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Lunar freaking colonists? / It was the Dukes! It was the Dukes!

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October 09, 2009 – Comments (16)

A few random thoughts:

 

I realize that throwing things at the moon is cool and all and that NASA employs lots of scientists, but is this really the best use of our money right now?  This article claims that it cost $79 million to crash rockets into the moon to test for water.  First of all, I find that cost estimate hard to believe.  The government can't even buy toilet seats for less than a million bucks apiece.  I suspect that once everything is said and done and all of the data is analyzed this whole thing will end up costing a lot more than that. 

Let's say that it actually did cost $80 mil.  That's a drop in the bucket, but still wouldn't that money be better spent on something else in a year that saw the national debt triple?  What economic value does launching rockets at the moon to see if there is water have?  Not much that I can think of.

This LA Times article says:

Finding water on the moon would be as valuable as a gold mine, according to scientists, because it would mean that future lunar colonists would not have to transport it from Earth, at a cost of $50,000 a pound.

Lunar freaking colonists?  We can't even afford to keep people here on EARTH in their homes, let alone build new ones on the moon. Wouldn't the money have been better spent using our scientists to figure out a way to produce electricity more effeciently using domestic sources and run cars using something other than foreign oil instead?  There must be a million things that are better uses of my tax money than this.  Granted, I get more amusement from throwing crap into space than I get from a lot of things that my tax dollars are getting wasted on, but still...

NASA craft smacks the moon in quest for water

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Florida orange crop may drop 16 percent, USDA says

When I saw this headline this morning, I couldn't help but think of Clarence Beeks and one of the all-time classic movies, Trading Places.  Is it really possible that this move came out 26 years ago.  Yikes!  I'm feeling old.  "It was the Dukes!  It was the Dukes! Cough."  HAHAHAHA. Classic.

Deej

16 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On October 09, 2009 at 9:57 AM, JakilaTheHun (99.94) wrote:

I agree with you to a large extent on this, Deej.  I think you particular target might be a bit misguided, though.  $80 million is a drop in the bucket for NASA and finding water on the Moon could conceivably serve some useful functions.  But I agree with your general thrust here ...

I'm a big critic of the current direction of NASA.  Bush II, in his infinite wisdom, dictacted to NASA that the next phase was to land an American on Mars.  It sounds noble, heroic, and patriotic, but in reality, the entire idea is bird-brained and prohibitively expensively. 

Over the past several decades, Americans have become enamored with science fiction tales of intergalatic explorers, space colonies, and the such.  We've all seen Star Wars, Star Trek, and a lot of the other space fantasies.  Only problem is that there's a reason it's called science "fiction", because manned space travel is completely impractical and absurdly expensive compared to the alternatives.  Also, space colonization is a completely ridiculous idea at this point in history --- the amount of resources it will take to support a single human on the Moon are probably 10,000 greater than to support a single human on Earth.  

NASA should be focused on robotic missions.  Robots can do a lot more than humans and there are nowhere near the burdens involved.  You don't have to take steps to protect robots from skin cancer due to prolonged exposure to radiation.  (There's a good possibility than everyone on a Mars mission would acquire skin cancer.)  We would get most of the same things from a robotic Mars mission as we would from a manned mission and at a small fraction of the cost.  

I think NASA does do a lot of important scientific research, but I think we have an obligation to be cost effective and manned space travel is something of exotic fantasies; it may be possible to send a man to Mars, but it's certainly not useful or cost-efficient when a robot can do the job for much, much less. 

 

The government can't even buy toilet seats for less than a million bucks apiece.

The "toilet seat" thing has always been a myth.  It's not that the government spent fortunes on toilet seats.  It's that the specific agency where this happened had a poorly devised accounting system that assigned overhead without factoring in any attributes of the item.  In essence, a tank and a toilet seat might get similiar overhead treatment, even though it's simply common sense that the tank would be responsible for more of the overhead pool's costs.  

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#2) On October 09, 2009 at 10:08 AM, Schmacko (66.96) wrote:

I actually find the prospect of lunar freaking colonists exciting.  If we can actually keep people on the moon in some kind of stable eviornment we can potentially (way in the future) do a lot of cool things like exploit the moon for whatever natural resources it has and launch weapons at our enemeies... from space! 

On a more serious note if we can colonize the moon it would prove we could take on more ambitious space colonization projects like mars.  The moon would make a much better staging area for future space launches due to it's lower gravity.

Yes, there are problems at home that could use more money thrown at them... but there will always, as in forever and ever, be problems at home that need more money thrown at them.  There's really no knowing what future scientific advances can come from space exploration and if we wait til the home front is all hunky dory before funding more esoteric projects, like space exploration, we may never know. 

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#3) On October 09, 2009 at 10:18 AM, brickcityman (< 20) wrote:

What a joke...  Something tells me 60 years ago you'd be afraid of space exploration for fear of poking "God" in the eye.

