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Can Space Nerds Get Along? 161 161

An anonymous reader writes "The Space Review asks whether space enthusiasts can ever get past the humans/robots and private/government flamewars. The article argues that space politics is a non-zero-sum game, and that space science, human spaceflight and private spaceflight can all co-exist. The debate between space and Earth is resolved in the same way: a non-zero-sum game that supports both Earth projects and space projects."
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Can Space Nerds Get Along?

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  • by Broken scope (973885) on Monday July 30, 2007 @09:30AM (#20041689) Homepage
    You know your right, no one has ever died under the watchful eye of NASA.
  • We DO (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DynaSoar (714234) on Monday July 30, 2007 @09:35AM (#20041743) Journal
    We do get along. People on all sides of the arguments are doing it for the same reason, to get the most bang for the buck. No matter what program we champion in planning and design, everyone stands and cheers when the selected program flies.

    OK, maybe there's a few like Bob Park (http://www.bobpark.org/) that rants on and on about robots even when people fly, but he's not a space nerd, he's a politics nerd who thinks too much that the space program applies to him personally. Other than those few, the idea what we bicker bitterly is once again a media construct -- they have to make news where none exists to fill the white space. That's why when they need filler, they go to those few, if anyone at all.

  • by LordBafford (1087463) on Monday July 30, 2007 @09:36AM (#20041749) Homepage
    Zing!, considering the private sector is just getting into the gig i would expect some complications, and it is always inevitable that someone is going to die do anything. But with NASA the public will never be able to go into space flight, where as with private companies, it may be expensive, but the public can go into space for a brief moment.

    Hopefully with privately owned space flight in the works, it may help with the travel times across the globe.
  • Human Exploration (Score:5, Insightful)

    by WED Fan (911325) <akahige@trashmai ... minus herbivore> on Monday July 30, 2007 @09:36AM (#20041751) Homepage Journal

    Human exploration has always been about the inner struggle. Collectively, we watch struggles and use those that struggle as proxies. Our souls go with them, be it a sporting match, a voyage across the world, or a rocket into space.

    In the end, the human involvement in space exploration, the human touching foot on a ground that is not Terran, is about the expansion of the human experience and the human soul. It is not about the attendant science, its about Man's struggles, triumphs, defeats, and lessons.

    The science can be done by robots.

  • by Silver Sloth (770927) on Monday July 30, 2007 @09:36AM (#20041761)
    A comunity that can expend so much wasted energy debating the relative merits of vi vs emacs, or the one true brace, simply isn't built to co-operate like that. Part of the passion which drives the better technicians is an inability to compromise. Our individual strengths are our collective weaknesses
  • Get along? Never. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Jeff DeMaagd (2015) on Monday July 30, 2007 @09:38AM (#20041777) Homepage Journal
    I don't know how much members of an open source software oriented site can say about those kinds of arguments without looking hypocritical at the same time. vi vs. emacs, command line vs. GUI, BSD vs GPL, BSD vs Linux, the language arguments and so on. I think getting beyond the arguments is the mature thing to do, but that's not an easy thing either.
  • Until we get humanity out of the solar system, the true future of mankind is doomed. It is certain that an extinction event will happen to the earth, and to the solar system. Yes it may take eons for these events to happen, but why not get our asses off this minuscule planet and spread out?

  • by kebes (861706) on Monday July 30, 2007 @09:59AM (#20042053) Journal

    vi vs. emacs, command line vs. GUI, BSD vs GPL, BSD vs Linux, the language arguments and so on.
    I think it's crucially important to distinguish between "pointless flamewar" and "productive debate." For each of the "vs." you described (and for the ones from TFA), we can find examples of both kinds of disputes. Arguing the subtle differences between BSD and Linux (or trying to prove that one is "better" in some way or for some task) is crucial to the continual improvement in these things. The FOSS movement is about many things--and open debate is certainly one of them. This open discussion leads to alot of "productive debate"... although it also leads to the occasional "pointless flamewar."

