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Space

Where Are The Space Advocates? 327

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the in-my-house dept.
QuantumG writes "Greg Zsidisin appeared on The Space Show today to ask Where Are The Space Advocates?. For the first time in decades Space is once again a political issue with all four major presidential candidates having something to say about space policy and yet nothing is being heard from space advocates. As we enter a new "Space Nexus" like we did after Apollo, now is a critical time to let your representatives know how you feel about space exploration, and yet no-one has anything to say." The show itself is a podcast if you want to give it a listen. Personally I'm hoping that this election puts space exploration back in the public consciousness- Apollo inspired a generation to learn math and science. I want my kid to be inspired by something bigger than that. And as some readers have noted- there are 3 candidates left (and really only two) so the submitter is probably high.
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Where Are The Space Advocates?

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  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Monday May 12, 2008 @08:36AM (#23377194)
    As someone who is extremely skeptical myself of the value of space exploration, I think it would be just as important to ask conversely "Where are the space critics?" The whole idea of space exploration seems to elicit and great big "ho hum" from the American people now (not sure about the rest of the world). Politicians are neither willing to adequately support it nor actively oppose it. So NASA limps along with neither the funding boost to actually go to the moon/Mars nor the funding cut necessary to move the space program entirely into the private domain.

    Personally, I would love nothing better than the abolish NASA and move this whole thing over to the private sector. If the work is truly as important as NASA supporters assert, they should have no problem getting private funding (as companies like Scaled Composites [wikipedia.org] did). If it isn't that important, and it's just some baby-boomer pipe dream, than the market will reflect that too.

    Either way, the leaders of this country need to make up their mind whether they ACTUALLY want to do what they claim and send men to the moon/Mars (in which case they need to seriously boost NASA's funding) or whether they need to just scrap the whole thing altogether and stop bullshitting us about lofty goals that they have no intention of funding adequately.

  • by Pig Hogger (10379) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [reggoh.gip]> on Monday May 12, 2008 @08:36AM (#23377196) Journal
    The space advocates are not there because there's simply no room for it in the political universe...
  • by N8F8 (4562) on Monday May 12, 2008 @08:36AM (#23377200)
    It's a lot easier to be against things than for them. That's politics. If you are "FOR" something you have to be willign to defend and justify it, repeatedly.
  • Key Difference (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@nOsPam.gmail.com> on Monday May 12, 2008 @08:38AM (#23377226) Journal

    As we enter a new "Space Nexus" like we did after Apollo, now is a critical time to let your representatives know how you feel about space exploration, and yet no-one has anything to say.
    I can't listen to the podcast as I'm at work but I think the key difference now is that people are, on average, more informed about how difficult the logistics are of space travel ... and also about the risks that come with that. On top of that most of us have witnessed the Challenger and Colombia incidents.

    That's not to say that early flight didn't have its fair share of mishaps and deaths but I think it's getting to the point where the only advocates I see for space are those who want it turned over to the private sector. The private sector is a good answer when it's too complicated/expensive/morally questionable for a government.

    It's become pretty clear that travel or tourism has been given to the private sector (as I believe the Russians have given that up) while 'exploration' and 'colonization' are probably still the government's responsibility.

    I'm all for exploration and research-y type things in space but I'm not so sure about colonization or travel yet. I used to be very pro-colonizing other planets after reading a lot of Carl Sagan but now if I were to write my representatives it would be asking them to save Earth first then think about colonization and travel.
  • by hardburn (141468) <hardburn&wumpus-cave,net> on Monday May 12, 2008 @08:52AM (#23377380)

    More likely, NASA will always be around to provide infrastructure and pure exploration. Unmanned private missions, for instance, would almost certainly be focused on searching for specific economically viable resources rather than pure science. NASA will still be useful for missions like the mars rovers.

    Likewise, it's unlikely that a private body would be willing or able to invest in an advanced launch system, such as a space elevator or launch loop. OTOH, like the interstate hiway system, that's exactly the sort of infrastructure that the government could invest in to promote private ventures.

  • by NetSettler (460623) * <kent-slashdot@nhplace.com> on Monday May 12, 2008 @08:58AM (#23377464) Homepage Journal

    As much as I would love the idea of Space Exploration, I'd trade away the budget for serious efforts on Climate Change, since a number of the things we might learn in Space will be irrelevant if we don't solve Climate Change so that we survive at all.

