Eggheads ankle committee as NASA takes Giant Leap at a rolling donut

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Anti-NASAoids say Thursday's resignations of three top scientists from the NASA Advisory Committee is part of a research-vs-PR budget fight within the space agency. Two were asked to leave by NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, and the third, Scripps Institution oceanographer Charles F. Kennel, quit voluntarily. Kennel has been gently critical of NASA's plans to return astronauts to the moon, and Planetary Society president Wesley Huntress has attacked cuts in the space agency's research budgets. Meanwhile, Rice University astronomer Eugene H. Levy, in his Funnyman Bobby Bitman persona, says the three scientists' vision of a broad science program "didn't comport with the kind of advice that the administrator and the chairman of the committee were looking for." Says AP:

NASA has come under fire in the past year for limiting growth in its science budget to 1.5 percent next year and 1 percent each year through the end of the decade. The limits should help the agency pay to finish the international space station and prepare sending astronauts back to the moon.

Budget fights are what they are, but I have to side with the three scientists. Could anything be more pointless than Project Orion, which will send a four-person capsule back to the moon? That's a feat somewhat like demonstrating that by using a Telex machine you can send a document across town in only a half-hour. Hasn't NASA been paying attention to the great astrophysicist Michael Stipe, who discovered that there's nothing up there to see? Project Orion (not to be confused with the famous speculative fusion rocket project of the same name) doesn't even seem to envision putting Martin Landau on a permanent moon base. It's just another stunt to impress the same gang of politicians who turn around and kick the agency every time it takes a step in the right direction.

I should say I differ from other far-out space nuts and NASA critics, who tend to blame the space agency for holding up manned space exploration. On the contrary, I think NASA ought to get out of manned space travel entirely, leaving that to the Russians, the space tourism people, and anybody else who can either make a viable move to the next level or (more likely) die trying. The advantages of manned rather than robot exploration are so marginal, and NASA's successes in the latter area so impressive (by the way, congratulations, Voyager 1, which is now 9.3 billion miles from the sun and a few years from taking the music of Chuck Berry into interstellar space), that it seems to me to be no contest. Why haven't we sent a drill probe to do some sub-surface ocean fishing on Europa? Where's the robot that will make contact with the farting balloon creatures on Jupiter? (And why doesn't NASA seem to have a compilation CD of the music of Voyager—the original World Music collection?) We just don't need people up there getting massive doses of radiation to study flame balls in 0g.

Catch up with Martin Landau, who has been riding around on Moonbase Alpha for seven years now. Or just contribute some of your own Space 1999 fanfic.

[Libertoid boilerplate: Of course, doing scientific research with taxpayer funds is worse than the Holocaust, all NASA administrators should be tried for crimes against humanity, etc etc.]

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  1. Tim-

    I agree with you. If NASA wants to do space science, they should do it with robots. Leave manned space flight to space tourism companies.

    Last night, a friend and I were talking about manned space flight. I observed that sending a robot to the moon to shovel up some rocks and bring them back to earth would have made more sense. He largely agreed, but said that we needed to show our superiority over the Commies by sending real live people. My friend is a libertarian, but whenever the subject turns to dangerous foreigners he believes that it’s important to show just how tough we are, by any means necessary.

    Honestly, the space shuttle is cool and all, but not every cool idea is a prudent use of money.

    As far as disclaimers:

    1) I reiterate what Tim wrote.

    2) Even if all of this were done privately, I assume that private spacel travel companies would specialize: Those interested in research would use robots, and those interested in sending humans for tourist purposes wouldn’t bother with doing science (unless a researcher paid them for the privilege of using their space ship, and it was suitable, and it made financial sense, and all that). So urging NASA to specialize in science is the same sort of advice that one would offer to a privatized version, and hence it’s a reasonable piece of advice to offer, yadda yadda.

  2. I knew this was a Tim Cavanaugh post before I even got to the end–nobody else here references SCTV.

  3. A lot of the guys in NASA agree with you about the stupidity of manned exploration, but THEY are not the one pushing it. NASA doesn’t want to go to Mars, for example; that’s Bush and Congress making them try.

  4. Jennifer: Naturally. NASA’s primary purpose, like that of all government agencies, is to get politicians reelected. In order for it to complete THAT mission, it needs to garner headlines. Which requires human interest stories. Heroes.

