0893: "65 Years"

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arbivark
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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby arbivark » Mon May 02, 2011 1:58 pm UTC

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Adventures
space adventures, a few years ago, was taking reservations for a trip around the moon. they've sent about 7 people into space. 20 million for the first ones, $100,000 for the near earth trips planned on armadillo aerospace rockets. so the prices are coming down. also these trips aren't funded by slave labor. (it might not be SA that makes the moon trip, but there's an emerging private market.)

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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby beav » Mon May 02, 2011 2:05 pm UTC

suso wrote:The universe is also littered with people who are too impatient to wait for their society to catch up with their dreams.

We'll get there, unfortunately probably not in our lifetimes. But imagine the disappointment of Kepler and Galileo that they couldn't reach the moon in their lifetime.



Did you read the pop up?

Why would Kepler or Galileo be upset about not reaching the moon? The technology didn't exist. I think they'd be just as frustrated as I (and evidently, Randall) at our current ability but complete lack of interest.

We are a space faring world with global ADD.

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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby beav » Mon May 02, 2011 2:06 pm UTC

paolo wrote:Man, that's sad :-(


Exactly what I thought. Not funny. God damn sobering.

Thanks Randall. Good one.

MadLogician
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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby MadLogician » Mon May 02, 2011 2:13 pm UTC

First cirumnavigation of Africa: circa 600 BC, as told in Herodotus, with an astronomical detail which makes it reasonably convincing.
http://www.livius.org/he-hg/herodotus/hist01.htm

Second cirumnavigation of Africa: over 2,000 years later.

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Samik
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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby Samik » Mon May 02, 2011 2:16 pm UTC

beav wrote:
suso wrote:The universe is also littered with people who are too impatient to wait for their society to catch up with their dreams.

We'll get there, unfortunately probably not in our lifetimes. But imagine the disappointment of Kepler and Galileo that they couldn't reach the moon in their lifetime.



Did you read the pop up?

Why would Kepler or Galileo be upset about not reaching the moon? The technology didn't exist. I think they'd be just as frustrated as I (and evidently, Randall) at our current ability but complete lack of interest.

We are a space faring world with global ADD.



Exactly. We're not angry because we're impatient. We're angry because the idea that we couldn't be further along than we are is complete bull. We're angry because those in charge have chosen not to go - have made that decision for all of us.

And while I am very supportive of the emerging commercial space travel ventures, it still saddens me, and represents a lost opportunity. Commercial ventures do things if any only if they are profitable. That means, for now, low orbit flight for rapid trans oceanic transit, efficient, reusable vehicles for orbital resupply, and, potentially, the occasional more aggressively objectived voyages for the ultra wealthy billionaire who's willing to pay. All of these things are good, but, in my opinion, currently only a large government has the resources and ability to make real strides towards goals that are not strictly intended to be profitable, but have other noble objectives such as furthering our scientific knowledge of our solar system and the universe, and taking steps towards the first wave of colonization that will help ensure there will be sapient life forms around to appreciate the universe beyond the next couple of decades.

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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby Cecilff2 » Mon May 02, 2011 2:23 pm UTC

I only know one man who walked on another world, but I believe he's probably dead by now

Spoiler:
Image

HungryHobo
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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby HungryHobo » Mon May 02, 2011 2:42 pm UTC

oh we could get to mars no problem with current tech and it might even be possible on a vaguely sane budget but staying there is what I'm talking about.
And until we can stay there there's very little reason to just visit even in terms of randals alt text.

Getting a few people there and back is an accomplishment but sending all the equipment, factories,supplies and people needed to make a self sustaining colony is an orders of magnitude greater task.

On the plus side it's not just commercial groups shooting for the stars now but even amateur hobbyists.
http://www.copenhagensuborbitals.com/
Though these guys did warm up by building their own sub first.
Serious, I know they had a failure on their last launch attempt but they're making a credible attempt at a launch(from their pontoon towed out there by their own home-built submarine) on a budget of thousands.

Makes me wonder what NASA is actually doing with it's multi billion budgets considering what these guys are doing with a budget that wouldn't even come close to funding the NASA staff canteen.
Last edited by HungryHobo on Mon May 02, 2011 2:58 pm UTC, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby jcsalomon » Mon May 02, 2011 2:46 pm UTC

jpk wrote:The alt text reminds me of a quote I've seen attributed to Jerry Pournelle (unless memory fails me):
"I always knew I'd see the first men walk on the moon. I never dreamed I'd see the last"
It was Pournelle; see <jerrypournelle.com/view/2010/Q3/view632.html#Tuesday>:
Jerry Pournelle wrote:When I was reading science fiction in high school I never doubted that I would live to see the first man on the Moon. I didn’t think I would live to see the last one.
Someone ought to point him to this cartoon & get his comments.
jpk wrote:Is it any comfort to suppose that we may have found the answer to the Fermi paradox?
:(
kanthalion wrote:Am I odd in that I found this one sadder than the cancer ones?
If you haven’t had someone close to you affected by cancer, you can convince yourself that you never will. The loss of manned launch capacity, though, will affect you.

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Samik
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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby Samik » Mon May 02, 2011 3:16 pm UTC

HungryHobo wrote:oh we could get to mars no problem with current tech and it might even be possible on a vaguely sane budget but staying there is what I'm talking about.
And until we can stay there there's very little reason to just visit even in terms of randals alt text.

Getting a few people there and back is an accomplishment but sending all the equipment, factories,supplies and people needed to make a self sustaining colony is an orders of magnitude greater task.



