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iPod Generation Indifferent to Space Exploration 526

An anonymous reader writes "CNN tells us that today's young adults are no longer excited at the possibility of space exploration: 'The 2004 and 2006 surveys by Dittmar Associates Inc. revealed high levels of indifference among 18- to 25-year-olds toward manned trips to the moon and Mars. The space shuttle program is slated to end in 2010 after construction of the international space station is completed with 13 more shuttle flights. The recent 13-day mission by Discovery's seven astronauts was part of that long-running construction job.' As a result, NASA's budget will include a greater amount of public relations spending."
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iPod Generation Indifferent to Space Exploration

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  • by TheWanderingHermit ( 513872 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @12:34PM (#17399238)
    They'll care about it when it's practical for some of them to take a trip into space or to the Moon.

    Youth, by nature, tends to be more shortsighted than mature adults. We'll also likely see a change as that generation ages.
  • by gelfling ( 6534 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @12:35PM (#17399242) Homepage Journal
    You mean "everything" I can agree.
  • iPod generation? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Enoxice ( 993945 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @12:37PM (#17399268) Journal
    "iPod generation"? WTF? How is that name relevant to...well, anything?

    Anyway, I'm in that age range. I can tell you that space exploration is as exciting as it ever was, but I'm indifferent (or, rather, have negative feelings) towards NASA doing it. Wasting all kinds of money on projects that are either never finished or are spectacular failures that could be used for more useful things.
  • Let's see... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Scareduck ( 177470 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @12:42PM (#17399336) Homepage Journal
    We're running out of oil, faced with the probability of using ever-more CO2-generating coal to fuel our civilization, and we're (the "we" being "anybody who's paying attention") supposed to be excited about sending astronauts into orbit to solve exactly none of these potentially life-threatening problems? I'd call that a good thing. I'd call that knowing your priorities.
  • They don't get it (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ConanG ( 699649 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @12:44PM (#17399372)
    Patrick Stewart? David Duchovny? Unless they fly on the shuttle or in the ISS, they won't have any effect.

    Kids aren't interested in space because nothing new has happened except a disaster and a "space station" in the last 20 years. They aren't excited because NASA isn't going out of its way to make us believe that one day they will be able to travel to space. Unless, of course, they get a PhD. by the time they're 25, in perfect health, and a model citizen.

    If they really want to ignite interest, let regular folk go to space. For the last 50 years, only the most perfect people have been given the chance to go. It's our turn...
  • Could it be due (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Timesprout ( 579035 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @12:45PM (#17399382)
    To the fact that most kids these days are clued up to the vastness/emptyness of space, the barreness of Mars and the Moon and the difficulties of actually getting anywhere, nevermind finding and colonizing other planets. A trip to Mars or the Moon then seems like an utterly insignificant step towards the space exploration and technology they see in the movies etc. They know it has to be done but the cool stuff comes much much later and most likely not in their lifetime.
  • by 0racle ( 667029 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @12:46PM (#17399396)
    After Apollo 11 landed on the moon and the US beat the Russians to it no one cared about what NASA didi after that. No one was interested in space exploration in the first place, it was all about beating the Russians.
  • by paladinwannabe2 ( 889776 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @12:46PM (#17399406)
    Because Aliens are busy sitting at home experiencing virtual realities. Once computer simulations reach a certain point, you can create a universe bigger and more entertaining than the real one.
  • by cdrguru ( 88047 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @12:50PM (#17399442) Homepage
    I think this is an incredibly wrong attitude. The youth of the 1920s and 1930s were the ones that were excited by the possibilities of space exploration. They grew up with the beginnings of space oriented science fiction and this formed the basis for everyone from Chuck Yeager to Neil Armstrong.

    Today's fantasys are shaped by authors which focus far more on dark gothic horror and sex. Look where we are today.

    No, it isn't the youth that eventually mature into beliving in space exploration, it is the youth that push the rest of the stay-at-homes into investing in the future.

    It is dangerous and foolhardy to place the future of the human race at the mercy of the planet Earth. And viewing the planet as a closed system, without access to off-world resources is equally short sighted. As someone else once said, Humanity is too valuable to place all our eggs in one basket.
  • by jimstapleton ( 999106 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @12:50PM (#17399452) Journal
    It's tough to get excited about space exploration when it's a handful of people riding up and down in a vehicle that's older than most young people's cars, and doing incomprehensible/boring stuff when they get there.

