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Space Science

Top 10 Reasons for a Space Program 447

Posted by michael
from the whole-lot-of-nothing dept.
Its_My_Hair writes "Space.com has an article on the top ten reasons for a space program. Most of the reasons seem to say that our space programs are here for our safety." The only necessary reason is "because it's there".
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Top 10 Reasons for a Space Program

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  • Space... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by wirah (707347)
    its there, and somebody has to explore it right? So who better than NASA. And if NASA want to do it via space programs...
    • Re:Space... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ceejayoz (567949) <cj@ceejayoz.com> on Monday September 15, 2003 @08:18AM (#6962707) Homepage Journal
      somebody has to explore it right? ... who better than NASA?

      Private industry.
      • Re:Space... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MSTCrow5429 (642744) on Monday September 15, 2003 @08:29AM (#6962779)
        I'm in total agreement. Not everyone thinks that the exploration of space is a worthwhile use of their money. Private enterprise can develop space for consumer use, as they have with the oceans and the skies. NASA has been actively prohibiting private companies from exploring or performing research in what NASA feels is its own domain. We have gone to the moon, and in thirty years, we have not even placed a semi-permanent base there. It is well past time to let individuals explore space, develop it, and commercialize it. The government has no sovereign claim on the universe, after all.
        • Re:Space... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by thoolihan (611712) on Monday September 15, 2003 @08:44AM (#6962849) Homepage
          I agree with what you're saying. However, if NASA dropped the ban on private industry, I don't think you'd see a rush from private industry. If there was real interest, a corporation would just operate and launch from a small country that could be easily convinced (read paid) to allow private space exploration.

          -t
          • Re:Space... (Score:3, Insightful)

            by BigBir3d (454486)
            Ah yes, but NASA is a government program that would complain to the Vice President, who then tells the President that said small country needs trade restrictions or embargos, this, that, and the other thing. And then poof! No more small countries getting small corporate payoffs to be launch sites.

            (Not to mention the military possibilities)
            • Re:Space... (Score:3, Informative)

              by sketerpot (454020)
              Armadillo Aerospace tried recently to get permission to do test flights at white sands missle test range. It's the perfect place, and they have some good supporters there, but they've been told that launching before 2004 is extremely ambitious just because of all the paperwork. Something about that just makes me somewhat sick. Good luck, Canadian Arrow, and may your country be kinder to you than mine.
        • Re:Space... (Score:5, Interesting)

          by arivanov (12034) on Monday September 15, 2003 @08:55AM (#6962925) Homepage
          It is actually the same as with Open Source. Private enterprise has not learned how to extract money from something that is already there and is not being tightly controlled. Examples:
          • geological survey data - ever thought of selling that landslide probability data for California to the house insurance companies?
          • Water temperature and conditions data - ever thought of selling this to fishermen?
          • So on so fourth.
          The problem with selling them is that there is always at least one more party to have access to these (start with your own gov and continue with russians, europeans, chinese, etc). There is no monopoly and you have to rely on value added services to make this profitable. Corps do not like this in an emerging market. No VC will invest in a concept for which they know that it will not have the market to its own for at least a few years.
        • Re:Space... (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ratamacue (593855)
          Above all, private industry would explore space through voluntary means, while government can only do so through coercion. The voluntary means to the end represents the interests of those who actually provide the funding, while the coercive means to the end represents the interests of those in power (those who seize their funding from others).
    • Re:Space... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by frankthechicken (607647) on Monday September 15, 2003 @08:22AM (#6962735) Journal
      Well, considering it is exploration for mankind, perhaps some conglomeration between nations, rather than a single entity might be better. I somehow feel, without the bravado of the space race and the cold war, this might be a more productive way of acheiving our lust for discovery.
      • Couldn't agree more, but let's be realistic here - it ain't gonna happen because the politicians and lawyers will get involved. I'm sure the scientists, technicians and engineers would absolutely love this kind of global cooperation, but sadly it will never happen.
  • Objectives (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 15, 2003 @08:09AM (#6962663)
    The space program really does need some very visable goals. How about a manned Mars mission by 2015?

    • Re:Objectives (Score:5, Insightful)

      by spektr (466069) on Monday September 15, 2003 @08:38AM (#6962831)
      The space program really does need some very visable goals. How about a manned Mars mission by 2015?

      Won't happen. The space race occured in the 1960ies, when America feared to be overtaken by the Soviets. At this time many things were new and unproven: can humans reach outer space, can they live there for sustained periods, can they reach another celestial body, can they live there, etc. This was exciting and perfectly suited for TV. But the most important reason to do all this was the fear that the Soviets may gain military superiority.

      Going to mars will not reveal exciting new facts about space to the general public. We went to the moon, we have done that. It will not do anything for preserving military superiority. We know by now that the military needs satellites and manned space travel is not of much use for this. So it just won't happen.

      In my opinion, this sucks. The 21th century ain't what it used to be anymore.
      • Re:Objectives (Score:3, Insightful)

        by barawn (25691)
        Going to mars will not reveal exciting new facts about space to the general public.

        Yes it will. It will show what Martian sunset and sunrise look like. From human eyes.

