Space

People of Earth: The Commentary Track for Bring It On: Fight to the Finish Was Way Lame

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Manned space travel, like the manned fighter plane, is a great logic puzzle: Even if you concede that the government should be running this business, the business model makes no sense. The arguments for an all-robot space fleet keep piling up, in low earth orbit and beyond: While the Jet Propulsion Laboratory uses its fraction of NASA's budget to deliver lovable Mars rovers, scientific surprises from the moons of Saturn and other breakthroughs, the Space Shuttle program is winding down with very little to show for all the effort.

DVD in space: Pleaidians request Seasons 1-4 of The Rockford Files.

Now the UK writer Charlie Stross of the Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies says even the venerable idea of the Starship was just a beautiful dream from the days of classic rock. In a heavily italicized post, Stross argues that "the entire conceptual framework of the starship is a dangerously misleading dead-end, and that what we need is a new framework for thinking about interstellar travel." His proposal for a solar-sail type "Starwisp," Stross says, will "look more like a DVD balanced on a microwave beam" than the Millennium Falcon:

If anything, it's going to resemble a seed pod for a different kind of life, and on arrival it's going to hatch and grow into a tree, or a forest, or a manufacturing-industrial complex. Finally, long after arrival, it might have sufficient resources to divert from homeostasis and growth to construct a biosphere, open communications with home, and prepare to download digitized colonists — if the whole uploading concept doesn't prove to be chimerical, and if there's something to be done with the serialized primate core-dumps at the other end.

That's a lot of ifs there, buddy! I don't know from serialized primate core-dumps, and if you're having trouble in that area I suggest bran, nature's broom. But Stross' case takes in what Texas and Florida politicians rarely want to mention: that all space destinations are far away. Hollywood doesn't like that either. The only solar-sail-type vehicle I know of in a movie is Christopher Lee's in one of the later Star Wars movies—and that one makes a shape that (like so much in the Star Wars universe) wouldn't occur in a vacuum. (In his novel Karoo, the screenwriter Steve Tesich has the hero, a soulless script doctor, waste time dreaming of an unfilmable solar-sail movie.)

Do you sense Dooku?

In a popular rebuttal to Stross in the comment thread, the Centennial State's own Joe Strout (Joe Strout? Charlie Stross? One man or two?) predicts the passage to Alpha Centauri's gravity well will occur over generations of deeper-space settlement, with inhabitants of the outer reaches of the Oort Cloud arriving first. That has lunchpail appeal, but there is a good probability the whole human race would have died of boredom before reaching such a stage. Also isn't the Oort Cloud in motion relative to Centauri, so that settlers there would be just as likely to be living on the far side of the Sun from the system? And don't you have to travel much farther to get to a star that shows any promise of being interesting?

Why is it hard to give up the goofy idea that space exploration will proceed in a logical line from the Age of Discovery? This opening-credit sequence, which combines a stirring montage with what may be the worst song of all time, helps show the appeal:

For an entertaining look at how a highly ambitious unmanned project gets pulled off in the expensive-yet-measly economy of government space exploration, you can do no better than Steve Squyres' book Roving Mars.

NEXT: One Last Minaret: Swiss Voters Solve Problems of Immigration

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  1. I don’t know from serialized primate core-dumps, and if you’re having trouble in that area I suggest bran

    Guffaw! Well done, sir.

    1. At which point, you’ll be a Cerealized Primate Core-Dump.

      1. Two points for each!

  2. I really like the way Stross thinks, though.

  3. That theme song simultaneously sounds like Bon Jovi and far, far out-blows Bon Jovi, which is no small feat.

    1. Sung by a british tenor named Russel Watson.

      1. Then Russel Watson sucks.

        1. ###I’VE GOT STRENGTH, OF THE HEART…NO ONE WILL BEND OR BREAK ME###

    2. HOLY JESUS CHRIST SHIT BALLS. “The Worst Song of All Time” doesn’t even begin to describe the abomination against nature I just listened to. I’m shocked the microphone didn’t go on strike.

  4. Totally gonna geek out here, but I recalled Deep Space Nine had an episode featuring a solar sail ship. (The show was solid enough for college procrastinations). It was a charming episode, though admittedly this hardly represents a ‘popular’ example of solar-sail type ships, but neither do the latter Star Wars movies for that matter.

    http://www.startrek.com/startr…..21551.html

    1. That episode sucked and was a distraction from the dominion wars.

      1. Agreed.

        1. Star Trek sucks.

          A bunch of socialists cruise around on the Goodship Enterprise being polite to everyone and assimilating them.

