March 2, 2001
5:32 AM   Subscribe

NASA admits "Dreaming isn't our job, anymore."

<sigh> We're never going to get off this planet. Crap.
posted by baylink (29 comments total)
We'll get off the planet one of these days. I don't think it will be NASA that does it though, it will be some large corporation.

I think all us space nerds are going to have to accept the fact that when we watch that first human set foot on Mars she'll have a big Disney or Microsoft logo on her space suit.

Oh well. As long as it happens in my lifetime I don't care how it happens.

posted by bondcliff at 6:20 AM on March 2, 2001

Faith-based programs to launch a rocket to heaven?
posted by hijinx at 6:35 AM on March 2, 2001

i like this planet just fine, thankyouverymuch.
posted by palegirl at 7:39 AM on March 2, 2001

As a race we have no future. I have a feeling we don't even get a footnote. The planet is fine, it will make a lovely cemetery.

I don't really even blame the government, there does not seem to be any real public support for space research/colonization.
posted by thirteen at 8:28 AM on March 2, 2001

Thirteen, I thought you were a libertarian? I could be mistaken. Libertarians don't believe in welfare, or governmental assistance in health care. From that I would just assume they wouldn't be for space exploration.

posted by Doug at 8:34 AM on March 2, 2001

Libertarians who read Asmiov as kids are for space exploration ;)
posted by sonofsamiam at 8:43 AM on March 2, 2001

...and Carl Sagan as well, sonofsamiam.
posted by methylsalicylate at 8:47 AM on March 2, 2001

Do we have a Libertarian government? My money is already being taken, I'd rather it be spent on this.

I am not sure what the official Libertarian stand on the issue would be. I accept the term Libertarian for myself, as it is a rough fit. I think the function of government is small, and the burden of government should be applied equally. If there is a majority of people who want to pool their money for research, I would applaud them, and chime in with my agreement. If they decide we should all support someone else's burden because it is nice, I will dissent and try to persuade others to agree with me. I am happy to be ruled by true democracy, even if it is awful, because I think it is the only fair way to make group decisions. Socialize anything you want if you can hold onto the collective will, but don't get upset if the majority guts your favorite program. The public does not seem to care about this, and I think my previous post fits me perfectly. People don't want it, government does not fund it, people suck.

If we don't make a bid to get off planet, out of the solar system, we are stupid, and we deserve to die out.
posted by thirteen at 9:01 AM on March 2, 2001

That's understandable.

How come we have to get out of the solar system so badly? I'm not trying to be argumentative (shocking...). I've just never really heard anyone express that feeling so strongly.
posted by Doug at 9:06 AM on March 2, 2001

Well, wouldn't you like to know if there's another planet out there where things like ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US are real? Or a civilization of marionettes? Or an ant world? Or, more than anything else, that there's other life out there?
posted by hijinx at 9:17 AM on March 2, 2001

If we are spread far and wide we cannot all be destroyed by a freak accident. Our sun is not expected to become a red giant for another 5 billion years at which point it will destroy the Earth, but we are wholly dependent on this particular sun and it seems wise to get at least some of us in a redundant system. I would love to have people on one million planets if I could.

It could just be more apoplectic, apocalyptic garbage from the part of my brain that produces fear.
posted by thirteen at 9:24 AM on March 2, 2001

Because one of the ways that we grow as a species is by exploring, and in doing so, we learn more about ourselves.
posted by harmful at 9:24 AM on March 2, 2001

It's genetically imprinted in us to spread and conquer.

No, seriously. And conquering doesn't necessarily mean wars, it means adapting to the environment or adapting the environment to us.

Genes want to reproduce themselves, and doing so means lots and lots of distribution and reproduction, which means getting of this tiny little rock and flooding the universe with our viral presence.

Even though it's (well, probably) a long way away from earth's destruction, if we aren't off the planet by then, *BAMPF* a few millenia of evolution just went down the drain.
posted by cCranium at 9:41 AM on March 2, 2001

Something worries me, though - if we don't have the responsibility as a species to be able to handle Earth gently enough so as not to despoil it for ourselves, what makes us think that by churning through other planets we're ever going to learn how not to just waste every resource we come across?