        If Hubble proved anything, it proved the US public loves pretty pictures. Hubble rather quickly entered public consciousness as something that we were proud of (thus the MST3K the Movie joke "You killed the Hubble!") and major manned space travel would do the same.

        I think you're being a little too cynical about the American public. If it
    • The space program

      The Singular? Why singular? Why is space a program? Presumably you mean it's a government program. What makes you think a bunch of expensive bureaucrats are ever going to do anything useful for you in space? Why does an organisation doing something for 'the good of a country' not equal a form of communism or atleast socialism? Now personally, I'm not against socialism, if it benefits people directly (for example in the UK a health service really does help out the population fairly uniform

  • Safety? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Tony Hoyle (11698) <tmh@nodomain.org> on Monday September 15, 2003 @08:11AM (#6962671) Homepage
    How can a space program be there for our safety?

    Maybe GWB thinks it's full of Weapons of Mass Destruction? (the little pixies told him so...)
    • by Channard (693317) on Monday September 15, 2003 @08:21AM (#6962732) Journal
      .. mock the leader of the greatest nation in the world. If you'd watched anything other than the lefty pink commie news station you tune into, you'd know the real facts. Our great president has irrefutable evidence that The Clangers, lead by the evil dictator The Soup Dragon, have developed weapons of mass destruction, fashioned from illegally imported felt and cardboard.

      These terrorists must be stopped before they can launch their attack against the free world and I for one welcome our president's plan to nuke the moon. I sure as hell won't miss it.

    • Re:Safety? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Arleigh2 (697770)
      A space program is irrelevant to your safety if you have a religion that does not care about the fate of humans or a religion that includes a got that will either: 1) protect us from events like errant asteroids in the short run or an expanding sun in the (very) long run; 2) soon decide it's time to shut down the project and take us all to our final reward or punishment. The rest of us know enough cosmology to understand that eventually we'll need to get out there and learn enough so that we can protect our
  • Why use people? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by capt.Hij (318203) on Monday September 15, 2003 @08:12AM (#6962674) Homepage Journal
    None of the reasons given imply that we need a human presence in space. As long as we have to use huge, contained explosions to move things off of the planet there is little reason to put humans in space.

    They also forgot the 11th reason. NASA is a government agency, and government agencies must find reasons to exist and grow their budgets.

    • Sending animals up is not only cruel, its a waste of a valuable and intelligent lifeform. Send bush up instead.
    • capt.Hij said:
      None of the reasons given imply that we need a human presence in space. As long as we have to use huge, contained explosions to move things off of the planet there is little reason to put humans in space.
      Little reason to put humans into space, huh? Perhaps there is little immediate practical reason to put humans into space, but it is the dream of a good number of humans to go to space. For some of us, it fires our imagination, gives us hope, and helps us find a reason to go through the mundane existance of everyday life. I can only speak for myself, but when I look up at the stars at night, I see hope, unsurpassible(sp?) beauty, wonder, and a dream for the future of (hopefully myself if I ever have the chance and) the human species.

      What do you see when you look up at the stars at night?

      Anyway, how about a more concrete reason for humans to go to space? Here's one: Because there are humans who are willing to go. There are people who are perfectly willing to risk there lives for the future of mankind (not to mention to have the most thrilling ride imaginable). I cannot speak for other humans but in my experiences through life, I know that I am not meant to be caged. I cannot help but feel that we, as a species, are not meant to "be caged" on this planet.

      Perhaps these people who are willing to go right now only serve as guinea pigs (giving us important information on how the human body reacts in such an environment), but I'm sure they don't mind (and if any of them do, I am more than willing to take their place...).

      Or, how about this for a reason: Robots, remotely operated vehicles, and computers lack the physical and mental ability to deal with equipment problems in space. Here's an example: the Hubble telescope. Without humans, we would have a peice of junk floating around with a bad mirror.

      Unmanned vehicles lack two very important things that will allow them to deal with emergencies and keep themselves functioning when things go wrong: imagination and a will to survive. Put those two things together, and you have the kind of stuff that brought Apollo 13 home. Take those things away and you have probes that crash themselves uselessly into Mars.

      In my opinion, humans are eventually meant to be in space. Maybe some will be afraid to leave the cage when the door is eventually opened for all to pass through if they choose, but others are anxious to get out and move on to the next stage of human existance. And there is no time like the present to start taking the necessary baby steps to do it.

      Sorry for the rant, but views [nasa.gov] like [nasa.gov] these [nasa.gov] are [nasa.gov] all [nasa.gov] the [nasa.gov] reason [nasa.gov] I personally need.

      Those pictures were taken by the astronauts on the final mission of the Space Shuttle Columbia, STS-107. I can do nothing now but salute and honor those heros who have died while chasing their dreams and the dreams of many of us, just as I can do nothing but salute and honor those heros who are still up there realizing the dream and those who have all returned safely.

      Anyway, my apologies for any flamebait that may be in this post, but it kind of bothers me whenever anyone suggests that humans should not be in space.

    • Re:Why use people? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by cybercuzco (100904) on Monday September 15, 2003 @09:20AM (#6963068) Homepage Journal
      there is little reason to put humans in space.