    The implication in your post was that the various arguments in the open-source community do more harm than good. I would argue just the opposite: although flamewars are not a good thing, overall the open debate that the open-source crowd engages in is a productive way to "get it right" and improve the state of the art. I should also note that despite the intensity of these debates, no one (that I'm aware of) actually takes them to the extreme of violence. At worst, people get their feelings hurt. I should also note that the egregious examples of flamewars and trolling are not unique to the FOSS movement--those trolls don't even care about the topic at hand, and just switch to some other "hot topic" when on another discussion board. You can't really blame FOSS for the universal existence of assholes.

    Similarly, I just don't see the disagreement in space enthusiasts and scientists. They debate, sure... but that is precisely what is needed to determine optimal solutions.

    I think getting beyond the arguments is the mature thing to do, but that's not an easy thing either.
    No... Avoiding debate is not the answer. I would rather argue that the mature thing to do is to not get overly emotional in the debates. Arguments are a good thing--that's how progress is made. Maturity is knowing how to think rationally in a debate, and to change your mind when others have presented compelling evidence or logic.
  • Doesn't matter (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sveard (1076275) on Monday July 30, 2007 @10:02AM (#20042095) Homepage
    I doesn't matter, Nerds will not get to call the shots -- the people with money will, and they will create policy and direct the nerds, while the nerds will keep fighting.
  • by hey! (33014) on Monday July 30, 2007 @11:06AM (#20042913) Homepage Journal
    When he passes out, steal his wallet.

    Seriously, we are talking about a zero sum game over the short term .

    The reason has to do with marginal gains. The greatest marginal gains in manned spaceflight we'll ever see were in its first fifteen years. Currently robotic exploration provides the greatest bang for the buck, including in improving technologies needed for the next leap in manned flight. We can leap over the immediate marginal discrepancies by spending lots and lots more money on manned missions. Given enough money, it is possible that we can outperform the same investment in exclusively robotic missions. Given the money I think we will see spent on it, serious near term advances in human spaceflight is not going to come from public funding.

    A realistic program to put a people on Mars in ten or twelve years would be great. But a vague plan for a manned Mars landing that is four Presidential administrations off does less for every priority, even manned space exploration, at more cost. The space budget will be siphoned off into paper projects and technology demonstrations that, despite budget busting expense, will be inconclusive and too infrequent to build a strong experience base from.

    Consider this. Mercury program: twenty-one unmanned flights, seven manned flights. Gemini: two unmanned flights, twelve manned flights. Apollo (up to but not including first landing): aproximately twenty four unmanned flights, five manned.

    Total: forty seven major unmanned flights, twenty four manned flights before we had the experience and proven technology to land on the moon. A huge fraction of the "manned" space program was in fact unmanned.

    Naturally this takes nothing from the fact that manned flights were much more expensive and elaborate. But each mission, manned or unmanned, was a rung in the ladder of achievement that culminated on the moon. Where are the intermediate rungs on the ladder to Mars? Yes, I agree manned and unmanned exploration are a plus sum game in the long term. However, this doesn't mean the best way to spend your money is on everything at once. You put your money on what returns the biggest return you can afford. I'd love to invest in Berkshire Hathaway stock, but at $110,000/share, it's too rich a game for me. I'd love to see a real manned Mars mission in my lifetime, but rejiggering the existing budget and throwing in a bit of spare change isn't going to pay for one.

    I'd propose we use the same money that would go into a mythical multi-generational manned Mars mission into becoming, very quickly, good at executing Mars missions. In other words, lets do lots of expendable, frequent unmanned missions until we know how to do Mars really well. At that point, a manned expedition within a short time is much more realistic and desirable, both because of our improved expertise, and because a manned mission represents something different, something with higher marginal return.

    I think that manned space exploration is better targeted at Earth orbit missions for now. Again the objective should be developing expertise that makes it more routine. Do we really believe we have what it takes to undertake a responsible manned Mars mission in ten years? I don't. More experience in orbit will yield more expertise per dollar, as well as open up new possibilities for applied science and technology that could offset the cost.

    And, we should not neglect orbital study of the Earth.

    That's quite enough to be doing with the money we're likely to have. It's also more likely to result in a manned Mars mission in our lifetime.
  • by weopenlatest (748393) on Monday July 30, 2007 @11:12AM (#20042991)
    I get as excited about space exploration as much as the next guy, but the argument that we need to get out of the solar system to further the cause of humanity is way off base. The fact is, we are not leaving the solar system any time soon. Even with an incredibly aggressive space program, it's hard to imagine even sending a couple of astronauts to the next star within the next hundred years. What is easy to imagine happening in the next hundred years is catastrophic climate change (perhaps sped up by a CO2 spewing space program), famine, disease, war, and any number of other real problems here on Earth. Spending billions on a space exploration program while doing little to halt climate change or provide for a growing world is not just foolish, it's almost criminal. Lets keep the space program small and focus our energies on other things. If we can focus humanities efforts and get through the next 100 years space exploration will live to see it's day. If we push hard now at the expense of more crucial projects, we may find ourselves on a desolate planet and no closer to the stars.
  • by WED Fan (911325) <akahige@trashmai ... minus herbivore> on Monday July 30, 2007 @11:33AM (#20043259) Homepage Journal

    Human space exploration isn't about the soul, it's about wishful thinking. It's about science fiction and baby-boomer dreams of alien worlds and moonbases. It's about wasting a lot of money on the conceit that humans are not alone and that it's either possible to make contact with other intelligent lifeforms or useful to travel to the sterile, hostile rocks of our own solar system.

    To apply your thinking to situations already past or currently present:

    • We wouldn't have spaghetti - Marco Polo would not have made the journey
    • Half the world would not know about the other half, Cortez, Columbus, Magelen, Drake would not have sailed
    • We wouldn't have the Pyramids, because building the biggest and strongest is part of the exploration spirit - the quest for knowledge
    • Stonehenge wouldn't be puzzling you, because the ancients that built it wouldn't have tried to understand stars and cycles of their world
    • Half the medicines from the modern age wouldn't exist

    It is the quest that is built into our souls. It is not science fiction. It is the desire to know and to find out what is around the corner. When you have a significant sized population, the desire to start discovering, the desire to move a small fraction of that population to somewhere new takes root. Westward expansion, landbridge migrations, ocean expeditions all have their roots in this. Always preceded by an intrepid few who blaze the trail and bring back news.

    elrous0, you may wish to sit and stagnate, but there are those who will always move humanity forward to newer more glorious fields. We wish you luck, but in the end, we also leave you behind us.

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Monday July 30, 2007 @12:20PM (#20043955)
    Alaska had oxygen, water, survivable atmospheric pressure, and food--and was a few weeks journey away. A better analogy would be the bottom of the ocean, and how many colonies have we built THERE?
  • by oohshiny (998054) on Monday July 30, 2007 @01:01PM (#20044585)
    No, it's not a "zero sum game". NASA probably gets more money overall if they take on manned projects, but they still end up cutting science projects. So, technically, it's not a zero sum game, but science still loses when projects like a manned mission to Mars appear.
  • by arivanov (12034) on Monday July 30, 2007 @03:08PM (#20046493) Homepage
    This is a matter of perception.

    The Northern Pacific and the Arctic were as difficult for the 17 and 18th century seafarer as the space is for us nowdays. May I remind you that prior to Vitus Bering and Chirikov every single attempt to explore the area has ended with a loss of the ship and all hands. Bering payed his life and the life of half of his crew for just mapping the southern coast of Alaska and the Aleut chain. So did many crews after him.

    Actually our current is more the level of Amundsen and the Fram which happily travelled around the area freezing in ice for prolonged periods when necessary. So can we in space. We cannot get fast from A to B, but we already possess the technology level to do so slowly.

    Yep, it is not the level of an Arctica class icebreaker which can nowdays sail around the arctic from the Barentz to Alaska and back as it sees fit, but before you build one you have to go through the sufferings of early discoveries and through long and tedious voyages on the Fram.

    Sorry if the analogy seems far fetched. IMO it is not.

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." -- Albert Einstein