          The only real difference between them and the Borg was that the Borg are portrayed as more honest than the Cult of the Federation and its insidious feel-goodery.

          1. Even if the human race gains access to unlimited resources via technology, there will still be libertarians bitching about how most people are morally unfit to possess an adequate share of them.

            1. Wow, I wasn’t sure there was a (strawman) libertarian angle here. Well done, Tony.

            2. And there will still be environmentalists complaining about our unsustainable living habits.

            3. -1 for idiotic misapprehension of libertarians
              -1 for defending Star Trek
              -3 for being Tony
              —————————–
              -5

              1. I happen to like the future illustrated in Star Trek. I would think that given unlimited resources even libertarians would have to become socialists. Star Trek didn’t explore the problems of its own brand of galactic imperialism as much as I would have liked, but it certainly did address the topic more than once.

                1. Everyone on the Enterprise hates you, Tony.

                  1. In both known Star Trek universes no less. Spock is not pleased.

                  2. Except maybe Sulu.

                    No, Sulu hates Tony too.

                2. Tony doesn’t get it. Star Trek is the propaganda of the authoritarian Federation. The reality is that people are queuing up for access to the one food replicator in town and Star Fleet crushes anyone who even thinks about going out on their own. Look how they slandered the freedom-loving Ferengi and Klingons.

                3. There will never be unlimited resources. Even in books that posit unlimited *energy*, there are OTHER things that will become valuable. For instance, in a world of leisure, art and entertainment become valuable. Not every human has equal talent, therefore the best artists will attract more income, whatever form that income would be.

                  And finally, ultimately, heavy metals will be the limited resource. Because even with nanotech, elements are still elements. So you still need metals. You can substitute a lot with hydrocarbons, but there’s always something you need, always a new way to do something that someone will want to try, and that will be the new thing, and scarcer than the cheaper easier way to do or build things.

                4. I would think that given unlimited resources even libertarians would have to become socialists.

                  If community is voluntary why would anyone put up with restrictions?

                  The Ian M Banks model is fun to read and interesting but when confronted with the reality of true infinite resources it breaks down.

            4. Christ Tony, it’s like you’re some kind of space dick from the year 2039 who’s been sent back in time to astound us mere earth men with your superior displays of dickery from the future.

              1. Tony’s the most entertaining thing this blog has to offer. Back off, red shirts.

            5. Only Tony would bitch that someone had an infinite plus one amount of resources when others only have an infinite amount of resources.

      2. True that. But it’s the lame episodes like these which allow for production to bank some dough between episodes. In turn, they get to shoot their wad on having a few AWESOME dominion war episodes in an otherwise bland ST show.

  5. Fomalhaut?

    That place is a shit-hole. Didn’t you read The Unteleported Man?

    1. Fomalhaut I = meh.

      But Fomalhaut II, that’s the shizznet.

    2. Shan’t go there nohow. Tis where Cthugha abides.

  6. Srsly, Gliese 581 d is where all the cool kids are headed.

    Fomalhaut. [snort]

    1. I’m so sending my clone to that planet.

  7. That theme song simultaneously sounds like Bon Jovi and far, far out-blows Bon Jovi, which is no small feat.

    I agree that theme song is awesome.

    1. Jesus christ, “blows” as in “sucks”

      1. You do know that “blow” and “suck” are opposites, right?

    2. as in “that theme song sucks”, “it’s terrible”, “I don’t like it”, “it is awful”…

      1. I know now. I completely misread it. I somehow thought you meant “blows away”. I don’t like Bon Jovi, but that song seemed almost as good to me as Remy Zero’s “Save Me”. Yeah! I’m inspired!

  8. Tim is a known space hater.

    1. But… outer space is dark.

      RACIST!

  9. Real space travel will require an unimaginable scientific breakthru (well, imagined out of necessity by many different sci-fi writers). In other words, some sort of FTL device.

    Actually, got plot idea: cryogenically frozen space colonists arrive at their destination, only to be unfrozen and enslaved by the humans already there, who have been there for multiple generations due to the development of FTL travel after the original corpsicles left.