      So youre saying we shouldnt put humans in space beecause its dangerous? There must be some mutation in your genes that makes you afraid, because if your ancestors had that gene we would still be stuck in africa wondering whats over the next mountain. How many resourcees were spent traveling from africa to australia? From africa to the mid east? from the mid east to europe, asia and the americas? How many people died from new diseases, new dangers, new predators? How many human beings died from the cold of the ice ages? Thousands? Millions? As a percentage of the total human population at the time it must have been significant. And youre saying because weve lost 17 humans on our quest to move into space we should stop because its dangerous? There is only one reason needed to use humans in space: So we can make it an environment for humans to live in. Europeans settlers came to america searching for gold, what they got was tobacco, timber and furs, and ultimately made alot more money that way. We dont know what we might find in space, or what the economic benifits might be. Humans are needed in space because humans want to live in space, just as humans wanted to live in the mid east, asia, europe and north and south america.

  • by mdechene (607874) on Monday September 15, 2003 @08:12AM (#6962675)
    This list definately appears to be tailored for people adverse to a space program. So keep that in mind before you take offense to it not including scientific / exploratory reasons and instead has things like "Protection against catastrophic planetary accidents" that aren't very likely at this point.
    • by azaroth42 (458293) on Monday September 15, 2003 @08:18AM (#6962703) Homepage

      Or at least created for people who will react to buzzwords. For example:

      The only way to provide global education and health care services in coming decades at reasonable cost and broad coverage is via space-based communication systems.

      Uhhh... Health Care Services require things like trained medical staff, medical equipment, drugs, and so forth. Broad coverage is via having more hospitals and better working conditions within them, not satellite communications. Education needs the same things -- schools, teachers and better resources.

      Yes, Ethopia, you thought you needed hospitals and schools, but what you really need are satellites!

      -- Azaroth

      • I think that the application they were talking about is remote health care with real-time video streaming, or even better a remote surgery device -- you can manufacture those by the thousands, and have the lead surgeon do everything virtually. Of course you'd need a staff on hand in case the link broke and the person had to be stitched up...

      • by fruey (563914) on Monday September 15, 2003 @08:38AM (#6962829) Homepage Journal
        While I take your point, there is a lot of development money being spent on TV broadcasts of open educational content to local schools all over the developing world. Allowing extra tailored learning materials to be distributed just country wide in a place like Morocco (a better example, because Ethiopia really is behind in most economic indicators) is not possible with terrestrial transmitters, and so they could use (and in a pilot scheme are using) satellite airtime to transmit their own content from the capital city, based on the individual nation's national curriculum.

        However, the infrastructure, including TVs, classrooms, etc... is not always there, so you do have a point. Better building the schools first :) but where they do exist, you can leverage satellite technologies.

        Do not forget that most development contracts go to US suppliers. So USAID give a load of money to a project, but most of it goes back to US companies for their satellite time, TVs, cameras, lighting, mixing desks... whereas building projects cannot always pass muster with the guidelines that budgets should be granted, where possible, to US based companies. Maybe that policy isn't so wrong, because just giving money to local companies often results in graft and lack of accountability.

      • Yes, Ethopia, you thought you needed hospitals and schools, but what you really need are satellites!

        actually if the medical fields were managed by true people that are there to help the human race and people then yes, sattelites ARE damned important to an ethiopian hospital to get the latest treatement proceedures and information.

        but the U$A medical companies are in it not to help mankind, stop suffering, or help people. they are there to suck every single dime out of every human being as long as possi
      • Obviously Ethiopia needs hospitals and schools...

        But what can really make those hospitals and schools effective, and multiply the value of each one of them many times, is satellites. An isolated hospital or school out in the rough really amounts to a few dedicated workers trying push the world uphill. Give them a satellite link, and the rest of the world can easily give them help and make them more effective. (Open Source style)

        "If only I knew more about surgery, I could save this man's/woman's leg instea
    • Why do you say catastrophic planetary accidents "aren't very likely at this point"? At what point do they become likely?

      Just because we've only had the knowledge and capability to track near earth objects very recently, says nothing about the likelihood of such an event occurring.

      Some might say we're overdue a big one...
      • by MSTCrow5429 (642744) on Monday September 15, 2003 @08:31AM (#6962797)
        Remember, Congress only covered its own arse during the Cold War in the event of nuclear war. Do you think they'd be any different when it comes to the end of the world?
      • We couldn't do anything anyway... it's more than likely we wouldn't even see an asteroid until it was pretty close to us, by which time it'd need a huge change in trajectory to make it miss us... we just don't have the technology to do that.

        All of this isn't an argument for a space program, just more scientific research into how to deal with the threat (tractor beams would be damn cool.. I just doubt their possibility somehow).

