Fixing America's Freeways
The high-occupancy toll (HOT) lane is a good idea whose time has come, and electronic billing for HOT lane use is a viable system ("Fixing America's Freeways," February). The flaw in the existing concept becomes apparent when I drive from Seattle down to Los Angeles: The electronic transponder on my car that permits me to use the Seattle area's bridges doesn't work on L.A.'s 91 Freeway. Nor will it work on bridges and tunnels into New York City.
Electronic billing for HOT lane use can be viable in today's mobile society only if all HOT lane uses require the same transponder nationwide. Otherwise the traveler will require a windshield full of small and colorful, electronically sensitive tags, and multiple prepaid toll accounts.
A Twinkle of Hope
I enjoyed the well-argued piece by Rand Simberg on needed reforms to longstanding space policy ("A Twinkle of Hope," February). But I was amused and exasperated by the seemingly random insertion of unsupported editorializing midway through. Is the Obama administration any more "hell-bent on increasing government ownership and control" of American life than the expansionist Bush administration or any other recent presidential administration? Maybe, maybe not, but it's certainly worthy of a discussion, not something to be casually asserted as established fact.
How Much Is an Astronaut's Life Worth?
Robert Zubrin's article about the National Aeronautics and Space Administration ("How Much Is an Astronaut's Life Worth?," February) describes perfectly an organization whose mission has become bureaucratic self-preservation. In this case, the death of a single astronaut, with the possibility it might end the whole wasteful program, has the potential value of the $4 billion per year that sustains NASA and guarantees its apparatchiks' jobs. Having worked in a research lab whose members seemed more interested in protecting their salaries than in the future of their research projects, I understand this dynamic perfectly.
Joel A. Eaton
Ask an astronaut if they would be willing to go on a mission to Mars that had a probability of success of 80 percent. I don't think any of them would say no.…The explorers of the New World, the Nile, the South Pole—they would all hang their head in shame at the pansies we've become.
—Reddit commenter "pkaro" in response to "How Much Is an Astronaut's Life Worth?"
reason magazine's February issue on space is terrific.
—Instapundit's Glenn Reynolds
The problem here is that NASA is a political agency, not a scientific one. Each year, elected politicians sit down and decide how much they're going to get. This means the number one rule is don't make us look bad. You can't waste too much money, you can't go making a bunch of controversial statements, and good grief, whatever you do don't have astronauts getting exploded on TV. The analogy with the mission-centric military was a good one. Unfortunately, as we involve the U.S. military in more and more missions that look highly political, we're going to end up with a badly broken military, for exactly the same reasons.
—Y Combinator commenter "DanielBMarkham" in response to "How Much Is an Astronaut's Life Worth?"