I am sympathetic to this to a degree, but I would make two points:

1.) to reiterate that landing on the moon was orders of magnitude (to say the very least) more difficult than inventing powered flight (see my previous posts for context). While I'm not entirely on board with the likes of Kurzweil and his ilk who think we are rapidly approaching a meaningful technological singularity, the fact remains that we have a pretty solid track record going over the last hundred years plus of exponentially increasing our capabilities in a variety of areas (both technological, and implementational - our ability to bring more resources than ever before to bear on these projects does not necessarily translate as the projects themselves being more deleteriously costly to society). I don't think you can point to complexity increasing by 'orders of magnitude' to argue that time and resource commitment impact also necessarily must increase by comparable 'orders of magnitude'.

2.) You can only simulate so much. At some point, you need to get out there and start doing in order to really continue to gain meaningful knowledge and experience. The flight of an airplane can be simulated to some degree in a full scale wind tunnel, just as the wind tunnel experiments can by simulated with a scale model, just as those can in turn be simulated with a computer program. That doesn't mean that once you come up with a CADD model that seems to meet your required criteria that you're ready to call it a day and start rolling them out into production.


I believe that there is something in between small scale, cheaper, close to home experiments under favorable conditions, and full-scale post-R&D-phase colonization of Mars. There are steps in between that we need to be taking, the knowledge we gain during which will be invaluable moving forward.

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Samik
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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby Samik » Mon May 02, 2011 3:18 pm UTC

HungryHobo wrote:Makes me wonder what NASA is actually doing with it's multi billion budgets considering what these guys are doing with a budget that wouldn't even come close to funding the NASA staff canteen.


Another compelling argument for why we should be further along than we are.

Maybe it's time we should break some skulls over there at NASA or something?

893
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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby 893 » Mon May 02, 2011 4:00 pm UTC

Unfortunately, this should be titled "Number of living Americans who have walked on another world".

Apparently the US won't walk on other worlds again for a very long time, but others definitely will. China is almost certainly the next, then who.... Japan, maybe? India, if they and Pakistan don't nuke it out first?

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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby philip1201 » Mon May 02, 2011 4:02 pm UTC

Samik wrote:
HungryHobo wrote:I'm also of the opinion that we're not capable of it yet.
we can barely keep people alive in a completely sealed dome here on earth, we're not capable of putting enough equipment into orbit for anything less than the GNP of entire countries.


And this is precisely the problem, HungryHobo.

The Apollo program was commissioned in 1961. We went from essentially a full stop in the late 50's to successful manned landings in 1969. One decade to go from "not capable of it yet" to success.

We've had 40 years since then. The reason we are "not capable of it yet" is not because it is beyond our abilities as a species, but because we've been **insert masturbatory reverse-euphemism for wasting time here**.


We put some people in two metal boxes with rockets, some oxygen tanks, dried up foodstuffs, a US flag and a couple of parachutes. That's hardly something to build a successful moon-base with, nor as hard to construct from V2 rockets, computers and submarines as a freaking moon-base is from '60s understanding of agriculture and biology, the Apollo program, computers and plastics.
In order to have a successful base you need to get an entire ecosystem into space. Every chemical compound needs to be reused, as little as possible ejected. You need a perfect understanding of the biology of every plant, fungus, bacterium and animal you plan to bring with you, and you need to know how all those things work in space (which is what is currently being tested in the ISS), and how they do it at every stage of their lives. You have to bring all the seeds, and all the jars of dirt, and the tonnes of building material with you into space. It's a much larger leap.
Also, it's unfair you're only counting from the time the US set itself the goal of going to the moon - when it started the project. No such project has been started for off-world bases, so in the interest of fairness you should either take when the project of building an extra-planetary base will begin (which hasn't happened yet) as start for our countdown, or take the moment people made the previous large exploratory discovery as a start for the Apollo program - 1492.

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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby Posthumane » Mon May 02, 2011 4:07 pm UTC

I think a lot of people that are getting angry about the american gov't decreasing funding to and slowly crippling the space program are a bit hypocritical. After all, there are thousands of people around the US who are interested in space exploration, have some extra resources (as in, aren't starving), and have the collective intelligence to start up a viable program. However, most of those people would argue that they have other competing interests on which they need to spend money and time, and therefore can't afford to carry it out themselves. This, coincidentally, is the same thing a gov't says when they reduce/cancel a program. While I agree that a war is hugely wasteful and doesn't benefit society, an outsider could look at any individual and say the same about their activities. ("You're going to Mexico for vacation and buying a new motorcycle? Those don't further the human race! You should be contributing to the space program instead!").

I'm not saying that I'm against the space program. I do think it is a worthwhile endeavor, and much more useful than a lot of other activities that are currently ongoing. I just think that if someone is passionate enough about it to get angry they should put their money where their mouth is and do something, rather than complaining that the government isn't doing it for them.

Also, any time you have a new technology discovery there is rapid progress at first, and then it usually plateaus until something new comes along as a "game changer." Cars are a good example - in the first couple decades there was exponential increases in speed, fuel economy, etc., whereas now they've somewhat stagnated and there have only been small improvements over the years.

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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby SHISHKABOB » Mon May 02, 2011 4:18 pm UTC

big boss wrote:
Meng Bomin wrote:
ARandomDude wrote:I think it was the sensible decision on Firefly. Or did Randall forget about that.

Nah, I think it's simply more sensible to assume that Firefly didn't present an accurate projection of what the future holds. The notion that we should emigrate from Earth to other worlds because life on Earth is becoming unbearable is one of the more common, but risible themes of discussions of space exploration. Earth would have to radically transform for Mars to become a more livable place than here and honestly, I don't think that humans would muster the resources for a successful mission were that the case.


I wouldn't underestimate humanity's ability to persevere and advance in the face of disaster....


