Here you go. You can thank me after you stop sighing, laughing, eyerolling, puking, or whatever your reaction of choice is. I think I managed all but the last in the space of 3 seconds, which probably isn’t a new world record but has to be close.
I may have sprained an eye, in fact.
I get it. New stuff can be scary. There has been a TON of new stuff in the last couple of centuries. Internets, pocket computers, flying machines, devil carriages that move without horses, lights that mysteriously light up without a hint of whale oil in sight.
If some folks want to hole up in the past, well, that’s sort of their choice. The Amish and a few similar groups manage to do it pretty gracefully and even give their kids at least some degree of choice as to whether they’d like to stay in ignore-the-changes-land or come out and share the benefits and, yes, detriments of modernity.
And then there are people like Mr/Ms “NASA is a Satanic snake tongue”.
It takes a special kind of asshole to employ a computer to create a blog that can be viewed, potentially, by anyone in the world via a global communications net made possible by transatlantic fiberoptic cables and a network of satellites to urge others to reject space exploration as offensive because it doesn’t fit in with their particular (and particularly narrow and ugly) view of a ‘how to live’ manual composed roughly between 6000 and 1500 years ago depending on which bits you read and what you believe about how they came to be. Oh, and assume there’s somehow a giant secret conspiracy to lie about it spanning 70+ years and involving, by now, at least hundreds of thousands of people, becasue we all know how great several hundred thousand people are at keeping a secret over many decades, right?
If you want to see the WTFery for yourself, I’d rather not generate hits for them but here’s a Google Cache link.
The Most Ridiculous Jeff Bezos – Elon Musk Comparison Animation Ever. Probably Because It’s The Only One.
Warning: restroom rocket-waving contest. Which is somehow not a euphemism. Probably not safe for work if your supervisors are touchy or you don’t want to be laughed at for watching something so silly.
Sorry to inflict this on you, but it was WAY too bizarre not to share.
I know, I know. We have to ask these questions in public, for all those who haven’t thought about it, don’t care about it, or think the future of humanity off this planet is a science fiction pipe dream.
Sure, it’s a bit of a pipe dream. Because getting a significant and sustainable human presence into space — onto asteroids, moons, other planets, into artificial habitats — is still an endeavor that is on the edge of our capabilities. It’s an expensive undertaking, because we’re very busy with resource-intensive activities like war and selling things to each other and making sure we have ample infrastructure and funding to support sports events.
And nobody wants to grow up and leave home. It’s a big fat pain in the ass. It’s easier to stay. And stagnate. And eventually be buried in the comfortable, familiar back yard in the shadow of a progressively older and less comfortable home.
I think it’s better if we get out there. I understand if some of you don’t. I just think you’re on the wrong side of future history and common sense. We, as a species, cling to the familiar — but we are also explorers and wanderers and have been for many thousands of years. While individuals may be happy to stay home on Earth, and that’s fine, opening up the frontier of the rest of the solar system opens a psychological gate; we have no real frontiers left on the planet for the disaffected to run to. Having frontiers again, just knowing they’re there, would probably relieve a lot of the feelings many of us angrily have, of being trapped. Being able to actually get off Earth if one is so inclined would be equally if not more helpful.
And those resources floating around up there can help Earth, too. It might be nice to shut down heavily-polluting rare earth metal mines in our backyard in favor of importing them from asteroid mines that don’t have ecologies around them to worry about, for example.
But I could rant on this subject all day — I’ll go ahead and give you a break here.
Image credit: NASA
Bradbury Meets Autonomy Goal, Mayor Declares Holiday
(APM) 01 March 2145
Mayor Sonny Desai of the city of Bradbury, North American Mars declared today to be the first annual (Earth calendar) Bradbury Autonomy Day. Ceremonies in Barsoom Square, including a free banquet of locally farmed vegetables, fish, chicken, and cuy (guinea pig), were attended by North American Mars System Governor Hanh Rossberger, present holographically from Ariesynchronous orbital habitat and former military facility Campfollower.