    1. Alistair Reynold’s Revelation Space books are close to that. The US sends out seed ships with clone tanks, which fail. Generation ships are sent out, but the close-to-FTL lighthuggers beat them to all the best planets.

    2. Already done in The Defneder’s comic book, circa 1977

      1. Sorry, it was guardians of the galaxy, Major Astro

        https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Vance_Astro

      2. Okay, it sounded too obvious to be new. And I stole the enslavement part from Niven and A Gift From Earth.

    3. Rewatch the pilot episode of Star Trek: “We’ve broken the time barrier!” announces a young kid Starfleet officer to people in a generational ship.

    4. RobC:

      I think that that’s pretty darn clever (even if similar ideas have appeared in stories before). Although I don’t know why the first arrive-ers would want to enslave their ancestors.

      In an odd way, I guess the European colonization of the New World was kinda the reverse of that: they discovered this new land only to see that it was already occupied and then they (we) eventually ended up wiping out the indigenous people.

  10. The arguments for an all-robot space fleet keep piling up…

    I’ve been saying that for years! The M-6 will show all of you.

    1. But surely it’s not infallible – we’ll always need the human element, right?

      1. But surely it’s not infallible – we’ll always need the human element, right?

        Of course.

        The human element just comes AFTER the robotic trailblazers of the frontier.

        You want to go to Mars? Send waves of robots. Early missions will test robot tech and you can send MORE of it because you won’t need to lift all that heavy human-support kit. It is very expensive to lift all that environmental tech, but your robots can just endure hard vaccuum if you make them right. As you learn and progress with more flights and lower costs, you can start sending robots within human-support kitted ships to proof your travel survivability and they can establish human-supportable outposts. Constant telemetry of environmental data, over several martian years perhaps, will give you a lot more confidence of outpost viability.

        Over time you will have paved the way for humanity to get to Mars, and you will have massively ramped robot technology and transportation efficiency and safety in the process.

        Contrast this with sending a hopeful rocket of brave UN flag waving multi-accented hopefuls who we can all mourn over when their Capricorn One-esque life support kit fails and we decide not to try again for another generation because we shot our wad on that one.

        1. Excellent post. But you underestimate our fascination with morbid drama. Nothing drives ratings/sales like the potential for (human) disaster…IF there’s the possibility of game-changing success. Alas, your practical suggestions — which would be exciting in an of themselves — would bore many to tears.

          1. What we need to do is send humans first, with cameras so it can be like a reality tv show. We can give them tasks to perform, like “find water”.

            The constant drama and impending disaster will drive ratings sky high, and the advertising will more than pay for the cost of lifting those humans and faulty enviro-tech up.

      2. The only “human element” you will ever need is Bill Shatner talking the all-robot space fleet into destroying itself when things get out of hand.

  11. Moties used a light sail to reach New Caledonia in The Mote in God’s Eye.

    1. Love that book.

  12. I hope Stross gave credit to RObert Forward — I think he had a similar idea, as has Greg Bear (in Slant?)

    Forget the stars for now (as far as people go) — let’s get off our asses and do nuclear powered propulsion , there are several workable ideas out there, some for decades –and just get to Mars.

    1. Or do something useful with the moon. Like mine its Helium 3 resources for fusion reactors?

      1. What Helium 3 fusion reactors? has there been a development?

        1. Earth doesn’t have significant Helium 3 resources (without energy-intensive conversion), so technically no. Theoretically though, a fusion reactor using Helium-3 and Deuterium (Hydrogen isotope) would produce high energy protons and Helium-4. High-energy protons can be directly converted to electricity without an intermediate step (i.e. steam turbines). Containment is also much easier than the types of fusion under current study, as much lower temperatures are needed.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helium-3

  13. SugarFree, what kinda technology do you reckon an explorer would have to “wear” in order not to be brutalized by the gravity on this planet?

    1. Gliese 581 d, I mean.

      1. We could all travel around in water tanks. Get back to our aquatic ape phase…

        But, yeah. If it was 8 times Earth mass, what would be the surface gravity? Anyone good at that kind of math?

        1. I think it depends on density. If the planet is 8 times Earth mass and the same size as Earth, then I think the surface gravity would be 8 Gs.

        2. If the planet had the same density as Earth, the surface gravity would be twice that of Earth.

          1. That’s not too bad. Jock straps and reinforced bras all around!

            And our children would be super-strong and hunt the scum of the galaxy.