    Sending robots to do dangerous work isn’t heroic. It wouldn’t get you any headlines, which wouldn’t get the politicians any votes. Therefore, the Voyager program is politically worthless. You hang around space discussion groups and you’d be surprised how many people of a scientific bent, smart people, get just as misty-eyed as an adolescent girl about heroic astronauts.

  5. I have always found it strange that so many good libertarianesque columnists/pundits/writers/thinkers have a soft spot for NASA.

    Not that I give a rat’s ass for ideological purity– I’m just sayin’.

  6. yeah I prefer that government spends no money on research but when it does I prefer that they spend it on things that are a complete waste of money.

    Tim is wrong.

  7. You hang around space discussion groups and you’d be surprised how many people of a scientific bent, smart people, get just as misty-eyed as an adolescent girl about heroic astronauts.

    The ones I know get misty-eyed at the prospect of expanding human knowledge, which is why they’re furious about having to cut budgets for things like robot missions to Europa so that they can try to send a human being to Mars, let him take a couple of dirt samples, and then bring him back home. Manned missions are witheringly expensive compared to robot missions, and the amount of scientific knowledge you get from them is far less.

  8. My take on NASA: Obviously I’d prefer that it all be private, yadda yadda, insert secret decoder ring slogans here.

    It’s one of those things where I can admire how cool it is even while advocating privatization.

    As far as the moon landing, I think it was one of the coolest things ever done. I don’t think it was the wisest thing ever done, but it was one of the coolest things ever done. That doesn’t mean I think the feds should have spent the money on it, but I can admire it nonetheless.

    Of all the things that the feds could do with that quantity of money, NASA is by far the least harmfull. It’s not necessarily the wisest use of that money, nor the most just use (the most just, of course, would be a tax refund). But of all the public uses to which that money could be put, the NASA budget is by far the least harmful. And cool stuff has come of it, even if it wasn’t the most efficient way of doing that cool stuff.

    You’ll never catch me calling for more money to be spent on it, so hopefully that will be enough for me to keep my decoder ring. But I’ll still acknowledge the coolness. And even while acknowledging the coolness, I’ll still say that if they must spend the money they could at least spend it more wisely.

  9. As for Chuck Berry in space, I can’t provide a link for the routine, but I have heard several times on XM Radio’s Comedy Channel, L’Osservatore Romano’s gossip columnist Father Guido Sarducci (a.k.a. Don Novello) talk about his own space program, which includes taking Chuck Berry 45s to trade with Rock & Roll hungry space aliens.

    A coincidence? I think not. I hope NASA gives the good padre his cut when the big bucks start rolling in.

  10. I like it best when they get a unit wrong and throw a couple billion down the toilet.

    Nobody studies the bureaucratic system reflex when that happens, but you may remember that nobody was to blame.

    My second favorite agency is NOAA, with the annual budget-increasing tornado hype.

    I think things would be better if they switched off missions every now and then, and NASA did the weather for a while, while the weather guys retrofitted Hubble.

  11. As bad as NASA is at the present time, I am certainly glad fools like Cavanaugh are not is charge of Scientific and Technicial progress. If they were they would still be argueing over what color the wheel should be.

  12. Thank heavens Jefferson never fell for that “corps of discovery”hype.
    Yup, Gvt got no role in basic science & exploration in this here republic.
    Having said that: humans in space, and some sort of base on the moon. For shits & giggles, hell, bin one proposed Reagan class carrier. Oh, yeah: robots. Lotsa robots, going every dam,n where. Just bin a couple nuke attack boats.

  13. Argh, can we cease using “standard libertarian boilerplate” and “decoder ring” and all that other crap? I really think that we’re getting to be so self-mocking and down on libertarian thought that we’re honestly starting to be disrespectful of it. Seriously! That “standard libertarian boilerplate” isn’t standard, or ho-hum, or whatever, it’s the leading edge of thought concerning how society should be organized; it really is one of the heights of human interest, and we treat as a joke.

  14. I have hazy childhood memories of Space 1999. Is it actually a decent show or would it be a waste of time to watch now?

  15. Sending humans makes a hell of a lot more sense than the robofans make out. It’s easy (-ish) to build a robot to do a single thing or single well defined set of things. Building a robot that can adapt, improvise, and innovate is well beyond our ability at this point. The Apollo astronauts, despite the fact that only one of them was a formally trained scientist, were able to make on the spot decisions about how to use their time, and were able to make observations that a special purpose robot could not. There are damn good reasons that deep sea exploration still uses manned subs in addition to robots, and likewise for oil rig repair and maintenance.