    It should be...

    It's tough to get excited about space exploration when it's a handful of people riding up and down in a vehicle that's older than most young people, and doing incomprehensible/boring stuff when they get there.
  • How about this... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by metlin ( 258108 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @12:51PM (#17399460) Journal
    ...the iPod generation seems indifferent to science and engineering in general, and seems more interested in applied technology.

    I'm within the age-group that they specified, but I enjoyed building Tesla Coils, playing with all kinds of electrical and electronic equipment, pyrotechnics and the like.

    These days, a lot of kids in my age group aren't particularly motivated towards building anything.

    They'd much do things on the computer. Hell, most of them do not even consider Lego Mindstorms to be vaguely interesting.

    Then again, I bet every generation feels this way about the newer generation. Who knows?
  • The truth (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Dasupalouie ( 1038538 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @12:51PM (#17399464)
    The only real push that the space program ever got was during the Cold War. It's upsetting that war brings out innovation and today's generation is stuck with a cycle of reusing the old.
  • by TaoPhoenix ( 980487 ) <> on Friday December 29, 2006 @12:52PM (#17399478) Journal
    It could be worse ... it could be the Zune Generation.

    Meanwhile, I am in fact less interested in "trips" to Mars than a Base on the moon. All the launch efficiencies kick in, etc.

    But we have to deal with a fundamental attitude that Bush rampaged on: we have to quit cowering in fear at the possibilities of terror attacks. We banned apple juice on airplanes for a couple months; the threat matrix is a zillion times worse for a space base. The movie Contact has a telling comment (we expected the attack, so we built it double.)

    What could we have accomplished if we went to the moon instead of Iraq?

  • by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @12:53PM (#17399492)
    I agree, the golden era of space exploration only lasted for the first decade, which was in the 1960's. It's very easy for me to imagine why people were so excited when every year brought fantastic new achievements, but then aerospace more or less leveled off. Me, I'm just old enough to remember the first Shuttle mission, and I can't say much has happened for manned space exploration during my lifetime. If anything I think it has diminished a bit. IMHO, unmanned is where it's at.
  • by Jerf ( 17166 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @12:53PM (#17399508) Journal
    Sci-fi set unrealistic expectations. Current technology can barely get us to the moon, it might get us to Mars in several months if nothing at all goes wrong, and when we get there, there's very little we can do of consequence other than bang on rocks and report back how sparkly the insides are.

    This is a far cry from warping halfway across the galaxy to save the universe from a universe-threatening quantum disturbance with no particular relationship to reality.

    As our capabilities grow, as they will, it might get more exciting again. For instance, even if we never get a space elevator, it is still theoretically possible to have a space age with rockets; it's "just" a matter of getting enough energy, cheaply enough, with fusion.

    But until then, it's become clear to anybody who can think (and that's more people than the sometimes-somewhat-elitist Slashdot crowd will credit) that nothing terribly interesting is going to happen anytime soon in the space industry.
  • by GreggBz ( 777373 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @12:54PM (#17399524) Homepage

    That's completely opposed to my experience.

    The more and more we learn about space, the more amazing I find it. We always knew it was mostly empty, so that's not news. But here is some news,

    You don't find exoplanets captivating? 182 [] of them.. don't you wonder what they look like? You don't find sub-terrain oceans [] with who knows what below the surface of Jupiter's icy moons or water flowing on the surface of Mars not so long ago the slightest bit interesting? How about the ever changing notions of the shape and nature of the Universe and it's origins?

    Frankly, our own ideas of space aliens, and perhaps our expectations of finding them as we expect are boring. If we find Klingons tomorrow.. yawn..

    If recent planetary and deep space science has taught us anything, it is that we have no idea what to expect.
  • by M-G ( 44998 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @12:57PM (#17399564)
    Don't forget that our current mode of space exploration is something that this generation has grown up with. I remember the first shuttle launch. To a teenager today, shuttles have been flying their entire lives, so to them there's no real novelty to captivate a large audience.
  • by Pojut ( 1027544 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @12:59PM (#17399574) Homepage
    We have long had the technology to build a base on the moon. Do you know how much easier and cheaper launching exploration vehicles, both manned and unmanned from the moon would be rather than from earth? I know the DISTANCE isn't that big of a change, but the GRAVITY is a massive change, it would take exponentially less energy (read: fuel) to launch from the moon...Not to mention the observatories and labs that could be set up...after all, what better place to research low-gravity technology than in *gasp* LOW GRAVITY

    The probelm is funding. The feds don't want to put any money into space. If we took the budget we have put into the Iraq war 8 years ago, a moon base would already be under construction and ready to be completed in 5-10 years. Like I said, the technology has been around. The FUNDING has not.

    I know why people nowadays don't care. Alot of people feel we won't do anything of great percieved importance in our lifetime as of right now, but hey you gotta start the advancement of the race some time. Why not now? When else in history have we had the opportunity to? We have the technology, the money is in circulation, and we have the motivation (survival).

    Why the hell are we being so stupid as to throw away such an opportunity?
  • by joshv ( 13017 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @01:03PM (#17399620)
    So can anyone tell me, what, if any real and important science is taking place on our beloved space station? And please don't tell me 'research on long term effects of zero-G'. We're only confirming finding from 20 years ago.

    Absolutely nothing interesting has happened in the manned space program since we first repaired Hubble in orbit. Since then we've done nada, nothing, zilch, zero, bupkiss of interest to much of anyone, be they John Q iPod, or a PhD in astrophysics.

    The manned space program has become utterly irrelevant. NASA can spend as much money as they want trying to get people excited about 'crystals' grown in microgravity, but we have heard it all before.

    Do something new and different. Send people someplace they haven't been before. Or maybe let's get people living, I mean really living, on the moon. It is not impossible with today's technology. It just takes more imagination and political will than NASA currently possesses.

  • by Toby The Economist ( 811138 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @01:03PM (#17399622)
    > The 2004 and 2006 surveys by Dittmar Associates Inc. revealed high levels of indifference among 18- to
    > 25-year-olds toward manned trips to the moon and Mars.

    Erm, that's it? that's all we get?

    How big was the sample? how were they chosen? was it ten people chosen from a Big Brother audience? what questions were they asked? how exactly do you decide what "indifference" is?

    What a complete load of tosh. An utterly unsubstaniated story.
  • by Thansal ( 999464 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @01:10PM (#17399702)
    That is the nail!

    For a large number of us the concept of putting a man on the moon (let alone in space) is practicaly pedestrian, as opposed to in the 60s when it was a truely amazing (and NEW) thing.

    I grew up with the knowledge that space flight, and going to the moon were things we have done, and we did them a LONG (to a 7yr old) time ago.

    I for one still am interested in what we are doing in space (I am 23, just for ref), however it isn't the type of thing that it was when we first started.

    Now most of us are more interested in what is happening at home (Earth), and understandign that better.
  • by oohshiny ( 998054 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @01:14PM (#17399766)
    Young Americans have high levels of apathy about NASA's new vision of sending astronauts back to the moon by 2017 and eventually on to Mars, recent surveys show.

    Good: sending astronauts to the moon or to Mars is a waste of money. What we should be doing is sending out a lot more robotic probes. If we don't waste our money on sending meatbags to Mars, we could have planetary rovers on every major solar system body within the next three decades, and we could have several interstellar spacecraft on their way by the end of the century. The data and images those probes would send back is what's exciting.
  • How to fix (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Danathar ( 267989 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @01:16PM (#17399784) Journal
    Require Science Fiction reading in HS...lots of it.
  • by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @01:16PM (#17399790) Journal
    I see a lot of posts about how we have far more important things to worry about than space exploration - wars, poverty, famine, global warming, disease - and that we should ignore space and fix these problems first. I've got bad news for you folk - they ain't gonna get fixed if we drop the space program.

    Now, being an ex-NASA guy, I feel fully justified in saying that the Administration is not a bastion of efficiency or efficient use of science dollars for science sake. Manned spaceflight will probably never be as cost effective as robotic exploration or remote sensing. Still, it can be a very valuable resource for the inspiration of younger generations to go into science and engineering. Both of those fields are critical to advancement against the world's ills of poverty, famine, globla warming, and disease. Since science doesn't pay as well as non-productive professions like accountancy, law, and real estate sales, we need some way to inspire the next generation to do something other than make enough disposable income to buy the latest iPod. NASA fuels both interest and the work they do has far reaching impact for science (and not just pens that write upside down and expensive mattresses).

    What we do need is a real mission and real results. Without that, the popultation is going to see NASA for what it currently is: a rudderless agency spending lots of money to do very little real science. Sadly, with the pork included in its budget, NASA will never garner the excitement and focus it has had in the past. Plus with the contractor mentality it will never have the in-house expertise keep and propogate the corporate knowledge that allows for efficent and consistent advances in aeronautic science.

    Right now the NASA beurocracy and the year-to-year funding methodology by congress has doomed the agency to its current fate - mundane and uninspired. I would love to see a rebirth of the agency, but I'm not holding my breath.
  • Re:well, except... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Moofie ( 22272 ) <> on Friday December 29, 2006 @01:26PM (#17399888) Homepage
    "and get orders of magnitude more scientific data"

    Yet, if we send people to Mars, we get a whole new planet to live on and explore, forever.

    I'll vote for sending people to Mars, thanks. Scientific data and photographs are cool and all, but actual real meatbags on other planets is way, way, way, infinitely, indescribably, ineffably, superbly more exciting.

    Why bother with exploring space if we're not going to go there?

    That's just me, though.
  • by Reality Master 101 ( 179095 ) <RealityMaster101 AT gmail DOT com> on Friday December 29, 2006 @01:29PM (#17399936) Homepage Journal

    Where would we be now if Columbus was told not to go on an expedition, because the European youth were apathetic to exploration?

    It's worth pointing out that Columbus went on his voyage not for the "love of exploration" as everyone seems to think, but because he was trying to open up a new route to the Indies -- In other words, for profit. "Exploration apathy" wouldn't have affected things in the least.

    Space will be explored when the explorers have the same motivation as Columbus. "Because it's there" is not going to take us very far.

  • Re:well, except... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by oohshiny ( 998054 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @01:33PM (#17400028)
    Yet, if we send people to Mars, we get a whole new planet to live on and explore, forever.

    A manned mission to Mars and settling Mars are two entirely different propositions; even if we managed to pull of dozens of manned landings on Mars, we'd still be far away from any sort of settlement.

    Why bother with exploring space if we're not going to go there?

    Who said anything about "not going there"? Eventually, we will settle on Mars. But for now, we're talking about near-term strategy for space exploration, and robotic spacecraft are not only the fastest way for gathering scientific data, they are also the fastest way towards a real manned space program.

    If we're going to go ahead with a manned trip to Mars, the project will likely get killed before it ever gets executed, and manned space exploration will be held back by at least half a century.
  • Re:well, except... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Moofie ( 22272 ) <> on Friday December 29, 2006 @01:41PM (#17400138) Homepage
    "A manned mission to Mars and settling Mars are two entirely different propositions;"

    Why? Why not have the first mission designed integrally with the ideal of establishing a long-term presence? I agree with you 100%: Flags and footprints is a waste of time and money. Even if the first Mars-tronauts aren't colonists, I think they should absolutely be setting up the colonists' house.

    "the project will likely get killed before it ever gets executed"

    Oh, agreed. Depending on Congress for anything that requires foresight and vision and daring is a losing proposition.

    In part, I agree with you. The best thing NASA might be able to do in the near term is shoot robots around. But, I don't agree that that should be the end of human space exploration: It's only the beginning.
  • by pod_sixer_jay ( 1044818 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @02:00PM (#17400442)

    If you want to send people someplace they haven't been before, or establish a permanent manned presence on the Moon, you need technology that is more durable and reliable than what we have now. And that is exactly the kind of technology that is being developed for and tested on the ISS. It's not exciting work, but it has to be done. It's absolutely crucial for the next phase of manned space exploration.

    Apollo was designed and built under the pressure of a race to the Moon. As such it took liberties and employed shortcuts that are not acceptable now, especially since NASA is under increased scrutiny over safety. Apollo used technology that was very expensive, had a limited shelf life, relied on consumable resources, and ignored certain problems such as periodic solar radiation. These are perfectly defensible design choices for short-term scouting missions. Cutting those corners allowed Apollo to be developed relatively quickly. But the same strategy won't work now. We need renewable resources and much longer-lived spacecraft. We need better defenses against the environmental hazards. And since it's not a race this time, we can afford to take our time and research problems deliberately.