    Then again, if we were going to make a near-term intensive effort to establish a permanent self-sustaining base off-planet, I'd be all for it even with Climate Change dollars. It would seem prudent both as a backup/insurance plan in case we mess up this planet (eliminating some of the "single point of failure" problem we have looming now) and also as a way of gaining data about how to live in inhospitable places (like the Earth is on track to be). Just about any dollars spent on how to manage atmospheres, grow food in artificially controlled ways, etc. seems money well spent. I think the key to making Space palatable for the nearterm is to keep the expenses targeted to those with direct applicability.

    I've recently started to shift my views on the ethics of Terraforming Mars, as Earth's habitability hangs in the balance, and to start to question the ethics of not doing so. It would be fun to discover Life there, but if the price is preserving a few potential microbes there at the expense of possibly losing valuable data that could help to preserve our own planet, that seems a steep and selfish price. Mars is a resource, not to be exploited commercially (which is somewhat how we got into the Climate Change mess), but that might be used strategically. So is the Moon, for that matter, to the extent we can make anything useful of that.

    Sadly, I doubt that either Space or Climate will get attention. Instead, we'll get gas tax holidays so we can keep burning oil until we're like Venus and can't even see the sky.

  • by frith01 (1118539) on Monday May 12, 2008 @09:04AM (#23377522)
    For-Profit Corporations have a focus on next quarters profits, not next decade. Space exploration is only viable on a national level. This blue dot we all live on will not last forever. If the human species is to survive, we must look elsewhere for possibilities. This cannot happen over-night, and we need to use mid-term goals such as a moon /asteroid colony , then mars, then after that who knows ? Even without that argument, there has still been lots of practical gains from space technology research. Taking the hard problems of energy conservation, materials research, and other science research has greatly improved areas in the commercial sector.
  • by theheadlessrabbit (1022587) on Monday May 12, 2008 @09:14AM (#23377652) Homepage Journal
    as a nerd, space exploration really excites me.

    But the rational part of my brain tells me that manned space exploration is of little value, scientifically. We can send probes and rovers to all kids of places that humans can't really get to. it also helps that with robots, there is no moral dilemma when you send them on a one way trip.

    I don't understand why there are only a small number of probes heading into space, I would love to see experiments with different kinds of propulsion, send probes out with ion drives, solar sales, try out the eventually catch up to, and pass voyager.

    how many moons does Saturn have? we should have probes orbiting each of them by now.

    of course, data from probes don't inspire children as much as watching grainy footage of people stepping onto extraterrestrial soil, which is why we need to have a manned space program.

    but manned space flight is pitiful.

    the ISS is a joke. we should have a huge, rotating '2001 a space odyssey' style station up there by now.

    last time i checked, the replacement for the shuttle is a step back to the Apollo style capsule.

    make space a place people want to go to, and put a system in place where the best and brightest, (rather than the richest) get to go.
  • by postbigbang (761081) on Monday May 12, 2008 @09:17AM (#23377714)
    There are additional critics that have watched NASA burn money furiously, put lots of expensive equipment into the ocean instead of space, have engineering standards and production practices that killed astronauts, while performing lots of military work that additionally invades privacy and puts weapons into the sky that have dubious value and effectiveness.

    They've also made themselves a political football at a time when there's an unbelievable amount of money being spent on three different wars-- all but one of them dubious in origin. Add this to asset deflation (the housing crisis), inflation of the currency (790 billion dollars in new money printed by the Fed), high transport costs and deflation of the value of the US currency, and there's litte wonder why NASA's on the back burner.
  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Monday May 12, 2008 @09:22AM (#23377766)
    Hillary Clinton would promise chocolate milk the in the water fountains if it got her elected. Whether she has any intention of actually ever delivering on such bold promises is HIGHLY suspect. And it's a moot point anyway, now. Her campaign is already floating dead in space.
  • by analog_line (465182) on Monday May 12, 2008 @09:29AM (#23377866)

    If you are "FOR" something you have to be willing to defend and justify it, repeatedly.


    Yeah, we call that "the way things ought to work". Too often, however, things don't work like that. WAY too often, we have really great ideas that aren't defended or justified repeatedly, and therefore aren't thought through nearly as well. While I am not personally a "professional skeptic", if you take a position on ANYTHING you'd better be prepared to back it up with evidence if possible, and argument if there isn't any evidence yet (because no one's tried it, or it's impossible to test for one reason or another). Every assertion should be questioned repeatedly and mercilessly, especially ones that will end up transferring other people's resources into something that you think should be done. You know, such sterling examples of crappy ideas that didn't get argued against nearly enough, such as the Cultural Revolution, the second US invasion of Iraq, Chamberlain's appeasement of Hitler, Alan Greenspan's dropping the cost of borrowing to nothing.

