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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 @09:36AM (#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.

    • 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.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ThreeE (786934)
        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 dpilot (134227) on Monday May 12, 2008 @11:55AM (#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.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Bassman59 (519820)

            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.

            So the people who pay tolls are not taxpayers?

            -a
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by vajaradakini (1209944)
            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.

            Are you sure about this business of the US having the cheapest and best broadband? This [bbc.co.uk] BBC article seems to be under the impression that Japan's got some pretty sweet broadband and that the Swedes tend to get the cheap broadband and this [websiteoptimization.com] place seems to think that the US doesn't rank in the top 10 in broadband penetration, which I wouldn't assum
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by frith01 (1118539)
      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 resea
    • by Alzheimers (467217) on Monday May 12, 2008 @10:13AM (#23377646)
      Don't think for a minute that NASA exists purely for humanitarian reasons. The reason it's becoming such a focus of political attention now is the same reason it did back in the during the Cold War - because of Space's importance in national security.

      With the other developing superpowers quickly approaching the same level of access as the shuttle currently has, and some with ambitions to reach even further, the US Government can't afford to fall behind and lose the advantage of it's head start. China and India have both announced plans to revisit the moon -- something the US doesn't even currently have the capacity to do again. With Mars being the next great frontier, who will be the first to develop the technologies that will take us there? In a hundred years, what will be the ramifications of ceding the first foothold there?

      Aside from the political aspect of being the dominant space power, there are also tremendous military technologies that come from developing for the space program, not to mention tactical advantages that can result from dominating space. From "innocuous" threats like shutting down enemy sattelites, to the real potential for MWDs parked in LEO over your enemies, there is a very real necessity for the space program to remain part of the government.

      Private technology companies should have greater access and receive more funding, and further research into the depths of space will always require international cooperation and support. However, the US has reached the deadline of being the "Sole superpower" in the world, and once again must make the effort to compete in a global technology race. Anything less than a total commitment to being the leader in space technology would be irresponsible and dangerous.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by renoX (11677)
        > Space's importance in national security.

        Space's importance in national security mostly end with upper satelite orbits, what importance did landing on the Moon have on USA national security compared to sending satelites in upper orbit?
        None, so why should landing on Mars be considered differently?

        As for the technology benefits, sure investing to invent/refine new technology is important, but this doesn't mean investing for Mars exploration..

    • by postbigbang (761081) on Monday May 12, 2008 @10:17AM (#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 mea37 (1201159) on Monday May 12, 2008 @10:17AM (#23377716)
      The market reflects what is near-term profitable. Don't conflate near-term profitability with importance.

      Regardless, lets suppose we privatize space exploration, and a handful of entrepreneurs, with the gifts of great foresight and deep pockets, step forward. They make great strides. They drive the R&D for space-related tech, so they end up owning the spin-offs. They control the orbital research, so maybe they start amassing patents from that.

      Now years down the road, space travel becomes really important, and they're poised to make a huge profit. Are we (as a society) prepared to let them profit for their decades of investment, or will we claim that this undeserving elite is trying to exploit our need from a position of unfair advantage?
      • by nschubach (922175)
        Not to mention... Who owns the land on the moon? This is the reason I think NASA will always remain under the control of the government. Heaven forbid someone finds a way to live on other planets/moons and sends out a new age Mayflower with enough intelligence to write up a "Constitution" without any loopholes that will be manipulated by greedy "representatives."
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sckeener (137243)

        Now years down the road, space travel becomes really important, and they're poised to make a huge profit. Are we (as a society) prepared to let them profit for their decades of investment, or will we claim that this undeserving elite is trying to exploit our need from a position of unfair advantage?

        I think C. J. Cherryh [wikipedia.org] has covered this frequently in her books...

        In particular, your example would fit well with Foreigner [wikipedia.org]series....in that case Humans were already space explorers, but had to colonize a world already filled with sentient life because of an accident. Admittedly the books are more space opera and dealing with the interactions of different species' views...however the core issue is man has space technology and when the Atevi attain the level of tech capable of space exploration...all the i

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by jtseng (4054)

      Personally, I would love nothing better than the abolish NASA and move this whole thing over to the private sector.
      Does anyone know how I can buy shares in Weyland-Yutani? [wikipedia.org]
    • by jandersen (462034) on Monday May 12, 2008 @11:02AM (#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.
    • Alot of ppl want to bash the space critic here, but to be honest
      we got ppl living under bridges.