I wouldn't underestimate Nature's ability to destroy, or, rather, reshape. I think that Life in general is quite good at surviving, but humanity in general has not had quite enough of a test to determine its survivability yet.

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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby jadelane » Mon May 02, 2011 4:33 pm UTC

I'm calling BS. Don't mistake the trajectory of the present for the path to the future. Rockets were never the way to get there, and the space shuttle program was always only going to be transitory. This frees up resources--capital and expertise--for a space elevator, for private space travel, for any of a number of alternate approaches.

Walking on the moon was a big deal. Walking on the moon *again*? Not so much. So why keep up the capacity to do that, when we need to think about the capacity to get to and terraform Mars?

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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby Samik » Mon May 02, 2011 4:34 pm UTC

philip1201 wrote:The stuff said by Philip1202.


More than one valid point in there, for sure. However, understand that I am not arguing that we should have a full scale, self-sufficient Mars base, or anything even close to that, already. All I'm saying is I think we should be further along than we are. At this point, I'd be happy with a super-orbital manned mission of any kind.

Your final point is a little bit misleading. A better measurement would be one that takes into account whether or not the basic foundation technologies exist in order to take the next step. While a project may not have started to establish off-world bases, we have been researching, developing, and experimenting with many of the technologies necessary for such a task. Not so in 1507 or 1746 with regards to the Apollo missions.

In any case, this is only relatable to the colonization of the Americas insofar as the concepts of 'exploration' and 'colonization' are involved. From a logistical perspective, the question of "How long was it from beginning to create the technologies necessary to reach Mars until actually doing so?" has more in common with "How long from the invention of flight to the first trans-atlantic crossing?" than it does "How long did Europeans have ships and equipment capable of crossing the Atlantic before they actually did so?" The selection of a specific, unrelated earlier endeavor as an endpoint is very arbitrary.


Posthumane wrote:Also, any time you have a new technology discovery there is rapid progress at first, and then it usually plateaus until something new comes along as a "game changer." Cars are a good example - in the first couple decades there was exponential increases in speed, fuel economy, etc., whereas now they've somewhat stagnated and there have only been small improvements over the years.


If anything, this is a great argument for my side. The plateau occurs for economic and political reasons, not technological. Plateauing of car fuel economy has vastly more to do with stagnating motivation than stagnating technological advancements. See the "1-litre car".


Posthumane wrote:I just think that if someone is passionate enough about it to get angry they should put their money where their mouth is and do something, rather than complaining that the government isn't doing it for them.


I am endeavoring very strongly at the present moment to go back to school (paying out of pocket) for precisely this reason. I have decided that I am not satisfied with the state of my education, and I want very much to be able to play some sort of role in advancing a cause I am so passionate about. I have no idea to what extent, if at all, I will succeed, but I personally believe that space travel / exploration is the single most worthwhile endeavor the human race now has the ability to undertake, and as such, you are correct: it would be hypocritical of me not to try to get involved directly.


EDIT: Prior to this, I joined the Navy to try to become a pilot, also for this very reason. I failed out of flight school, and thus am attacking the problem from a different angle. If that one fails, I will choose another angle, and so on. My ambition likely vastly outstrips my capabilities, but at the present moment, I don't particularly care.

When you view something as worth doing. You do it.
Last edited by Samik on Mon May 02, 2011 4:42 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby Samik » Mon May 02, 2011 4:37 pm UTC

jadelane wrote:I'm calling BS. Don't mistake the trajectory of the present for the path to the future. Rockets were never the way to get there, and the space shuttle program was always only going to be transitory. This frees up resources--capital and expertise--for a space elevator, for private space travel, for any of a number of alternate approaches.

Walking on the moon was a big deal. Walking on the moon *again*? Not so much. So why keep up the capacity to do that, when we need to think about the capacity to get to and terraform Mars?



Also valid points, jadelane. If we put as much energy and effort into those alternative approaches as we did the Apollo missions, we'd be much further along in that direction as well.

It's not a question of one specific technology, it's a question of waning interest in space in general.

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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby AtG » Mon May 02, 2011 4:52 pm UTC

Does Narnia count? But I suppose that since most people went there during WW2 they're also moving on in the next decades. Perhaps there are still others in the closet?

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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby SHISHKABOB » Mon May 02, 2011 4:53 pm UTC

It's kind of like how no one cares about maintaining the infrastructure of the USA, now it's falling apart.

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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby HungryHobo » Mon May 02, 2011 4:54 pm UTC

probably because just going into space an back again is of very limited value.
Anyone got a decent breakdown of what the billions nasa gets ends up being spent on?
I had a glance at their budget but I'm aware how items in a budget can end up going on only vaguely related things.
I know they fund a lot of research but I rarely see anything with a "funded by nasa" note.

I've seen some of the stuff armadillo has been doing and I find myself wondering why nasa doesn't just throw a few 10's of millions at them and similar groups to build some serious launch vehicles.
It would barely be a blip on their budget and could pay off in a big way.
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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby hackthat » Mon May 02, 2011 5:09 pm UTC

Species who made this "irrational" choice to visit other worlds must've had a technological level way above our own.

A civilization can't survive in space. Sure we can visit, but we can't move. That's not space technology we're lacking, that's the technology required to have a fully functioning industrial society on a ship. Even our most self-sufficient vessels like aircraft carriers don't contain factories for making more of them. Until we come up with something like this humanity will be pinned to the fate of Earth. Visiting mars won't make us one of those species who explore the galaxy studying dead alien civilizations.

Until we reach a technological level like that the money is much better spent on developing earthbound technology or (if you're republican) cutting taxes.
$19 billion / 0.3 billion ~ $63/person in the US.
I'll take my $63 please.