        (Anyway last I heard there were only about a dozen people paid to track aster
        • by mattpalmer1086 (707360) on Monday September 15, 2003 @08:50AM (#6962882)
          It's not true to say we couldn't do anything. We are actively tracking near earth objects, and estimates I've heard say we currently know about a third to a half of them fairly accurately. There are a number of proposals for dealing with objects on a collision course with earth. Mostly it depends on the nature of the object. Fast spinning objects are likely to be a solid rock and could be deflected by explosions. Slower spinning objects are far more likely to be rubble piles, and experiments show that rubble piles can't be deflected by explosion - the pile simply absorbs the blast. Proposals to deal with these include solar mirrors on a following orbit to the object focussing the suns rays on a point on the object. Over a period of several years (note: you have to know about the object and get there well in advance), the slow outgassing caused by evaporating parts of the object create sufficient trajectory change to the whole pile to miss the earth.
  • Chicken or Egg? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aerojad (594561) on Monday September 15, 2003 @08:13AM (#6962678) Homepage Journal
    Well if we are going to colonize anything and for all we know maybe meet other species someday far in the future, we have to become a more mature species ourselves. Currently we are still primitive - led by fear and superstition, dominated by hunger and war. Will benifits of space and hopefully increased maturity help out the human race, or does the human race have to be helped to mature first before we all set our sights on higher goals? What comes first?
    • Re:Chicken or Egg? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by antis0c (133550) on Monday September 15, 2003 @08:19AM (#6962711)
      And you, the primitive being know we are primitive and what we must overcome to not be primitive? :) Chicken or Egg indeed.
    • Re:Chicken or Egg? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by CommandNotFound (571326) on Monday September 15, 2003 @08:25AM (#6962755)
      Will benifits of space and hopefully increased maturity help out the human race

      Nah, we'll just carry our bad habits out into space. A little bit of zero gravity won't take the "trailer park" out of us.

      I think the makers of StarCraft had a good idea of how human spacefarers would look and act. :)
    • Re:Chicken or Egg? (Score:5, Informative)

      by dpilot (134227) on Monday September 15, 2003 @09:30AM (#6963120) Homepage Journal
      IMHO, you have to burn out the immaturity before becoming truly spacefaring.

      Another post talks about how we shouldn't put men in space as long as we have to do it on top of controlled explosives. But the controlled explosives brings home a key point: It takes a LOT of energy to get into orbit, and even more energy to leave orbit. You can get that energy with controlled explosives, or some other way, but we're then quibbling about matters of efficiency. Even at 100% efficiency, it still takes a LOT of energy to reach orbit or beyond.

      Ready access to orbit and beyond means ready access to that much energy. As long as we're an immature species, ready access to that much energy means that it's practically certain that someone is going to use it for immature purposes. (war)

      We don't currently have ready access to orbit and beyond, and we're already struggling to avoid wiping ourselves out. We probably need ready access to an order of magnitude more energy before we're really 'there', spacewise, and that might mean an order of magnitude more likely to wipe ourselves out, too.
      • Re:Chicken or Egg? (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Idarubicin (579475)
        Even at 100% efficiency, it still takes a LOT of energy to reach orbit or beyond.

        Ready access to orbit and beyond means ready access to that much energy. As long as we're an immature species, ready access to that much energy means that it's practically certain that someone is going to use it for immature purposes. (war)

        I just did a quick back of the envelope calculation. The total change in energy (kinetic and potential) associated with going from a point on the equator to a point in geosynchronous orb

  • Space Station (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rf0 (159958) <rghf@fsck.me.uk> on Monday September 15, 2003 @08:15AM (#6962690) Homepage
    I've always wondered that if there were some crew memember aboard the ISS and something catastrophic happened to Earth how long could they survive? I know people on Mir survieve for over a year but I have no idea how often Mir was restocked.

    However generally I agree that if we do want to survive long term (and we don't destory ourselves) then we will outgrow this planet or strip it bare forcing a move.

    Rus
    • how long could they survive?

      And, of course, how long could they expect to wait until Little Green Men come along to rescue them?

    • Generally, if they were unable to be resupplied, they would be forced to use the ERV (Earth Return Vehicle). Right now, they've got a Soviet Soyuz-class capsule up there for that very use. In case of emergency, you all get in, yank on the handle, and look out little blue marble!

      I'm sure if the event was severe or catastrophic enough, there would be measures in place for either a revised pickup/splashdown/dropdown location, and ensure SOMEONE there to pick them up.
    • As far as I know there are 3-4 supply runs (Progress vehicles) per year, so (assuming they have some safety margin) maybe 6-9 months before supplies run out. After that it won't take very long (a couple of years maybe) before orbit degrades too severely and it reenters and burns.
  • ... :P (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rylin (688457) on Monday September 15, 2003 @08:15AM (#6962691)
    So who better than NASA.
    The ESA? ;)
  • by fruey (563914) on Monday September 15, 2003 @08:16AM (#6962694) Homepage Journal
    The article gives a number of good reasons, mostly to do with security and communications, but not one of this "top ten" gives any reason why we should send men into space, even less than having the most expensive hotel in the world, except that it's always all-expenses paid by you, the taxpayer.

    I don't think many people think that near space and upper atmosphere research is a waste, nor the observation of distant stars and galaxies for their obvious scientific use in comparing our environment with others, and understanding our origins. NASA is an important precursor to a lot of the work, and defence technology often spaws useful commercial tech - satellite TV, GPS, international telecoms, weather stations...

