you? Most of us don't do it every day."

This seems a nonsensical proposition, as these "modern comforts" (e.g. sanitation, clean drinking water, medicine, productive farming, communications, etc.) have saved countless lives. Technology, on balance, has been great for humanity.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:08 PM on March 9, 2006


1) Post something about a government-funded program.

2) Wait for someone to claim that its a waste of money because some other government- funded program is worthier.

3) ?????

4) Profit
posted by googly at 4:25 PM on March 9, 2006


I also support getting off this ball of iron asap.
posted by Smedleyman at 5:08 PM on March 9, 2006


Inventions and Technologies derived from the Space Program:

Semiconductor Cubing, Air Quality Monitors, Virtual Reality, Enriched Baby Food, Water Purification Tablets, Scratch-Resistant Lenses, Portable Coolers/Warmers, Athletic Shoes, The Dustbuster, Quartz Timing Equipment, Radiation Insulation, Sewage Treatment Systems, Ionizing Air Purifiers, Breast Cancer Detection Systems, MRIs, Microlasers, Magnetic Liquids, Portable X-Ray Machines, Wireless Communications, Lead Poison Detectors, Anti-Lock Breaks, Satellite Imaging, Shape Memory Alloys in Your Fucking Golf Clubs, GPS, Air Impingement Fast-Cooking Ovens, Night Vision Goggles, CAD Software...

Ahem, etc.

Luddites are always funny, but vicious Canadian luddites are hilarious. The irony is, if it wasn't for the Space Program, they wouldn't be able to froth-by-wire at strangers across the globe...
posted by SweetJesus at 6:44 PM on March 9, 2006


Would I have objected to the internet? Probably not... Would I have preferred it have been a private endeavour? Yes.

Bwa ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

If the internet had been privately developed it would be this fucked up mess of walled gardens, you'd be paying by the kilobyte, you'd probably still be on dialup, they'd still be arguing over whether you should be able to email to people on other services other than your own, you wouldn't be able to create more than a page or two of content let alone run your own site or server, and you certainly wouldn't be able to see content on services other than the one that you were paying money to. Just look at the US cellphone system as compared to Europe. We have or more incompatible technologies in play and it took them ten years before they would implement SMS messaging that work across networks.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:53 PM on March 9, 2006


Folks, get one thing straight: we are going to space. Get over it. Don't bring up money concerns, arguments of futility, etc. It's going to happen (provided we don't blow ourselves up, natch).

We're going. Does it seem strange that the planet Earth has been completely inhabited by humans? Did past exploration suffer criticism of "we don't have the money, it's too big, etc"? Probably, but it happened anyway. It's human nature to spread out as far as we can.

The turning point will come when space exploration is financially profitable, or at least will pay for itself (comet/asteroid mining, anyone?). That plus advances in technology/safety. It'll be a while, probably not in our lifetimes, but it's going to happen.

We can't not go.
posted by zardoz at 7:05 PM on March 9, 2006


I for one relish the idea of going to another world and pillaging it. There simply isn't enough pillaging going on these days.
posted by disclaimer at 7:06 PM on March 9, 2006


We are going to either run out of resources or room. We need to figure out how to get off this planet so that we're not stranded when we run out of either or both. Even if we mend our ways and stop destroying the planet we're currently on, we are going to keep breeding. Sooner or later we're out of space. So to speak.
posted by Elsbet at 7:23 PM on March 9, 2006


If we wait until things are perfect on Earth before exploring space, we'll never go.

There's always one more thing to fix.
posted by Malor at 9:13 PM on March 9, 2006


Even if we mend our ways and stop destroying the planet we're currently on, we are going to keep breeding. Sooner or later we're out of space. So to speak.

That's why we should be focusing our resources on cloning Josef Stalin. So we could get a world leader who would force us to cut the shit.
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:20 PM on March 9, 2006


Humanity has not reached its zenith until it wins its first intergalatic war.
posted by Atreides at 9:23 PM on March 9, 2006


We spend far too little on exploration of the solar system and far too little on exploration of the oceans, both of which could lead to all sorts of technological advances, cures for diseases, etc.

If life were discovered outside of earth, even miniscule bacteria, it would turn everything upside down. And might be the push needed to get some real attention directed towards the stars. One can dream.
posted by weretable and the undead chairs at 10:04 PM on March 9, 2006


If we wait until things are perfect on Earth before exploring space, we'll never go.

There's always one more thing to fix.
posted by Malor at 9:13 PM PST on March 9 [!]

this is right.

man needs more than to just survive. he needs a goal. we need this because we are finite, the goal of surviving until you stop surviving sucks. there must be a larger goal. I like knowledge as my goal. How do I learn more? I explore!
posted by CCK at 10:31 PM on March 9, 2006


We have seriously messed up this place in just the last 50 years. What will we do over the next 100, as we exhaust the cheap energy we were stupid enough to put through our cars? As we ruin more of the worlds' fertile lands and start tearing through the biomass like nothing you've seen so far?