      We got thousands dead from a storm in the former Burmese state.

      And WW III is about to kick off over oil reserves in the middle
      east cause we still have to find things on earth to burn for power.

      3 things down here on the ground should be addressed first.

      1) a replacement for oil so WW III might be averted
      2) world wide weather/tsunami/hurricane/volcano warning system
      3) permaculture food sources for the 3rd world

      Some
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      the market will reflect that too
      Fuck the market. If we leave it up to the market, here's the future of space exploration:

      1. Well-healed tourists cavort around in LEO, calling friends from the seatback space phones and exclaiming that earth looks like "a great big globe!"
      2. Survivor: ISS
      3. Girls Gone Wild, Zero Gee Edition

      On the plus side, we can use the energy produced by Clarke spinning in his grave to power Sri Lanka for a few years.
  • by Pig Hogger (10379) <pig.hoggerNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday May 12, 2008 @09:36AM (#23377196) Journal
    The space advocates are not there because there's simply no room for it in the political universe...
    • by dattaway (3088)
      Wars make more money. The media is all for it and against it. More companies are lobbying for war contracts than space contracts. That's where the money is. We went to the moon and didn't find oil.
    • What we need are some big charts that say something along the lines of "Increased space funding shows historical link to lower gas prices." It's technically correct, the best kind of correct. We used to spend more on space. We used to have lower gas prices. Is anyone seriously worried that the public at large will understand correlation isn't causation or statistics at all. It would work, and you all know it would!
    • by scorp1us (235526)
      Excerpted from RP2008 [ronpaul2008.com], a discussion about charity, which in the limited usefulness of space exploration the space program is. I assume you could say it employs people, but those people would have no problem working other places as well.

      If you had the right to give anything, the amount was simply a matter of discretion with you, and you had as much right to give $20,000,000 as $20,000. If you have the right to give at all; and as the Constitution neither defines charity nor stipulates the amount, you are at
    • by vertinox (846076) on Monday May 12, 2008 @10:58AM (#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 N8F8 (4562) on Monday May 12, 2008 @09:36AM (#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.
    • by FooAtWFU (699187)

      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.
      Willing, and able.

      You'll need more than rhetoric about "it inspires the little kids into Science!" and "we need to get off Earth ASAP!!! zomg" lines. Also, the "it brings us new technologies, like Tang!" bit grows weak.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by analog_line (465182)

      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

      • by jcgf (688310)

        While I am not personally a "professional skeptic",

        and

        Every assertion should be questioned repeatedly and mercilessly

        That's how I would define a "professional skeptic". Or did you mean that you don't get paid? Meaning you are an "amateur skeptic" as I am an "amateur radio operator"?

        • By professional skeptic, I mean people like the Skeptic Society [skeptic.com] and the various other people that go around actively trying to disprove stuff. And as for amateur skeptic, I'm not one of those either. Questioning everything, even things you personally think are correct isn't limited to the UFOs, magical powers, or the existence of a deity. Moral systems aren't defined by the physical world in the way that planetary systems are (the sun isn't good or bad, it is). I've got a huge pile of unfinished argumen
    • Mod points always run out too early.

      This isn't true in politics only - it's always harder to create than destroy.

  • Key Difference (Score:5, Insightful)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn@@@gmail...com> on Monday May 12, 2008 @09:38AM (#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.
    • On top of that most of us have witnessed the Challenger and Colombia incidents.

      Apollo 1 didn't stop us...why should Columbia and Challenger?
  • canidates stances (Score:5, Informative)

    by OrochimaruVoldemort (1248060) on Monday May 12, 2008 @09:40AM (#23377256) Journal
    Hillary: enhance American leadership in space, including:
    Pursuing an ambitious 21st century Space Exploration Program, by implementing a balanced strategy of robust human spaceflight, expanded robotic spaceflight, and enhanced space science activities.
    Developing a comprehensive space-based Earth Sciences agenda, Promoting American leadership in aeronautics by reversing funding cuts to NASA's and FAA's aeronautics R&D budget.