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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby charonme » Mon May 02, 2011 5:14 pm UTC

cultures which made the sensible economic decision
This stops being depressing the moment you realize cultures don't make economic decisions. Private individuals do.

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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby SHISHKABOB » Mon May 02, 2011 5:18 pm UTC

And what do you think has a vast role in every private individual's decision making process.

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Samik
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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby Samik » Mon May 02, 2011 5:20 pm UTC

hackthat wrote:I'll take my $63 please.



Then I'll foot your share and my own.*

hackthat wrote:A civilization can't survive in space. Sure we can visit, but we can't move. That's not space technology we're lacking, that's the technology required to have a fully functioning industrial society on a ship. Even our most self-sufficient vessels like aircraft carriers don't contain factories for making more of them. Until we come up with something like this humanity will be pinned to the fate of Earth. Visiting mars won't make us one of those species who explore the galaxy studying dead alien civilizations.


I think we're not doing a very good job here of separating very specific examples/concept/technologies/experiments from the overall push towards space. Again, the comic was not meant to simply bemoan the fact that no one has gone for a stroll on lunar soil in recent years, or that the Shuttle program was fundamentally a dead end, or that we don't yet have the ability to fully construct a sustainable ecosystem in massive worldships yet, or that Von Neumann machines are nowhere in sight at the moment, but that, as a species, we seem to have decided that space exploration is really not worth more than passing consideration - the breadcrumbs of our time and resources.



*(No I will not wire you $63.)

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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby big boss » Mon May 02, 2011 5:34 pm UTC

Samik wrote: Again, the comic was not meant to simply bemoan the fact that no one has gone for a stroll on lunar soil in recent years, or that the Shuttle program was fundamentally a dead end, or that we don't yet have the ability to fully construct a sustainable ecosystem in massive worldships yet, or that Von Neumann machines are nowhere in sight at the moment, but that, as a species, we seem to have decided that space exploration is really not worth more than passing consideration - the breadcrumbs of our time and resources.


And that space exploration should be the way of the future.
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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby Pfhorrest » Mon May 02, 2011 6:06 pm UTC

My solution for resolving the economic debate between "we should focus our resources on improving life down here on the ground" and "we should focus our resources on making sure than life can spread elsewhere" is this:

Part 1: Trim down the space programs per se to robotic exploration. Keep doing that much so we can keep advancing our astronomic propulsion and navigation technologies, but don't need to waste resources on sending humans up there, which is useless except for PR purposes at this point. Maybe eventually start working on robotic probes that go to other planets, locate and refine resources there, and build things. Maybe just build stacks of refined resources in protected shelters for now, nothing too fancy required at this point. That's not much more expensive from an Earth-side point of view (just programming better robots, no significant addition in payload weight or complexity of vehicles), but will come in very handy later...

Part 2: Down here on Earth, redirect resources into building environmental-control technologies. Do this under the auspices of things completely unrelated to space travel: global-warming-proofing, alternative energy, advanced agriculture, you name it. Work on better air and water filtering and processing technologies, energy-efficient (indoor) climate control, indoor agriculture (like hydroponics), that kind of thing. Get us to the point that we can build a comfortable, self-supporting little town in the middle of the Sahara or Antarctica or on the bottom of the ocean; doing so is orders of magnitude easier than doing the same thing on the Moon or Mars, and so is a necessary step along the way. Of course we don't aim for that directly: we aim at just expanding civilization from where it is now into increasingly less hospitable climates, and improving the quality of life in the places that civilization gets along fine right now.

By the time we've colonized this world's deserts and seafloors and southern pole, our space-faring robots should be at a point that we can have them start building such colonies on other planets; and they should have nice big stores of refined resources set aside on those other planets by then. Of course we'll have to send along the seeds of life with our robots, but by the time they're mining and building on other worlds for us, having them plant things for us isn't that big a further advance. Start with microorganisms to build the necessary chemical infrastructure: finding carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen isn't all that hard; getting them into forms that plants and animals can use is the tough part. Then send algae, lichen, fungi, mosses, and other simple organisms to turn some rocks and air and water into soil. Then start planting food crops.

And then, once we've got somewhere to go up there in space, then we'll have a good economic incentive to start shooting live humans up there. And along the way, we'll have revolutionized life down here on Earth too. The trick is just to turn the usual argument around: we don't tell the ignorant masses "we should fund manned space travel, because it's awesome and will be necessary for our survival in a few billion years! if you don't see the value of space travel for itself, well, it will also create all these incidental useful technological advances here on Earth"; instead we tell them "we should fund all these useful technological advances here on Earth! also, incidentally, that will enable manned space travel, which is awesome and will save us from extinction in a few billion years".
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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby Bobbert » Mon May 02, 2011 6:21 pm UTC

We don't have the technology to actually create any sort of colony on the moon, and there's no vital natural resources. Right now, attempting to send more people to the moon, or to Mars even, would be little more than a vanity project that would cost billions upon billions of dollars.

That said, the comic itself was boring too, another little pointless chart. At least the Null Hypothesis and Star Wars ones attempted to make jokes.

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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby Samik » Mon May 02, 2011 6:33 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:Stuff Pfhorrest just said.



Pfhorrest, I love everything you just wrote - especially about focusing on terrestrial advancements that have clear applications for colonization as well - with two exceptions (me and my exceptions!).


1.) As I suggested in my airplane/wind tunnel metaphor, there are going to be kinks that can not be worked out in advance, no matter how much preparation you put in. Once we have all of the technologies necessary to create sustainable biodomes, or whatever other method of implementation we choose, and have had our little robots stockpile vast stores of all the resources we could need, at our prospective colonization sites, we're still not even close to ready to call it 'mission accomplished' and move in.