            1. They will be short and squat, have a fondness for puns and develop the ability to kill Kzinti with a single well aimed kick.

              Seriously, Niven has already been to all these places before. Your speculation runs along well-worn grooves.

              1. Actually, I was thinking of Sable Keech from Neal Asher’s Polity universe. But your point remains.

              2. Some inventor – I can’t remember who – said, “Everywhere I go, I find that the poet has been there before me.” Just because similar concepts appear in a science fiction story (of which there are hundreds of thousands) doesn’t mean somebody should be mocked for saying something kinda/sorta similar.

                Also, the only way that the human-cum-martians would be short and squat would be if all the normal-sized people stopped having sex or suddenly all men and women developed a midget fetish. (Unless you genetically modified people, naturally.)

          2. Twice the surface gravity is doable. It would require super strong and heavy-boned athletes — no skinny pencil-necked geeks need apply.

            1. I nominate Danny DeVito.

        3. This will depend on how dense it is. So it is hard to say until we have a good way of figuring out what it is made of.

    2. I’ll take this one. One of those loader exoskelaton things Ripley was using in Aliens.

      A nano-suit for the same purpose would be more maneuverable. Think suit that uolds up all parts of your body and multiplies your strength.

      Plus milk, for strong bones and teeth.

  14. I will get flamed for this, but the song grows on you after awhile. So much I was annoyed with the change for the 3rd season.

    Also, if you don’t know what Stross is saying, read Accelerando, once you get past the 1st 3rd (which is his ridiculous rant against “capitalism” which he does not even get right) the 2nd two-thirds are interesting and about the very topic written about above.

    1. Really? I quit after the first 3rd. (One of the few novels I’ve given up partway through–and I like Stross otherwise.)

      I could live with the anti-capitalist stuff if the rest of the book was good, but I couldn’t get past the fact that I hated all the characters. Especially the main character.

      1. I almost did not make it through either, but the main character is not even in most of the rest of the book. The book suddenly changes 1/3 into it.

  15. The opening credits to “Enterprise” are much cooler in the mirror universe:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fk1NK8AXepk

    1. So is that a TV show in the mirror universe or just a show about the mirror universe?

      1. It was a two-part episode on Enterprise, that attempted to explain the origins of the Mirror Universe and what it looked like supposedly during the 22nd Century. Also the USS Defiant from the classic episode “The Tholian Web” comes into the 22nd Century mirror universe from the “dimensional interphase” that it was sucked into.

        1. Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that I hadn’t seen it. I did. I was making a more philosophical point. Or a snide remark–you make the call!

  16. Apropos to Tim’s alt-text on the first picture, I suggest this as a much better theme song.

    1. You are a cyber/industrial-goth? I though you were a guido, Episiarch. What kind of goth dreads and goggles do you have?

      😉

      1. I’ve always assumed Episiarch looked like Michael Imperioli playing the lead role in a Davey Havok biopic.

        1. He does look a teeny bit like Michael Imperioli. I haven’t the slightest idea what a Davey Havok biopic is.

          1. Lead singer of AFI and Blaqk Audio. If you did a Google image search, I’m sure you were rewarded.

  17. Enterprise fell victim to the downfall of all prequals: It tried to be too cute with the wink-wink references. If it had just been a slightly lower-tech ST:OS it might have not been half bad.

    And they strangled the whole series in the crib with the timeline war crap. Unless you are making a story about time machines, keep time travel out of it.

    1. It also had Brandon and Braga in it ruining it. Once they left it got a ton better, but by then it was already doomed.

    2. Agreed. Unless your show is premised primarily on time travel, eschew time travel altogether. It’s like kids in space–almost always a bad idea.

    3. Agreed. The stories that told the pre-history of the ST universe were interesting enough. Can’t get me enough of the Andorians and the 3rd season Xindi arc had more of its share of good episodes. But, holy shit, that theme song sucks. :::shakes fist at Cavanaugh:::

      Berman and Braga can’t help themselves and have to stupid up a show, whihch is probably why Flash Forward sucks as much as it does (a Braga production).

      Thanks Brannon Braga. Can’t you go and completely suck where no one can here you?

    4. I’ll take a giant leap into lameness and say Enterprise was the best of the Trek spinoffs, with a solid cast and decent plots — notwithstanding the awful timeline plot and the season-long story arcs. (I watch Trek to get away from seasonal arcs and longterm character development.)

