Diamonds are Forever—And NASA Evidently Plans to Be Too.

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NASA–the folks who popularized brought you Tang and Velcro–are planning to send astronauts to Mars in the 30 years or so. As D.A. Ridgely trenchantly observes:

There's good news and bad news on the Final Frontier Front. The good news, NASA plans a manned landing on Mars 30 years from now. The bad news, NASA plans to still be around 30 years from now…

My guess is that, whatever the so-called experts are planning and predicting at this point, by the time there is significant human traffic in space, the model we will rely upon most heavily will be our history of ships at sea and how they, for example, have dealt with medical emergencies and shipboard deaths on the high seas. Unfortunately, I won't live to see much of it happen, anyway. Then again, if we leave the likes of NASA in charge, neither will my great grandchildren.

Whole post here.

Disclosure: Mr. Ridgely has been a friend of mine for [cough] 30 years or so. However, you should not let that stop you from regularly visiting his excellent new blog.

Update: I stand corrected on Tang and Velcro. Thanks Kap.  Though didn't I see a commercial touting Tang as the drink of astronauts when I was but a wee tyke? 

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  1. Mr. Ridgely has been a friend of mine for [cough] 30 years or so. However, you should not let that stop you from regularly visiting his excellent new blog.

    You guys met in kindergarten?

  2. NASA is for all intents and purposes a military organization. So no, the US government is not planning on just giving up the frontier of space to rival countries.

  3. My wife was telling me the other day that NASA was convening some big panel with ethicists and theologians and all sorts of other thinkers to discuss what should be done with a corpse should someone die during the long flight to Mars and back.

    She and the other science teacher chatting about it apparently received startled looks from their colleagues for agreeing that any corpses simply ought to be ‘spaced’, and wondering why NASA was even bothering to have such a panel.

  4. All the nutty republicans still around in 30 or so years will want to name the spaceship after GW Bush because a few years ago he gave a speech about how we should go to mars. They’ll say Bush was the inspiration for the trip and should receive credit the way JFK received credit for inspiring us to go to the moon. And they’ll say this with a straight face.

  5. ubergeek comment:
    FYI Velcro is a registered trademark. The proper nomenclature is ‘hook and loop’.

  6. Ass-kissing Fan,

    Yes. It all started when Ron and D.A. began arguing with their teacher that it is their right to eat paste if they want to.

  7. Who wants to fly in the GW Bush to Mars? Yucko.

    I also think it would be supremely fitting, if someone was to tragically die on a trip to Mars, to send them out the airlock, to float among the stars for eternity (well, until they ran into something and burned up). The people who are going to go have been dreaming and yearning for this. Do you think they want to be earthbound forever after?

  8. Velcro was invented by a Swiss guy back in 1941.

    Tang was invented in 1957.

    The NASA effort invented a lot of stuff (including the ancestor of the FEA software I’m running as I type this) but most of it is too boring and esoteric to interest laypeople.

  9. I should think that having a bunch of dead bodies floating around in space would pose some of the same problems as space debris.

  10. HAPPY STAR WARS DAY.

    May the Fourth be with you.

    [Seems as appropriate a thread as any.]

  11. No, the clear choice is you lash the body to the outside of the hull of the spacecraft.

    But only if you’re trying to sneak through Reaver territory.

  12. And Teflon was invented in 1938.

  13. Dan –

    If NASA would just end the non-military charade, it would probably do a lot to contribute to the long-term prospects of human space exploration.

    As long as we continue to pretend that we don’t want space to be an arena for military competition between states, and that we don’t want space to be commercialized because it “belongs to all mankind”, we will stay earth-bound.

    Space has to be conquered, fought over imperialistically, and raped for its resources the way Earth was, or we are never going to get there.

  14. Can’t wait for NASA’s manned mission to the sun. Hoping they’ll take Congress with them.

  15. If I ever get stupid rich, right after I build the Roman villa, I’m going to start my own space program. So if you have extra cash on hand, feel free to send it to me. Not a tax, but a gift for all mankind.

  16. Glorious “HELLO” to Smacky is presented.

    Aresen – sadly according to IMDB, wrong we have been. 25.5.1977 the correct date according to IMDB is.

    ProGLib – in the mail the check is.

    To talk like Yoda day the great URKOBOLD has extended his bidding.

  17. My wife was telling me the other day that NASA was convening some big panel with ethicists and theologians and all sorts of other thinkers to discuss what should be done with a corpse should someone die during the long flight to Mars and back.

    I don’t know about the flight to Mars and back. It’s probably to short to be that concerned about burials in space.

    But I certainly think that if anyone ever embarked on a truly long spaceflight they might have to ask if it is right to allow something like a human corpse go to waste on something as resource poor as an interstellar space craft.

  18. The Vulcans invented velcro.

  19. C’mon Ron and D.A., you know that NASA won’t be around by the time we get to Mars. It’ll be Star Fleet by then.

    All the nutty republicans still around in 30 or so years will want to name the spaceship after GW Bush because a few years ago he gave a speech about how we should go to mars. They’ll say Bush was the inspiration for the trip and should receive credit the way JFK received credit for inspiring us to go to the moon. And they’ll say this with a straight face.

    Nope, it’ll have to be the GH Bush. Dad made a speech on the 30th anniversary of the moon landing on the Mall. I was there for the anniversary and heard the speech. Armstrong and Aldrin were on hand for the event. I don’t recall if Collins was there or not. Ah well, the curse of the command module pilot Spinal Tap drummers.

    Bit of a let down, the event, I thought I would be closer to the stage. As it was, I could barely make out that it was people that were speaking at the podium.

  20. That is, made a speech calling for a Mars mission a’ la JFK, in case that wasn’t clear….

  21. Isaac-

    Good point. A craft for a really long trip would presumably have some sort of agricultural capabilities, in which case it would make more sense to let the corpse decompose and return its nutrients to the soil, or whatever growth medium they’re using.

    Here’s an issue to consider for a Mars trip, however: Is it really a good idea to open the air lock any more than absolutely necessary? Yeah, yeah, miniscule chance of problems. But why take even a tiny chance of a really bad thing if there are other options? Why not just put the thing in a giant ziploc bag and freeze it?

  22. I should think that having a bunch of dead bodies floating around in space would pose some of the same problems as space debris.

    They actually are space debris. See the great Dennis Quade documentry “Enemy Mine”, opening credits.

    The Vulcans invented velcro.

    But that Goodyear guy invented sulpher vulcanization. English is tricky and has been known to drive some mad.

  23. As long as they get the nasty looking lizard- things out of the bodies before they get back to Earth, I don’t care what they do. If I had to blast one of those devils that was sneaking up on my patio, his acid-blood would ruin the finish on my stained concrete!

  24. kap: Right you are. I will correct. Thanks much.

    Tang

    Velcro

  25. Heard the Kanye song this morning, I did.
    Been stuck in my head all day, the song has.
    Shirley Bassey, I was hoping for.
    Disappointed a little, I was.

  26. Glorious “HELLO” is transmitted and received.

    “HOW IS THE LAKE TODAY”, over.

    I was hoping to go to Chicago today, actually.

  27. thoreau

    I thought pretty much the same thing with regards to a Mars trip. While the trip is long it is not that long.

    Now as to whether you would want to return with the corpse of a crewperson who had died on the trip there I don’t know.

    Then you would have to answer the question about contamination of Mars’ environment by interring humans there. And, yes, I am serious; I do think that is a consideration.

    It used to be routine to bury those who died on board ships at sea. But then sea voyages lasted many months and even years. Until the end of WWII I believe it was the Navy’s standard practice. Since then with refrigeration and shorter times at sea it is hardly necessary.

    Will Allen | May 4, 2007, 12:28pm |

    Snicker…snort… 😮

  28. Teflon was invented in 3067 BC, by the Egyptians, who were actually black. Did you know that?
    And the pyramids were constructed by aliens.
    Tang? Same thing.

  29. Update: I stand corrected on Tang and Velcro. Thanks Kap. Though didn’t I see a commercial touting Tang as the drink of astronauts when I was but a wee tyke?

    I just though you were kidding, Ron.

    And, yes they did indeed tout Tang as the drink of astronauts some years ago. I was considerably more than a wee tyke at the time too.

    Those ads certainly did create the impression that Tang was a product of the Space Program.

  30. Don’t forget pencils that can write upside down!!!!

  31. All the nutty republicans still around in 30 or so years will want to name the spaceship after GW Bush because a few years ago he gave a speech about how we should go to mars. They’ll say Bush was the inspiration for the trip and should receive credit the way JFK received credit for inspiring us to go to the moon. And they’ll say this with a straight face.
    Why not? If it wasn’t for his bravery during the First Bugger War of 2008 we would all be dead by now.