At this point in your plan, how much do we understand about the effects on human physiology / psychology that living for long amounts of time away from Earth - either in open space (read: outside the earth's magnetosphere), or in environments with lower gravity / other essential characteristics that differ by wide margins - will have on our colonists ? In the event of an emergency that can't simply can't be resolved with a n unmanned shipment of food or supplies, how confident are we that we know exactly how long it would take / difficult it would be to rush an emergency response team to the colony from earth?

Some may accept that we're eventually going to accomplish all of our exploration via robotics, and that humans will not ever have any need to ever leave Earth. I don't know about you, but I want to GO myself. And that means that studying and improving the human body/mind's ability to actually deal with the rigors of space travel is just as important a component as stockpiling the necessary resources, and developing the technologies to make it possible for the long term.

if we wait until all other advancements have been made, so that the journey is trivially easy, to even begin actually making the trip ourselves, we're tacking on probably a considerable number of years to the process, rather than if we were studying all necessary angles in parallel.


2.) As the above point tackles your model in terms of efficient use of time, there is an equally important reason that your model may have problems with resource use efficiency.

Just think about the landers we've sent to Mars over the decades. What happens when one of them gets its wheel caught in the sand? We spend the next several weeks calculating and performing a slow series of extraction maneuvers, pausing for hours or days to pore over the data after each attempt. With a human on site, the situation could have been resolved in about 45 seconds.

This is obviously a profoundly imperfect example, since the presence of human payload introduces massive, massive additional overhead that the robot alone doesn't have, so not all of that time cost is guaranteed to be completely refunded, but you get the idea. Rather than taking hours to make each individual adjustment to a ground-based probe, or an orbiting satellite taking photos, having on site supervision could drastically speed up certain aspects of "Part 1" of your proposal (of course, assuming we are not really very close to being able to construct and program advanced robots that can effortlessly overcome the sorts of difficulties I've described).

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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby HungryHobo » Mon May 02, 2011 6:46 pm UTC

thing is: there's so much overhead with the human that you could with the same resources just send 50 or more robots and not worry so much about it when one get stuck in the sand.
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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby Samik » Mon May 02, 2011 6:59 pm UTC

When it takes a building full of the brightest minds we have weeks of dedicated work to extract that lander, and just as many people just as much time to remotely manage the day to day activities of the probes, I'm not convinced the overhead associated with the on site supervisor is always going to be greater, at every step of the process.

- Pfhorrest's model sort of assumes that we can, some time in the near future, develop efficient, fully self-sufficient automations, which can very adequately deal with problems as they arise. (I think if we wait on that, it'll be hundreds of years yet before we go anywhere.)
- Your response assumes a level of technological advancement more in line with the present.

Both of these can be true at different times (yours now, and Pfhorrest's some time in the future), but that doesn't mean one of them will always be true at all times, or even at the majority of times. Does it not seem reasonable to you that there will be a window in our development where we have the ability to reasonably easily send a manned mission into Martian orbit - where the astronaut can oversee ground operations from a much nearer vantage point - and back, but not yet have complete armies of working robots that can fully and independantly construct our future habitats for us?


Again, I'm not trying to jump the gun here and say we need to put a full court press on colonization. I just think that manned missions are in integral part of advancing our understanding of the difficulties associated with exploration and colonization.



(But all of this discussion about manned missions aside, please don't misunderstand me - I could live with no manned missions just fine if I felt we weren't also dragging our heals on unmanned exploration. Manned exploration is only one component of my interests. As I said earlier, this comic isn't about physically setting foot on the moon so much as it is about our current attitude towards exploration as a whole.)

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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby FourTael » Mon May 02, 2011 7:17 pm UTC

ijuin wrote:Somehow our society has decided that conquering and occupying Iraq and Afghanistan is more valuable than exploring other worlds. Seriously, we have spent more money on said wars than on the past fifty-odd years of spaceflight total, and all that I can see we have gained from the wars is the war supporters' claims that we have defeated terrorists that may or may not have been there in the first place. Is America really in such peril that we must spend five times as much money on our military as the next highest spending country, a whole forty percent of worldwide military expenditures?


War is a continuation of mate competition by other means. It has no economic value and is always irrational, both in economic and game-theoretic terms.


http://www.ashbrook.org/publicat/oped/a ... hraib.html

It's sad that most arguments in support of Iraq have to put forth reasons why it benefits America. That in order to justify helping people, we have to tell people how it benefits us.

John Stuart Mill wrote:War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.


(Edit: Personally, I'm not a fan of war from patriotism, but those that think war is never justified have never heard of tyrants)

Going back to the comic at hand, though: I remember reading Animorphs, and Ax pointed out how close together first flight, first space flight, and the moon landing was. The reason why aliens were invading, he figured, is because they were afraid that, if left unchecked, we'd advance so fast that we'd overtake them. It seems as though they don't have to worry much about that.

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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby Samik » Mon May 02, 2011 7:27 pm UTC

FourTael wrote:
John Stuart Mill wrote:War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.



That is one of my favorite quotes (and I appropriate your EDIT for myself as well).

Ok, it's officially time for me to stop checking out this thread. Today is not the day for Samik to write a dissertation on every major facet of the human condition.



Though I must remark that while I knew I was in the minority with regards to my desire to see a return to super aggressive space exploration, I don't think i really realized until today just how in the minority I really was. if there are none among even the hordes of XKCD that share my position, then maybe I am truly lost...

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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby rabidmuskrat » Mon May 02, 2011 7:38 pm UTC

For some reason I keep reading the mouse over text as...

each discovered, studied, and remembered as the ones who made the irrational decision.

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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby Brickman » Mon May 02, 2011 7:43 pm UTC

Samik wrote:
Posthumane wrote:I just think that if someone is passionate enough about it to get angry they should put their money where their mouth is and do something, rather than complaining that the government isn't doing it for them.