    NASA has no mandate to do fancy things every four or five years to keep the taxpayers entertained. In fact, NASA -- like any public institution -- can only spend its money on what the taxpayer-voted budget allows from year to year. And until recently the public has simply not granted funds to NASA to extend its manned programs to anything beyond the shuttle and the ISS. Unfortunately this is not a case where the public can sit idly by and wait for NASA to impress them. The way it works is that the public has to pass its pre-existing excitement on to NASA in the form of a mandate and a big check.

  • by Omestes ( 471991 ) <> on Friday December 29, 2006 @02:16PM (#17400680) Homepage Journal
    I'm younger than you, significantly (teen years in the 90's), am interested in iPods, AND space exploration. But I do think that geeks (either cobbling physical stuff, or programming) will be much more interested in space exploration regardless of age. When we talk about the average Joe, there is a good difference between the so-called "iPod generation" and people born anytime before the 80's, the nationalism associated with the Cold War. Space was a point of pride because we had to be there before the U.S.S.R. Now we've "been there, done that", and we can't see tangible gains in space exploration.

    eople built their own turntables, for the most part, to listen to Mozart and Wagner and (Richard) Strauss and perhaps Berio and Ligeti as I recall, not pop music which was beneath contempt; it was, after all, the product of multiple remixings from tape and there was no depth to bring out.

    I disagree, perhaps YOU were, but the 60's were the rise of pop, it was when music started following the form it does today with an actual "recording industry", my folks huge collection of LP and 45's refute your account, as does the rise of Elvis in the late 50's and the Beatles in the 60's, both of which could be seen as the birth of modern music.

    Regardless, I don't see what people's choice in music have to do with it.

    I think literacy might play a role though, and not only in taste of reading, but actually reading. As probably does level of education. Both of which we're abject failures at now, starting around when the "iPod generation" was in school. I grew up loving science classes, and reading old pulp Sci-Fi, and I am an aberrant in the real world. Most people my age would rather not read a book, much less care what a bunch of disattactched men in lab coats are rambling about in vaguely confusing terms. I'm sure their is a high level of correlation between level of education and elective literacy and interest in space travel.
  • by Fallingcow ( 213461 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @02:18PM (#17400706) Homepage
    Haha, so true.

    The ISS is a total waste of money. It's not even half-finished, IIRC, and probably never will be completed.

    NASA's public image would be enhanced if at least *some* of the shuttle missions and IIS activities were focused on something other than the following two items:

    a) keeping the IIS supplied and working

    Hubble and the Mars Rovers are the only cool things they have, and they're letting Hubble die. The Rovers are unmanned. Modern manned spaceflight is about as fun as watching your local plumber do his job, or watching the local elementary school kids grow beans in a clear plastic glass next to the window. WHEEE.
  • by b0s0z0ku ( 752509 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @02:31PM (#17400878)
    Once computer simulations reach a certain point, you can create a universe bigger and more entertaining than the real one.

    Nah: it'll be limited by human conceptions of what the universe ought to be. I'll bet that the real universe has parts that are more interesting (and frightening) than we could have ever imagined them to be. And this won't change the fact that we'll be just as screwed if the Earth somehow gets rendered unfit for habitation.


  • by An Onerous Coward ( 222037 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @02:47PM (#17401120) Homepage
    You're right. It's not like it was when you were a young person, and all young people were politically active, and respectful of their elders, and didn't play their music so damned loud. It's not real music, just noise. It all sounds the same. No moral backbone in the lot of 'em, nosiree.

    You want to see college-aged kids get more involved in politics? Simple: allow election-day voter registration. The younger you are the more likely you are to be bouncing from apartment to apartment, and the more difficult it is to keep your voter registration up to date. Make that one, simple change, and I guarantee you that we'd close a few percentage points of the gap (which stood at 52% to 64% as of 2004).

    Notice that the gap between young and old voters is 12%, far less than the difference between the U.S. average and the average in hedonistic, irresponsible, decadent narco-socialist states like Denmark (which averages in the 85-88% participation rate). So if you want to justify your !moralFiber => lowParticipation thesis, you've got a big hill to climb. I think a better thesis would be that people who believe in their government are more likely to participate in the voting process. Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index [] rates Denmark at 9.5 and the U.S. at 7.3. What does a 2.2 point difference actually mean? Well, it's about the same difference as exists between the U.S. and Oman, Jordan, and the Czech Republic.

