Monday, April 12, 2010

Is Space Boring?

This talk from the SpaceUp Ignite series argues that Space is Boring -- or at least, manned spaceflight as presented to the public by NASA.  Discuss.

Strangely, the speaker hardly discusses Mars rovers, other robotic planetary exploration, or space telescopes.  Given that the shuttle program is almost finished, with no replacement in sight, that seems strange.

3 comments:

The AstroDyke said...

I love the title of another SpaceUp Ignite talk: "Scotty Didn't Write Device Drivers".

dr. dave said...

If manned space travel is "boring", it's b/c NASA has MADE it boring by making no attempt to send a person more than 600 miles from the Earth's surface since 1971? 72?

ZLN said...

"If manned space travel is "boring", it's b/c NASA has MADE it boring by making no attempt to send a person more than 600 miles from the Earth's surface since 1971? 72?"

Well, there is a good reason for that. The entire operational goal of manned space flight is to keep the astronaut alive; anything above and beyond that, such as actual science & exploration is a bonus. If one actually cares about actual science, as opposed to all that Star Trek stuff, the astronaut is a liability without benefit. With the resources spent sending astronaut into space while desperately trying to keep them alive, we can launch & build hundreds of satellites & robot rovers that will do what no astronaut can do, have the endurance of years rather than days, collect real data, and make real scientific discoveries. Consider all the money & time spent on the manned space program & the space station, can we name one piece of science done by astronauts that really amounts to something?

(I know, it took astronauts to fix the Hubble. But had we got rid of the space shuttle back in 1992, the amount of money & resources saved could have built a whole constellation of Hubbles.)

In the end, what has manned space flight got other than the myth of space travel? I don't think anyone denies the emotional power of that idea, but unfortunately the Laws of Physics are such that it is unlikely human being well ever leave the vicinity of Earth (and probably will never make it to Mars) -- the planet we are on is the only spaceship we will ever have. When the next astroid hits, or if we last long enough that the Sun runs out of helium, that's it, game over. At some point we need to outgrow our favorite fairy tales and move on.