This Blue Marble

Forty-three years ago NASA completed the final Apollo mission, placing American astronauts on the surface of the moon for the last time. In honor of that program, our language still preserves the term “moonshot” to describe a venture of such technical daring and human significance that it transforms our world.

In the decades since the last moon landing almost every President has backed a grand proposal for manned missions elsewhere in our solar system. Those plans remain hollow. The technical challenges, though significant, have never been impressive enough to stand in our way. We haven’t formed a realistic plan to send human beings to Mars because we’ve yet to find a purpose for such a mission.

Though the idea of space travel still fills us with wonder and admiration, one lesson from the Apollo Program stands out above all others. There is nothing up there for us. This blue marble is our only home.

When pressed to explain some purpose for the Apollo Program beyond the mere wonder of seeing human beings on the moon, proponents mention the scientific and technical advances that emerged in its wake. Those benefits are very real and extend far beyond Velcro and Tang, but they are less a product of space exploration, per se, then of government capital investment in science and technology. There were and are many ways to foster that kind of technical progress without flinging human beings around the solar system.

Occasionally, someone will mention a more distant purpose for the mission – the need to prepare our species to live beyond Earth. What really drove us to the moon is the same drive, deeply rooted in our evolution, which drove Europeans across the Atlantic. We wander.

For millennia our ancestors explored relentlessly. In each new environment they exploited the available resources until the landscape changed, then then moved on to find better conditions elsewhere. Civilization is still new to us, still an evolutionary anomaly. We have not yet mastered the art of sustainable, settled living. Our bred-in solution to the damage we inflict on our surroundings is to follow the horizon toward new ones.

As our understanding of the universe deepens, two disturbing facts are becoming clear. First, there are no wild places left to conquer. We now own and control the fate of every patch of land and sea on this planet. Second, there is no other world waiting for us beyond Earth. Perhaps in time we will find some suitable alternative home in the universe, but not before we’ve mastered civilization here. Humankind will thrive or fail here on this spinning rock.

No conceivable damage we might ever inflict on Earth could render it half as hostile to life as Mars or one of the moons of Jupiter. To continue to survive and thrive we must confront an evolutionary glitch. We must confront our urge to consume and migrate, developing instead a means to sustain civilization that does not destroy our surroundings. There is no alternative.

Sixty years of space exploration has given us massive advances in science and technology, but that may not be its most significant legacy. Perhaps more telling, our space exploration has produced an orbiting garbage field so dense that it threatens future missions.

Every well-conducted experiment is a success. It may not prove the conclusions anticipated by its hypothesis, but even by “failing” it pushes the boundaries of our understanding. Our programs to place human beings in the solar system have been just this kind of failure. Their bold exploration has not found another place for human beings to live, but by failing they have shined a new light on our dilemma.

This precious rock on which we live is a great gift. It is time we learned how to live on it in a manner that preserves it for those who will follow us.

Chris Ladd is a Texan living in the Chicago area. He has been involved in grassroots Republican politics for most of his life. He was a Republican precinct committeeman in suburban Chicago until he resigned from the party and his position after the 2016 Republican Convention. He can be reached at gopliferchicago at gmail dot com.

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Posted in Environment, Evolution
91 comments on “This Blue Marble
  1. As an avid science fiction reader, it’s kind of interesting to examine how the genre has evolved over time, and how science fiction has been influenced by, and influenced, space science and exploration. The pulp era of science fiction came into being largely via the influence of the mistaken Mars “canal” observations of Percival Lowell. Thus was born fictional Barsoom and the notion that our planetary neighbors were, if not garden spots, at least habitable (and populated with incredibly hot babes!). That fictional solar system persisted into the era of Asimov and Heinlein; the juveniles I consumed as a child were its apogee. (For recent interpretations of this milieu, see the “Old Mars” and “Old Venus” anthologies edited by Gardner Dozois and George R.R. Martin.)

    The notion of earth-like planetary neighbors died with the Mariner and Venera probes. The gradual realization that the solar system is really an incredibly harsh and inhospitable place cast a pall on the science fiction of my early adulthood; epic fantasy largely displaced science fiction on bookstore book shelves during the ’70’s and ’80’s.

