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Back to the Moon

Apparently, Pres. Bush will shortly announce plans for a permanent moonbase and a manned Mars mission.

Sounds like a recipe for an Allen Steele or a Ben Bova future. Which, to be honest, isn't such a bad thing - even if I do want to live in a Michael Flynn tomorrow...


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 9th, 2004 12:45 am (UTC)
This was rumored several weeks ago. Since then I've heard from a few folks more or less connected with NASA; their opinions on this sum up to

  • The Moon is a good place to start, it looks to be possible to eventually have a self-sustaining (or nearly so) base there.

  • The Moon base is partially military related, the base itself a 'cover' for pumping money into launch craft and the like.

  • Most of this is election year smoke and mirrors. The trade and budget deficits are going to make it tough to spend much money on programs such as this, even more so if the current financial problems trigger climbing interest rates.

My own feelings are that the Moon base is a realistic and useful goal, there's a lot that can be learned there and it's a quick trip there if something goes wrong. However, 10 to 15 years is way too soon for manned expeditions to Mars, unless the purpose is to have some more space martyrs. And I don't see where the US is going to get the money for this in the next 5 to 10 years, assuming we can avoid a catastrophic financial collapse as some are worried about.

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Jan. 9th, 2004 02:49 am (UTC)
Although the bases in Steele were mostly private having been sold off by the government.

Not sure I see that happening.
Jan. 9th, 2004 06:04 am (UTC)

Almost everything in Steele's fiction was privately-owned (with the possible exception of Space Station Freedom/Alpha in Orbital Decay). I agree that this is unlikely, since there just isn't the potential for low-risk profit in manned space operations, and few shareholders would stand for a visionary CEO who would advocate such a direction for a company.

Jan. 9th, 2004 09:06 am (UTC)
I'm never certain whether the improbability of private sector space exploration is a good thing or a bad? Either it means there aren't likely to be evil corporations taking over the frontiers or just that it's one fewer possibility of funding anything at all. There's no guarantee that the private sector would be any less capable or more evil than states.

It's a shame tho': I'd definitely go for an Allen Steele future.
Jan. 9th, 2004 09:29 am (UTC)

Yep, I'd be happy with an Allan Steele future as well. I think that private sector investment in space exploration is acceptable (it's more funding, as you point out) as long as there are sufficient curbs on what they can do and claim as their own. The Kim Stanley Robinson future of trans/metanational corporations is a worrying one, and one that's all too easy to envisage if the current trend towards corporate democracy in the US continues.

Unfortunately, I think that we're only likely to see corporate investment in such a high-risk and long-term enterprise as space exploration if they believe that there is a chance that they could end up laying claim to large parts of the solar system.

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Jan. 9th, 2004 02:50 am (UTC)
Hey, don't forget Titan starts this year ;-)
Jan. 9th, 2004 03:08 am (UTC)
Everyone should try to contain their excitement, I think. The real (probably) reason for the intended announcement will be to divert public attention from policy failures elsewhere -- just as JFK announced a commitment to a manned Moon landing in the wake of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1963.

As others have pointed out, the USA probably hasn't the budget for this sort of stuff. In addition, Dubya and his advisers are reportedly not very interested in space exploration; it's something they're prepared to spend money on from time time to keep the scientist happy, but no farther.
Jan. 9th, 2004 03:47 am (UTC)
"Scientists", I should have said.
Jan. 9th, 2004 05:56 am (UTC)
As Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and George the Elder discovered, if all else fails and it looks as if you're going to lose the next election, you can always make promises to the Trekkies you have absolutely no intention of keeping, and they'll buy that jive bullshit every time.
Jan. 9th, 2004 08:59 am (UTC)
A Trekkie's for life...
In a fit of blinding literal-mindedness I somehow read this as implying that Bush had pet Trekkies he now wishes to dispose of! I'm not sure which is more disturbing: the thought of pet Trekkies at the White House or abandoned pets wandering the streets. Sighs.

Is the "space exploration gambit" in the US the equivalent of the "shocking royal revelations in the press"--often used to blind folk to either governmental shortcomings or a piece of chicanery they'd rather not have us notice?
Jan. 10th, 2004 01:35 pm (UTC)
Political attention redirection notwithstanding, going to the moon to get to mars is a wretched idea and a tremendous waste of capital. It is the equivalent of travelling from Seattle to New York via Murdo station in Antarctica.

Mars direct is the way:

Jan. 12th, 2004 01:19 am (UTC)
And the President gives NASA turkey.

The Bush moon mission/mars mission is a lie. They trial balloned this in December and waited for Spirit to land safely before saying anything.

The entire plan is based around gutting NASA. NASA will be given two missions, moon and mars. Any project that is not directly connected to those missions will be canned.

Then, we fully expect the money to vapourise in 2005, same as it did on Medicare, with the justification being "the deficit".

One was actually hoping NASA could keep their head down during Bush's screwing of the US economy, but apparently Karl Rove thinks it should attract to soccer moms.

What this means is.... look to China/India/Japan to get established on the moon first.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )