Tuesday, August 09, 2005

The Waste Program

Okay, I admit it: I’m a huge Star Trek fan, and Star Wars also (well, maybe not the Jar-Jar variety). Given my credentials as an official sci-fi geek, I should really be excited about the prospects for human spaceflight following the (relative) success of the Discovery mission. President Bush has already announced new trips to the moon and even Mars. There is only one problem, a problem that has put me at odds with many of my friends: I consider it to be a colossal waste of money.

A current article on the History News Network (my old blogging alma matter) by Alice George says that outside organizations have estimated that Bush’s space proposal could cost as much as $600 billion (that’s billion with a “b”) and without Cold War fears and an ensuing space-race, it is unlikely to get much support, at least from me.

Don’t get me wrong, I think NASA has made some wonderful contributions to our society, and of course, I am curious to see what we could find on Mars (my prediction: a little man whose face is hidden behind a large green helmet and his dog with a laser-beam pointed directly towards the earth- click here for a composite on what scientists expect to find).

The bottom line is that although space shuttles have gone through some tremendous evolutions since the Apollo program, the system remains fundamentally the same, with no real progress towards creating a truly exploratory space vessel. We still have no idea how to create a shuttle with artificial gravity, and a means for generating its own fuel and air supply while in space, nor do we have any idea how to get them to go fast enough were genuine long-term voyages and perhaps colonization were truly possible. So long as those fundamental technical problems remain unsolved, we are left with little more than a very expensive side-show, and the satisfaction of seeing people float around in space (thank's to Ron Howard, even this is better done in movies).

Another reason why I oppose such massive government spending is that it is not necessary. The private market is already starting to produce its own space-faring technology that would have been financially prohibitive in the 1960’s.

Until I am convinced that manned space flights justify their enormous price tag, I am afraid I will have to remain content to seeing the universe through the eye of Hollywood, and will be content to see NASA stick to keeping satellites up and running and perhaps developing the technology that will one day make space travel actually productive.

1 comment:

Cram said...
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