    If you have the resources to do something yourself, without outside help, then you don't really need to worry about questions, but don't expect anyone else to care much. If someone wants to go to space, I'm all for letting them, as long as they pay for it.
  • by garett_spencley (193892) on Monday May 12, 2008 @09:39AM (#23377984) Journal
    I'm a huge space geek and it's a life-long dream of mine to get into space.

    However, even under the assumption that Clinton is telling the complete truth and has every intention of keeping those promises I still prefer Obama's position. Simply because space exploration is not something that is going to directly affect me and the quality of my life and those that I love. Not in the next 4 years anyway.

    As a parent I am, however, keenly interested in the quality of early education. I am also interested in taxes, the economy, health care, law and all of those things that actually directly affect how I live on a day to day basis.

    I am dreamer and I want to get to space badly. But I also want a higher quality of life for myself and my loved ones. Space exploration is not going to accomplish that in the near future.

    Disclaimer - I'm not even American so you can disregard everything that I just said as being completely irrelevant. However, I am a Canadian who does business in the US so if it's worth anything your country's political affairs do affect me. If I could vote in both countries I would, but I would need a residence in the US for a certain number of years to apply for dual-citizenship.
  • by bsDaemon (87307) on Monday May 12, 2008 @09:41AM (#23378008)
    The original astronauts were all fighter pilots (with engineerign degrees) who got to wear Omega Speedmaster watches and drive free Corvettes.

    In fact, the original astronauts were a lot like James Bond.

    I was at the NASM last week to check out that UAV exhibit and there were some astronauts there doing a talk about the ISS. It was a bunch of crap from some chunky, balding scientists about how much fun it is to play with your food in 0g.

    Seriously.

    Bring back the seat-of-your-pants, high-adventure space program and people will be totally into it. Columbus didn't cross the Atlantic to see if whipped cream worked the same in America as it did in Europe -- he did it for fortune and the fame that comes with just getting somewhere before anyone else.

    Do the stupid science experiments later. If you want the funding and the future scientist corps to get there, you have to get people interested first. Fat bald guys in blue jump suits are not the way to inspire a generation.
  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Monday May 12, 2008 @09:43AM (#23378028)
    No, I just want to go FORWARD to universal health care, more aid for impoverished nations, and all the other stuff we could be funding ahead of Joe Boomer's dreams of a Flash Gordon future.
  • by eln (21727) on Monday May 12, 2008 @09:44AM (#23378034) Homepage
    Why do people always think solving problems on Earth means you have to ignore space? We are a huge country, and an even bigger planet, with lots of resources. We have enough brainpower and enough resources to take on Earthly problems while still putting more effort into exploring space. Trying to find a cure for cancer does not mean we have to stop trying to find a cure for AIDs.

    Our problem has never been lack of resources, it's poor allocation of those resources.
  • Re:Key Difference (Score:2, Insightful)

    by cthulu_mt (1124113) on Monday May 12, 2008 @09:46AM (#23378062)
    More importantly it was the generation of Iwo Jima, Guadalcanal, Anzio and Normandy.

    They knew what sacrifice was.
  • by japandegreeinit (1028618) on Monday May 12, 2008 @09:53AM (#23378166)
    This is not flamebait, this is simple logic. Studying blackholes takes away billions that could be used on finding new eco-friendly energy sources. The billions wasted on finding water on Mars could be spent on purifying water in Africa. Calling this flamebait is simply a copout not being able to argue the counter position logically. Space exploration is a waste of real resources that are needed here. What does having a better understanding of the universe get us, nothing. By the way, you are the only person I have heard of who thinks that we cannot get two people to agree on feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, or trying to spread peace. But then hey, everyone has the right to an opinion. Just so we sure on that, that right did not come from space exploration, but an exploration here on earth.
  • by vertinox (846076) on Monday May 12, 2008 @09:58AM (#23378252)
    ...until a meteor hits a major city. Then people will be asking why NASA didn't do anything even though they cut their budget to near nothing.
  • by JWW (79176) on Monday May 12, 2008 @10:00AM (#23378276)
    That's what worries me so much about Obama. He's going to encourage kids to go into Math and Science by .... cutting the premier science program that our government is funding.