    And then, starting in the ’90’s, a funny thing began to happen. Science fiction novels began to appear that fully acknowledged the harsh realities of human space travel and planetary exploration, and yet depicted humans spreading throughout the solar system regardless. (Kim Stanley Robinson’s “Mars” trilogy is perhaps one of the earliest and most influential works in this trend.) This trend continues to this day, with the most recent examples I can think of being Andy Weir’s delightfully engaging, “The Martian,” and Neal Stephenson’s thoroughly excellent, “Seveneves.”

    In the world of science fiction it’s now pretty much assumed that we’ll populate the solar system one way or another. We’re seeing this mindset leak into the real world via the endeavors of entrepreneurs like Elon Musk, Richard Branson and many others. It’s actually a very cool time to be alive if your’re a space exploration aficionado. I envy the things my grandson will see in his lifetime.

  2. flypusher says:

    NPR has a piece on the Fermi paradox:

    http://www.npr.org/sections/13.7/2015/05/27/409670639/why-arent-the-aliens-here-already

    Were I one of the decision makers of an intelligent, space-faring species, I’d have a strict quarantine on this solar system. If humans ever get their act together and stop being so $&@€£%# destructive, then it might be worthwhile to make first contact. If they destroy themselves, they can’t hurt us. Either way we let the issue resolve itself.

    Or, as Calvin & Hobbes put it- the proof of intelligent life out there is that they aren’t contacting us.

    • Ah, the Fermi paradox. Q: How much time and effort do we spend listening for the bongo drum signals of undiscovered aboriginal tribes hidden deep in the Amazon basin? A: Not much.

      If we posit that star-faring races do in fact inhabit the Milky Way, how much time does one suppose a species with FTL transport and comms spends listening for aboriginal chatter in the EM spectrum? Especially aboriginal EM chatter out in the hicks, a.k.a. the Orion arm? Q.E.D.

      • 1mime says:

        Hey, Tracy! Glad to hear from you. But, better not mess with the Star Trek fan club…those people are loyal to the core!!

  3. goplifer says:

    By the way, this kind of reasoning is what inspired the article. I think this is completely delusional:

    Chris Impey is an astronomer at the University of Arizona who studies the structure and the evolution of the universe. In “Beyond: Our Future in Space” (Norton), he foresees a bright “off-Earth” future. Within twenty years, he predicts, there will be a vibrant space-tourism industry, complete with “zero-gravity sex motels.” In thirty years, he expects “small but viable colonies” on both Mars and the moon. And within a century these colonies will have produced a generation of space-bred babies. In 2115, he writes, a cohort will come of age “who were born off-Earth and who have never been home.”

    http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/06/01/project-exodus-critic-at-large-kolbert

    • 1mime says:

      Maybe we could get conservatives (who never looked askance at any profit-generating opportunity) to employ Impey to design satellite prisons on Mars….the new “Australia”….freeing up all that U.S. corrections real estate for new housing!

    • johngalt says:

      Agree about the delusional part.

    • flypusher says:

      Here is one of the most intelligent and concise things I’ve ever read:

      “Wherever we go, we’ll take ourselves with us. Either we’re capable of dealing with the challenges posed by our own intelligence or we’re not.”

      Or as a D&D nerd might say, it’s a high-int/ low-wis score issue. The jury is still out on the ultimate survival value of our sort of intelligence.

      I know a couple astronauts. I also know people who have done research into the effects of microgravity on humans. Most people have no idea just how many processes are impacted for the worse. Bone and muscle atrophy us just the beginning. IMO there is not going to be any kind if major traveling in space without some type of artificial gravity for the space craft. I’ll let an engineering type discuss the difficulties with that.

      And to put everything in perspective, the effects of micro/ zero gravity are only 2nd on the problem list. Radiation is 1st.

      (Not saying this is impossible, but rather very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very hard. And it would take much longer than the optimists think.)

      • Bobo Amerigo says:

        This.