 

First of all, like nearly everything to do with government this money was committed and largely spent in prior years.  Of course you could also look at the flipside...  Would you rather they cancel the thing at the last minute after spending all this money on it? Would that have made you happier?

 

More importantly Human exploration of space is the next logical step for our species (possibly a vital step at that) and we'd be foolish relent in pursuing it. 

 

No doubt there were naysayers who thought it too expensive for the government to be sending some Christopher somebody on a long voyage out on the barren sea.  Surely that money would have been better used upgrading the horse-paths and outhouses.  Also those that duo of Lewis and so-and-so, what idiots for wandering off into the wilderness when there was perfectly good land on the east coast.

 

As for Bush, I was no fan of him or his approach to space exploration... and yes there alot of problems with NASA.  But I'd rather push forward than embrace the mentality of 15'th century peasants.

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#4) On October 09, 2009 at 10:24 AM, russiangambit (29.21) wrote:

Funny enough I was in Russia this summer and was in the russian space meusum and there they had a presentation about the Moon exploration. According to that presentation, the US officially states its goal to colonize the Moon (create a base) by something like 2020. I was really surprised because I never heard anythiong like this in the US, I would imagine it wouldn't be very popular due to the expense involved. But russians take it very seriously. It would appear this "water on the Moon" thing belongs to thet Moon program.

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#5) On October 09, 2009 at 10:26 AM, JakilaTheHun (99.94) wrote:

I actually find the prospect of lunar freaking colonists exciting.  If we can actually keep people on the moon in some kind of stable eviornment we can potentially (way in the future) do a lot of cool things like exploit the moon for whatever natural resources it has and launch weapons at our enemeies... from space!

The entire idea behind this is based on pure fantasy.

It will easily require 10,000 as much resources to support one person on the Moon as it would on Earth.  It's a dream.  Of course, it's "exciting" --- just like a dream about being able to freely glide yourself all over the universe would be exciting.  That doesn't make it realistic.  Under no circumstances would colonizing the Moon provide any net-benefit to people on Earth with current technologies; nor is it likely that it will any time within the next 500 years.  

As "unexciting" as it is, we're much better off finding ways to make Earth a more sustainable environment for human life and correcting the problems we have here.  "Boring old Earth" is the environment we evolved to live in and the hurdles to creating a sustainable environment on another planet (when we can't even create one on Earth for certain) are nearly infinite. 

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#6) On October 09, 2009 at 10:36 AM, jddubya (55.69) wrote:

"More importantly Human exploration of space is the next logical step for our species (possibly a vital step at that) and we'd be foolish relent in pursuing it"

I would think that the next logical step is to finish exploring our own planet - specifically the mostly unexplored ocean.

The whole lunar supremacy race will mostly benefit the country that wins... I'm thinking it's more of a tactical proposition to be exploring the moon, versus a beneficial proposition to be exploring the ocean(s)

my 2 cents... (1.2 cents based on inflation)

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#7) On October 09, 2009 at 10:39 AM, weg915 (< 20) wrote:

I bet you look at Dinosaurs and see just big bones. 

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#8) On October 09, 2009 at 10:41 AM, JakilaTheHun (99.94) wrote:

Brickcityman,

Manned space exploration is only the next "logical frontier" because so many people have conditioned themselves into believing that constant expansion outward is some sort of requirement of the human species.   Every proponent of manned exploration cites Christopher Columbus over and over again.  You are, essentially, trying to re-live the past rather than facing the realities of the present.  You refuse to examine other possibilities for the future because you've taught yourself to think under a very narrow prism.  

Space and planetary exploration are definitely in the future of the human species.  But it's not going to be like planting the Spanish flag in North America.  It's going to be done by very well-designed robots, made by humans.  It doesn't sound romantic to the American ideal, but I can't see any reason why that should be the case.  The possibilities provided by robotic exploration are much greater than those provided by manned exploration.  

We are on the precipe of discovering life outside of Earth and instead of working towards that goal right now, NASA is being forced to re-live some tired fantasy of landing a person on Mars in heroic fashion.  Robotic missions can do more and cost a small fraction of these silly manned missions and colonization pipe dreams. 

I'd much rather see NASA ally itself with the European Space Agency and work towards exploration of Europa, Titan, and other moons that provide a huge potential for greater scientific knowledge in our solar system.  I'd much rather see photographs from under Europa's surface.  I'd much rather hear about the discovery of new life outside of Earth. Giving a group of astronauts skin cancer so they can plant a flag on Mars seems rather trivial compared to that. 

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#9) On October 09, 2009 at 10:46 AM, bigcat1969 (92.58) wrote:

Australia was to England as the Moon is to the US.  Solve that prison problem for good!  Just wait a hundred years and see if I'm right.

<< Wanders away singing Workin' on the Lunar Chain Gang.

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#10) On October 09, 2009 at 10:48 AM, TMFDeej (99.40) wrote:

Yes, that's exactly what I said brick.  Thanks for translating for me.  Heck, we never even actually really landed on the moon anyhow.  We just filmed that in the desert and pocketed the money. 