    Barack: Obama's early education and K-12 plan package costs about $18 billion per year. He will maintain fiscal responsibility and prevent any increase in the deficit by offsetting cuts and revenue sources in other parts of the government. The early education plan will be paid for by delaying the NASA Constellation Program for five years

    McCain: When asked about their candidates' positions on the moon-Mars project, a spokeswoman for Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) did not respond.

    All of this can be found at Space dot com [space.com].
    • by elrous0 (869638) * on Monday May 12, 2008 @10:22AM (#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 Kamokazi (1080091)
      Wow. That's the first thing Hilary has said that I like.

      Of course, whether or not this is yet another one of her statments where she was just saying what the crowd wanted to hear and probably has no plans to follow through is another matter entirely.

      McCain's spokesperson probably didn't respond because she probably didn't know for certain. I would be willing to bet he's going to try and at least see it through on a normal schedule, since Bush had been pushing it. Could be wrong though.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        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
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Sciros (986030)
      So..
      Hillary: pro (for now)
      Obama: against
      McCain: mysterious

      I'm not one to really take any positivie promises from politicians at face value prior to an election, so the only response I take seriously there is Obama's... and I can't say I'm happy with it :-/
      • by lubricated (49106)
        I wouldn't call Hillary pro, unless she doesn't just spit out bullshit, but also actually proposes how she intends to pay for it.
    • by JWW (79176) on Monday May 12, 2008 @11:00AM (#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.
    • Nice new expert comparo btw Obama, McCain (and Hillary) on space policies here: http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/air_space/4260504.html?series=46 [popularmechanics.com]
  • by Tisha_AH (600987) <Tisha.Hayes@gmail.com> on Monday May 12, 2008 @09:41AM (#23377268) Journal
    There is an advocacy group for space exploration.

    http://www.planetary.org/home/ [planetary.org]

    The Planetary Society has excellent programs and pushes for further exploration of space.

    If you are really interested, join. I really had an interest in the solar sail to propel probes into deep space.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 12, 2008 @09:43AM (#23377288)
    I can think of 2 big science issues.

    1) Fusion.
        1a) The unintended effects of fusion on the biosphere and how to fix 'em.
    2) The study of biology.
        2a) What man does not know about the the effects of what your grandparents/parents did and how you became a human is only being hinted at. What we do not know about the chemistry from conception to birth is only, again, hinted at with what research has been done.

    Fusion would be the next 'energy source upgrade' (that or the theorized zero point) and being able to 'upgrade' or 'fix' humans sure sounds a whole heck of a lot bigger than a rocket.
    • by FooAtWFU (699187)
      The "other" energy source upgrade in these parts would be some sort of deep drilling for geothermal. Some sort of "singularity engine" black hole deal is also theoretically possible. But zero-point energy is ridiculous.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by The_Wilschon (782534)

      the theorized zero point

      Zero point energy as an energy source has never been theorized except by crackpots who like the way the words sound and don't understand any of the science that is denoted by the words. Zero point energy as a phenomenon is much more than theorized, it is quite well experimentally verified. And the experiments match up with the theory particularly in regards to the utter ludicrousness of the idea of using it as an energy source.

      Zero point energy is the non-zero amount of energy that remains in a vacuum.

  • by Gldm (600518) on Monday May 12, 2008 @09:51AM (#23377374)
    That seems to be the way to get lots of funding these days. At least if we declared The War on Space we'd be sure to find weapons of mass destruction. There are nuclear fusion reactions all over the place in space, they don't even try to hide em!