        I swear I recall an American astronaut’s comments about his time on the Russian Mir (I think). He talked of seeing radiation ‘particles’ enter the cabin via one wall, move across the cabin space, and exit the far wall. But I can’t find this anywhere. Perhaps I am misremembering.

        But there is this:

        “These results suggest that DNA damage is caused by space radiation and that it is dependent on the length of the space flight.”
        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12793746

        I

      • flypusher says:

        Bobo, I highly recommend Mary Roach’s excellent book: “Packing for Mars” (in case you haven’t heard of it).

    • Crogged says:

      But if we propose a “Motel 8 Mars Bowl” where the NCAA football champion plays the NFL team with the worst record, on Mars the day before the Super Bowl, then we would have a reason for government waste, er, I mean research and development expenditures. JG writes grants, take a crack at it.

  4. RobA says:

    Now this is how government is SUPPOSED to run: bi partisan support for bills that benefit all Americans.

    Good to see that some in the party that loves the words “freedom” and “liberty” actually know they mean.

    Dictating whom consenting adults are allowed to marry? Not liberty. Forcing women to have children they don’t want, even if they were raped? Not liberty. Telling people on food stamps what foods they can and cannot give their kids? Not liberty.

    Stopping mass surveillance of Big Brother on citizens without a warrant? Definitely liberty.

    http://www.politico.com/story/2015/05/prospects-dim-for-11th-hour-patriot-act-deal-118300.html?hp=t1_r

    • 1mime says:

      Rob – on the subject of rape….the TX Legislature passed today a bill that would greatly tie a judge’s hands to approve abortions for teens who have been raped. Critical to the safety of many of these young girls is that they cannot get parental approval especially when the sexual predator is the man/father/boyfriend in the house. So sad that they have been sexually abused, impregnated, made to feel so much shame for something done to them.

    • Doug says:

      I’m with you on all but the food stamps. Of course there should be restrictions on what may be bought with food stamps.

      • 1mime says:

        Doug- restrictions on food stamps. I can agree with obvious restrictions – alcohol, cigarettes – but why anything else?

      • johngalt says:

        When I lived in NC, they passed an exemption to the state sales tax on some “staple” foods. The list of exempted items was compiled – literally – by the governor walking through a grocery store and pointing at things. Hard to get consistency this way.

      • Doug says:

        “but why anything else?”

        Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program pretty much explains it. People shouldn’t take money from others to buy junk food and soft drinks.

      • Houston-stay-at-Homer says:

        I did an interesting project with the FBI several years ago. They (money taken from you) paid nicely for my food and other expenses, and I’m pretty sure I had dessert and soft drinks on more than a few occasions. I appreciate you letting me take your money for that.

        Of course, if we let poor people buy twinkies, they’ll just love being poor too much and never want to stop being poor.

      • 1mime says:

        Twinkie blinkie…One would hope those who need SNAP and WIC would shop healthy, but really! Leave it alone.

      • flypusher says:

        “Of course, if we let poor people buy twinkies, they’ll just love being poor too much and never want to stop being poor.”

        They’re an antidote to bootstrappy-ness! I knew they were evil!!!!

  5. 1mime says:

    Back for a bit on the drug legalization issue, this NYT piece approaches the issue from the vantage of Latin America – what they have learned, what changes they want to and are making in how they treat drug problems, etc. Very interesting. We can learn a lot from those countries that have been fighting this problem a lot longer than we have.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/26/opinion/latin-america-rethinks-drug-policies.html?emc=edit_ty_20150526&nl=opinion&nlid=41048410&_r=0

    • RobA says:

      Interesting article Mime. The war on drugs was a colossal failure. Such is life when you declare a war against an invincible enemy.

      Not that all drugs need to be legal, but clearly reform needs to happen. The cynic in me thinKS that the main reason why it’s taken so much time and done so much damage is because of the political power of prison unions in America.

      Personally, I don’t think that prisons should be a for profit business. Anytime you give a politically powerful group financial inventive to put people in prison, they are going to do just that. And if the current laws aren’t incarcerating enough people to turn a profit, then those groups will use their power to add new ones.