    On the University level we are seeing good students avoid Math and Science careers LIKE THE PLAGUE. Obama's efforts in education will all be for naught as the good students all go into medicine or law (there can never be enough lawyers right?) Students RIGHT NOW think there will be nothing to do with a career in math or science, when they see Obama cutting the biggest government science and technology program there is American kids will continue to RUN AWAY from math and science, no matter how much money is poured into education.

    We have lost our vision and spirit of adventure/exploration. I'm becoming more and more convinced that we're just going to sit here on Earth until our times up. Fermi was wrong, there may be all kinds of intelligent life in the galaxy, but if they're as shortsighted as we seem to be its very likely that they just sat on their ass and stopped exploring until they died out.
  • by jandersen (462034) on Monday May 12, 2008 @10:02AM (#23378298)
    Ah, yes, the holy and ineffable market. This is what would happen if NASA was abolished and moved over to the private sector: The private sector would seek out the cheapest options and outsource to India and China. I'm not saying this would be bad, just that is what they would most likely do.

    To me, space exploration is not about what is profitable or what would be profitable for a private company - that would be far too limited and shortsighted. It is about basic research, expanding our knowledge into unknown territory. If the onlyresearch that was allowed was what you could see immediate profit in, we wouldn't know anything about electricity, quantum mechanics, mathematics etc etc. The internet that is now considered so hugely important for our economy wouldn't be here - no quantum mechanics => no semiconductors, no maths => no digital computers, no electricity, well need I say more?

    Electricity was nothing more than a curiousity for centuries - first described by the Greeks, as far as I remember. Most of the maths essential for modern technology was no more than intellectual games for a bunch of nerds; a sort of very esoteric philosophy with scarcely any practical relevance. If we don't do basic research, we will end up stagnating sooner or later. I don't think we can afford to be so myopic.
  • by Rycross (836649) on Monday May 12, 2008 @10:26AM (#23378638)

    Studying blackholes takes away billions that could be used on finding new eco-friendly energy sources. The billions wasted on finding water on Mars could be spent on purifying water in Africa.

    Throwing money at a problem doesn't necessarily fix it faster or even fix it at all. Africa's problems haven't been fixed by throwing money at it. Their problems are mostly political and somewhat aggravated by our trade and economic policies in the first world. I haven't seen any evidence or reasoning that throwing NASA's budget at the problem would help.

    Eco-friendly energy had been traditionally killed by the NIMBY problem, politics, and cost-effective technology. Now that the technology has improved and the environment is being put in greater focus, we're starting to see more of a push towards greener technology. I don't see how applying NASA's budget towards this could have helped, especially since NASA is one of the very few organizations left with blue-skies research programs, which are needed for more forward-thinking developments.

    Again, more money does not mean more improvement. Look up the "Law of Diminishing Returns," or maybe take a course in economics.

    Space exploration is a waste of real resources that are needed here. What does having a better understanding of the universe get us, nothing.

    A better understanding of the universe is what drives scientific and technological development. I personally think GPS and satellite communication is pretty darn useful. The problem with blue-skies research is that you never know if you're going to run into dead-ends or come across the next big breakthrough. I'm guessing there were plenty of people who didn't see the value in quantum physics research, but its certainly been a great boon to mankind.

    By the way, you are the only person I have heard of who thinks that we cannot get two people to agree on feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, or trying to spread peace.

    Yeah people agree if you simplify the question to the point of ridiculousness. Now ask those two people how they would like to go about feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, or spreading peace. I'm pretty sure they'll have very different opinions on the matter. You have some people who like to focus on handouts, and other people who would rather focus on "teach a man to fish" methods like the OLPC.

    But then hey, everyone has the right to an opinion. Just so we sure on that, that right did not come from space exploration, but an exploration here on earth.

    I don't see how the two are mutually exclusive. Well, I guess it is if you have an overly simplistic, zero-sum view of the world. Luckily a lot of people don't have that problem.