Whether we develop space or not, it's going get pretty nasty down here over the next few decades. But we have a chance to mitigate a lot of it, and build up an energy and resource supply chain that will eventually lead to the kind of real sustainability that doesn't seem to be achievable using terrestrial resources alone. But we need to get started while energy is still cheap and the world is relatively stable. It'll be much harder to get started ten years from now, and in twenty or thirty we'll have missed our chance, possibly forever.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:50 PM on March 9, 2006


I agree with spending more on social programs, but we should leave NASA alone and cut the defense budget [Flash/transcript].
posted by kirkaracha at 6:46 AM on March 10, 2006


What George Spiggott said.
posted by Goofyy at 7:02 AM on March 10, 2006


...Potential Liquid Water on Enceladus:
"We realize that this is a radical conclusion -- that we may have evidence for liquid water within a body so small and so cold."

...the jets might be erupting from near-surface pockets of liquid water above 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit)...

"What's different here is that pockets of liquid water may be no more than tens of meters below the surface."

"...the evidence is direct observation of water vapor venting from sources close to the surface,"
Permafrost on the big, warm, insulated, oceanic Earth is hundreds of meters thick:
The depth of the permafrost can in areas of continuous permafrost and harsh winters be very great 440m (1330 feet) at Barrow, Alaska and as much as 1493m (4510 feet) in the northern Lena and Yana River basins).
How does water stay liquid near the surface of tiny, bare, reflective Enceladus, at nearly ten times the distance from the Sun?
posted by cenoxo at 8:04 AM on March 10, 2006


How does water stay liquid near the surface of tiny, bare, reflective Enceladus, at nearly ten times the distance from the Sun?

With a lot of moons of the gas giants, tidal forces from the gravity of the planet keep the interior of the moon very, very agitated and hot. That's why Jupiter's Io is such a fun place, and why there's speculation that Europa may have a liquid ocean underneath a sheet of ice.
posted by COBRA! at 8:11 AM on March 10, 2006


The time spent typing my previous comment could have been spent building houses with Habitat for Humanity. Man, I suck.
posted by COBRA! at 8:13 AM on March 10, 2006


Suckers. Many of you have been lured into debating two sides of a false dilemma. Just because the U.S. Government neglects critically important social problems doesn't mean that Astronomy has no merit.

Critical thinking isn't a team sport.
posted by elderling at 12:04 PM on March 10, 2006


I join the chorus for cutting the fat and pork out of the defense budget (and not just in America, I mean worldwide, since we spend several hundred billion per year on weapons) and spending it on BOTH making people's lives better and solving immediate problems AND muliplying the space budget by 3 or 4 (or 10).

And I think we should fully fund the Space Elevator and get the damn thing built ASAP, and start building solar power satellites and beaming that power down to earth ASAP.

Otherwise things are going to get ugly, ugly, ugly by the end of this century, and we may never get off the rock and ensure our very-long-term survival as a race.

Shrillness doesn't help anything either.
posted by zoogleplex at 2:43 PM on March 10, 2006


I should also point out that if there is collectable liquid water on, or better yet in space around, Enceladus, it may actually be found cost-effective to send it Earthwards - not for Earth use, but for use in space habitats of all kinds - as opposed to lifting water out of the gravity well.

Water is a key element for sustaining life in space, useful for drinking, breathing, reaction mass, agriculture and probably a lot of other things too. Anywhere we can get it up there as opposed to down here is a huge gift.

Remember, right now it costs something like $100,000 a pound to lift anything into space... and a gallon of water weighs 8.33 pounds. Bare survival water for a single human for a day thus currently costs well over 2 million dollars to lift from Earth surface. Some method of setting up a long-term "pipeline" from Enceladus to space installations closer in could actually be very helpful for sustained space living.

Yeah, this is all blue sky. But if Enceladus is spewing water into space and we can collect it without landing, it could be one of the most valuable places in the system in terms of colonization.
posted by zoogleplex at 2:55 PM on March 10, 2006


Just to nitpick, zoogleplex, there woudn't be collectable liquid water in the space around Enceladus under any circumstances. Liquid spewed into space will cease to be liquid very quickly and either freeze solid or vaporize, depending on the conditions. Most of the time you'll end up with very very small pieces of ice, some of which will aggregate into snowball-like lumps, some of which might form a ring around the primary or do any of a number of things. And there's really no shortage of ice in space, at least not in our solar system. You'd probably have to go no further than the asteroid belt to find almost oceanic volumes of it just floating around for the taking, and that's a bit closer than Enceladus.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:17 PM on March 10, 2006


You're quite right, George, you're not picking nits. And actually the easiest place to get a few hundred million tons of water would probably be from comets, which come down here to our neighborhood... assuming we could "capture" one somehow.

I'm thinking further ahead, to a time when we might have a solid foothold up there. Anyplace with a small gravity well and accessible water, even one so far out as Enceladus, will be a very important place indeed. Even if it's all ice from the surface, it's still useful.

After all, it's easy to get out of a weak gravity well using hydrogen and oxygen! We use them to get out of our strong one all the time. :)

I suppose it's conceivable that the ice crystals or water vapor in near-Enceladus space could be harvested. Then again, it's probably not impossible to actually mine Saturn's rings with robots, since there's a lot of dirty snow there...

Anyway, water is one of the absolute necessities for space survival, and any source of water in the System will be worth more than... well probably anything else, really.
posted by zoogleplex at 9:19 PM on March 10, 2006


Critical thinking isn't a team sport.

Were I ever to get a tattoo . . .
posted by yerfatma at 9:10 PM on March 17, 2006


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