    The problem with NASA manned missions is not that they make lousy science (though Space Hole One certainly does – putting robots on it would just make it a cheaper waste of money). The problem with NASA manned missions is that they aren’t willing to take risks with the lives of astronauts. Every year vulcanologists and deep sea divers die, not to mention researchers in chemistry labs, physicists and so on. Astronauts who serve a dual role as explorer and PR figurehead are too precious to be risked. Finding qualified people willing to take these risks is not hard.

    The other reason to favor human explorers is that eventually people would like to settle offworld, and the only way to figure out how to do that is to gain experience with living offworld.

  16. There are damn good reasons that deep sea exploration still uses manned subs in addition to robots, and likewise for oil rig repair and maintenance.

    It’s not easy to send humans down to the deepest parts of the ocean, but it’s a hell of a lot easier than sending them to other planets. All a manned submarine has to do is withstand enormous pressure for a couple of hours before it surfaces again; a few hours supply of oxygen isn’t that hard to store, and the hydronauts can eat and drink when they surface.

    Even assuming one sets the same safety standard for manned missions as for unmanned, a manned mission to Mars is going to require months worth of food, oxygen, and water.

  17. thoreau,

    I think you’re overreacting a bit with the disclaimers. The times I’ve seen those questions come up is when a self-described libertarian (eg, Ron Bailey) explicitly comes out in favor of federal funding for his/her pet project (eg, stem cell research), and goes ballistic on those who don’t support such funding. I haven’t noticed any cases where someone just said, “Wow, that was cool” and was immediately accosted by the libertarian hordes, but maybe I just wasn’t paying close enough attention.

  18. Oh yeah, and there’s NO WAY there’s intelligent life in Europa’s purported water ocean. True, life has flourished in total darkness around Earth’s undersea vents, but keep in mind that (a) it did not originate there, and (b) the most complex organisms that have evolved there, after billions of years, are shrimp and crabs.

    Not to say that we shouldn’t explore Europa, but people who are sure that there’s life down/up have been watching too many James Cameron documentaries.

  19. True, life has flourished in total darkness around Earth’s undersea vents, but keep in mind that (a) it did not originate there

    oh man…and pray tell where did it originate?

    Most genetic origin thoeries put archaebacteria either at the vents or some other dark hostile enviornment deep within the earth.

  20. “True, life has flourished in total darkness around Earth’s undersea vents, but keep in mind that (a) it did not originate there, and (b) the most complex organisms that have evolved there, after billions of years, are shrimp and crabs.”

    Octopuses are pretty smart.

  21. One could make the argument that it is acceptable for NASA to fund unmanned exploration missions, since the commercial gains for a private for-profit company to spend billions on sending a probe are fairly small and the risks extremely high. There might be some profit in selling photos or letting virtual tourists drive the rover, but I doubt that the money earned would be enough for any company to break even without any government support.

    However, it may be possible for an extremely rich philanthropist to fund a project like Voyager or the Mars Rovers. IE: Percival Lowell . I believe SETI is funded entirely by private funds.

  22. thoreau, although you used it, I was more irked by Tim’s sarcastic use of it; this is why I get tired of sarcasm and self-referentialism (is that a word?) around here sometimes: is Tim being sarcastic, or is he stereotyping the response libertarians usually put out when someone expresses enthusiasm for a government program, or is he sarcastically stereotyping what people THINK the libertarian expression will be etc…it’s getting old.

    State your position, plain and simple, and there’s no shame in the libertarian boilerplate. Making Bailey contort around his own position was the right thing to do, and the sarcastic/self-referential “standard libertarian boilerplate” remark seems to get treated as a free pass. If we’re just going to toss out some easy remark and comment on government programs the same way right and left do now, we’re irrelevant. It’s that so-called boilerplate that sets libertarian thought apart. Quit deriding it.

  23. The advantages of manned rather than robot exploration are so marginal, and NASA’s successes in the latter area so impressive (by the way, congratulations, Voyager 1, which is now 9.3 billion miles from the sun and a few years from taking the music of Chuck Berry into interstellar space), that it seems to me to be no contest.

    It may be true that robots are a more cost effective way to explore, but what’s the point in collecting fun facts to know and tell about places that you have no interest in developing for human use? And who said science should have the first priority on space exploration anyway? Did Queen Isabella send Columbus off to America with a ship full of botanists and geologists? No, she funded him to find a shorter, more cost effective route to India for trade purposes. It wasn’t a mission to increase scientific knowledge, it was a mission to facilitate economic development. And that’s exactly what a government funded space program should be doing, if you’re going to have one at all. You can do all the science you want – after you learn how to get there and live there. If government is going to fund something, it should at least have the potential to be of use to the people who are paying for it, not just a plaything for scientists to indulge their curiosity.

  24. I really think that we’re getting to be so self-mocking and down on libertarian thought that we’re honestly starting to be disrespectful of it.

    Exactly why should I be respectful of a variety of political thought that’s notorious for proposing to limit the size and scope of government, while at the same proposing a body of law that Americans will never consent to live under without government, and plenty of it, standing on their necks?

    Some things are just programmed to self-destruct.

  25. i must disagree: there is great shame in having to use a boilerplate. (almost on par with the creepy permavirgin thing every time the word “female” is mentioned; like the hoser from that star trek documentary who was so excited when he threw a barbeque where a girl showed up)

    it means that a great deal of one’s audience is still at the emotional stage of development where one’s favorite rock band is loved more by you than anyone else on earth, because they, like, understand you and stuff. unreasonable zealots and other people worth the standard nerd ad hominem pack.

    if people forget they’re reading reason when someone doesn’t automatically bracket an observation with a disclaimer, that’s either a failure of a writer’s skills or of the audience’s level of comprehension. (or insane emotional attachment to “being a libertarian” that bypasses one’s ability to read)

    or more simply: purity is for puritans. the rest of us get fruit punch and fun. otherwise you end up with a gang of people who act like anime cosplayers except they only get boners about austrians and/or being right 100% of the time.

  26. The problem with space exploration, versus the “great age of exploration” from centuries past, is that the elements necessary just aren’t there.

    In the days of Magellan there were two things that fueled the extremely dangerous job of setting sail across the oceans; money and sex. No one would have bothered risking their neck and facing almost certain death if either element was lacking. This was a time when rare spices were worth their weight in gold and sailors could count on orgiastic encounters with local, native girls whenever the ships struck anchor and made landfall.

    This was the genious of shows like Star Trek. Every week Kirk would meet the “sexy alien queen” of the week, who always just happened to rule a planet rich in dilithium. The writers cleverly provided the necessary ingredients to justify their new age of exploration into space.

    The problem with the real universe is that it suffers from a complete lack of hot, mini-skirt clad women and “priceless-substance-X.” If the universe did posess these things, in suitable quantities, humanity would probably have already developed some kind of warp-drive by now.

  27. It might be added that many of the great exploring voyages were government-supported, and the trade established became subject either to a state monopoly or was given to a monopoly company with heavy state investment – or at least unofficial investment from senior officials. (Sadly, curiousity has rarely been much of a historical driver… certainly not compared with money and violence. If you add sex, that’s true for literature and cinema too, woohoo!)

  28. It wasn’t a mission to increase scientific knowledge, it was a mission to facilitate economic development.

    Wouldn’t economic development of space support rather than erode the case for depending on robotics? Whatever resource-development business plans there are out there-and so far all the proposals floated have been pure solar wind-it’s vanishingly unlikely that human brawn or the ever-popular “horse sense” will amount to any kind of value-add in the prospectus. In other words, even if you discover an ocean of gold on Venus or dilithium crystals on Titan, you’re still better off harvesting it with robots, even Johnny Socko giant robots, than with human beings.

    And if the idea is that off-planet living will become another option for its own sake, well, wake me up when people start moving in droves to the South Pole, or the center of the Nefud, or the bottom of the Pacific Ocean-all of which are paradises for human habitation compared to even the friendliest known locale anywhere off Earth.

    To continue your analogy, Isabella didn’t fund Columbus to cross the ocean blue on waterskis, in a hydrofoil, or with a jet pack. She funded what seemed like the most feasible and cost-effective project given the technology available at the time. Given what we have available, manned space travel for any purpose other than tourism will continue to be a loser for a long time to come, and it’s vain to pretend otherwise.