    In 2004, we dropped our bongs, put our baseball caps on backwards, and crawled out of our parents' basements to do our civic duty in record numbers. Result? Our contribution was easily outweighed by the "dudes shouldn't marry dudes, and terrorists are targeting our local bowling alley" demographic. We've inherited all your generation's lifestyle expectations, an economy that cannot sustain them, and a national debt that enriched your generation while impoverishing ours. We've seen the biggest groundswell of voter anger in over a decade (2006) translate into a 94% incumbency rate (a mere 26 out of 435 incumbents lost their seats). We've seen our generation go off to sweat and bleed and die in Iraq to protect the interests of a handful of privileged businessmen (invariably from your generation, not ours). We are expected to have higher educations than any previous generation, but we are given less support in pursuit of it (higher tuition, slashing of student grants and student loans, etc.) So if we see our government as indifferent or even hostile to our generation and our interests, and utterly resistant to positive change, can you really blame us?

    Ah, that felt good.
  • by pod_sixer_jay ( 1044818 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @02:54PM (#17401216)

    And for your next vacation would you rather go to Hawaii, or merely receive a nice color picture of Hawaii?

    Humans go to exotic and remote places themselves not because they merely wish to collect data from it, but because it is in the nature of our species to explore in person. A manned presence is not merely a necessary prerequisite to the acquisition of data; it is an end unto itself. The conquest of Mt. Everest, for example, had nothing to do with seeing what was on the top of the mountain. It was about pride in the accomplishment. NASA sent a handful of unmanned probes to the Moon that went largely unnoticed by the public. But when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface, the entire Earth stopped to watch. To what do we owe that difference?

    There are different kinds of space science. No one mode of exploration suffices. Those who study stellar radiation, for example, have no need actually to be there in person. In fact, unmanned probes do far better at collecting the kind of data best suited to that kind of science. But planetary science cannot be satisfied with mere telepresence. Planetary geologists need to be there. Sure, they'll do the best they can with the technology available at any given moment, but ask a planetary geologist whether he can do his job better through a little robot, or actually there in person.

    The Soviets in the late 1960s and early 1970s explored the Moon remotely and with unmanned sample-return missions while the Americans sent human astronauts during the same period -- albeit likely at considerably greater cost. The Soviets got one badly placed retroreflector, a handful of grainy telemetered photographs of random terrain, and about ten ounces of undifferentiated lunar dust.

    Apollo, in contrast, got a set of precisely-aligned retroreflectors and precisely-placed scientific instruments. Astronauts took 20,000 high-resolution photographs of terrain they selected according to on-site observation. They brought back 800 pounds of lunar surface material chosen according to geological significance, photographed in situ, core-sampled, and carefully-documented. The quality of the Apollo data is simply orders of magnitude greater than any achieved through unmanned technology -- all because there were trained humans there doing the science in person.

    We meatbags have high-resolution color stereoscopic vision with a broad dynamic range, better than anything we can currently put into a spacecraft. We have highly capable means of locomotion that adapts to a variety of terrain and can achieve safe speeds up to several meters per second on planetary surfaces. We have a pair of manipulators easily better than anything we can currently deploy in space. And all this is controlled by an on-site computer capable of storing and applying PhD-level expertise as well as displaying helpful exploratory qualities such as curiosity and intuition. The computer is highly-adaptable and well integrated with the sensory apparatus. Even if manned exploration were only about data collection, meatbags are still much better at some useful forms of it than our little six-wheeled proxies.

  • by Kpau ( 621891 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @04:22PM (#17402266)
    I'd actually argue that the indifference arises from a few decades of our "fearless leaders" in Congress and the White House being absolute spazzes, grinches, and zealot idiots when it comes to science and space exploration. After a while, indifference is the safest emotional response. "Going to Mars, eh?" yeah yeah, sure sure. "Moon Bases, eh?" pbffffft In my youth, I really sincerely planned on probably expiring somewhere near the Asteroid Belt (went to college in the mid 70s). I did work in NASA in the 80s... but after the Space Shuttle (the lamest camel ever constructed by strangled funds so each launch is a lot more amazing than Joe Sixpack realizes) and the ISS (so constrained by funds that it is basically a useless State Rest Stop in Space), I figure the first bases on the Moon will be an Indian/Japanese/Chinese venture and that my grandchildren will either have to immigrate to join in or go as lame American tourists. For anyone who whines about the expense: money spent on that "little adventure" in Iraq would have funded an amazing Solar System infrastructure. Hell, one day's expenditure in Human Services exceeds all the total research/science budget. Pardon me, I'm off to grumble and stew now...
  • by Tim Browse ( 9263 ) on Friday December 29, 2006 @04:54PM (#17402592)

    Regardless, I don't see what people's choice in music have to do with it.