    Me, I'm to busy worrying about if I can find another job, if I can ever afford a place to live, if I'll ever have the "special" right to marry my husband like we did in his country, if riots will break out when gas hits $10/gal next year...
  • by Alsee (515537) on Monday May 12, 2008 @09:52AM (#23377392) Homepage
    (1) Barack Obama
    (2) Hillary Clinton
    (3) John Mccain
    (4) Cowboy Neil

    -
  • Is when you do not dare to act, not when you do.
  • by WhiteWolf666 (145211) <sherwin&amiran,us> on Monday May 12, 2008 @09:58AM (#23377456) Homepage Journal
    Cancel NASA, and stop space exploration. It's a big waste of time/money. Military needs can be handled by military budgets.

    NASA, the U.S. populace, and the world in general have no real interest in propulsion systems capable of realistically lifting large payloads into space economically. We've done everything we can in space with the toy payloads we currently lift, and the only real economic sectors which benefit from continued exploration is orbital satellites, something which NASA handles very poorly (i.e. expensively).

    Until someone has the balls to restart Project Orion [wikipedia.org], I don't see why we should even bother. The technology to put cities in orbit, not to mention on other planets, is readily available and understood. And cheap (on a per kilo basis). So why are we still playing chemical rockets?

    It's a waste of time. The silly little experiments done on the ISS are pointless. Until someone invents a drive that can lift 100s (or thousands, or millions) of tons into orbit (or beyond) economically, we should stop bothering and try and let private enterprise come up with something.

    The turn away from Project Orion in 1963 represented the end of man's technological development when it came to interplanetary space travel, and commercial space utilization. We dropped the reigns, and walked away (as a race). The current efforts at space travel are a gimmick and a waste of taxpayer dollars, and will continue to be unless we are willing to switch from chemical to nuclear propulsion. That's the truth of the matter.
    • Until someone has the balls to restart Project Orion [wikipedia.org], I don't see why we should even bother.

      But, but, think of the environmental impact.... Orion would have irradiated a path through space from the beginning to the end of the mission... And then our [mutant] children would be stuck with the irradiated mess to clean up - think of mother earth! (um... I mean... Father Solar system!)

  • by NetSettler (460623) * <kent-slashdot@nhplace.com> on Monday May 12, 2008 @09:58AM (#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.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ardor (673957)
      As said countless times:

      the idea of using the NASA budget for other projects is flawed. NASA's budget is tiny. And, at least NASA inspires and produces useful technology from time to time. Argue against the military budget instead, which is already in the trillions. But leave NASA alone.
  • by bsDaemon (87307) on Monday May 12, 2008 @10:02AM (#23377504)
    Seriously -- the Government isn't taking it seriously, and just like immigration that leaves an opening for citizens who recognize a problem, and a lack of response, to do something about it themselves.

    Like in Jules Verene's "From the Earth to the Moon" -- open the project up to subscription, so to speak. seek donations from individuals, as well as from large donors, organizations and governments world wide.

    Release all of the schematics and source code, take submissions from volunteers but try and maintain a budget high enough to ensure that high-quality engineers can be maintained on staff and that hard devices can actually get built.

    Turn a manned mission to Mars into a world-wide, grass-roots endeavor. We all have a stake in getting off this rock and its clear that the powers that be aren't going to actually bother.

    I have some experience in non-profit management and fund raising. Anyone want to help start an Open Space Foundation?
  • by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) * on Monday May 12, 2008 @10:06AM (#23377536) Journal
    Oil production peaked in 2005. [photobucket.com] The USA decided stealing oil was a better idea than buying it, so they invaded Iraq, [pulitzer.org] and that took 112 billion barrels off the market [bbc.co.uk], so as it comes on tap, the plateau of production would remain longer.

    In the meantime, the current administration let the nutty banking policies developed under Clinton's watch to http://www.usa-foreclosure.com/">fester and metasticise, and now the country's technically insolvent. [federalreserve.gov]

    As a consequence, I think putting people in space is going to be seriously backburnered, and I would humbly submit that the majority of people who will ever be in space have already gone.

    I'm not happy about that - I would love to go put bases on the moon to harvest He3 [technologyreview.com] and do all that kind of groovy stuff, but I think we shot our wad, and pissed away the resources on crap like highways for Cadillac Escalades [netcarshow.com] and useless cities like Las Vegas [bigfoto.com]. We had our chance, and we blew it.