      1. I’m anti-arc, myself. At least I am in the Trek universe. A little of that goes a long way. Frankly, the old TOS morality play format worked fine for me. Screw continuity.

  18. Spaceships are so pre-singularity

  19. Space travel and colonization is hard–really hard. But it is still worth doing. There should always be another place to go. Will the first people that live on Mars have Obamacare? No, they’ll have to fend for themselves. Exploration brings out the best in most societies (and there won’t be any natives to enslave). It was over 100 years from Christopher Columbus to Jamestown colony. It will probably be 100 years from now until people are permanently living in space, but it will be a great thing.

    1. Will the first people that live on Mars have Obamacare? No, they’ll have to fend for themselves.

      There are some who say that people living on Mars won’t be eligible for Obamacare. Let me be clear, no matter where you are in the universe, you will be covered, because universal healthcare is essential in order to keep down the cost of interplanetary travel.

      1. As I read your words above, I heard your impressive voice in my mind, Barack. You are so good for us right now, so very good for us.

        It kinda makes me hard when you speak, like you are talking right into me; your strong words confidently thrusting into my willing and pliable brain, over and over, until a feeling of pure pleasure engulfs me as your words spray like melted butter all over my mind.

        And to think people say your popularity is a cult, Ha! They just don’t get it, Barack. They just don’t get it like I do.

    2. Why will it be “a good thing”?

      1. Why will it be “a good thing”?

        It will give people more options about what kind of society they want to live in. Each colony will have its own set of laws running things. Want to live in a Mormon colony? No problem: there might be one. A libertopian colony? One of those, too. Also, frontiers just tend to attract productive, self reliant people.

        1. Didn’t the discovery of the Americas already do that? How’d that work out.

          The problem with space travel is that as soon as humans land on a new planet, it will have humans on it.

          1. I like humans, personally, but I respect that you don’t. Considering you are one, have you considered suicide?

            1. Hmm. That was supposed to be a sort-of serious existential question, but it just came off snarky and awful. Please ignore it…

            2. It’s the Monday after turkey thing. My brain hurts and my eyes burn, etc. Thoughts are coming out strange, and then there was all this talk of space…

          2. It got crowded and unfrontiersy, and statism set in.

            You may have noticed that the more densely populated an area, the more it tends to be statist.

        2. Yeah, right! That’ll last until the cosmotarians show up and demand all the colonies open their borders… gotta accommodate diversity, you know!

    3. (and there won’t be any natives to enslave)

      Well, not nearby at least. I’m sure we’ll find some lifeforms to enslave once we get far enough out.

    4. You honestly think that when the government sends people to another planet, it won’t be sending people with government health insurance plans? Seriously?

      Or I guess a corporation could send people to Mars, except for the whole “it’s massively unprofitable” thing. So, there’s that little hurdle to get over, and libertopia here we come!

      1. You honestly think that when the government sends people to another planet, it won’t be sending people with government health insurance plans?Seriously?

        R U Serious?

  20. Unless you are making a story about time machines, keep time travel out of it.

    Even then.

    1. Bah, there are dozens of fine time travel novels. When it is the core concept, it can be done well.

      1. Time travel is a bad crutch, a cheat, a device for the lazy mind.

        Hypnosis and designer drugs are much more realistic.

      2. There’s going to be an End of Eternity movie, I hear. I thought that was a decent look at the implications of time travel.

      3. I had this argument with an old girlfriend about a Clive Barker book, where present-day Nazis have a time machine and use it to go back and make sure that old Nazis get the A-Bomb first.

        I said WTF? It’s a time machine. They don’t need the fucking bomb to change things. A time machine is about a bajillion times more powerful than that imbecilic premise.

        1. Wow. I just wrote a better premise by simply reading your post. “Time travelling Nazis introduce meticulous record keeping to ancient Egypt”

          1. Time traveling Nazis go back in time and form a secret cabal to shape history from the inside until? they realize that the Elders of Zion were future Nazis all along!!!!!!!

        2. Thanks. I was always worried I might be missing out when I cut Barker loose after the Books of Blood.

  21. there won’t be any natives to enslave

    Says you.

  22. I’m not into Sci-fi, but I have a question: Has any author written a book where creatures from space are thrilled to discover that earth has humans, because where they come from, humans are a rare delicacy like caviar or truffles, best eaten raw or better yet, while still alive?