I am endeavoring very strongly at the present moment to go back to school (paying out of pocket) for precisely this reason. I have decided that I am not satisfied with the state of my education, and I want very much to be able to play some sort of role in advancing a cause I am so passionate about. I have no idea to what extent, if at all, I will succeed, but I personally believe that space travel / exploration is the single most worthwhile endeavor the human race now has the ability to undertake, and as such, you are correct: it would be hypocritical of me not to try to get involved directly.


EDIT: Prior to this, I joined the Navy to try to become a pilot, also for this very reason. I failed out of flight school, and thus am attacking the problem from a different angle. If that one fails, I will choose another angle, and so on. My ambition likely vastly outstrips my capabilities, but at the present moment, I don't particularly care.

When you view something as worth doing. You do it.


The wonderful thing about money is that it means you don't have to do things with your own two hands to see them done. If you really, truly don't believe that you can cut it as a research scientist or whatever you're trying to go to school for, don't throw your money and time at it. Instead back up, see what you can do that will reliably ensure you earn the most money (this may well involve going back to school but with a different major), do that, and then donate that money to whatever research program you think is most promising. They'll use it to buy equipment and make payroll and handle the overhead and you'll do more than your share of helping them. Sure, it won't feel as satisfying and you won't "be there", but if you want results, money is a pretty strong force.

Anyways, I think it's not even worth doing things with space as a goal. Do things with better technology or better knowledge as a goal, and the stuff necessary for space will follow eventually. Maybe the next new energy source will turn out to be something useful in space too, maybe the scientists at the LHC will notice something that let's them cut corners we didn't even know were there in space travel, maybe rich folk trying to cheat death will foot the bill for safe cryogenics. Maybe we'll develop something we didn't even know we lacked, like the internet or digital libraries potentially containing the sum total of human knowledge only we can't even guess what the next one will look like, which'll help in ways we can't predict. We're nowhere near ready now. Every decade we don't all die will bring us closer to ready, period. There is no technology we can develop which will not bring us closer in some way (no, not even weapons--nukes taught us an awful lot about nuclear physics and might lead to nuclear power, and I don't think we'd be doing this much in-atmosphere flight without radar). The only way we'll fail is if we stumble on something that'll destroy all of a vital resource across the entire earth at once, or kill us all at once.

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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby Pfhorrest » Mon May 02, 2011 7:52 pm UTC

Samik wrote:1.) As I suggested in my airplane/wind tunnel metaphor, there are going to be kinks that can not be worked out in advance, no matter how much preparation you put in. Once we have all of the technologies necessary to create sustainable biodomes, or whatever other method of implementation we choose, and have had our little robots stockpile vast stores of all the resources we could need, at our prospective colonization sites, we're still not even close to ready to call it 'mission accomplished' and move in.

I concede that, and I have no objection to anybody researching those angles now; my point is mostly that it will be much easier to sell the value of such research when we have somewhere to send the people to. So if we're having trouble getting support for that kind of research, perhaps it's better to focus first on the things which will make the value of that kind of research more apparent to the general public.

Some may accept that we're eventually going to accomplish all of our exploration via robotics, and that humans will not ever have any need to ever leave Earth. I don't know about you, but I want to GO myself. And that means that studying and improving the human body/mind's ability to actually deal with the rigors of space travel is just as important a component as stockpiling the necessary resources, and developing the technologies to make it possible for the long term.

This makes me think of another angle that could help rally support for humans-in-space research: sport. It's basically what drove the mid-20th-century research advancements, albeit under the guise of war; there's a reason it's called the "space race". How about actual space races? We've already seen inklings of things like this with the X-Prize, but imagine that cranked up to 11. What wealthy billionaire wouldn't like the prestige of being the first man in decades to set foot on the moon? Market it as something like auto racing; rich people get to look awesome driving crazy expensive high-tech cars in prestigious places. Well, wouldn't they look even more awesome piloting crazy expensive high-tech space ships to new parts of the solar system? Especially if their least-favorite rival billionaire is also aiming to be the first one to do so? Video the whole thing and air it live on TV, for that matter; reality TV is all the big hit, and this might actually get the sci-fi nerd core that currently shuns that stuff to actually tune in.

We could possibly even offer (very long term) financial incentives in the form of something like homesteading, if international treaties can be adjusted properly: anyone who can put together a mission to land a person on a new part of a celestial body gets to lay claim to the resources within some reasonable radius of their landing spot, with some reasonable exceptions for the sake of preserving things for scientific study before we start strip mining everything. It's not really going to be worth anything of real economic value for a long time, but people buy pragmatically valueless things just for prestige and to flaunt their wealth all the time. How prestigious would it be to have a photo of you on your "vacation spot on the Moon"? Not just "oh yeah I went to the Moon, here's a picture" (which is awesome enough in itself), but "here's a picture of me on my part of the Moon"!

Just think about the landers we've sent to Mars over the decades. What happens when one of them gets its wheel caught in the sand? We spend the next several weeks calculating and performing a slow series of extraction maneuvers, pausing for hours or days to pore over the data after each attempt. With a human on site, the situation could have been resolved in about 45 seconds.

This is obviously a profoundly imperfect example, since the presence of human payload introduces massive, massive additional overhead that the robot alone doesn't have, so not all of that time cost is guaranteed to be completely refunded, but you get the idea. Rather than taking hours to make each individual adjustment to a ground-based probe, or an orbiting satellite taking photos, having on site supervision could drastically speed up certain aspects of "Part 1" of your proposal (of course, assuming we are not really very close to being able to construct and program advanced robots that can effortlessly overcome the sorts of difficulties I've described).