      The system is ripe for abuse. As far as I know, America is the only country that has a partially privatized penal system.

      There’s prob a good reason no one else does.

      • 1mime says:

        Ditto on the Patriot Act decision….and, privatization of prisons was/is a huge mistake….There are some things in life that just shouldn’t have a profit motive. The research on these for profit prisons is scary. I’ll try posting some articles from time to time. Nothing good. Forget rehab. America’s justice system works very well for the wealthy – and their “white collar crime” prison facilities. The one bright light in prisons today is the ability for prisoners to upgrade their educations. Especially at the local level, these graduation ceremonies are really special. I’ve attended four of these (in the local parish(county) district jail and can still remember the pride of these men as they accepted their GED certificates. These men have a chance when they get out to do something better with their lives.

      • 1mime says:

        Rob, while we’re on the subject of “things that we shouldn’t privatize”, I don’t want the Halliburtons running our military bases and mercenaries fighting our wars.

      • Houston-stay-at-Homer says:

        Mime, I’m pretty darn liberal, but other than KBR/Halliburton, Fluor, and maybe a couple of others, there are almost no organizations in the world that could build and staff military bases around the globe on short notice (including the US gov’t/military).

        One could argue that maybe we should just hop into a shooting war that requires bases to be built so quickly, and I wouldn’t argue with that point. However, without instituting a draft (and probably even with a draft), there is no way the US military could quickly staff up enough people to build and maintain military bases on short notice.

        Of course, the fraud and abuse associated with the gov’t contractors is astounding, and that needs to be fixed. Suggesting that we get rid of them is not wholly unlike folks suggesting we should get rid of welfare because and welfare fraud and abuse.

        NASA’s success stories can also be told through countless government contractors providing lots of muscle to the space program (and being handsomely compensated).

        We need a better system to award, monitor, and maintain contractors.

      • 1mime says:

        Fair points, Homer, but the very fact that America is privatizing everything that moves is troubling to me – especially with the lack of accountability that exists. I agree – stay out of war…and…I know industry profits from war but it bothers me tremendously to see our young men and women give their lives while big business is raking in the profits.

        How do you feel about hiring mercenaries?

      • Creigh says:

        1mime, absolutely no to mercenaries, but the government has always relied on contractors for building roads and airports and harbors and such like. Even on the military side, contractors perform a lot of support jobs, everything from fuel supply to maintenance of complex equipment to the base barber shop. And yes, there is waste and fraud, but generally less than people think, although chaotic conditions like war provide more opportunities. As someone involved in DoD contracting for 20+ years, I can say that nobody really likes the current procedures for government contracting, but nobody has come up with a better ones, and not for lack of trying.

      • 1mime says:

        Gentlemen, I concede to better arguments (-:

  6. 1mime says:

    Getting back to politics…..SCOTUS has given itself yet another opportunity to legislate. It has already stepped in to allow large, undocumented contributions in elections, ruled once on health care, removed voter protections, and, now, they are getting into the business of election districts. Lifer, your job is done. Stick a fork in it!

    http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-supreme-court-voting-districts-20150526-story.html

    • 1mime says:

      Here’s a complete list of 13 cases SCOTUS is expected to rule on soon.

      http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-court-key-cases-2015-20150526-story.html#page=1

    • RobA says:

      I think I’m missing some of the nuance here.

      what are the implications of this lawsuit?

      • 1mime says:

        As I understand it, the major implication would be the court’s involvement in determining how electoral districts should be drawn. The 14th amendment established one man one vote with the ten year U.S. Census information being key to drawing districts that were roughly equal in population. This could change that, by backing out all residents who were not of voting age…whether they were legal residents or not (children). Obviously, illegal residents don’t have voting rights in the United States, but their numbers are counted as a “snapshot in time” during census. If voting districts are designed purely counting only those of “voting age”, this will be a radical shift in procedure and could impact the “shape and composition” of voting districts, especially in rural areas.

        The other issue is whether any action by SCOTUS would undermine the authority of state legislatures which have historically had the authority to design voting districts. There have been abuses at the state level by both parties through gerrymandering and interest in allowing states to form independent voting district commissions whose efforts are focused on basic issues such as compactness, contiguous design, diversity within districts. Two states, CA and AZ have enacted such commissions and this is also being appealed to SCOTUS. (As you might imagine, politicians are cut out of the process and they don’t like this. Me, I think it’s a great idea.)

        Here’s a link that might help clarify the ramifications of the lawsuit referenced in the LA Times article. BTW, Scotusblog is an outstanding source for US Supreme Court cases. Hope I’ve helped.

        http://www.scotusblog.com/2015/05/major-test-on-voter-equality-set-for-review/#more-228502

      • 1mime says:

        Rob, read something this am regarding the challenge to changing the census process (all people counted) and its impact (aside from the others I described earlier). It turns out that states with large numbers of undocumented citizens and large numbers of legal children are boosting the number of Congressional seats. The change in how population is counted could directly impact a state’s presence in Congress and definitely would impact the “blue wall” that Lifer talks about. It may also impact the electoral college. Actually, I support excluding undocumenteds from official census numbers, but I do not support excluding children since they are legal citizens and future voters. Census data drives many things we don’t realize, including government services…. and, given how politicians love to twist data to benefit a point of view, it might offer yet another tool to manipulate the process unfairly.

  7. flypusher says:

    I really, really want one of these cars this morning:

    http://www.gizmag.com/amphicars-auction-marketplace-collectible-cars/35375/

    (So much work to do today, and can’t get to it!)

  8. 1mime says:

    Three Houston Chroncle articles in last few days that are worth your time (and will make the Link gods reeely mad): (hope links open)

    They describe: what innovative schools can do to engage kids;
    what hypocritical legislators (TX) do when their ox is being gored;
    what paranoia and pandering politicians do to taxpayer funds – $800M

    http://digital.olivesoftware.com/Olive/ODE/HoustonChronicle/LandingPage/LandingPage.aspx?href=SEhDLzIwMTUvMDUvMjI.&pageno=MQ..&entity=QXIwMDEwMQ..&view=ZW50aXR5

    http://digital.olivesoftware.com/Olive/ODE/HoustonChronicle/LandingPage/LandingPage.aspx?href=SEhDLzIwMTUvMDUvMjQ.&pageno=NTU.&entity=QXIwNTUwMA..&view=ZW50aXR5

    http://digital.olivesoftware.com/Olive/ODE/HoustonChronicle/LandingPage/LandingPage.aspx?href=SEhDLzIwMTUvMDUvMjU.&pageno=MQ..&entity=QXIwMDEwMw..&view=ZW50aXR5

    • 1mime says:

      Doesn’t look like links will open. Here are the article titles in case you want to search for them through chron.com or HoustonChronicle.com, or however you do these sort of things. I think they’re worth the effort.

      Group Filming Legislators Draws More Fire;
      There’s a Word for What “Cool” Vocabulary App Breeds;
      Border Surge Began as Crime Fell.

  9. RobA says:

    there’s a lot of issues that I vehemently disagree with the conservative position, but can at least understand how and why they hold their opinion (abortion , for example).

    But how can any person be ok with things like this?
    http://www.salon.com/2015/05/25/the_republican_plot_to_destroy_the_poor/

    Beans, nuts, anything sugary are “luxury items”?

    Even IF the food stamps system was ripe with abuse (it’s not) are ppl ok with basically starving American kids because their parents are lazy? Will the working poor, (who work.much harder then the millionaires who consider them.inferior) learn a lesson from this “tough love”? Is it a paternalistic character building exercise?

    Kind of funny how these “lovers of liberty” consider taxes that we ALL have to pay to keep society running as “tyranny” and rail about “small government” but fully support the government influence into the most intimate of people’s lives, such as who they can marry, or what they should feed themselves and their children.

    • flypusher says:

      The only way to one up those withdrawal fees in Kansas who be to rob the welfare recipients at gunpoint as they withdrew their $. Surely somebody is taking this travesty to court??

      • flypusher says:

        “Would be”

        Bloody autocorrect

      • 1mime says:

        The poor have no lobby, Fly, and they lack resources to challenge abusive things like this in the courts. They have to depend upon other concerned and compassionate parties – and, sometimes they’re there, and sometimes, not. Conservatives know that the burden of overturning egregious policy/legislation is on the backs of those who can least afford to seek redress – even when it is patently wrong

        This false morality by those who profess to be Christians makes me sick. They want the poor to disappear. I don’t think they’ve thought through “who” would take their place in tending their yards, homes, children, or, roofing their homes, building their roads, or picking their crops. Positively inhumane all in the name of “fiscal prudence”. A pox on their houses!

      • flypusher says:

        The thing that I find most egregious is that the fees are going to the banks, basically a reverse RobinHood thing. As a taxpayer who supports having a safety net, I want MY tax $ to go towards making sure children in poor families have enough to eat, not making fatcats fatter.

        Here is where shaming via Internet can be used for good. The people who voted for this need to be shamed without mercy. So do the CEOs of the banks that collect those fees.

    • Doug says:

      “Beans, nuts, anything sugary are “luxury items”?”

      No. The idiot who wrote the article doesn’t know the difference between SNAP and WIC. Follow his link.

      • unarmedandunafraid says:

        Yep, you are right. Looks like those restrictions are to guide the recipients to healthier choices.

      • RobA says:

        Good find Doug

      • Doug says:

        Although I don’t understand why bulk beans aren’t allowed while packaged beans are. WIC is almost as complicated as IRS rules. http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/03-04-14_WIC-Food-Packages-Final-Rule.pdf

      • 1mime says:

        My gosh, what a pile of mumble jumble! I wonder if charities that have food pantries for the poor have to deal with stuff like this. Hope not.

      • unarmedandunafraid says:

        I’m not sure about bulk vs canned beans either, but it maybe that the beans are good but not in large quantities. Maybe trying to move people away from the diet of my childhood. We ate a lot of beans and potatoes. The Sunday meal with fried chicken was a real treat. My uncle once saw a tv listing in the TV Guide that said “TBA”. We now know it means “To Be Announced” but he said he thought it meant “Taters and Beans Allthetime”.

    • 1mime says:

      Rob, I’m sure you are familiar with the recent TX Legislative acts to prohibit local TX communities from banning fracking. As you said, conservatives don’t want government interference in local decision making unless they don’t like the decisions. Hypocrisy at its zenith.

  10. RobA says:

    OT a bit, that while gay marriage thing in Ireland is pretty special eh?

    Ifanyone had any doubts how quickly social change is a comin, Ireland has ti be exhibit A. Homosexuality was illegal in 1993. Today they pass gay marriage in a landslide, with an overwhelming young people voting yes. Some expats even flew in just for the vote. America is a little behind, but I have no doubts whatsoever we’ll eventually get there.

    The younger generation is starting to flex their political muscle and we reject the irrational and nonsensical dogma forced upon us by the previous generations.

    William Buckley defined a conservative as “one who sits astride history and yelling ‘stop!”

    The pace of change has to be extremely disconcerting to such people.

  11. RobA says:

    Well said.

    Reminds me of this incredible 3 minute clip from Carl Sagan: The Pale Blue Dot

  12. flypusher says:

    For your enjoyment and edification, possibly the best Commencement speech ever, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson @ Rice (2013):

    (I have a very fleeting, in the distance appearance in that video, but not sayin’ where).

    Personally, I’m fine with no longer having the “war driver” as motivation for advancing the space program. The $ driver is going to be what motivates it if anything does. But the private sector isn’t going to do it alone (Tyson explains at the 14:30 mark). Public support has to be there. As Dr. Tyson notes, you have government support prominently in the mix for groundbreaking explorations (who financed Columbus, Lewis & Clark, etc.?).

    • flypusher says:

      Also, as a geeky kid who grew up on Star Trek and similar fare, the loss of the exploratory compass greatly saddens me.