    1. Twilight Zone – To Serve Mankind

      1. Make that “To Serve Man” not Mankind.

        1. “IT’S A SELF-HELP BOOK!!!!!”

    2. “To Serve Man” by Damon Knight (later turned into an episode of The Twilight Zone) is one example.

    3. Twilight Zone episode “To Serve Man” and the original (and possibly new) V TV series.

      1. I win, because I beat NutraSweet and John/Suki got it wrong on the first try. Suck it, bitches!

        1. Hardly. I had the added content. A fluke of the server, only.

          1. And I had the author and referenced the “book”, as requested in the original question. You others referred to a TV episode.

            NA NA NA NA NA

    4. I don’t know about a delicacy, but as I recall, the lizard people (disguised as humans) in the original V had come to earth to make humans into their food supply.

      I don’t know if that’s what the new piece of crap is doing but at the rate they’re going I’ll likely lose interest before they get far enough into it to reveal it.

      1. Seeing as how they’ve suspended the series until March of next year, they’re doing some serious rewriting.

        Though maybe the rewrite will make it worse.

    5. Well technically that was a big part of the plot of original V series.

      1. How can the new V be any good without the constant simmering-catfight tension between Diana and Lydia? And without Michael Ironside?

        1. Are you using the CATO mind-control facility to read my thoughts again? That is exactly my opinion on the new show. You can never have enough of the big-haired, evil space ladies, nor enough Michael Ironside.

          Now how about a Kurtwood Smith/Michael Ironside buddy cop series/movie.

    6. You guys all forgot “Signs”.

  23. Just tell me how the final episode of Single Female Lawyer ends, humans!

    1. She finds happiness, and retains her spunk and sense of independence.

      1. “retains her spunk”

        She swallows? Nice!

        1. “Her spunk” What is she swallowing?

          True story: My high school girlfriend was a squirter.

          1. SugarFree, yours is truly a charmed life (other than the near-death experiences).

            1. It’s not charming when you realize how fat she was.

              1. You just want her to be fat because we all know you were a chubby chaser in high school.

                1. Want? The only thing I want is for you to tell the truth, muffin-top-lover.

            2. It was really long before the whole squirter craze that’s going around. I didn’t know what was going on; this was years before I became the filth-sotted creature I am today. It wasn’t a huge gush of fluid like you see in the movies, a discreet little teaspoon at most. It didn’t have the bleach and witchhazel reek of semen, but it was sticky and hard to clean up.

              The times she did it while I was going down on her, it luckily hit my chin. And she had a pretty gooey vagina anyway, so it was hard to tell what was going on with all the copious vaginal secretions.

              It broke my heart when she left after less than a year of college. She married the guy she was cheating on me with. And they are still married and have three kids. Is that better or worse than that guy dumping her after a few months? I guess I can comfort myself saying it was fate, but fate can go fuck itself.

              1. That is a shame. Oh well, at least you’re both happily married, even if it is to other people. Still, I like to imagine the anthropomorphized fate as Destiny of the Endless. Too dignified and detached to go fuck himself.

                1. Well, it did lead to my axiom: High school relationships are like milk, they have an expiration date stamped somewhere on them.

                2. Except that current wife doesn’t understand Sug’s obsessive request for her to wear a plastic squirting lapel flower in her nethers.

                  1. Oh, she understands more than you think.

                    1. OK, well, she doesn’t understand your need for using surgical glue to adhere it to her jumbly bits.

  24. The only solar-sail-type vehicle I know of in a movie is Christopher Lee’s in one of the later Star Wars movies —

    Tron, if simulations count.

    1. Bah, that was just a modem.

    2. I think I’ve seen sailboats in space somewhere on Monty Python.

      1. One of the Doctor Who episodes had a story of explorers using the solar winds to propel sailing vessels.

        I must confess, though, now that I think about it, it was certainly campy enough to be confused with a Monty Python effort.

        Of course it may be one of the episodes lost when the Beeb erased half of the tapes in their vaults, in spite of the fact that they had one of the most popular TV SciFi shows ever.

        Admittedly the audience share was larger in British Commonwealth countries but the US had its own share of fans.

    3. Peter Suderman informs me that Danny Boyle’s Sunshine features a solar-sailed vehicle.

      1. The Icarus and Icarus II rely on direct photovoltaic energy, not radiation pressures traditionally associated with solar sailing.