I'm not really assuming that we already have or could easily have robots that can do these kinds of things, just suggesting that it's easier (and more to the point, an easier sell) to develop that kind of technology than it is to develop effective and efficient human life support systems. I don't see such automated robotics as being any harder (longer-term) to develop than the kind of biodome technologies that need to be developed for "Part 2". The two parts there are supposed to run in parallel, not in series; while we're developing robots capable of building things for us on other planets, we're also developing things capable of supporting human life in arbitrarily harsh conditions here on Earth. Both are big, difficult, long-term projects (with lots of incidental benefits along the way; and we'll have to make sure to sell people on each small incremental step along the way, so they see the immediate value of what we're doing). Then we put the two together and have the robots build those life support systems on other planets, and now we have something to sell people on manned space travel with.
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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby Skip » Mon May 02, 2011 8:56 pm UTC

Whether you or a civilization should go out into space should be determined by the thermal properties of people and the universe. If either one lasts long enough to do anything worth doing out there then you should.
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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby Fizyx » Mon May 02, 2011 9:14 pm UTC

hackthat wrote:A civilization can't survive in space. Sure we can visit, but we can't move. That's not space technology we're lacking, that's the technology required to have a fully functioning industrial society on a ship. Even our most self-sufficient vessels like aircraft carriers don't contain factories for making more of them. Until we come up with something like this humanity will be pinned to the fate of Earth. Visiting mars won't make us one of those species who explore the galaxy studying dead alien civilizations.


I completely disagree with this statement. Your analogy is EXTREMELY flawed. There are a huge number of physical and operational restraints on an aircraft carrier that would be eliminated or hugely mitigated in space. Also, you ignore the fact that one of the reasons that our most self sufficient vessels are the way they are is both economic and logistical. When we can move around the gravity well we're in as well as we do, it doesn't make sense generalize the operations/capabilities of our vessels, ie it makes sense to make our vessels as SPECIALIZED as we can while still retaining some flexibility instead of making them capable of total self-sustainability. This very quickly changes when it comes to long term space occupation/travel, as it becomes incredibly more difficult to move needed resources out of the gravity wells that we depend on at the moment. Until we overcome that, it makes sense to have at least ONE space-going vessel that is completely self sustainable (or as near to it as possible, since raw ores will probably still be needed until such a point that asteroid mining becomes feasible for that vessel.) Even after we overcome the problem of transportation out of a gravity well, self sustainable habitats STILL make sense, since manufacturers will be able to use micro gravity to great effect in all levels of the production chain, from mining to production of large ships and other space-based structures.


Anyways, this comic is certainly a get out of my head moment. Here are two paragraphs that I wrote a few years ago on the topic, when I was thinking about space travel:

Who cares that space travel may not be economical? Space holds a magic that no longer exists on Earth, a feeling of the unknown, the fantastic, and escape from the mundane. It is a world in which nothing is known, and anything can happen. A world off the edges of the map, one of those fantastic spots marked 'Here there be monsters'. This is the real drive behind space travel, a thirst to get away from the comfort of our small, cramped crib, to escape into a place that magic can still happen, and discovery is an every day occurrence. Obviously some will consider this childish, but they are wrong. It's really a desire to grow, and mature, and move beyond safe, warm arms that gave birth to us.

The greatest failing of mankind is how slowly slowly SLOWLY we plod along. Our greatest triumph is that we have begun to overcome this handicap, and every generation we move faster and farther than ever before. Where are we going? Why do we move with such speed? Does it matter, when we derive such knowledge and, more importantly, such pleasure and wonder from the journey alone? There is no final destination, only a brief stop over in a never-ending quest to go farther, faster, deeper into the unknown. This is the essence of humanity, the central tenet of our species that has allowed us to survive, thrive, grow, and in a few short tens of thousands of years, spread our influence across the globe and beyond. Why should we ever stop? And why do we allow the fear of the small minded to hold us back?



The two paragraphs are unrelated to each other, but I think they show why today's comic (and especially alt text) resonate so deeply with me at least :)

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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby Taot » Mon May 02, 2011 9:18 pm UTC

If anyone watched the 2nd episode of Series 6 of the new Doctor Who last Sunday, there was a scene that had a beautiful idea and this comic kinda reminded me of the realities in a-punch-to-the-gut way...

( The Doctor talking about the moon landing to a, well, bunch of scary aliens. )

"...now , do you know how many people are watching this live on the telly? Half a billion. That's nothing because the human race will spread among to the stars and you just watch them fly. Billions and billions of them for billions and billions of years and every single one of them will at some point of their lives look back at this man taking that first step and they will, never, ever forget it... "


The show is a fairytale in a good way but then again, to have lived so relatively close to that moment in human history, maybe there's some joy in this too?

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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby philip1201 » Mon May 02, 2011 9:21 pm UTC

Samik wrote:
philip1201 wrote:The stuff said by Philip1202.


More than one valid point in there, for sure. However, understand that I am not arguing that we should have a full scale, self-sufficient Mars base, or anything even close to that, already. All I'm saying is I think we should be further along than we are. At this point, I'd be happy with a super-orbital manned mission of any kind.


But that would be pointless. Risking the lives of people, as well as billions of dollars, for something as economically significant on the long term as the Apollo missions. We can go to the moon, and possibly Mars as well, but doing so helps us along the "irrational path" about as much as the Kon-Tiki helped archaeology. Going to Mars wouldn't require new technology, only better versions of the old technology. It's more of the same. As to "further along than we are" - that really is impossible to say, unless you happen to read the relevant scientific articles on ecology and aeronautics.


