Manned Space: Too Fail To Big

Posted: November 16, 2011 in Songs of Space and Nuclear War
Tags: , , , , ,

To paraphrase Bill Freeza, how many times do the court astronauts (and scientists) have to be wrong about the impact of expensive government economic interventions in the space industry before we add them to the unemployment rolls?

…why are [space] activists who promote enlarging the size and scope of… [manned space] shocked when one [space] program after another is hijacked by [both new and old space] corporations that find it easier to seek favors in Washington than customers in the marketplace?

Interventionist thinking is furthered by the insidious onset of the fantastical (and I mean that in a bad way) efforts like the Beyond Planet Earth effort at the American Museum of Natural History, presented with a scientific veneer when being steeped in science fiction is the reality. Note: is it just me that thinks perhaps the museum was trying to be ironic in placing a futures display in a history museum? Perhaps it would be better called, in this example, the American Museum of Science Fiction Futurism?

As the Beyond Planet Earth exhibition is profiled by the New York Times, it is “to look forward 50 or 100 years.” What will this future yield?

The exhibition plays shamelessly to those of us who were captivated long ago by science fiction dreams and the notion that humanity’s destiny is somehow tied to the stars. For the most part these plans don’t come with price tags attached nor, for that matter, any indication of what currency the price should be denominated in.

Snip

Getting there [to the moon, regularly, by 2030] is also going to be interesting. By then, [exhibit curator] Dr. [Michael] Shara figures, we will have had enough of the violence of rockets and will descend and ascend from the lunar surface on a lunar elevator, “a skinny cable rising thousands of miles from the Moon into the sky,” anchored at the far end by the gravity of the Earth. In time, Dr. Shara said, the cable could be extended almost all the way to Earth.

The ‘violence’ of rockets is a big cost regarding space access, but let’s be real: something beats nothing. While it’s possible that breakthroughs in materials will have occurred by 2030 (and support a space elevator) and that an economic case for going to the Moon may be supportable, with the trend line we’re on, it seems… improbable. And there’s all that pesky radiation as well.

Don’t like Moon life? Well, how about Mars?

Some geologists think that Mars could be transformed, or “terraformed,” into a livable planet over time in what would be the grandest and most expensive engineering project ever, one that would take thousands of years and entail the Mother of All Environmental Impact Statements and, yes, “trillions of dollars.” Only trillions?

These may well be the same geologists who think that California’s high-speed rail can also be brought in on spec, on budget, and on schedule.

Somewhere, teased out of all this, is the profound lesson that humans are the only creatures who can lie to themselves.

To quote myself, I have seen the future of space (and warfare) and it’s unmanned.

 

 

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