"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"

Sunday, July 19, 2009

One small step...

Frankly I think the Onion headline understates it.

40 years ago, July 20, 1969, humans walked on the Moon. The MOON. Maybe you've seen it? Big yellow thing in the sky? said to hit your eye like a big pizza pie? Yeah, that thing. As a species, we've been there and done that. We went to The Moon.

In the history of human endevour, that is still the big one, our greatest technological achievement. Seriously, the Pyramids - mere sandcastles. The artificial heart - a bit of biomechanical clockwork. Splitting the atom - okay, impressive and dangerous, but also some pretty nasty side effects. The computer and the internet - yeah, just like the human brain, 90% of it is used for porn. Cracking the code and mapping human DNA is going to be a bigger and bigger deal as time goes by, but if you told DaVinci or Newton or Galileo about it, they wouldn't know what you were talking about. If you told them "Len, Issac, Gal - we went to the moon" they would be all "no way! that's fucking amazing! Holy crap, wait until we tell the Pope - he'll freak out!"

I don't mean to disparage the early astronauts: Guys like Yuri Gagarin and the Right Stuff boys were beyond brave - early space travel was a dicey business that involved getting shot into the sky in a box built by the lowest bidders - or the astronauts currently living in the International Space Station, who are still a long way from home. Manned satellites are going to become more and more common and the zero gravity/vacuum enviroment has enormous industrial and scientific potential. But we're talking about the difference between sailing up and down the coast and sailing across the ocean. In orbit, you go round and round the Earth, the Apollo 11 boys actually went someplace. I feel sorrier for Michael Collins than just about anyone - imagine going all that way and having to wait in the car.

All the reasons people invariably give for opposing space exploration - it's too expensive, it's a "waste" of resources, more pressing problems on the ground - are all reasons to go to space. Space exploration costs a fraction of what is spent on the military. The money spent in Iraq probably would have bankrolled a Mars colony. This rock we live on is eventually going to run out of resources, no matter how careful we are. We will eventually use up all the oil, all the iron, all the water - you name it we will run out of it sooner or later, including real estate and elbow room- so we better get out there and find some more. A lot of those more pressing problems are likely to be solved by technological development driven by space exploration and colonization - and if they can't be, it might be nice if humanity had a lifeboat.

40 years ago, we finally proved we didn't need to keep all of humanity's eggs in one increasingly fragile basket. Why no further progress has really been made is anyone's guess. Financial costs have a lot to do with it, but NASA is the rare government effort that has actually made money (You think all those communication satellites were put in orbit for free?). The only reason we don't have permanent manned bases on the moon, launching manned missions to Mars is a lack of political will. We could have done it by the mid 80s or at least the mid 90s if we as a species hadn't been busy squandering money on ways to exterminate ourselves via the nuclear arms race.

So we went to the Moon and all we got was this lousy, soon-to-be-shut-down space shuttle program and the nobody seems that interested in going back at the moment except the Indians and Chinese. We left behind some probes and a couple of golf balls and and worst of all, a plaque with Richard Nixon's name on it. We should at least go back to clean up that kind of embarrasing shit.

There are even people out there whacked out enough to think that Capricorn One was based on a true story and that we never landed on the moon. Their tiny minds just can't handle the idea that his is something humans could have done. I think Buzz "the second man on the moon" Aldrin deals with such critics in the most appropriate way.


SeattleTammy said...

That was just glorious! Thnx!

Gazetteer said...

Capricorn One?

Didn't that have a Broncoized not-so Lunar Excursion Module in it....?





steve said...

Julie Payette got me in a headlock once.

Tough crowd.


Shinigami Kayo said...

Shini likes the way paperboy words things. Shini also likes how Buzz words things.