What I'm saying, and you so clearly missed the point of, is that I am against spending money that the government doesn't have and that all spending that isn't absolutely necessary should be reigned in until we get our country's fiscal situation under control.

I'm no expert on ancient Spain, but my guess would be that the country's economy and its fiscal situation was in a lot better shape than ours is in right now when Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

It's not that I'm against spending money on space.  I think that it's somewhat cool, but there is about a trillion other things that the money could be better spent on right now...or better yet not at all when we're running such a large budget deficit.

Deej

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#11) On October 09, 2009 at 10:53 AM, TMFDeej (99.40) wrote:

Hi Weg.  I'm not anti-science.  On the contrary, I believe that America does not focus enough on science in school and that we are way behing many other nations on that area.

However, no offence to palientologists, I absolutely would be against government spending on digging up and studying dinosaur bones right now when they money could be spent on more productive research, such as clean energy, or some other area that might actually stimulate economic growth.

I'm not anti-dinosaur, in fact my favorite is the giant sloth...though one could question whether it was technically a dino.  I think that they're cool, but spending money on it during a national crisis is a joke.

I have a strong feeling that if you or brick were unemployed right now that you would rather have the government spend millions of dollars helping you find a job or spending shoveling it at the industry that you work in rather than looking for water on the moon or big bones.

Man I love those things!

Deej

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#12) On October 09, 2009 at 10:58 AM, TMFDeej (99.40) wrote:

Racing to inhabit the moon is like when the U.S. raced to inhabit Wake Island before WWII.  It was ignored for years as a barren wasteland that had no useable water and very little useable land.

It ultimately ended up being strategically important in the war with Japan, but other than a launching point for the domination of the universe I don't see the need to attempt to colonize the moon at this point.

We're in a crisis here people.  We can't afford to spend money on things that we don't absolutely need at this point.

Anyone who's crying about how we should be going to the moon had better not be crying about how we need universal healthcare.  I would much rather see a child with cancer have coverage and treatment than screw around in outer space right now.  That is a luxury for a prosperous society, not one that is in the midst of its second largest economic crisis ever.

Deej

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#13) On October 09, 2009 at 11:01 AM, bigcat1969 (92.58) wrote:

Cool picture and read about old Columbo's campaign to get money on the ever reliable Wiki, its pretty interesting.  See I sometimes contribute to your threads Deej!

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#14) On October 09, 2009 at 11:19 AM, brickcityman (< 20) wrote:

@ deej

 

Again very shortsighted...  So you want to hold off on all ancillary expenditures until the economy is rip-roaring again.  On the surface that sounds logical, but given the nature of this sort of endeavour that approach would mean you would never get anywhere.  If theres one thing we've learned its that our economic system (all systems for that matter) are prone to ebbs and flows.  Attempting to anchor all expenditures to that cycle will pretty much get you nowhere.  

 

Another way to look at it would through the eyes of the layed off...  Should they wait to take any new training or continue their education just because their income is impaired?  Does that sound like a recipe for sustained success?  

 

Again I'm not arguing that all is right with the world...  Our present economic climate is the perfect pretense for leaning out NASA and refining our approach towards these goals.  But they are not a reason to go about wholesale scrapping of otherwise valuable research and exploration.

 

@ Jakila the hun

 

I think you misunderstood me...  When I say human exploration I am not casting dispersions on the use of robots.  And I'm also not trying to back the distraction tactics of a failed president.  And lastly I am not at all saying we should pursue it to the exclusion of exploring other nooks and crannies of our own planet.

 

But at a core level I believe that human presence beyond our atmosphere is a goal we must continue to strive for.  There are many areas of our very own country that would have been considered un-inhabitable without the aid of technology and I see space exploration as an analog to this on a much greater scale.  Surely this is not an over-night thing, and making another galiant effort with no follow-through (a'la Apollo) is not a wise choice either.  But that does not give license to criticize small steps as exploration such as this.

 

Bottom Line:   The human species is in some ways no different than the most primitive of single-celled organisms at the moment...  We may have evolved in a nice little nook of our own here...  And if we want to ensure our continued survival we need to find ways to adapt ourselves for living beyond the green-house we call home.

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#15) On October 09, 2009 at 11:45 AM, TMFDeej (99.40) wrote:

Live long and prosper, brick.

Deej

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#16) On October 09, 2009 at 11:58 AM, brickcityman (< 20) wrote:

I absolutely hate star-trek for the record.  Same with most other Sci-fi stuff.  Mainly because I think it tends to cheapen our accomplishments and creates unreasonable, misguided, and ill-advised expectations for the future.  To me most trekkies could just as easily be all enveloped with a day-time soap-opera since this is the level at which they understand and engage.

 

Of course, as you can guess I am a bit biased.  I've worked on space-programs in the past (not-human, but some really cool robotic stuff) and considered it to be the most worthwhile part of my career so far.  

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