    It allows the OP to feel superior. Simple!

  • I think you summed up my feelings more eloquently than I would have. I think the problem here is that Slashdot caters to a geek audience, and geeks tend to find the idea of a robot probe more interesting than most non-geek people do. To most people, even the Mars rovers and the Voyager probes were just curiosities. I think the general attitude is "well, if we can put a man on the Moon, of course we can put a robot on Mars...duh."

    It doesn't matter what NASA does with robots -- they could send them to Pluto and have them building robot cities and making little robots and god knows what else -- but most people would still regard the high-water-mark of the space program as July 20, 1969. There is a fundamental difference between robotic exploration and human exploration, and it doesn't matter what kind of pictures you take or what kind of data you bring back, if it's not a person, it's just a bunch of geeks dorking around with expensive R/C toys.

    The day we put a person on Mars, people will be gathered around their TV sets, the same way they were in 1969. But no number of robots or probes are going to engender that kind of interest.
  • by MrAnnoyanceToYou ( 654053 ) <dylan.dylanbrams@com> on Friday December 29, 2006 @05:18PM (#17402866) Homepage Journal

    I apologize for being a bit of a jerk here, but there are a few other things done by your generation which make Space Exploration not as big a deal to mine. (I'm slightly outside of the iPod age group) The world has changed extensively and definitively for a thousand reasons.

    EX: I could eventually figure out how to build myself a radio. With enough time and patience I could assemble all the parts off of the internet. Then, I'd need to put together a workshop. Where? Oh, yeah, in my little studio apartment. (that's changed a bit) Population density's a little higher than it used to be, so I'm spending a much higher percentage of my income supporting myself. Hrm. So I have myself a radio that cost me extremely valuable time. It's about the size of a coffee cup, the first time. I've just spent fourty hours at least putting together something that I think is cool, but for about twice the money and a hundredth the effort, I can order an iPod and just collect the music.

    Realistically, I will never be able to build myself anything with the level of functionality an iPod has. Even understanding exactly what all the components inside do is probably a level of knowledge and detail unattainable to the vast majority of the populace - even at Apple. I've known people at Intel who didn't know much more than their tiny little piece of a tiny subprocessor set in any detail.

    Second, Space was a lot different in the sixties. The Golden Age of science fiction had just passed. Part of the dream had been that there were people, or plants, or SOMETHING on Venus. Now we're pretty damn sure that if there's life out there, we're not going to get to see it in our natural lifetimes unless we're one of the strange and isolated few picked to get frozen and never come back. How many of those would there be and how likely is it if you were willing you'd get to go?

    Add to this that the problems being faced on Earth in modern cultures right now are all these extremely depressing, boring, entropy-and-politics-related ones, and you have a bad environment for anyone who has a brain to be thinking about space exploration as a career. The dreams of space exploration your generation had were wonderful, but the reality is that unless someone figures out FTL travel of some kind, we're stuck here. If we're stuck here, we have a whole mess of ugly problems to fix; the first two of which are energy generation and overpopulation. Space exploration would solve the second if the first went away, as long as that pesky relativity stuff just poofed. But space exploration now - as it is being used by the current administration - is just a red herring to keep eyes off of the fact that their record on science is one of polluting the good in the name of profit.

    Which brings me, of course, to the problems which are actually BIGGER than the 'measley' problems caused by the laws of physics. The organizational ineffectiveness brought to life in the last fifty years is amazing. Bureaucracy has fluorished. And normally, people would be independent enough - they certainly have these urges, especially in America - to just watch bureaucracies die their slow deaths of ineptitude and be rebuilt. Unfortunately, computers have propped up inept companies and people by allowing them to take control over larger and larger groups of people. To the point where so many people are working for malfunctioning organizations that they are in control of necessary resources.

    There are problems to be solved here first. Getting to Alpha Centauri and being able to build a colony there would be great. But that's icing on a cake that's rotting at the moment. So quit complaining about whipper snappers not caring about space. The smart ones are looking at the ground and saying, "Damn. Why'd you leave me all this to deal with?" And stuck wondering about where to find a lever to start fixing it.

Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed. -- Neil Armstrong