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Salon says embrace the end of US manned spaceflight 
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Post Salon says embrace the end of US manned spaceflight

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Tue Apr 12, 2011 10:14 am
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Post Re: Salon says embrace the end of US manned spaceflight
I tend to dismiss what liberal-arts journals like Salon, New Yorker, etc. have to say about any technology - it's usually written by some ween who thinks he's a tech maven because he uses a Mac AirBook tethered to his iPhone for connectivity. (KEYWORDS monkeys-in-cages tech-level smugness idiocracy)

Sadly, though, I find myself agreeing with the principal contention. I was a total space cadet as a kid, I still keep a Gulf cardboard lunar lander sheet in my desk drawer for emergencies and have other space memorabilia throughout the house, and watching a big one launch will make tears run down my face.

But the arguments of the space advocacy crowd are, collectively, so self-serving, elitist, wishful, reality-denying, nonsensical and outright falsity that I am resigned to never seeing significant human presence in space again in my lifetime... and I was supposed to be able to get at least to microgravity before I was forty.

There are arguments for human exploration of the solar system, now. Good ones. But in a world that can't agree on how to fund its schools and medical care, trying to make the argument for something so removed from daily life is like yakking in Urdu from a streetcorner box in Cleveland. But the advocacy nutz won't stop with the fairy-tale arguments that, in the end, undermine the premise and the proposition. To begin with, we simply do not have the technology for extended space missions. Don't. At all. For all the shiny ships we can draw and model, they're exactly like the ones the youngsters in Menace from Earth were so painstakingly drawing... filled with blank spaces labeled HERE THERE BE DRAGONS... pardon me, INSERT PROPULSION SYSTEM HERE or LIFE SUPPORT MODULE HERE. Not to mention MAGICAL SPACE SHIELDING IN THIS LAYER.

It will take uncounted billions to resolve those thorny problems. It will also take a realization that real people will die horrible deaths getting there, staying there and living there. NASA's Disneyland approach won't work, ever, for anything except trivial accomplishments achieved at maximum overrun cost.

We're a decade away from being able to put a realistic (real, real expensive, no we can't give you a final number AND line up to die, guys) manned space proposal in front of the voting and/or paying population and having any chance of getting it approved. Too many hard economic and geopolitick problems right now - and maybe always.

But it would get easier, in time, if the starry-eyed and fluffy-bunny advocates would quit spewing fairy tales and let's-pretend.

I would be happy to die on Luna. I don't have that many years left for it to be possible.

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Tue Apr 12, 2011 11:35 am
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Post Re: Salon says embrace the end of US manned spaceflight

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Tue Apr 12, 2011 12:52 pm
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Post Re: Salon says embrace the end of US manned spaceflight
Dan, by any reasonable measure, successful and sustained manned spaceflight to useful ends is going to be real, real expensive. It's not a matter of comparing it to a department that manages, in essence, the lives of every single person in the US, or to the DoD, or to anything else. It's going to be a matter of hundreds of billions of dollars invested and spent, and even these days, that's pretty darned expensive.

I would consider it money well spent. But we are up against a majority of people who don't and never will approve, until some far future day when the benefits and necessity of manned spaceflight are obvious to any blithering idiot. ("I told you so!")

The single biggest obstacle to sustained and practical manned spaceflight is NASA - unrealistic policies, chaotic bureaucracy, invisible cojones and an unending string of funding disasters. I've called for the abolition of NASA many times - give 'em a titanium watch and send them on their way, then build a US spaceflight bureau that can face reality, make the case for realistic funding (instead of stripping the projects to uselessness, then pinky-swearing they can do it for chump change, and ending up with massive overruns for a third-rate result), and look their fellow USAians in the eye and say, yup, we're going to kill people doing this, just like the military kills people every day.

The second biggest obstacle to sustained and practical manned spaceflight are the advocates, who either champion NASA with all its blithering, blind faults and thus undercut their own integrity, or spend time spinning fairy tales about how easy it is/could be/should be (while dismissing the fine print: if we find a magic propulsion system, a sustainable life-support system, and a workable radiation shield... among a thousand other details presently machined from pure unobtainium).

The only hopeful sign I see is that the non-governmental space companies are finally working with their own, sustainable tech and not bits from NASA and Soviet boneyards. Which means we're finally to the Wright Flyer stage on the sustainable lift curve. Private enterprise isn't even to Langley on manned spaceflight support.


Tue Apr 12, 2011 4:30 pm
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Tue Apr 12, 2011 8:48 pm
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Wed Apr 13, 2011 8:21 am
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Post Re: Salon says embrace the end of US manned spaceflight
I did enjoy reading the article - particularly the part about the "Robert Heinlein wing of science-fiction fandom," which has "always combined Tea Party-style anti-statism with a love of big rockets."

I don't think you could confuse most of us here with teabaggers, but it's a good line. The part about a "love of big rockets," though, is spot on. :D

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Wed Apr 13, 2011 9:28 am
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Wed Apr 13, 2011 1:13 pm
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Post Re: Salon says embrace the end of US manned spaceflight

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Wed Apr 13, 2011 1:27 pm
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