      • 1mime says:

        DeGrasse is so real. As smart as he is, he speaks simply. I loved his statement: “We went to the moon to explore, and we discovered earth.” And, his challenge to this generation of young people to find that desire to explore again, to innovate. Powerful 18 minute presentation and one that I’m sure no one slept through. His observation that the motivating forces of war and money have become such huge determinants of research is a sad commentary for a scientist to have to accept, but he does so gracefully.

        Thanks for sharing.

      • flypusher says:

        He had my total attention, that’s for sure!! Colin Powell spoke at this year’s ceremony. He was quite good himself.

      • 1mime says:

        I have always thought a lot of Colin Powell. I imagine his deepest regret is being co-opted into the UN testimony.

      • flypusher says:

        Same here 1meme. W should have listened to him more and Cheney a lot less, and that UN thing was such a $&%#¥£€ shame. I have no doubt that if he wanted to dish he could really destroy some people. I would so love to know all that he knows, but I do have to respect him sticking to his principles (that he won’t tell on anyone).

        He was definitely a GOPer I could have voted for, but I don’t blame him for not wanting to run.

    • 1mime says:

      Thanks for the link, Fly. I love Tyson! Great intellect; great sense of humor. It’s amazing how he is able to “suffer fools” with a smile. Looking forward to listening to it.

      There are so many things that government “began”….the internet, interstate highway system, dams, on and on. That’s why I get aggravated with those who constantly criticize “big” government as inept. They also lack the humility and evidently the historical intelligence to realize how much of the America we know today results from humble beginnings with “big” government.

    • fiftyohm says:

      FP – Meh. Just hyperbole. 😉

      But seriously, thanks for this, FP. It was, ah, dare I say it – inspiring.

    • 1mime says:

      Dr. deGrasse will be on for a full hour on Charlie Rose tonight on PBS or Bloomberg. Check your local listing as sometimes we are a day later than other areas. In our area, Rose comes on either at 7pm or 9pm.

      Title of discussion format: Star Trek (for all you nerds out there (-: Should be fun And interesting.

    • johngalt says:

      Tyson is right that great exploration, great discovery is usually generated by one of two things, fear or greed. Fear of some existential threat, as war, whether hot or cold, is, or the idea that you might make so much money that the risks are worth it. Ferdinand and Isabella didn’t finance Columbus out of benevolence, they did it out of conquest, and the result was that nearly every country in the Americas speaks Spanish, save those where other exploring nations (France, England and Portugal) were “early adopters.” Lindbergh didn’t cross the Atlantic because he was a daredevil – he did it because it would make him rich.

      Let’s just recognize that Neil Armstrong was a rare beast and figure out how to incentivize discoveries with limited short-term economic potential. Government funding of early discovery, in space science, biomedicine, physics, and other fields is way to do this that has profound scientific and, in the end, economic returns. The peak of NASA’s budgets was in 1965-66 when it was about $40 billion (in 2014 dollars) – 4.4% of the federal budget was spent on NASA then. Today it is $17 billion (0.4%). What a shame.

      • flypusher says:

        It’s my perception that right now there’s too many people going into translational research with the notion that someone else is going to do all that higher risk less glamorous basic research for them. I’m waiting to see the translation end start to slow/stall and people smack themselves and say, oh we’ve been starving the basic research again!

  13. fiftyohm says:

    Manned space flight inspired a generation of scientists and engineers in a way other investments in sceince and technology by Washington cannot, and never will.

    This is not to diminish in any way the critical importance of funding and sponsorship of other basic research in the sciences. It is a simple statement of fact. We ignore the pull of the heavens by casting our collective gaze strictly earthward at our ultimate national doom.

    • Bobo Amerigo says:

      Mr. Resistance,

      My hyperbole meter is redlining.

      • 1mime says:

        Hey, Fifty doesn’t “wax eloquent” often. Every dog has his day (-:

      • fiftyohm says:

        In this case, I speak from personal experience, Bobo.

        But I guess the entire “Blue Marble” thing could be hyperbole, no?