        1. That’s a good one. But, now that I see it in print, I think that Icarus is kind of an ominous name to give to a manned ship where the passengers are intended to return.

  25. On a related note, I’ll host a debate in NYC this Wed. (12/2) on whether to abolish NASA, if anyone’s interested:

    http://toddseavey.com/2009/11/…..lish-nasa/

  26. Famous-guy-who-found-Titanic — I’m too lazy to go look him up — recalled how he was in this incredibly expensive bathoscopy thing, with some other people, looking at some far-out stretch of the bottom of the ocean. Except, they where looking at the video display, rather than out the, like, nine-foot-thick window.

    At that point, he said, he realized that it was better to automate everything under the water, and just watch the video from the surface (which is also much cheaper, not needing all the life support).

    If that’s the case with under-water exploration, then I think it’s even more true of outer space exploration.

    The Cold War’s over. We can stop impressing the Soviets.

    1. Screw the Soviets. If the government wants to run this program, they had damn well better impress me! I won’t settle for some bullshit R2D2. You can’t trust those machines anyway.

      1. You can’t trust those machines anyway.

        Well, R2D2 *is* a master spy
        http://www.morningstar.nildram….._Sith.html

    2. Yeah….but Robert Ballard actually did go to the Titanic wreck in a submersible. (And his real breakthroughs, if I remember correctly, were in his horizontal-sweeping sonar, not the camera.)

      The ultimate goal of all this research – whether it’s the ISS or the Spirit and Opportunity or whatever – is to gather data for real human travel. There’s something in the Bible that says, “Too much study is a weariness of the spirit” (or something like that). Eventually, somebody – and it’s a good bet it won’t be effeminate American men whose idea of exploration is sending 300,000+(+) armed and trained men to occupy a country with a population of about 1 million men of fighting age who are unarmed and untrained – will actually just roll the dice and just go for it. Yeah, they might die a death as gruesome as the Apollo 1 astronauts or Vladimir Komarov….but at least they’ll be trying to doing something constructive.

  27. Re: qwerty,

    Space travel and colonization is hard–really hard. But it is still worth doing.

    Why? Let’s just do what the liberal progressives prescribe and sterilize the “undesirables.” That way all land on Earth can become government protected parks and we can all live like beggars…

    I mean, colonizing is sooo 19th Century…

    1. Have you already seen Avatar?

      1. Avatar doesn’t condemn exploration – not at all – but rather exploitation. And murder. And theft. (Although I know that most modern Americans think those are cool.)

        In point of fact, James Cameron (the writer and director of Avatar) worked on NASA’s board of advisers for three years (despite still refusing to become a nationalized American) and did tremendous work encouraging exploration.

  28. I’ll host a debate in NYC this Wed. (12/2) on whether to abolish NASA

    Abolish away.

  29. Nobody’s going anywhere. Like heaven, it’s a pleasant dream, but that’s all it is.

    1. This is one of those things that almost everyone believes until it’s proven obviously not true, as, for example, the fact that we’d never fly.

      1. That’s crap. What, are we at the end of technology? Ha!

  30. Not you Solana. Damn threaded comments!

    1. Threaded comments: proof that everything changes, though change sometimes sucks (in part), but we learn and improve, and human civilization on Mars is inevitable.

      Or something.

      1. I bet true spacefaring species don’t use threaded comments.

        1. No, no, they blast thought forms shaped like DVDs on microwave beams at one another. Duh!

          1. Really advanced species have no conception of time. Everything is one. Therefore, threaded comments are unnecessary.

            Threaded comments are how the Borg got started.

            1. Or get. Or will have gotten.

              1. Or begotten.

                1. Borg do not comment. We only assimilate. Lower your shields and prepare to be boarded. Resistance is futile.

                  1. Shit. That was a comment, wasn’t it?

                    *Borg hive-mind implosion*

                  2. Oh, please. The Borg comment all the time: “We are the Borg. You will be assimilated. Your biological and technological distinctiveness will be added to our own. Resistance is futile.”

                    1. What the hell do you think the Daily Kos is?

                    2. Oh, yeah–Borg all the way.

                    3. Just look at the AGW-supporting comments–consensus this, consensus that.

  31. Go look at antique visions of the future. They mostly look foolish now. No, we didn’t colonize space or have flying cars.. but we have the internet, iphones, etc.