    RS

  • Well, to be fair, the submitter was probably thinking about Clinton (who thinks economists are elitist), Paul (who wants sick poor people to stop contributing to the economy), McCain (who wants to solve a religious civil war with guns), and Obama (...). So really, only one candidate :D

    • by scorp1us (235526)
      How does Ron Paul want sick poor people to stop contributing to the economy? He just wants them off social welfare so they don't drag the rest of the economy down. Which is a negative contribution. So he wants them to doubly contribute. Get better and get working. Only Ron Paul has a plan to REDUCE the rising cost of health care, and he should know. He's a doctor. The rest will wither perpetuate the status quo, or increase the cost of health care by getting the government involved. That won't help anyone,
  • by theheadlessrabbit (1022587) on Monday May 12, 2008 @10:14AM (#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.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by bsDaemon (87307)
      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 progra
    • "there is no moral dilemma when you send them on a one way trip."

      Food for thought: when you're spending 1B (number pulled out of my rear) to send a single probe to mars when there are children dying of starvation here at home you might be able to find some moral dilemmas. If you chose to look for them.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by rfunches (800928)

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

      My understanding is that the implied "step forward" called the Space Shuttle prevented manned exploration outside Earth's orbit. If you're so much in favor of manned space exploration, why are you bashing our best, most viable method to reach the Moon or Mars?

  • But that's typical for slashdot submissions.
  • It may be that times have passed the political parties and politicians behind.

    The space advocates are now looking at private sector and have a more DIY attitude. The technological barriers of entry have been greatly reduced to the point where there are multiple competing private ventures that are likely to succeed.

    I think a lot of space advocates are disillusioned with governmental programs. The US and NASA does not do well with large scale programs. After the mess that was I
  • A human backup plan (Score:5, Interesting)

    by turing_m (1030530) on Monday May 12, 2008 @10:56AM (#23378210)
    I'd like to see some questions asked, and some answers. I think that humans need some form of contingency plan that does not consist purely of holes drilled in mountains. As such, we should be moving in this direction in a long-term fashion - the end goal being a self-sufficient and growing colony somewhere that is not earth. So here are some questions.

    Given budgets of different sizes, what can realistically be achieved? Hence, what brings us the best bang for buck? What are the most likely approaches?

    Is it possible to turn space exploration, colonization and the like into a positive feedback loop that generates more of the same? (i.e. is there a valid business model somewhere? What are the best chances for building some sort of self-sufficient colony up there somewhere, even if populated by self-replicating robots?)

    What type of government is most likely to fund this for as long as it takes? If not, what sort is necessary? As much as possible should be open-sourced to prevent research being wasted forever.

    What necessary technologies can we anticipate that make it much cheaper to just wait a while longer (e.g. computer hardware, robotics, solar panels, etc)?

    Is there any utility in being able to put something city-sized into space via Project Orion? Ten people dead due to cancer is nothing compared to most yearly road deaths. But again, only if there is utility in that approach. Maybe self-replicating robots can do the same thing for less cost but just taking longer to ramp up.

    In the end, I think that there are two issues:
    1. How do we build a self-sufficient system (at first, probably sans humans) capable of growing - i.e. net energy positive, net resource positive, growing at some sort of exponential rate, even if slowly?
    2. What are the minimum requirements in terms of energy/unit time and resources/human, radiation shielding etc for humans to survive and reproduce in some sort of closed-loop system bar energy?

    The key is the self-sufficiency. We have finite energy on this earth, but a lot of time and brainpower to do basic research. If we can set something up such that we only have to get it working once and after that it takes care of itself, we have won. If we can figure out how to do everything completely closed-loop bar energy (which can be gotten from solar), we have won. (Water and oxygen should be able to be transported in one big shot via Project Orion provided that it is fully recycled after it arrives.)

    Somewhere there needs to be a checklist and someone going down the list until all those bugs are squashed. I suspect that with a lot of it, we don't even need to go to space, it can be done cheaply on earth. Not too glamorous, extremely hard, but all necessary. It probably needs a good movie or two to convince the public though.
  • by J05H (5625) on Monday May 12, 2008 @11:29AM (#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 damburger (981828) on Monday May 12, 2008 @11:30AM (#23378718)

    Watch the Adam Curtis documentary 'The Century of Self' - it can be easily found on your favorite video sharing site.

