Thursday, March 30, 2006

NASA Incompetence

Despite featuring some of the brightest minds in America, NASA is wasting billions of dollars on silly projects. What about helping the people on Earth?


  1. to be fair, rich, the argument that space exploration is unfeasible because we need to 'help people on earth' is a straw man. the us government has the ability to both feed most of the world's hungry and cure most of its ailing; it chooses not to aggressively pursue those things in order to preserve stable prices for agricultural commodities and pharmaceuticals. nasa's budget is but a fraction of american discretionary GDP, and to blame nasa would be like blaming the MTA for bad public schools in New Jersey (sorta).

    there are many valid arguments against nasa as an agency (sprawling, overpaid, probably corrupt and only marginally successful), but the most interesting issue here is the imperfection of the union of science and politics. for nasa to do really good science, it needs to set aside the real sexy missions, like manned shuttles, the weaksauce ISS, &c in order to pursue models of further workable probes that will expand our understanding of our own system, the interface between solar winds and deep space, and so on.

    BUT-it is the 'sexy' missions that get funding! hubble is the most important piece of technology we've ever put into space, and possibly the greatest achievement of human engineering in history, but do you remember the reaction it received in the 90s? it was a piece of 'garbage' until its mirror system was slightly tweaked (i think the original mirror was too elliptical or something), and still you never hear a word about it! but put some mouth-breathing rube on the moon, and boy howdy, you've got yourself a $1 trillion dollar budget over the next generation!

    my point is that a) poverty is the number one issue that we must tackle as a generation, and b) global warming is up there too, but c) we can face these obstacles and still grasp for the stars. indeed, an eventual expansion of the uses of space to commerce/industry and agriculture could actually be our salvation (just think of the swaths of land that would free up for trees! and new haven without the smell!).

    si requiritis futurum nostrum, spectate astra

  2. that said, SETI is some bullshit

  3. and upon reading the article, i don't disagree with the dude at all. it's really a matter of how you say it. i've always thought that nasa should probably be disbanded and reorganized with other space agencies under a UN umbrella with mad watchdogs and mechanisms ensuring transparency, but as i tried to say above, nasa's original purpose is still a worthy one (do you know how much money is waiting to be made out there?).

  4. that last line i wrote here was sort of meant to stir up debate, and i'm happy that at least one person wrote something interesting and insightful. of course it's silly of me to blame NASA for wasting money when so much other money is wasted as well (on a small scale by me for example, on a larger scale by countless corporations, governments, etc...)

    i think that NASA has the potential to do some important things in the future, but simply putting another man on the moon isn't one of them. instead, NASA should take advantage of its vast resources of money and intelligent people and focus only on missions with more of a possibility to be more valuable for the future of earth. easier said than done of course, but that's why they get the big bucks, not me.

  5. yeah, the biggest shit they can do is monitor climate change, precipitation levels, and temperature levels of the atmosphere above key locations like the poles, greenland, and the siberian tundra. immense amounts of methane are trapped in the latter and it's predicted that even a few fractions of a degree in heating would be enough to free up that methane and exponentially increase the (already exponential) snowball effect of global warming. of course, global warming will make europe (and presumably siberia) a lot colder, so i'm not exactly certain how this methane is to be heated in these hypothetical. i'm sure we're all going to die miserable deaths, i'm just not sure of the technicalities yet.

    besides that sort of shit, i think that once space travel becomes cheap enough (check out the wikipedia entry on the space elevator concept) there will probably be a mad dash by corporations to claim resources in space (there are plenty just in our backyard). we ought to be worrying about that.