The occasion marks the first time Bradbury has been able to meet the self-sufficiency standards set at the colony’s inception in 2089: computer model projection of the ability to maintain the city’s environment and ability to provide for food, water, and breathable atmosphere needs of all inhabitants for at least one Earth year without outside aid or input of resources.
This achievement is the result of Desai’s Practical Standards Program, inaugurated shortly after his accession to office in 2139. Although a mild local recession and reduction of living standards for Bradbury’s 23,000 citizens resulted, polls show that 67% +/-4% approve of the program. “China’s Red-Gold City [atop the Mons Olympus plateau] achieved self-sufficiency in 2135. I see no reason that we cannot do the same,” Desai said at the time. “The good people of Bradbury have proven my trust in them was justified,” the Mayor said at the opening of ceremonies today. “My fellow citizens, I am deeply proud and humbled by your hard work and sacrifice for us all.”
So, today NASA announced the presence of liquid water on the surface of Mars, in the form of seasonal saline (brine) flows. Which is exciting. And maybe a little disappointing, too.
A seasonal brine flow doesn’t exactly sound like something you could find life in at all — consider that salting is a pretty darn effective way to preserve food here on Earth. The salt prevents bacteria from thriving in the food. An old-fashioned salt-cured ham can hang from a rafter in your basement for 20 years and still be fine to eat. Not that I particularly recommend that experiment.
You’re certainly not going to find seaweed growing in a seasonal brine flow. Much less fish, and even less likely Tars Tarkas riding a thoat.
So it’s pretty cool, but it’s not super-exciting, because no life, right?
Maybe so. But then again, maybe not.
There are super-saline environments on Earth, too. And there are some extremophile single-celled life forms called halophiles (which means salt-lovers, big surprise) which appear to live in them. I say ‘appear’ because there is still some debate surrounding their existence and status as actual life here on Earth. Mostly because they live in rare difficult-to-access locations even here on our home planet.
But it looks like salt-loving life probably lives here. I lean that way, because life has a way of surprising us with its ingenuity. Life finds a way. Life has been found clustering around thermal vents on the ocean floor, thriving next to plumes of hydrogen sulfide and sulfur-laced water at 350 degrees Fahrenheit — the same temperature you use to bake a cake on land. There are forms of algae that thrive on snow, somehow, in some of the most frigid environments in the world.
There’s no guarantee life has found a way in or on or under those saline flows on Mars. But I have high hopes. Life, from the single-celled to the more complex forms like humans, have a way of enduring hardship.
And if it turns out, in the end, that nothing’s alive on Mars, there are always the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. There’s gotta be some extra-Earth life around here somewhere, if we rummage around the Solar System enough.
Taifun Arrives in Lunar Orbit
L5 News & Entertainment Network
14 January 2357
Taifun took its place in Lunar orbit today, as projected. The asteroid, 9.8 kilometers in diameter, was first discovered in November of 2271. Its original trajectory was a near-certain direct hit on Earth in 2340 and would have generated a force roughly equal to what was produced by the Chicxulub impactor which was a factor in the decline and extinction of the dinosaurs approximately 65 million years ago.
Project Jade Emperor, named for a figure of ancient Chinese mythology who vanquished a primal and destructive evil from heaven and earth, began its work altering the trajectory of Taifun by 2280. Enormous on-site ion drives were built on Taifun’s surface; the first was ignited in 2288. Those same ion drives, the majority now over 8 decades old, have fallen silent. The work of establishing mines to take advantage of Taifun’s trillion-plus tons of rock, nickel-iron, and rare earth metals is projected to begin within 2 years. The ion drives will remain in place and are undergoing overhauls so they can be used for course corrections during the decades that Taifun will remain in lunar orbit; finally, they will be used to expel the mined-out remains from the Earth-Luna system.
More than 300 universities throughout the solar system have requested permission to set up research stations on the surface of Taifun, most applications being submitted within the last decade. Selection of approvals, anticipated to number 20 or fewer, will be announced in early 2358 according to a press release from United Nations Deimos Annex.