In other words, from one angle, I see this is as just a larger application of the "use it and throw it away" mentality - "Gee, we ruined this planet, better find some more!". It doesn't get at the root of the problem - how to get to the point where we don't destroy everything we touch.

We may be genetically programmed to propagate and spread, but how is this a good thing when we have so many of our six billion brothers and sisters living in poverty, sickness, and misery?

I think we need to figure out how to do it *right*, here on Earth, and *then* it will be the appropriate time to start to think about colonizing other hunks of rock.

Otherwise, we're just setting ourselves up for more of the same...
posted by beth at 10:03 AM on March 2, 2001

Ladies and gentlemen I believe the people of Earth have just about got it right now, it looks like they may pull it off... BZZZZZZZ Oh, that is too bad. The time is up! Thanks for playing.
posted by thirteen at 10:16 AM on March 2, 2001

X-33 was a disaster of a program anyway. Everything was going wrong, it was drastically late, and was basically a place-holder until Lockheed Martin could convince Congress to develop VentureStar, their dream machine -- if only they could get taxpayer funding. X-34 was doing somewhat better, but it was developing less new technology and was more about integrating commercial hardware into an advanced vehicle. Neither of these programs was going to lead to a space shuttle replacement any time soon, since it was already exceedingly clear that whether that replacement would be VentureStar or not, it would be no less expensive than the shuttle.

The shuttle is all we have right now for one simple reason: we have no mission for any other vehicle, and shuttle itself is barely justifiable.

If we have a reason to develop a vehicle, we'll get around to it. Right now we're doing just fine with what we have, given limitations that we've known about for years, and limtiations that no other vehicle in the offing would dramatically relieve. Shuttle upgrades have been funded and will continue. Those orbiters will easily fly for another twenty years at the current flight rate.

Pro-space activists have known for years that NASA is the worst possible enemy of "cheap access to space" for the average joe. NASA's interests lie elsewhere, and the programs that are funded are ones that Congressmen like. The best hope we had recently was the reusable launch vehicle market (e.g. Rotary), but that collapsed when Iridium/Globalstar/etc. tanked and took the satellite launch market away.

In short -- what was lost was never realistically going to achieve what the press releases said, so they really aren't a dramatic loss. I'm more concerned with the loss of key space station components like CRV, even though they can be revived later, and the permanent cancellation of science missions like Pluto-Kuiper Express.
posted by dhartung at 10:48 AM on March 2, 2001

...but how is this a good thing...

I didn't mean to imply it was. It's just a thing, it has no value attached to it. Biological imperative cares not for consequences.

That's not an excuse, either, or justification for trashing planets while we hop along gleefully, it's a very basic and simple element of what makes Space important for humans.

On a practical and personal level, I agree with you completely. We need to clean up our act here before we run rampant throughout the universe - though exploration of our solar system at our current level of technology isn't running rampant in my mind, we're barely even getting our toes wet.
posted by cCranium at 11:22 AM on March 2, 2001

Everyone is always trying to justify why we need to explore space.

"It's important scientific research!"

"We need to protect ourselves as a species!"

"It is human nature to want to explore!"

That's all a bunch of bullshit. There is only one reason why we need to explore space, and one reason why people should support it:

Because space ships are totally freaking cool! The idea of humans floating around in Zero-G and landing on other planets is the kind of stuff a geek's wet dreams are made of. I wish more people would admit that that's all they want from space exploration.

Unfortunately, we need to make up "legit" reasons so Ma and Pa couch-potato taxpayer will play along.

posted by bondcliff at 11:29 AM on March 2, 2001

We are hundreds of years away from reaching the next star. We aren't even prepared to go back to the moon if we had to. If we ever leave here, we will be changing things where we go. We won't find Earths' waiting for us, and we will retool those planets to suit us. The things we did to hurt our environment here probably won't even apply where we are going. Are we going to bring lots of fossil fuel with us? Do we expect to find liquid dinosaurs on other planets? Ugh. I must go, I have no time to finish this now.
posted by thirteen at 11:53 AM on March 2, 2001

Spaceships are totally freaking cool.
posted by thirteen at 12:24 PM on March 2, 2001

Good point, thirteen.

