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RE: NASA Goes Deep

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  • Dan Minette
    ... I think it depends on how the question is worded and the nationality of the folks being asked. I think it would be rates just after Columbus discovering
    Message 1 of 14 , Feb 28, 2007
      > -----Original Message-----
      > From: brin-l-bounces@... [mailto:brin-l-bounces@...] On
      > Behalf Of Doug
      > Sent: Tuesday, February 27, 2007 10:08 PM
      > To: Killer Bs Discussion
      > Subject: Re: NASA Goes Deep
      > Dan wrote:
      > > Well, IMHO, the manned space program is a waste of resources. I'd guess
      > > that the bang for the buck of this program is somewhere between 1% and
      > 10%
      > > of that for spending on science.
      > How do you think the general public would rank Apollo in a list of human
      > achievements? I'm confident that it would be placed at or near the top of
      > the list.

      I think it depends on how the question is worded and the nationality of the
      folks being asked. I think it would be rates just after "Columbus
      discovering America" in the US, but not that high elsewhere. The age of the
      people polled would also matter....I think you would get a higher percentage
      with that response at our age than among those <35.

      > I personally consider it humankind's greatest achievement in my
      > lifetime and perhaps for all time. Not because it's a great engineering
      > feat or because we proved our superiority over a competing economic system
      > or for any other tangible reason, but because it's a tremendous milestone
      > in our development as a life force; a magnificent triumph of the human
      > spirit. We cracked the egg and stuck our beak out!

      If you have faith in Progress, as opposed to just progress, I can see that.
      But, this assumes a particular future. For example, in space exploration,
      why this date instead of the date Sputnik was launched, or the day we first
      soft landed a craft on the moon, or the first time we reached a planet?

      > If, a thousand years go by and we haven't destroyed ourselves (or haven't
      > been destroyed by some other entity, who knows?) we will have explored
      > much of what lies beyond this planet and we will look back on July 20,
      > 1969 as the day it really started.

      Well, this is rank speculation on both of our parts, but I don't think that
      will be true. If a significant part of humankind lives off planet, then
      that might be true, but I'm guessing that living in habitats will not be an
      attractive option compared to living in open spaces. If lift costs became
      minimal, I could see space tourism....and I could definitely see all sorts
      of automated equipment in space.

      The first explorer to get somewhere does deserve some credit, but the
      importance of first contact rests somewhat on what happens next. For
      example, if it was discovered that the Vikings did reach North America, it
      wouldn't make this anywhere as important as the start of the sea contact
      between Europe and the Americas....because the latter had a tremendous
      effect on our lives, and the former had minimal effect.

      Nearly 40 years after the moon program, we have only marginal improvements
      in lift costs, even though the government has invested billions in NASA
      every year. Contrast this with the cost of computing power. I've
      personally seen, since ~1984, a million fold drop in the cost of running
      MCNP...a nuclear transport model.

      The reason for this is clear to me....fundamental physics. This will need
      to be chanced before it makes sense to send humans into orbit. In a sense,
      the moon is somewhat like Everest....it's an achievement to get there, but
      there is little practical to do once on gets there.

      Indeed, I'd argue whether we have a moon base now will have very little to
      do with how extensive our present man space program is. If we land humans
      on Mars in 2015, 2025, 2050, or 2100, it will have minimal impact on how
      extensive the utilization of space is in 2500. The reason I say this is
      because the practicality of an extensive presence in space relies on new
      technologies that are dependent on new sciences. There is no indication
      that the development of the scientific knowledge needed to have a large
      practical presence in the solar system is dependant on the nature and extent
      of the manned space program in the first part of the 21st century. Thus,
      the present manned space program finds a parallel in the Viking explorers of
      the early 2nd millennium. Neither will have much of an impact on later

      Dan M.

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