    If you made this a top ten of reasons to send men into space, you'd have a harder time justifying it, but the debate would be more interesting. Especially since current Reuters [yahoo.com] news asks that very question today, with mixed conclusions. An allusion in general to space left us with this interesting quote, which ties in with what I said about military tech:

    O'Keefe acknowledged NASA lacks the sense of urgent mission that prevailed in its Cold War years
  • One more Reason (Score:4, Insightful)

    by egommer (303441) on Monday September 15, 2003 @08:21AM (#6962724) Homepage
    ...the only necessary reason is "because it's there".

    or the more correct reason... because it's not there. Space is a vacuum.

    I have another reason. becuase human survival depends on it. The sun will eventually die and we gotta bust outta here
  • by n0mad6 (668307) on Monday September 15, 2003 @08:21AM (#6962725)
    ...for long-term survival of our species on Earth is ~1 billion years. This is roughly when increased thermal output of the sun (in its prepetual battle to hold itself up against its own gravitational pressure) will cause temperatures on Earth to rise to the point that the oceans start to boil away.

    of course, by then, the machines will have taken over, so the issue of human survival will become moot.

    • ...for long-term survival of our species on Earth is ~1 billion years. This is roughly when increased thermal output of the sun (in its prepetual battle to hold itself up against its own gravitational pressure) will cause temperatures on Earth to rise to the point that the oceans start to boil away.

      of course, by then, the machines will have taken over, so the issue of human survival will become moot.

      "Oh well, just time for a quick bath then. Pass the soap could you someone." -Douglas Adams

  • by jjo (62046) on Monday September 15, 2003 @08:22AM (#6962734) Homepage
    Most of the ten reasons make sense, but they don't really address the two most critical issues facing the space program today:
    • Why do we need a manned space program today?
    • If we have a manned program, why use the Shuttle?

    Manned missions are great PR, and in the future we must have them, but I fail to see why we need them now, with the current state of space propulsion technology (i.e., large rockets to propel a small payload into orbit). Other than congressional pork-barrel spending, why should we continue to use the Shuttle, a technology that is now well past its prime? Why not start with a fresh sheet of paper and exploit what we have learned in the decades since the Shuttle was conceived?

    In fact, when we retire the Shuttle, why do we need to rush into a new manned-space transportation system? Why not wait a few decades for a much more revolutionary system, such as a space elevator? What critical missions in the next few decades will really require humans in space?
    • 1. money

      it'll knock NASA out of space for about 10 years if they spend all of their money researching and developing a new space vehicle. Having a huge wasteful rocket send up a few hundred pounds of cargo is probably the way it's going to be for a while. Redesigning the most complicated machine ever conceived will take time, and will end up the new "Most complicated machine ever conceived."

      Not sending man into space sounds like a good idea in theory, but the underlying point of space exploration is that
  • by Dan9999 (679463) on Monday September 15, 2003 @08:24AM (#6962750)
    it is possibly a quicker way to get to India to bring back spices.
  • Sad truth (Score:4, Insightful)

    by L-s-L69 (700599) on Monday September 15, 2003 @08:25AM (#6962753)
    Face it other than satelite launches and because we want to, man has no pressing reason to go into space. The cold war drove the greatest space program to date but since apollo there has been a lot less political will to go to space.

    Im guessing that when the Chinese land on the moon America might take a new interest in space exploration. But until then they seem to be happier spending money on blowing things up.

  • by joelhayhurst (655022) on Monday September 15, 2003 @08:25AM (#6962758)
    Is it likely that if an impending catastrophic meteor collision were to be discovered, the general public would even be made aware?

    I've heard people say the US government would not let its people know they were going to die. But I imagine that if an astronomer discovered something like this, they would request verification from astronomers around the world who would then be in the know. And I doubt the word wouldn't leak out somehow.

    Does anyone know what the government's policy towards this might be, and whether or not they could adequately silence such information?
  • by adeyadey (678765) on Monday September 15, 2003 @08:27AM (#6962767) Journal
    NASA/ESA are just no longer the right guys to take manned space exploration forward. The Shuttle fiasco proves just how bad NASA is at delivering affordable spce travel. Generate incentives (X-Prize style) and let entreprenuers build the re-usable ships that could fly large numbers of people into space..
    • by Timesprout (579035) on Monday September 15, 2003 @08:53AM (#6962912)
      It always makes me laugh when I see this comment about letting the private sector take over space exploration.

      How would you feel if for the sake of arguement the eventual winner of the X-Prize were to become the MS of space exploration, with almost total control over who does what in space. The private sector is not about bettering mankind, its about profit and many private sector companies are not averse to using very dubious, and in many cases downright criminal methods to achieve their aims. Suppose they discover valuable caches of materials. Do you think they are going to share them with the rest of the world or make us pay thru the nose ? What will the visa requirements be for landing on Planet Microsoft I wonder ? Suppose you are vacationing on Mars and disaster strikes, what do you reckon the odds would be the highest bidders get the first seats off the planet.

      In typical fashion the private sector will not become a serious player in space travel until NASA and the other space agencies have made serious reductions in the cost of entry with lots of tax payer research dollars. The private sector will then demand access and want to cherry pick the most lucrative aspects. Remember, there was a time when Bill Gates was an entreprenuer.
  • by Rogerborg (306625) on Monday September 15, 2003 @08:27AM (#6962768) Homepage

    "We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard" [dudeface.com]

    Cynical old bastard though I am, my throat closes up and my eyes water every time I hear or read those words. Everything that defines us as human has come about because our reach has always exceeded our grasp. If we forget that now, then we might as well just go back to hooting, grunting and flinging our faeces at each other [jerryspringer.com].

  • by ljavelin (41345) on Monday September 15, 2003 @08:30AM (#6962788)
    OK, I admit it - I like the coolness of NASA. I disagree with the article - most of those "top 10" are not in NASA's mission - but maybe it's just because NASA is a good service provider to those who do have strong, even noble missions.

    I do believe that there is a good need to fund the science and engineering of areospace technologies - and the people at NASA are certainly the right people to do it.

    And I'm certainly not totally against the manned space program. And being American, I think the US should invest heavily into the technology and trade where it still has clear leadership (because we all here see where industries like manufacturing and IT have/are going).

    But alas, NASA needs to do more to both commercialize the business aspects of space, and to invest towards useful goals - too often I think that the billions in contracts could be better invested.
    ---
    • The government "investing" my money into IT and manufacturing, when parts or in the case of manufacturing, the complete process, can be done better and more cheaply is like tying a noose and jumping off the ladder. This would only hurt the consumer and other businesses for the benefit of a select few. For each job "saved" in IT or manufacturing, many more would be lost in other sectors. No amount of money thrown at a paradigm shift is going to change reality. Instead, one should try to adapt to changing
  • by jd (1658) <imipak&yahoo,com> on Monday September 15, 2003 @08:33AM (#6962804) Homepage Journal
    Move forward & grow, or stagnate & rot.


    If we only did things that were "obviously" useful at the time of their discovery, we'd have dumped lasers, RADAR, the gas laws, astronomy, electricity, gunpowder and genetics.


    If we only pursued zero-risk technologies, we'd have no refrigeration (the discoverer died from over-exposure to the cold), no cars (early experimentors frequently crashed, and the death toll from early racing was often double or triple digits), and no medicine (even today, the risks in trials is extremely high).


    So space is risky and we can't see any obvious immediate benefit. So what? If we'd prefer to stagnate, then why not just end the world now? All life is genetically designed to move forward, and if we deny this fundamental core of biology, in the name of being cheapskates, the consequence is inevitable.


    "Because it's there" is not a statement - it is a fundamental law of biology.

    • AMEN! (Score:3, Insightful)

      "Because it's there" is not a statement - it is a fundamental law of biology.

      I think this is my new favorite quote. In my experience as a biologist, this is quite true. Life is always pushing the limits and trying to spread to wherever it can. Though harsh conditions may kill the first pioneers who venture into a new realm, over time, life finds a way to get there for no other reason that because it is there.

      In time, we will be no different. We will move on and broaden our scope, or we will stagnate and

  • ...is that, chances are, these technologies will be developed anyway, and they will be developed to solve the problem directly at hand, thus making the research effort cheaper and the results better.

    I mean, so space exploration is going to solve the education problems in the third world? Are farmer boys from africa going to sit at a videoconference lecture held by a professor from Harvard? Give me a break.

    I have no problems with space exploration, but why is it that when it comes to space, there is always
  • I hate to say it againg but it is money, not goals. I just don't understand why the goverment doesn't spend more on space exporation. Every dollar pays off 10-20 times on economic growth.

    If every branch of the goverment paid of like that, we wouldn't have any problems.

    -Richard
  • Irrelevant (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BobTheLawyer (692026) on Monday September 15, 2003 @08:46AM (#6962857)
    The most desperately dumb sentence in the article is "The only way to provide global education and health care services in coming decades at reasonable cost and broad coverage is via space-based communication systems". You get the feeling these guys have a deep knowledge of how to provide primary education and healthcare.
  • Because we have to (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The Llama King (187264) on Monday September 15, 2003 @08:47AM (#6962859)
    I fully understand that the list of reasons is aimed at those who insist on practical aspects for space, and if we have to convince visionless dolts who hold the purse strings, so be it.

    But the real reason to go into space is because we, as a species, must. It's what we do. We find something we don't understand and we go figure it out. We find uninhabited places and we go live there. It's a major part of being human.

    Revisionists may take great joy in dismantling his mythology, but John Kennedy and the generation he led understood this. Raised on the notion that we can do anything, we did the impossible and roared to the moon - and the fact that we were spurred on by fear of the Soviet boogieman was only secondary. Kennedy had a vision for what space meant to the U.S. and to man as a species.

    Today, we're all practicality and logic and bottom-lines, and that sucks our soul away. We go into space because we must, because we're called there, and if we don't answer the call, we've lost something vitally important within ourselves.