    Modern society is so deeply invested in stoking peoples unconscious desires for profit that it is no longer possible for us to engage in large scale rational action, like a space program.

  • Until it becomes clear that exploring space with humans as they are currently constructed is stupid then the entire "space exploration" process makes no sense.

    We did not evolve to go there or live there and until we are redesigned to meet the environmental requirements we should not be there.

    The bacteria Deinococcus radiodurans had a better desgin spec than Homo sapiens. Someone should knock that concept into the candidates for presidency and administrators at NASA.
  • by Animats (122034) on Monday May 12, 2008 @12:02PM (#23379192) Homepage

    Space travel with chemical fuels isn't feasible. You just can't pack enough energy per unit mass into the fuel. This is a fundamental limitation of chemistry. Liquid oxygen/liquid hydrogen is as good as it can possibly get, and that's been in use for decades.

    Only by desperate weight reduction measures, resulting in incredibly fragile vehicles, is anything made to fly into space at all. The vehicles are almost all fuel. Pieces have to be thrown away after launch. Payloads are dinky for the size of the vehicle. Costs are insanely high.

    It's been that way for over forty years. It's not getting any better. No combination of parts will fix this fundamentally broken technology.

    Space travel won't work until we get a better energy source.

  • by ardor (673957) on Monday May 12, 2008 @12:04PM (#23379230)
    I keep hearing this, and it is still nonsense. The space program is damn CHEAP compared to our other spendings. Just check out the military funds for one hell of a money sink. Americans even spend more money for fast food.

    Cut the funds for weapons research. You get hundreds of billions easily this way. By destroying NASA, you get maybe 10-20, and lose one of the few federal departments that make some sense.

    That's not to say that NASA is without problems. NASA is a slug, inefficient, aging, and a good example of bureaucracy gone haywire. Still, closing it would have very little, if any, impact on those "world problems". Half of these problems originate from ideological madness; you can throw any amount of money at them, they won't go away.

    But I agree on something else: put the manned spaceflight on the backburner, don't rush things. Concentrate on materials research, especially nanotubes, their properties in zero-G environment, and especially how well they shield cosmic radiation.

    I'd transfer the trillions that are wasted on the US wars to research of new energy sources. This solves lots of problems on earth (dependence of oil, which has very real political problems, climate issues) AND helps the space program as well, because the no.1 issue with space exploration IS energy. If we had the energy source, we COULD lift ships from the ground as big as the Nimitz.
  • Focus (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Pig Hogger (10379) <pig.hoggerNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday May 12, 2008 @01:56PM (#23380968) Journal
    The focus should be on the real bottom-line issue: cheap high-volume access to Earth orbit.

    Once you're out of the gravity well, everything will fall into place, and the wealth gained will be beyond the wildest dreams.

  • by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Monday May 12, 2008 @05:30PM (#23384232) Journal
    Everyone I know is stupid and doesn't know jack shit about economics, or anything for that matter. When it comes to space exploration, it's "a waste when we should spend more on (socialized health care|schools|feeding the hungry|etc)."

    For me space exploration fills the need to get the hell off this planet before a mass extinction event occurs (say, Yellowstone Caldera erupting); but it also has a massive economic and technological effect. NASA asks for shit nobody else will ask for (yet); companies thus have to hire creative engineers to solve problems nobody wants to solve, and then suddenly we have new technology. New technology is so useless, it does nothing; so these companies now try desperately to find a use for it outside NASA so they can market it to consumers to make money. Now we have consumer products nobody would have thought of before.... (try this, thank Google: http://www.thespaceplace.com/nasa/spinoffs.html [thespaceplace.com])

    Think inside the box, or inside the box, or on top of the box, or blow the fucking box up and think on your own. Don't look at X and think it means only X; space exploration is a damn important driving force for both the economy and technological advancement in general.

Whenever a system becomes completely defined, some damn fool discovers something which either abolishes the system or expands it beyond recognition.

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