    Or would you like to provide evidence that the few billion we put into space research would make a real dent at any of the worlds problems (which are, again, mostly political)? As it is now, your argument is entirely emotion-based.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 12, 2008 @10:26AM (#23378642)
    So who was the fourth "Major candidate"? If TFA is by some Ron Paul fantasy-land kook then the required grain of salt will be much larger (should I ever choose to listen to it.)
  • by J05H (5625) on Monday May 12, 2008 @10:29AM (#23378700) Homepage
    The root of the issue is that us space advocates are busy. Many of us are involved in aerospace or technology companies and don't have as much time for advocacy. Others have given up, retired or are still establishing their networks. There is an amazing generation coming up right now that is passionate about space. One thing however: NASA is increasingly irrelevant even to those that work there. Private and military space are where the action is. SpaceX, SpaceDev, Virgin, etc and AFRL have so much more going on. NASA is a politically-correct football that gets kicked around. Not to diss to much, they do the impossible and make it look easy. It's just that what NASA does best (Robot probes, basic research) has been superseded by what they do mediocre: operations.

    Space is not just about "exploration" - and NASA is not going to do any colonizing - that is the venue of private activity.

    Personally, I'm to busy working and keeping my wife in grad school to worry about March Storm and ISDC.
  • by ThreeE (786934) on Monday May 12, 2008 @10:32AM (#23378756)
    The reason private firms don't invest in those things is that that don't make any sense today -- financially or otherwise. Why should my tax dollars be used for such senseless things? I know, my government already invests in senseless things. But that doesn't justify investing in more senseless things.

    And don't say "just like the interstate highway system." The only reason that seems to have made sense is that you aren't looking at what we could have done with those dollars instead.
  • by ardor (673957) on Monday May 12, 2008 @10:34AM (#23378788)

    the billions going into space would be better spent stopping world war 3 down here.
    I'd rather spend the TRILLIONS that go into the wars and the weapons R&D. When will people learn that NASA isn't even in the top 100 of the US' tax money sinks?
  • by ardor (673957) on Monday May 12, 2008 @10:42AM (#23378892)
    Don't touch the space program. Cut military funds. Even 1% of the military budget is more than you could ever get from destroying and forbidding space exploration.

    Space exploration isn't the huge money sink. The military is. The Iraq war alone costs over 20 times more than NASA's budget. So go and argue against senseless wars and DoD contracts for yet more deadly weapons.
  • by Chibi Merrow (226057) <mrmerrow@@@monkeyinfinity...net> on Monday May 12, 2008 @10:49AM (#23379016) Homepage Journal
    Your ignorance is astounding. That alone is not entirely surprising or disheartening, but what really has me depressed is the fact that I know there's probably hundreds of thousands of people out there who think just like you and will happily destroy useful research and progress for the sake of "helping humanity".

    Let me be a geek and dissect you piece by piece for a bit...

    This is not flamebait, this is simple logic.

    Emphasis mine. One of those words describes your "argument" rather well. It also describes you rather succinctly. The other word has little to do with you or the diarrhea of the mouth/keyboard you seem to be suffering from. I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader to determine which.

    Studying blackholes takes away billions that could be used on finding new eco-friendly energy sources.

    Interesting. "Studying black holes" in particular generally does not take "billions", at least not on a yearly basis. That's done mostly with computer simulation and radio telescopes, the cost of which is spread out nicely over their long life spans. And funnily enough, theoretical physics research of that sort leads nicely into exotic "clean" power production research. Granted that's a tree that probably won't bear fruit in yours or my lifetime, but when/if it does it will as big of a chance to the human race as tool use was for our ancestors, perhaps even more. The fact that you'd even compare those two things makes me wonder if I'm just falling for a really clever troll...

    The billions wasted on finding water on Mars could be spent on purifying water in Africa.

    You realize these costs are not mutually exclusive, don't you? You realize that understanding how the climate of Mars has changed helps us better understand how our own climate may behave in the future and better deal with problems like desertification? You realize that two the Mars rovers didn't cost $1billion combined? And have probably provided us more knowledge on Mars' climate history than the sum total of all missions before them? Meanwhile we send billions in aid to Africa every year and (at least the way the news paints it) it only gets worse there every day...

    Calling this flamebait is simply a copout not being able to argue the counter position logically.

    It's hard to counter an illogical person who's argument is driven by emotion with logic, as said person generally does not bother to recognize the logic they are being presented with.

    Space exploration is a waste of real resources that are needed here.

    Can you point to what resources are being wasted on space exploration and are therefore not available to humanitarian efforts? And don't say money--we spend more money on humanitarian aid EVERY YEAR than we did the previous year, and see less for it. Meanwhile the trend for the past three decades has been to spend less on space every year, and yet our rate of return just keeps going up...