Your final point is a little bit misleading. A better measurement would be one that takes into account whether or not the basic foundation technologies exist in order to take the next step. While a project may not have started to establish off-world bases, we have been researching, developing, and experimenting with many of the technologies necessary for such a task. Not so in 1507 or 1746 with regards to the Apollo missions.

In any case, this is only relatable to the colonization of the Americas insofar as the concepts of 'exploration' and 'colonization' are involved. From a logistical perspective, the question of "How long was it from beginning to create the technologies necessary to reach Mars until actually doing so?" has more in common with "How long from the invention of flight to the first trans-atlantic crossing?" than it does "How long did Europeans have ships and equipment capable of crossing the Atlantic before they actually did so?" The selection of a specific, unrelated earlier endeavor as an endpoint is very arbitrary.

Except the trans-Atlantic crossings don't require the cooperation and tax revenue from 3% of a country, whereas Columbus did require government sponsorship.
Indeed such a selection is quite arbitrary. I don't see how you can make one for the Apollo missions and an indeterminate future mission.

What I'm trying to argue isn't that the government shouldn't do more, it's that it isn't doing worse than it did during the Apollo project, which also wasn't that bad.


Posthumane wrote:I just think that if someone is passionate enough about it to get angry they should put their money where their mouth is and do something, rather than complaining that the government isn't doing it for them.

So people aren't allowed to get angry for going into Iraq (and Afghanistan)? For the US preforming acts of torture and failing to give civilians a civilian trial? Unless they themselves go into the military or into politics? They aren't allowed to be angry at creationists unless they're teachers?
The government does things the people wants, for the people, with the people's money. That's what it's supposed to do. The whole idea of democracy is that the people have power over things they do not choose to directly interfere with.

Hackthat wrote:I'll take my $63 please.

How many $60 video games have you bought that sucked? How many dollars have you wasted on dvds or movies or tickets to things that sucked? Compare that entire pile of money to that $63. Money that's spent identifying planets circling other stars, looking deeper into the universe than ever before, discovering the nature of the 96% of the universe we have no freaking clue about how it works (but, if you're such a cheapskate, can probably be used to make awesome stuff some 200 years from now (and if you're too selfish for that, screw you)), discovering how the 4% we slightly understand works under extremes, how life can survive in space and what's necessary to build sustainable extraplanetary colonies that will be necessary to survive some day in humanity's future.
Also note there is no distinction between "earthbound science" and "space science". What is out there is the same as is down here, only 10^30 more of it. The same laws of nature apply. Discovering how Magnetars work by long observation with telescopes is as valuable to particle physics as a basic matter collider.

Samik wrote:that, as a species, we seem to have decided that space exploration is really not worth more than passing consideration - the breadcrumbs of our time and resources.

NASA still has half the budget it had in 1965 - 150% of what it had in the '70s. And the budget is increasing. The same with the ESA, JAXA and the Chinese and Indian space organizations. What you're saying is quite simply false. The collective human budget for space exploration development is quite possibly at it's highest level since around 1972, adjusted for inflation.

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Re: 0893: "65 Years"

Postby Samik » Mon May 02, 2011 10:06 pm UTC

philip1201 wrote:But that would be pointless.


I address what I see to be the point of such missions in about three of my previous posts. Please reread them if you actually care to know the opinion you're trying to refute. There is more at play than simply technological development.

RE: risking lives: I hear this one a lot. You fail to take into account that there would be volunteers lining up around the globe from pretty much any mission you could suggest, myself among them. I appreciate your concern for my well-being, but it's just not really an argument you can use, unless you think you have the right to tell me and folks like me that we're not allowed to risk our lives.

Except the trans-Atlantic crossings don't require the cooperation and tax revenue from 3% of a country, whereas Columbus did require government sponsorship.


You are correct, but what I was trying to highlight was that there were a great deal of incredibly important feats performed by humans in the years between 1492 and 2011, and that to select 1492 at the start point was misleading because, though the colonizing of the Americas and the colonizing of Mars do share the concepts of 'exploration' and 'colonization', you're ignoring quite a bit in between by putting too much focus on those two concepts. We've done quite a few great things that required "tax revenue from 3% of a country", or commitments of similar weight, in the meantime.

But beyond all that, it's just so incredibly irrelevant to the topic at hand, and clearly thrown in as an attempt to muddle the issue. I mean, really, you view the step from crossing the Atlantic in ships to walking on the moon as equal in scale to going from the moon to Mars? The distances involved, ironically, may scale in a way that fits nicely, but there's so much more carry over from the technology and knowledge required to reach the moon to that required to reach Mars than from that required to cross the Atlantic to that required to reach the moon (read: precisely none... well unless you want to consider some elements of celestial navigation).


NASA still has half the budget it had in 1965 - 150% of what it had in the '70s. And the budget is increasing. The same with the ESA, JAXA and the Chinese and Indian space organizations. What you're saying is quite simply false. The collective human budget for space exploration development is quite possibly at it's highest level since around 1972, adjusted for inflation.


I believe I already included the point that the budget is half of what it was in the 60''s, but deployed that statistic to the opposite side of the argument.

While you are correct that the adjusted dollar value is greater than it was in the 70's (not saying much - EDIT:sentence removed because I misunderstood what you were saying and just figured out my mistake.), the percentage of the federal budget given to NASA is at an all-time low. If I was poor as dirt, and you were my kid, and I could only afford to buy you ratty falling apart shoes, then I won the lottery, and still bought you ratty shoes, only with slightly fewer holes in them, would you consider yourself fortunate?

In any case, I believe I also already addressed this point in a previous post: as our technology has increased, our resources and aptitude for implementation have increased as well. Except in the Space Program: there, they have regressed.
Last edited by Samik on Mon May 02, 2011 10:23 pm UTC, edited 2 times in total.


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