I guess if we were to begin to terraform Mars, for instance, we'd have to be ecologically sound, as it were, from the beginning - it would be a delicate process and any wanton wasting or destruction of resources would be ruinous or deadly for the participants or for the project as a whole.

Maybe we'd appreciate a planet's "natural" environment more if we had to bring it over from Earth ourselves, then carefully nurture it to fruition?

I suppose we could also keep out the jerkfaces - you know the kind of people who toss lit cigarette butts out the windows of their cars. I see these assholes every fucking day....

I agree that spaceships are totally fricking cool, too.

Screw NASA, we should start a fund and do it ourselves...
posted by beth at 12:25 PM on March 2, 2001

Faith-based programs to launch a rocket to heaven?

The Rapture, boy. "Oh Lord, lift me up..."
posted by holgate at 12:25 PM on March 2, 2001

It's about time they killed the X-33. It combined so many untried technologies that failure was virtually guaranteed. Unfortunately it doesn't look like they are going to replace it with something more achievable; we're simply going to be stuck with the fantastically expensive space shuttle, which is just affordable enough to keep flinging up payloads, but expensive enough to make further progress difficult.

The environmental argument is not a big deal to me. We are in the early stages of a catastrophe on Earth; if we can stop it at all, we will have to do so long before we are at the point where we can think about putting permanent colonies on other planets. Emigrants from Earth will be leaving a society that has already learned how to live sustainably, or they won't be leaving at all.

Also, I'm not too worried about the freak accident thing. We ARE a freak accident, as far as Earth is concerned; the last thing that caused as much extinction as we've pulled off was the meteorite that killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. We pose a much more worrisome threat to ourselves than any space rock or exploding star, and we'll take that threat with us wherever we go.

posted by Mars Saxman at 12:27 PM on March 2, 2001

a civilization of marionettes

coooooooooooooooooooooool. Do you suppose they've received our broadcasts of Thunderbirds and are just waiting to meet their herky-jerky brothers from another planet?

Maybe we can trade the X-33 for Thunderbird One.
posted by briank at 1:28 PM on March 2, 2001

or maybe they've gotten other broadcasts and are currently trying to figure out if all their base are belong to us. "well, this one still seems to be under our control... you check pod 13, i'll go check 27..." "but what if somebody set us up the bomb?"

sorry, someone else would have done it if i hadn't. ^_^
posted by pikachulolita at 3:26 PM on March 2, 2001

I think we need to figure out how to do it *right*, here on Earth, and *then* it will be the appropriate time to start to think about colonizing other hunks of rock.

We have no guarantee that we will have such a luxury. All it takes is one good comet, one good asteroid...a few good nukes... Should the species really be made to pay the ultimate price for the lack of foresight of a few, or even a majority?

Have you never heard the one about keeping all your eggs in one basket?
posted by rushmc at 6:31 PM on March 2, 2001

(Almost) all the *rational* responses amounted to "why bother", or "we can't get there from here". I rest my case.


As for the Libertarian approach question; I don't know what the formal organization's position is, but even Libertarians admit that there are some things which must be done by (federal) government -- things which benefit the commonweal and are too big or too intolerant of diversity to be reasonably done by state or local governments.
posted by baylink at 8:45 AM on March 3, 2001

Jeepers, baylink, you're taking the rational point of view? Where's the fun in that?
posted by cCranium at 10:47 AM on March 3, 2001

Screw NASA. Either private industry is going to take over for NASA. Or some other country will take over from the USA in exploring space.

Too bad people don't think India is just on the other side of the moon.
posted by redleaf at 9:43 PM on March 4, 2001

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