Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Posts Tagged ‘Space Shuttle

Nasa unveils Space Launch System vision … will American Astronauts go to asteroids and Mars?

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OK, NASA has announced that the USA will return to space. In a massive Federal Program the USA is going to build the biggest rocket ever built, carry enormous amounts of stuff into orbit, and allow the USA to send manned missions to Mars and asteroids. This breathtaking plan is called the Space Launch System. *blinks* We used to call our space programs things like Mercury and Apollo, now we have Space Launch System? Marketing considerations aside, this has to be a good thing, right?

Well, not really. A bit of context here. The SLS is being built by the same people who brought us the Space Shuttle. Despite the hype, the Space shuttle is possibly the biggest boondoggle in history. It’s like the DeLorean or the Concorde, it didn’t really make sense from the beginning. And unlike them, buckets of money and blood kept being thrown at it because of national pride. And I mean blood literally, the Space Shuttle killed  a passenger an average of every nine missions or so, it’s the most dangerous vehicle ever put into regular service.

So I’m not as optimistic about this as many might be. I’m all for the exploration of space, but right now, robotic exploration seems like the way to go. This SLS program is going to consume a lot of money, which very much means that numerous other probes won’t get funded. And we’re leaving launches into low Earth orbit up to the commercial sector. In other words, we’re putting all of our eggs into one basket again. This is never a good idea.

I also think something I’ve heard called Gigantomania is coming into play. America has almost an obsession with building the biggest and best of everything. Sometimes without any clear reason why, and often ignoring practical considerations or or downstream costs. There’s a tremendous psychological and cultural component to why giant boondoggles get built, I wonder if this played a part in this decision. Or is cynically being used to promote it.

Which leads to two points, one of which is more or less self evident. This will be ever more money going to a small number of people. Very few of us are rocket scientists, and they won’t be building any space ports in a  city near you gentle reader, fifties sci fi stories to the contrary. This is not  a jobs program.  And worse, the pernicious influence of the military has to be recognized. Are there military uses for this? Yes, yes there are.

In other words, the SLS is a very expensive program that channels a lot of money to a very small number of people, its major beneficiaries are the military and the people profiting from it, and whether it works or not science loses since so many probes that could have leaned vastly more than this ever will, could have been funded. So, no matter what, the military and the rich gain, we pay for it, and if we’re really lucky we get to have a poster of some US astronaut on an asteroid or Mars holding a flag. This is going to be a very expensive poster.

Lastly, in some senses this might very well be overshadowed by other events. By any objective standard, the world is a mess right now. Right now I’d say the SLS’s chances of surviving the turmoil of the next few years are low. The US lost its mind on 9/11, and what we have sown in the first decade of this new century is bizarre. We’ve normalized endless war and infinite spending, historically this never ends well. A giant spaceship isn’t going to help.

And then throw in infinite breeding for ideological reasons, and we have the bleak topic of the next post.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law, it’s an historically important image and it’s not being used for profit. It’s the Space Shuttle Challenger blowing up. Half the damn fleet blew up,how is that not a fail? Humans can be blind to failures, another topic for the future I suppose.)


Written by unitedcats

September 15, 2011 at 8:20 pm

Doug’s Angryworld

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Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Fall of the Rebel Angels

Part of the reason my blogging has slowed down recently is that so much of what is going on today makes me mad. So I decided to vent about it, maybe it will be cathartic, maybe it will just make me madder. In no particular order, and in no way comprehensive, here are ten things I spend my time seething about. Be warned, I may use some harsh language as the situation warrants.

1. The rich are ass raping us all, and tens of millions of Americans are clamouring for more. The rich have been getting richer in the USA since the 1970s, while the middle class has slowly and steadily lost ground. This is not debatable. They’ve moved our factories to foreign lands, slashed their taxes, taken over our government and mainstream media, and stolen trillions from the public till. And most Americans are so brain-washed and propagandized that they blame immigrants, liberals, conservatives, atheists, shriners, whatever. Anyone but the people who have actually gotten us into this mess.

2. The debt, an extension of number one. The Federal government  has been running in the red a record breaking 33 months now. State and local governments are no better. How in the name of God did the richest country the world has ever seen run up debts so insane that there is no conceivable way to ever pay them off? The infinite greed of the rich and the apparently infinite stupidity of the great unwashed masses is my guess.

3. The Pentagon. There was a reason the founding fathers were adamantly opposed to a standing army. Armies get involved in politics, and then get the country involved in wars. All of which costs the country blood and money. And it just keeps getting worse, while tens of millions of Americans regurgitate the crap that our legions overseas are fighting to “defend our freedoms.” No, they are fighting and dying to make the rich richer and create endless new enemies for the USA. Frankly the US army needs to be disbanded it’s so out of control.

4. The historic last flight of the space shuttle. Good riddance. The space shuttle was one of the biggest boondoggles in history, it should never have been built in the first place, and it most certainly should have been canned after the first one blew up. Yet Americans are celebrating the lives lost and the billions wasted on this flying cash cow.

5. Iran is going to have nukes soon! Yes, another right wing think tank claims that Iran is going to be building nukes soon! Yes, the exact same claim that has been made by Israeli and American war mongers since the 1980s! Yes, for nearly thirty years Iran has been “just about to” build nuclear weapons! Meanwhile Israel and the USA have massively increased their war spending, including the creation of an Israeli nuclear arsenal. The USA spends more money on air conditioning for its troops in Iraq and Afghanistan than the entire Iranian military budget, yet we are supposed to quail in our boots because Iran might someday acquire a few fifties era nukes?

6. Casey Anderson. A woman was acquitted of a terrible crime in a fair trial … and millions of Americans are braying for her blood. Literally. How does this make them any different than stone throwing Muslims? It doesn’t.

7. Health Care. France spends 11% of its GNP on health care, and provides everyone in France with cradle to grave health care of the highest quality. The USA spends 16% of its GNP on health care and provides its citizens with the worst health care in the industrialized world. Anyone who isn’t mad about this is a fool.

8. Fucking the globe. From climate change to deforestation to over-fishing humans are making widespread and unprecedented changes to the surface of our fine planet. Humans are now the greatest force for change operating on the surface of the Earth in numerous realms, in most cases either ignorant of what the end result will be, or worse, deliberately proceeding even though our best minds say the end result will be catastrophic. Collectively we are no smarter than ants.

9. Religious nuts. Even the Romans understood: “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” – Seneca the Younger (4 B.C. – 65 A.D.) And here we are two thousand years later blowing each other up, destroying the planet, and breeding like rabbits because people think it’s a great idea to do stuff because of what someone’s imaginary friend said. Jesus wept.

10. We’re all little better than monkeys. Yes, science has now shown that our brains are hard wired to be stupid. When most people are confronted with logical and scientific evidence that refutes some stupid idea they have, it reinforces their beliefs! This wouldn’t be such problem if our leaders weren’t all too eager to promote dumb fuck ideas because it makes them richer and more powerful.

In conclusion, speaking globally, this isn’t going to end well. Speaking locally, despite a missing lime and a recalcitrant pull tab, it’s going quite well and will end up nicely. And when I wake up, maybe the last 31 years will have all been a nightmare. A man can dream.

(The above image is of a painting made in 1562, so it’s currently Public Domain under US copyright law. I expect that to change soon as corporations twist the law to their own purposes. It’s titled “The Fall of the Rebel Angels” by Pieter Brueghal the Elder. I believe it’s self evident why I thought this was an appropriate image for this post.)