  32. “OVERCAST. SOME CHOP. BUT IT’S THE LAKE AFTER ALL” over.

    “MR. STEVEN CRANE IN CHARGE OF LAKE ACTIVITIES TODAY” over. “HE TOOK THE NOAM CHOMSKY BLOW UP DOLL AND FLED THE SCENE” over.

    confusing this is becoming. Like a radio transmission talking day today is. Day also to talk like Yoda.

    arrrr! ahoy matey! like Pirate Yoda arrr talking today we shall. yar!

  33. Confusing things, are you…hmmm?

  34. Yes Ron, Tang was marketed as the drink of astronauts.

    So Kap, what about silicon? Lots of people over the years have justified the space program because it brought us silicon in a tube (not silicon in a boob).

  35. Tang mixer:
    8 oz. ginger ale
    4 oz. grape juice
    mix in glass
    stir in teaspoon of tang
    Lots of foam
    drink

  36. Rather than the G.H.W. Bush, the vessel should be named for Bush’s front man on space policy: The Dan Quayle

    Mars is essentially in the same orbit… Mars is somewhat the same distance from the Sun, which is very important. We have seen pictures where there are canals, we believe, and water. If there is water, that means there is oxygen. If oxygen, that means we can breathe.

  37. Feeling I have that when NASA to Mars gets, the Chinese and the Indians waiting for them will be.

  38. Update: I stand corrected on Tang and Velcro. Thanks Kap. Though didn’t I see a commercial touting Tang as the drink of astronauts when I was but a wee tyke?

    Mr. Bailey is kidding about that “wee tyke” business. He and I can remember the invention of real orange juice, maybe even of real oranges. (No, not really, nor did we know each other as children, at least not by the strictly physiological definition of children.)

    Speaking of good news and bad news, the good news is that Mr. Bailey’s kind mention of my new blog has readership soaring, the bad news is that I might actually have to start thinking about what I post there. Credit where credit’s due; thank you, Mr. Bailey.

    Meanwhile, back at the topic, I think Mr. Bartram makes excellent points. Of course, my reference to the high seas in the context of deep space travel was primarily to the days of sailing ships. Even then, however, the length of the longest voyages were short by comparison to what any human attempt to reach the stars is likely to entail. Doubtlessly, the recyclable value of a human corpse may well outweigh even seafaring burial practices, but who knows for sure?

    Certainly not NASA, and that was one of my basic points. Thinking out what a Mars mission might entail is speculative enough at this stage; thinking about deep space ethics or practicalities is the sort of wool-gathering better left to private and privately funded minds for the foreseeable future. Even space-crazy libertarians must draw the line somewhere on government waste. For NASA to now be pondering “the thorny practical and ethical questions posed by deep space exploration” doesn’t even pass the straight-face test when it comes to such waste.

  39. Oops, broken link caused by careless typing caused by lack of sleep caused by midnight showing of Spider-Man 3. (Which, btw, I review at my blog!) The link should be “my new blog.”

  40. TWC,

    Here ya go.

    I don’t see any mention of giant boobs.

    Although they were invented here in Houston, and no, we don’t have a problem with it.

  41. My guess is that, whatever the so-called experts are planning and predicting at this point, by the time there is significant human traffic in space, the model we will rely upon most heavily will be our history of ships at sea and how they, for example, have dealt with medical emergencies and shipboard deaths on the high seas.

    I’ve always thought the naval/military paradigm constantly used on spaceships in science fiction is a clear case of lack of imagination and a sense of wanting to project something comfortingly familiar into the unknown of the future.

    I imagine that space travel with start out that way, but that as it becomes more common and goes further away in space and time, evolution will cause spacecrews to end up with ways of doing things that might not resemble the original rules. I think it’s sort of silly for us to be debating sex in space, death in space, this-and-that in space, because when they’re up there they can do whatever best serves their needs at the time and place.

  42. Oh noes! Now we’re going to contribute to climate change…on mars!!!

  43. “Oh noes! Now we’re going to contribute to climate change…on mars!!!”

    Well, science fiction geeks have talked about terraforming Mars for decades. Climate change is an implicit part of the program.

    However, given the known difficulties with climate modelling on Earth, I would say that modelling a terraforming process on Mars would be several orders of magnitude more difficult.

  44. I imagine that space travel with start out that way…

    … and that’s all I really meant. But drawing from past experience doesn’t evince a lack of imagination any more than learning how successful recipes work first is evidence someone won’t become a creative cook, especially when new ingredients must replace old ones.

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