  29. wake me up when people start moving in droves to the South Pole, or the center of the Nefud, or the bottom of the Pacific Ocean

    All three of which are claimed and governed by international law…and of course doomed to be destroyed by global warming

  30. As long as we sit on this planet contemplating our navels, humanity will not advance beyond the zero sum game of: if you have more and I have less then I’m willing to steal, tax, fight and kill to get what you have. While I’m sure (sorry Trekies) we won’t change human nature because we travel to space; removing the physical limits to human advancement can only happen by going somewhere else. We invent tools to do what we cannot do ourselves. I wouldn’t go to any of the places mentioned. Let the robots do what robots do. But I do want to kick moon rocks. Why? Creating a foothold on the moon may be easier than building in Antartica. There is more energy, abundant vacuum, a great view, and unique resources. I can engineer an environment (been to a mall?) grow my own food (been to a farm lately?) raise the kids safely (been to an inner city park lately?) and solve the energy crisis and global warming by using He3 fusion reactors and space solar power platforms, eliminate strip mining, provide economic growth so we can employ the worlds masses with first world jobs and lifestyles and I can all do this for a third the price of the entire Gulf Wars. This tells me that almost every other endeavour on this planet is absurdly misdirected. Going to the moon and expanding human presence across the solar system is the most important thing that can be done by humanity today. All space efforts consume 0.07% of global GDP, and most of that is focused on exploring the earth or communications. Space based businesses produce over $200 billion a year in goods and services. Spending $6 billion a year to make the next big step for mankind – a sustainable and safe future – is an extremely benevolent and foresighted policy for the free peoples of Earth. Oh, and this is where I pass the hat for the National Space Society. How much is this future worth versus one of heat pollution, starving millions, resource wars, and a zero sum economy with no future for our children. Space resources represent the only way to save ourselves. Ad astra!

  31. The sci-fi geek in me who grew up on a steady diet of Star Wars/Star Trek still believes that manned space flight has a future.

    While the hard-bitten cynic in me who realizes the reality of the situation (e.g. the physical limitations of space travel, biological reality that we’re the only intellegent life in reasonable distance from our home planet–if anywhere, the fact that there is nothing on other planets we can’t get here for far less) believes that all space travel–public and private, manned and unmanned–will eventually go the way of the dodo and the only thing we’ll use rockets for in the future is to put new satellites in orbit or lob warheads at one another.

    So much for that dream.

  32. The shift in emphasis is not merely a foolish waste of funds for grandstanding purposes. The Administration is transferring the funds from important climate-related Earth observation programs:

    http://scienceblogs.com/nosenada/2006/08/where_is_nasa_getting_the_mone.php

  33. CLOX – have you ever read any of David Drake’s Hammer’s Slammers series? The viewpoint you advance is precisely that of the “Church of the Lord’s Universe” (although its ethos was encapsulated by a different Latin phrase – via stellarum.) It won’t spoil the ending if you haven’t read the books for me to tell you that, alas, the killing continued…

  34. NASA’s dirty little non-secret is that it’s no different from any other goverment program: overblown, wasteful, riddled with petty politics, housed in lousy forty-five-year-old buildings, and staffed largely by people who any respectable company would have fired long ago. It’s only due to the dogged efforts of people who love space engineering enough to be willing to “go three steps forward, two steps back” that NASA gets anything done at all.

    If space travel is important to you, why advocate for NASA?

  35. To not really address the thread, but answer dead elvis about Space:1999,

    The show’s not too bad. Its pacing is MUCH slower than shows today are, and can get tedious at times, but it also allows for more introspection in the plot. Some of the plots are horrible, just straight up awful. Some aren’t too bad. I really haven’t watched the 2nd series of it, that was supposedly ruined by Fred Freiberger, but the first series isn’t too bad. Good special effects, just some bad Sci-Fi design in plot and technical issues.

  36. I actually favor permanent settlement of space, but a rehash of the there-and-back-again approach isn’t worth the cost. Ideally, the government wouldn’t play such a major role in science, but it does. Therefore, how we spend the sorta limited pie of research dollars politicizes the debate and makes people a little crazy. Robotic exploration is useful, but it also has extreme limits. Look at Mars. If we’d sent a few geologists to Mars for a year, we’d have ten times the data we have from all of the robotic missions combined. Not to mention a bundle of good samples. If the Vision for Space Exploration wasn’t morphing into Apollo 2.0, I’d be happier. I tend to agree that an overarching theme for our exploration of space is a better idea than the current randomish walk, but I do not want to waste a bunch of money just to step on the Moon again or to visit Mars once or twice. Go and stay or stick to robotic missions.

    If we’re going to spend tax dollars on space exploration, the best way in my mind is to offer a prize for achieving certain goals. Just pony up a few billion as a prize and see what happens. Got to work better than what we’re doing now. Perhaps the Conrad Hilton prize for the first hotel on the Moon with paying guests? 🙂

  37. Wouldn’t economic development of space support rather than erode the case for depending on robotics? Whatever resource-development business plans there are out there?and so far all the proposals floated have been pure solar wind?it’s vanishingly unlikely that human brawn or the ever-popular “horse sense” will amount to any kind of value-add in the prospectus. In other words, even if you discover an ocean of gold on Venus or dilithium crystals on Titan, you’re still better off harvesting it with robots, even Johnny Socko giant robots, than with human beings.

    I’d put that one in the “remains to be seen” box. What robotics did you have in mind? If the technology for space travel is still in a primitive state, so is robotics: we still don’t have robots that can substitute for humans mining coal or drilling for oil here on earth.

    And if the idea is that off-planet living will become another option for its own sake, well, wake me up when people start moving in droves to the South Pole, or the center of the Nefud, or the bottom of the Pacific Ocean?all of which are paradises for human habitation compared to even the friendliest known locale anywhere off Earth.

    It may not be logical, but I think there’s far more interest in living off world than there is in living at the South Pole. I note that while I occasionally see articles here about space travel, I never see any about travel to the South Pole. You linked to an article from Space.com, as far as I know, nobody has ever been interested enough to maintain a SouthPole.com. People won’t move to a harsh environment just to move to one, sure. They may move to one if they see a benefit that offsets the disadvantages of the environment. I don’t think a space colonization effort would lack for volunteers, even if the same people don’t show an interest in the South Pole. Why, I couldn’t explain, even though I’m one of them myself.

    To continue your analogy, Isabella didn’t fund Columbus to cross the ocean blue on waterskis, in a hydrofoil, or with a jet pack. She funded what seemed like the most feasible and cost-effective project given the technology available at the time. Given what we have available, manned space travel for any purpose other than tourism will continue to be a loser for a long time to come, and it’s vain to pretend otherwise.

    The difference there being that while nobody has ever crossed the Atlantic on water-skis (that I know of), they have gotten to the moon in Apollo.

    Engineering is largely a process of incremental improvement and refinement. Obviously, one of the reasons interplanetary manned travel technology is so primitive is that there hasn’t been much in the way of development for the last 40 years. Orion would have been a logical follow-on to Apollo in 1975 – in 2006, it’s pathetic.

    Imagine what would have happened if computer technology had taken a 40-year hiatus in 1973. You’d be installing your first IBM System 370 around now, forget about your Macintosh, let alone your iPod and your cell phone.

  38. I think someone ELSE brought this up, but blaming NASA for it’s budget decisions leaves out the primary driver of it’s budget decisions — Congress and the White House.

    I work for NASA, so let me offer you the inside scoop here — among all the people I work for, a LOT would love to go back to the moon. Permanently. Doing it right. However, not a single damn one of them actually thinks we’re going to go anytime soon, and thinks Bush’s plan is all smoke-and-mirrors.

    The problem see, is that officially they have to set their budget like it’s serious. So NASA is at least playing it fairly smart — the Shuttle is retiring, and the very FIRST thing needed for new Moon missions is a more reliably and better-designed launch system. So they’re spending Bush’s “moon money” on shit they really need anyways — a new unmanned heavy-lift system, and a new low-cargo manned system. Both using reliable and proven technology — no pushing the damn envelope.

    Back to rockets (no falling debris to screw over your reentry vehicle), ablative shields (no delicate tiles that push the edges of material technology) and best of all — no need to man-rate 100 tons of cargo lift. Just the much-smaller and totally seperate manned one.

  39. It’s one thing to think that NASA shouldn’t be doing manned, or robotic, or psychic, space exploration. It’s another thing entirely to try to justify that argument by saying that a particular method isn’t the best way.

    I hate it when libertarians (supposedly some of the most humanist people on the planet) make arguments against space travel like, “we can’t do that, so we shouldn’t try.” Certainly no one should have money stolen (taxed) to support such activities, but so many of the libertarians who argue against NASA conflate all of space travel with their opposition to that organization.

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