      • Bobo Amerigo says:

        That’s how it is, isn’t it, 50.

        One person’s hyperbole is another’s awe.

        Fortunately, we only lob words.

        Hope you’re enjoying this sobering holiday.

      • fiftyohm says:

        I am, Bobo – and same to you.

  14. BigWilly says:

    I’ve come to really appreciate Edgar Mitchell’s work in Noetics. The Earth is a consciousness. The creatures that dwell upon it are more alive than we’ve realized. This is probably also true of the universe as well.

    If you’re of the persuasion here’s the link to Mr. Mitchell’s site.

    http://noetic.org/

  15. 1mime says:

    Lifer, you are not afraid to be a contrarian! Good for you! Wonderful post.

    What is the art of sustainable, settled living?

  16. nacinla says:

    It’s hard to imagine the United States again undertaking such an ambitious project as the moon program, given that the governing party does not believe in science (except as it applies to weaponry, medicine and personal, consumable technology) or the scientific method (97% used to be more than a consensus when it came to empirical thinking), or government as the solution to any problem (“government is the problem”—St. Reagan). In the recent Ken Burns series on the Roosevelts, George Will goes on about how the Panama Canal was one of the great achievements of the 20th Century, perhaps of all time. It used to be a no-brainer that infrastructure was important and crumbling bridges and highways are a matter of public safety to be dealt with. But, again, when the governing party has only two ideas—perpetual war and tax cuts for the rich—it’s highly unlikely that even basic maintenance will occur, let alone the unleashing of great dreams.

  17. Robert Potts says:

    While I agree with your conclusion that we need to learn to take care of this planet, there is no reason that we can not also continue to explore more of the solar system. There are many more things to learn, and there are valuable resources as well. The asteroid fields are full of valuable minerals, once we have the technology to get there. The success of private companies like SpaceX prove that there is value in space.

    • Bobo Amerigo says:

      Robert, you’ve given me a two-fer 🙂

      Please allow me to point out that SpaceX is not private in the sense of not receiving government funds. SpaceX has received such funds and will likely do so again. Companies don’t do space exploration, governments do. Companies want to be awarded government contracts.

      And your mention of valuable minerals beyond Earth reminds me of calls to mine our Moon, never mind its mass and 28-day cycle are strong enough to move the seas and affect the fertility of half the world’s population. That’s not good thinking.

      Like a goodly portion of Houston, I was a NASA subcontractor for several years. I loved working there. Personally, I think the best thing NASA does from space is look back at our beautiful Earth, our home. It is scary when people suggest we need to explore other planets because we’ll be needing to move there after we’ve ruined this one. I’d rather have the tough-minded straight arrows at NASA solve the plastic sargasso problem than go to Mars.

      I do think we should learn how to deflect asteroids, though.

      Wishing you a great holiday!

      • 1mime says:

        I have read that Congress wants to remove climate study from NASA’s budget. Is this correct BoBo?

      • Robert Potts says:

        Bobo,

        so, any company that receives a contract from the government is not a private company? I think you are a bit off base there. The government is paying them to do things that NASA can’t do anymore.

        Companies will do whatever will make them a profit. Musk thinks that going to Mars will be profitable, so he is building the infrastructure to do that.

        mining an asteroid is a completely different thing than mining the moon. apples and oranges there.

        Whether or not its “scary” to talk about exploring other planets, I think it is wise to have that as an option. If something catastrophic were to happen here on Earth, we would not have time to build the infrastructure to deal with it/escape from it at that time. We need to prepare ahead of time.

      • Bobo Amerigo says:

        Hello, mime.

        I thought I heard that, too. I haven’t looked into it, though.

      • Bobo Amerigo says:

        Robert,

        Our exchange shows why NASA gets pulled in so many directions and will likely never again be so single-minded as to go to the moon.

        We’re all experts on space exploration, fueled by its challenges and our imaginations. Somebody is always criticizing NASA because the agency is not living up to that critic’s goals. Getting to the moon made many things seem possible, even if they’re not advisable.

        Thanks for responding.

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