  • Reason 11 (Score:2, Funny)

    by Little Dave (196090)
    So we think we know a little about space eh? Well answer me this Eisenstein... The astrologers in their ivory towers tell us that space is a vacuum, no air right? So how in the name of Mike does the Sun keep burning? How? HOW??

    We need to land manned spaceships on the surface of the sun to answer this question, and maybe take that self-satisfied smirk off the faces of the astromonkeys!

  • Pointless Top 10 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bendebecker (633126) on Monday September 15, 2003 @08:53AM (#6962901) Journal
    "Prevention of environmental disaster"
    More like monitoring of onngoing environmental disasters. The money would be better spent on preventing them on the ground rather than just watching them from space.

    "Creating a global network for modern communications, entertainment and networking"
    I thought that was what M$ was trying to do. So our great space program is about being a slave to the telecoms... Why don't we just put a giant Verizon logo on all the rockets from now on?

    "Global education and health services"
    Give me a break. What, are we going to try to broadcast PBS to the entire world? The only people who will benefit the satalites and all the other space based comunications are the people who can afford the devices to tap into those communications. Last time I checked the poor in Africa want food, not TV's. The only people that will be able to afford these devices are the people that don't need these services.

    "Cheap and environmentally friendly energy"
    Let me guess: widespread use of potatoes to power clocks. They have gone a long way to create operational systems but they still need to develope them and they haven't been put into practice? In other words you have a coupel of ideas but you have done jack shit asbout them.

    "Transportation safety"
    This is part of the the satalite argument. As for the rest, space travel will always be inherently unsafe. The only recourse is to deal with it. When your shuttle explodes, be a man! Face the pain! I didn't hear any of the apollo astronauts whining about safety. They flew with what they had and if that wasn't good enough, tough!

    "Emergency warning and recovery systems"
    More satalites.

    "National defense and strategic security"
    And more satalite systems.

    "Protection against catastrophic planetary accidents"
    Not too useful since it doesn't seem we are seriously developing any of the tech necessary to prevent a strike if one was imminent(sic). And knowing NASA, the mission to save earth will eb pushed back and eventually scraped due to budget cuts. We have to put saving the world on the back burner cause our president wants to go to war with someone else to boost his poll ratings. Plus, unless the asteroid is in low earth orbit, how is NASA ever going to get to it? Satalites again...

    "Creation of new jobs and Industries -- a new vision for the 21st century and a mandate to explore truly new frontiers"
    This is the best and possibly the sole reason to have a space program. This alone makes it worth it. But lets face it: they haven't done anything in this theater since apollo (with the exception of a few probes). NASA and the shuttles is like an old man and his model T. He is constantly fixing the car just so he can go down to the local convience mart. Chuck the jollipe and get a hot rod.
  • by Junior J. Junior III (192702) on Monday September 15, 2003 @08:56AM (#6962931) Homepage
    Lady Liberty is up to her neck, and you've got to find a way off this blasted rock... get yer hands offa me, you damn dirty ape!
  • by glwtta (532858) on Monday September 15, 2003 @08:58AM (#6962938) Homepage
    I thought the number one reason was that we have to acquire alien technology to defend ourselves against the Goa'uld, who are capable of reaching earth in their ships, even if we bury the gate?
  • ...this Top Ten list will be on Letterman tonight ;-)

    -psy
  • by NDPTAL85 (260093) on Monday September 15, 2003 @09:07AM (#6962984)
    We need more reasons besides "because its there" to justify spending billions of taxpayer dollars. Its amazing what geeks want to do with OTHER people's money.

    Fortunately there ARE other reasons aside from "because its there". Now we just have to inform the public of them.
    • We need more reasons besides "because its there" to justify spending billions of taxpayer dollars.

      Why? It worked well enough for Iraq.

  • This article conflates the notions of "space exploration" and "manned space exploration." The first of the final points to ponder should be split in two; either half is more significant than the rest put together.

    Why explore space and why send humans into space?

    While I don't have a firm opinion about whether or not sending humans into space is the most effective approach to space exploration, I wish to point out that human payloads are expensive. The risk to human life is a tiny (and insignificant,
  • by John Guilt (464909) * on Monday September 15, 2003 @09:13AM (#6963017)
    ...or something bigger than us, to simultaneously keep us grounded in something like reality and to enbiggen our spirits.

    I can't prove this, this belief might be the result of decades of science fiction reading and a biased reading of the history of the Middle Kingdom, but cultures that interact with forces that don't care about their beliefs seem preferable to me to ones that believe they have it all figured-out and have all they need right there. Space, although its manned exploration will inevitably be a social affair, is not the sort of place that will forgive strong deviations from knowing where you are and what things are like. The feedback loop works better with some connection to a non--socially-constructed reality.

    In the other direction, that of societies that are too interesting, I'm afraid that a society without an actual Outside will find its replacement in internal divisions, that without a Grand Project we'll end up in petty bickering (think of the value of unsuccessful escape plans to the P.O.W.s who are kept busy by them, and believe that they're putting one over on their jailers). As long as we can honestly say, "If we can put a Man on the Moon, why can't we....?" we'll have broader horizons than if the immediate retort is, "No we can't."