    What does having a better understanding of the universe get us, nothing.

    This. Right here. This almost leaves me speechless. That you could actually believe that a greater understanding of how the Universe works is not in itself beneficial is mind boggling. It's infuriating. It makes me wonder if I'm just being trolled really hard, except I know that there are others out there like you. How can you be so blind?

    Even ignoring for a moment why knowing how the FABRIC OF THE UNIVERSE is put together is beneficial, you certainly can't be ignorant of all the advances in the sciences that have come from the space program that daily improve people's lives? What we've gained in material sciences alone is incredible. The medical field has benefited enormously, as well. You want to purify water in Africa? Where do you think the cutting edge research is being done in water purification and recycl

  • by dpilot (134227) on Monday May 12, 2008 @10:55AM (#23379090) Homepage Journal
    > you aren't looking at what we could have done with those dollars instead.

    What would you have done with those dollars, instead? I suspect the common libertarian answer would have been to reduce taxes and allow people to keep the money. Then the free market would have stepped someone up to the plate to begin building a nationwide network of toll roads that though not free, would have provided better road service at no taxpayer expense.

    A countering Carnegie-type argument would have been, "Why let the workers have more than minimal wage, when they're just going to spend it on booze and gambling?" Then the counter-Carnegie argument is that if your were really restricting workers' pay on principle, you should have educated their children, instead of simply increasing your own wealth. It's telling that Carnegie worked hard to give away his fortune before he died, but IMHO educating the workers' kids might have been a better legacy for at least part of the money.

    Back to topic... One could argue that the highway example you mention has been done recently, with broadband. The government has not done any sort of broadband deployment the way they did highway or rural electrification or even regulated telephone deployments. As a result, it's perfectly obvious that US industry has stepped up to the plate and provided the US with the BEST broadband in the world, at the lowest prices.

    Government may be incredibly stupid, but they have no monopoly on the attribute.
  • by dpilot (134227) on Monday May 12, 2008 @10:58AM (#23379144) Homepage Journal
    Heck, if you really want to make a difference on those things, don't pick on space exploration. At the very least, space exploration drives technology development and brings its benefits back to the marketplace manyfold. Plus space exploration is seriously underfunded right now, and there just isn't that much money in it. If you want some serious money to apply to worthy goals, go after corporate welfare.
  • Not quite (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MarkusQ (450076) on Monday May 12, 2008 @11:14AM (#23379400) Journal

    The market discounts all future cash flow -- near and long term -- by an appropriate discount (risk) factor.

    Not quite. The market discounts future cash flow by a factor based on the estimate of the risk. Humans are notoriously bad at doing such calculations often being off by orders of magnitude in either direction once you enter the realm of big consequences and low probabilities. People buy lottery tickets, will walk in the middle of the street at night during a rain storm (presumably because the trees along the sides of the road increase your chance of getting hit by lightning), invest huge amounts of money in companies that sell dog food over the internet and so on.

    Space exploitation is risky, yes, but the risks are, objectively, dwarfed by the rewards. The market is simply failing to properly weigh the risks and the benefits.

    For just one example, consider the fact that sending a couple of dozen people to the moon in the 60s (including developing much of the technology and building much of the infrastructure from scratch) cost roughly $100B in today's dollars, or less than 20% of what the Iraq war has cost. In addition, the Apollo program gave us a huge number of ancillary benefits and made subsequent operations (e.g. Skylab much cheaper). Putting an amount of effort (money, mandate, and manpower) less than what we've sunk into Iraqi (and with substantially lower loss of life) into space-based solar power would get us complete independence from foreign oil, go a long way towards solving global warming, and probably have huge side benefits that we can't even conceive of yet. Given the facts, it would seem a no brainer to support such a program if it weren't for the human tendency to grossly misestimate risks. But a handful of astronauts dying spectacularly on national television makes space exploitation seem far riskier (at an emotional level at least) than thousands of people dying quietly in a war somewhere. So we go for the more expensive, more dangerous plan with the lower payoff based on a flawed risk assessment.