Seriously, people. It’s bad enough it took 50,000 years — maybe 100,000, depending on which theorist you think is most credible — to go from self-aware sentience and serious tool-using to getting off this planet and walking on the moon.
It was really a remarkable milestone. Getting there stretched the technology of the day to its limits.
But what it didn’t do was stretch human capabilities. At the height of the US-USSR space race, NASA funding peaked at a smidge under 4.5% of the federal budget. Now, it idles about at under 1%. Because we constantly find bigger fish to fry. We’re busy doing important stuff like slashing funding for higher education, keeping up with what celebrities are up to, maintaining our supplies of five dollar Starbucks dessert coffees, and complaining because putting up more solar panels and wind farms might just take the wind out of the highly lucrative fracking business.
Much like a spoiled, entitled teen, we’re endlessly finding reasons that we don’t need to get out of the house.
But sooner or later, we’ll need to.
Are we really going to sit around until we’re forced? Or until one wild-eyed dreamer, somehow, against all odds, does it despite the disinterest and disdain of the majority of humankind? Seems a ridiculous way to run things, if you ask me.
Static image of the Rosetta mission timeline — JPL
The Philae lander is down on comet 67P and transmitting. This has plenty of potential to yield some wonderful science, having a probe on a comet as it makes a close approach to the sun. Also, it’s the first time humans have (via robotic probe) harpooned a celestial body.
Surely the first harpooning in space is a historical landmark that will be remembered forever.
I love things like this. We’re learning, rooting around in the corner of the universe we can reach, being properly nosy as befits the curious scions of the primate lineage. Exploration is what we’re built for — even when it manifests in less-highbrow ways such as Hollywood gossip shows and reality TV, we’re all about curiosity.
On the other hand, the Rosetta mission is a pale shadow of what might have been. The impatient science fiction lover side of me can’t help but ask why we didn’t launch such a mission from a base on the moon, why we couldn’t have just sent a pack of scientists over with a combination spaceship/laboratory.
Why we had to wait until 2014 to get robot-transmitted data from a comet when there were people walking around on the moon in 1969.
You might point to the ‘impatient’ part of my self-description in answering those questions. Hey, this is big stuff. It will take us generations to get to the stage where there’s a constant human presence on the moon, on mars, or elsewhere other than earth. The space race and moon landing were conducted by the seat of the pants, technologically speaking. We were really operating beyond the scope of our practical capabilities, pushing the envelope too far, and we’re damn lucky we put people on the moon without killing more astronauts as it is. We’re just going to have to wait, and build up slow to the future day when there might be off-earth colonies and mining and so forth.
There’s some justice to that. On the other hand, pushing into the frontier is always hazardous, no matter where and when that frontier is.
And there’s some time pressure. We take space exploration, mining, and colonization slow because we’re busy spending all of our resources on other things. Some of those are necessary things. Like feeding people. We shouldn’t starve anyone to establish a moon base or put a probe on a comet. But we don’t, do we?
We spend FAR more money killing each other. We spend our moonbase money on drones and bullets and warships and stealth bombers and millions of soldiers in arms and semi-secret torture-slash-prison facilities and IEDs and upkeep of nuclear weapons and developing biological weapons…
…and that money could potentially render our slow and steady tortoiselike progress toward getting all of our human eggs out of this one fragile basket, earth, useless. One good nuclear exchange, one good release of weaponized smallpox, one good world war like the last two, and we could easily set progress back on this space race we’re in to zero, to less than nothing. We treat it like a luxury, and war like the necessity.
It’s precisely the other way around. And there’s every chance that our vast indulgence in the diabolical luxury of war will land us in the dustbin of geological history, just another strange happening on a little blue and green marble known best for its beautiful but unintelligent and ground-bound lower forms of life.
The Rosetta mission is a wonderful and great undertaking, and I hope for its continued success. I only wish we had as much wonderful great success as we should. This is a crumb, a tasty, tasty crumb, compared to the space program humanity should collectively have.
We should have a banquet.