    Of course, maybe I just want all the he-men and strong-chinned monosyllabically-named inventor-heroes to clear off for months at a time (and die in larger numbers) so that more {Robert Crumb}-like men like me can have their women.

    Finally, here's some "Lear" on the subject of the importance of non-necessities, at least as a bitter, spoilt, old, men sees it:

    O, reason not the need: our basest beggars
    Are in the poorest thing superfluous:
    Allow not nature more than nature needs,
    Man's life's as cheap as beast's: thou art a lady;
    If only to go warm were gorgeous,
    Why, nature needs not what thou gorgeous wear'st,
    Which scarcely keeps thee warm.
  • by cdn-programmer (468978) <terr@@@terralogic...net> on Monday September 15, 2003 @09:24AM (#6963087)
    It looks like they missed one of the most important reasons: energy.

    ppl should check out www.hubbertpeak.com

    Energy is a BIG problem and the population presently doesn't really grap the issues. Already we have had the 2nd oil war. If anyone doubts this then perhaps a correlation between reserves per captita in Britain and the USA should be done against the reserves in the middle east. Doing same might explain some things.

    In my mind - there is zero doubt we need to go nuclear and we need to start now. Yet the biggest nuclear plant in the solar system is the sun and the best way to harness it is from space. So, IMHO space exploration and technology can be used to offset the need for nuclear plants on earth.

    Yup - we need nuclear but I prefer to have the plant about 93 million miles from my house and that IMHO is a pretty good reason for a space program.

    There is a really good book written by T.A. Heppenheimer that explains this (Colonies in Space). Perhaps with the Chinese planning on a station on the moon the western world will wake up and stop spending their time "administering" and "managing" and start spending more time "doing".

  • by Watts (3033) on Monday September 15, 2003 @09:32AM (#6963133)
    Since nobody has brought it up this time around....

    Space is yet another area to explore, but what about the depths of the ocean? There's ongoing research, but much of it lacks the funding and technology. Sound familiar? The majority of the planet's surface is covered with water, but little of it has been explored in-depth. Sure, we might not have a base on the moon, but we don't have one on the ocean floor either.
  • Hypocrits (Score:3, Interesting)

    by isa-kuruption (317695) <kuruption.kuruption@net> on Monday September 15, 2003 @09:44AM (#6963247) Homepage
    This is the same group of people which applaud China's attempt for manned space missions. Then, the same people criticize the US and NASA for doing it.

    A little bit hypocritical? I'd say so!
  • by jabber01 (225154) on Monday September 15, 2003 @11:26AM (#6964268)
    Eventually, a really big rock will fall on our heads.

    One look at the surface of the Moon should be proof of the inevitability of this fact. It may not happen as soon as 2014, but there is a slight chance that it will happen before then. The odds of it happening increase a little bit every single day, and eventually, there will undoubtedly be "an Earth-shattering KA-BOOM!"

    What we don't know is there, can hurt us. What we do know is there, also can. We might be able to protect ourselves against what we know, but doing so in a panicked hurry is never the best way to do things. And there will always be a chance that it will be a surprise.

    If we are all still here on Earth, when that big rock comes, our being here will end, and it will not matter that we were ever here at all. With the exception of a few chunks of metal we were brave and curious enough to throw out of our solar system, there will be nothing left of us. How sad, that we should eventually be reduced to the gold records and plaques attached to the Voyager probes.

    This is home, and we must protect it. This is also our crib, and it's time we grew the hell up and moved out of our parents basement.
  • Iridium (Score:3, Insightful)

    by barakn (641218) on Monday September 15, 2003 @12:32PM (#6964997)
    He was, of course, referring to the fact that we now know a quite largish meteor crashed into the earth, released poisonous Iridium chemicals into our atmosphere and created a killer cloud above the Earth that blocked out the sun for a prolonged period of time.

    A science writer who is unaware of science. Nobody ever blamed the death of the dinosaurs on iridium from the asteroid. The iridium was merely used as a marker, as the concentration in the asteroid was much higher than Earth's. Iridium compounds may be toxic, but there was not enough to poison an entire planet, just enough to label the ejecta blankets from the impact. The real problems were numerous: tsunamis, spontaneous combustion near secondary impacts, acid rain, release of CO2 and sulfuric acid from vaporized carbonates and evaporites, and light-blocking dust.

  • by Daetrin (576516) on Monday September 15, 2003 @03:07PM (#6966604)
    #1 Satellites (weather)
    #2 Satellites (communications)
    #3 Satellites (communications)
    #4 Satellites (solar power)
    #5 Satellites (communications/weather)
    #6 Satellites (communications/GPS)
    #7 Satellites (military)
    #8 Big rocks are scary and coming to get us!
    #9 Space is cool, damn it!
    #10 ??? - no, seriously, they said top ten reasons but they didn't give a numbered list and only highlighted nine things.
  • by v1 (525388) on Monday September 15, 2003 @07:19PM (#6969299) Homepage Journal

    Is "terrorism" the new buzzword that every report has to include in it as a method of persuasion? It's mentioned in three of the ten reasons for the space program. This "terrorism" fad is really getting old...

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