    --MarkusQ

  • Re:Key Difference (Score:4, Insightful)

    by elrous0 (869638) * on Monday May 12, 2008 @11:35AM (#23379652)
    No one has ever even figured out how to set up a working independent biosphere here on earth. Maybe we should focus on that much simpler task before we go off building moonbases.
  • by smitty_one_each (243267) * on Monday May 12, 2008 @11:58AM (#23380020) Homepage Journal

    want to go FORWARD to universal health care
    I respect your right to this opinion.
    Will you respect my right to want no part of this?
    Those who want to embed this concept at the federal government level are respectfully encouraged to get it passed as a Constitutional Amendment.
    With a Constitutional Amendment in place, Constitution-lovers like me can shut up about what a corruption of the ideas present in that document these socialized ideas appear to be.
  • by Waste55 (1003084) on Monday May 12, 2008 @12:38PM (#23380670)
    I may be the odd man out here by supporting space & NASA (I work Orion CEV, though not a civil servant) while also being a slashdot user, but I still stand by my beliefs.

    I will first start by providing a handful of links to other advocate groups, spin-off pages, etc., then go into why I personally support it, and finally go into where I see room for improvements.

    The Links
    The Planetary Society [planetary.org]
    The Coalition for Space Exploration [spacecoalition.com]
    Space.com [space.com]
    NASA Spin-off Library [nasa.gov]
    NASA @ Home and City [nasa.gov]

    Now on to why I personally support manned space: I will try to keep it short and high-level. (No particular order to the numbering)

    1. Study of survival in harsh environments.
    I both fear & assume that one day our planet will eventually become an extremely harsh environment to survive in. I feel that the more we know about biology and microbiology issues such as water & food purification (ISS, Shuttle Purification [nasa.gov], Water and Food Analytical Laboratory (WAFAL) [nasa.gov]) within limited and harsh environments, the better off we could be when we reach that time in our existence. (There are also many other areas of study that go along with survival than life sciences, such as human physiology.)

    2. Colonization of other moons and planets.
    Essentially this goes along with #1. It would be nice to have some options and prior knowledge when Earth is nearing its end.

    3. Origin of our Planets.
    I believe the more we know and understand about the origin of our planets the better. If we can somehow "prove" our origin and debunk the majority of Religious views I feel we will be better off. I believe Religion to be the root cause of the majority of wars and violence on this planet. I also believe that people who are barley surviving often resort to violence to help themselves survive.

    4. Costs vs Return.
    Here I'm just going to sum-up this page [spacecoalition.com]. NASA's budget is 0.7 of 1% of the nations total. We spend about $9 Billion per month [about.com] killing other humans. "In 2002, the commercial space industry contributed more than $95 billion in U.S. economic activity".

    4.Spin-Offs.
    While it may be a sub-set of the other advantages, I still believe the majority of Spin-offs [nasa.gov] benefit humans "down here".


    Where can we improve?
    (Again, no particular order)

    1. Public Relations.
    I believe the public needs more knowledge coming from the space community about both the benefits and obstacles of space exploration. I believe many of the reasons people have a negative attitude about it is because they are ill-informed. Stop playing with space food on TV and making everything look like a cake-walk, and show the real low-level experiments being ran up there. THIS is what will inspire people!

    2. Inspire our Youth.
    Again, this goes along with #1. With politicians trying to get more math and science students just by cutting funds here, adding funds there (Obama, I'm looking at YOU), you still won't be motivating people to work hard and study these subjects. The one thing that actually got me (mentally) through college was my goal of working on the space program. With no motivation and inspiration, you will loose students in these subjects, not gain them!

    3. Expand Robotic\Un-manned Space.
    I believe that expanding our robotic side of space exploration will have an overall benefit, but needs to co-exist with the manned
  • Re:MWDs? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Alzheimers (467217) on Monday May 12, 2008 @01:04PM (#23381116)
    And how is it "irresponsible and dangerous" to allow someone else to have space superiority? Is it that only we are smart and moral enough to be trusted with it?

    While the US certainly haven't had the greatest track record when it comes to dictating morality to the rest of the world, there are others who have done a lot worse with the power they've had. As a member of the home team, I would much rather it fall to our responsibility to maintain order than to rely on another nation that has very different interests to serve.
  • Agreed (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MarkusQ (450076) on Monday May 12, 2008 @01:59PM (#23382014) Journal

    Research and Development can usually be mirrored nicely as science and engineering.

    Agreed. My point is that, while you can do science without knowing what it is you are studying, it is essentially impossible to do engineering this way. No one in the real world builds something and then turns it on with a dramatic flourish to find out what they've invented.

    --MarkusQ

"Probably the best operating system in the world is the [operating system] made for the PDP-11 by Bell Laboratories." - Ted Nelson, October 1977

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