Tuesday, August 09, 2005

See The Stars. Maybe.

by Tom Bozzo

With the just concluded STS-114 mission less than an unqualified success apart from the crisis management angle, I wonder if the already accelerated retirement of the Space Shuttle won't be pulled forward. TradeSports doesn't yet have a contract for the next flight's timing, so the wisdom of the crowd offers less than the usual enlightenment. I'd have to think that Pr[Never] is at least as high as Pr[as of yesterday, there might have been a half-percent increase in the Fed Funds target today] (see here).

Another interesting quantity is Pr[bitter disappointment forthcoming from 35 years of no coherent space policy], which I suspect is vanishingly close to 1.

It's not that I don't want to see more exploration of Mars and elsewhere. I don't even mind some elements of the Bush space exploration "vision," such as nuclear-electric power and propulsion, that would have ample application to the robotic probes that (still) have by far the highest scientific yield net of costs.

Rather, I doubt that anyone actually will pay for it. It doesn't seem unlikely that we'll find in a few years that after existing space science budgets have been pared back in anticipation of implementing the exploration "vision," a future Congress chokes on the price tag for the manned Moon/Mars mission and fails to restore the funding for everything else in the name of fiscal rectitude.

At that point, at least in the nearer term, space fans are left hoping that nanotech fabulists are right about the imminent technical and economic feasibility of space elevators, and/or that the sheer power of creative destruction will vanquish all of the hideously expensive-to-solve problems where Burt Rutan cleverly punted to get SpaceShipOne to 100km on a budget. While it might happen some day, you know what they say about the long run.
I think that private space travel is the way to go too - but while this will lead to a lot of advances, I doubt they will do very much basic research. Where is the money in the Hubble or studying Saturn?

I think the gov't is good for very few things, but funding of basic research - even under mismanagement and inefficiency - seems kind of important. The space shuttle needs to be phased out (like 10 years ago). NASA knows now to build great space machines, as long as they can get their centimeters right. 2.54 cm/inch!!!
Good grief, we substantially agree.

Not unironically, underfunding basic research is also potentially huge obstacle to private space travel.
It's a kinder, gentler comments discussion these days. I've been nice lately over at Oscar's lately too.

Perhaps, it's because I'm reaching the conclusion that the current Pres. and Republican leaders are at least as bad as the Dems, from my perspective. I am certainly stupider than I thought I was.
Just hearing that one non-liberal has rethought his support of the current leadership made me tear up. I must be pretty desperate for hopeful signs these days.
It's really saying something for Bryan to suggest that the Bushies might be as bad as the Democrats. I was relieved to see that the sun did rise this morning, and that the sky had not turned unusual colors (the overcast may have to lift before I can verify this :) ).

I assume this reflects the factoid that Bryan's politics, while conservative, are not aligned with the ruling combination of corporate welfare and religious conservatism, but I won't speak for him further.
Fiscal insanity, so many deaths in Iraq and so many heartbroken families here, intelligent design, anti-gay marriage amendments, stem-cell nonsense, pork.

Oy, I could go on. That said, I do not like the Dems any better. Count me as disillusioned. If I end up voting for a dreaded third party - that's only half a vote for you guys, I guess.
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