    Regarding 50 years from now, there is no way of know what dreams are a red herring, or what unknown landslides will occur.

    What we do know is that the free market must be preserved at all costs. It is the engine that has made our technological leaps possible.

    1. I saw some old illustrations once, put together by an elementary class from the 18th century. Their visions for the future included, but were not limited to, a small box with a hand crank. When you cranked it, you learned new skills.

      1. I know kung fu.

      2. Handcrank aside, a box that you learn new skills from sounds an awful lot like a computer.

        1. If you’re resigned to cybernetics.

      3. I guess how to turn a crank really fast is a skill of sorts.

  32. Eric,

    Well, yeah.

    I went to the Kennedy Space Center last week with the kids, and I kept thinking how sad it was that most of the good stuff on display was about the past. Decades ago past.

    As for the present and future of NASA, every time I saw something promoting Orion/Ares, I kept thinking “SpaceX is going to get there first.”

    1. To be fair, museums tend to be filled with old stuff. Since the latest stuff is still busy being in use.

      Plenty of space shuttles for the museums next year. Of course, you’re just going to complain that the shuttle is old too, so there’s just no winning.

      1. That’s not really what I meant. The glory days of NASA ended in the 70s. And the only reason they ever had those was because of the Cold War and huge levels of funding.

        The future of manned space exploration is in the private sector or not at all. That’s not to say that there won’t be a government and military presence in space, of course.

        1. Agreed.

          The problem with NASA is that it has turned into a jobs program. The whole thing is run not to actually get people into space, but to provide as many jobs in as many different congressional districts as possible.
          There’s no incentive to make the technology efficient and reliable, in a way that would sell in a private market.

          Making it cheaper in any way would mean fewer jobs in someone’s district, and hene fewer votes to fund NASA.

          1. NASA has been overly politicized from the start. It makes no sense whatsoever for Mission Control to be in Texas and not at the Cape. But Johnson had to bestow largess upon the Holy Land.

  33. Ya know. Sometimes you just gotta say fuckit, stop rationalizing, and jump.

  34. We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do a bunch of other stuff; not because they are easy, but because we don’t want the commies to get there first.

  35. We choose to go get some poon. We choose to go get some poon in this decade and have some other flings, not because they are sleazy, but because we are hard.

  36. No, we didn’t colonize space or have flying cars.. but we have the internet, iphones, etc.

    The guy who would have invented the space porno colonies and flying porno cars that would have led us to that glorious future got sent to Dachau.

    The ex-future was about to be awesome.

  37. waste time dreaming of an unfilmable solar-sail movie

    Wouldn’t that just be Waterworld in a vacuum.

  38. I bet true spacefaring species don’t use threaded comments.

    Earthling, simply behold: your species does use threaded comments.

    Therefore you are forbidden true spacefaring.

  39. I see a lot of comments around regarding interplanetary travel – which is billions of miles – but not necessarily interstellar travel (Gliese excepted!) which is at minimum tens of trillions of miles.

    Spaceships that can carry people-sized environments over those distances would have to be massive contraptions.

    Conceivably you can build such vehicles today with an Orion-type nuclear-bomb vehicle (Google it) and get to the closest stars in several decades. But man that’d be $trillions and trillions$.

    Such a toy would go across the solar system in mere days, however.

  40. Now how about a Kurtwood Smith/Michael Ironside buddy cop series/movie.

    I’d watch the fuck out of that, dbcooper.

    1. Oh, that would be so full of awesome. But only if they’re both bad cops.

  41. Also, if you don’t know what Stross is saying, read Accelerando, once you get past the 1st 3rd (which is his ridiculous rant against “capitalism” which he does not even get right) the 2nd two-thirds are interesting and about the very topic written about above.

    It has been a while since I read that—no interest in another go—but I think you may be partially misrepresenting Stross on this. All those unsympathetic characters are engaged in free (as in libre) exchange of information/ideas/stuff. They just aren’t doing in inside the current corporate and government approved framework. It is not so much anti-capitalist as anti-corporatist (but not anti-corporation) and highly libertarian.

    Unfortunately, I didn’t find it particularly compelling either.

    Stross seems to be looking for another way to view economics. One which will be viable in a different scarcity regime that the stuff-limited one that has dominated human history to now. A laudable goal, even if his attempts don’t strike me as entirely successful.

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