Tuesday, September 20, 2005
"Hello, Austin. Welcome to my Moon Base."
Last night I was at Zaxby's (of all places) eating chicken fingers, fries and Texas toast, when I saw a report about NASA's new plan to return to the moon by 2018. I watched in disbelief as images like the one on the right appeared on-screen.
We're going back to the Apollo program to get there.
That's right. Lunar landers, cramped space capsules, parachute-slowed descents and exciting splashdowns in the ocean. A return to the space program of yesteryear. Either the New York Times or NASA themselves are calling the new program "Apollo on Steroids" because the capsule itself is bigger and can accomodate 4 astronauts, the fuel capacity is much larger enabling our astronauts to land anywhere on the moon and not just on its equator, and the lunar lander itself is bigger and can support astronauts for up to a week on the moon. In addition, our moon visits will be purposeful: we'll be laying the groundwork for an honest-to-god moon base from which we can stage eventual missions to Mars! (Yes, this stuff is legitimately exciting to me). I read this stuff this morning on NASA's site and the new information makes the idea of using old technology sound pretty good, but my initial impression/question after seeing the first images of NASA's new idea was this: We landed on the moon in 1969 and the capsule/lander method is still the best idea we've managed to come up with in the intervening 36 years? Just kind of shocked me, I guess.
But anyway. Since that's the plan, that's the plan. If it gets us back on the moon with a minimum of fatalities, than I'm for it. Even if it gets us on the moon with a maximum of fatalities, still, strangely, I'm for it. I just want our human asses back up there. I want moon bases and inter-planetary exploration and I want at least a taste of it before I die. I'd do it myself but they wouldn't let me go to the moon or to Mars for a thousand reasons, not least of which is my freakish height but also the fact it takes me a full 10 minutes to multiply two 3-digit numbers. (Also because I would spend most of my time on any given spaceflight paralyzed with fear and crying silently in my capsule seat). I just wish most Americans were for space exploration as much as I am. A lot of criticism about NASA spending comes from people who ask, "Why spend all that money on spaceships and rocket blasters (?) when we got kids in this country who can't read!" To those people I say... you're right. We do have a lot of problems here on Earth, not the least of which is a country where a sizeable portion really do believe the sun revolves around the Earth (George Carlin wasn't making that up when he was on Bill Maher's HBO show the other week). We got a whole lot of book-learnin' to do for these stupid stupid people. On the other hand, if those people are lost causes, the people who DO know the Earth revolves around the SUN, need a way to get away from those dumb bastards and live apart from them.
But seriously, I think people need something inspiring and good to happen with their tax dollars. Something that makes us proud to be members of this species. Usually we're inundated with terrible images of constant human warring (much of it in our name) and news of a nascent American rejection of science and reason that makes us feel hopeless and consigned to eventually repeat our awful histories again and again. Sometimes it seems we can only see human evolution in terms of computer hard-drive speed and storage space on our iPods. Most everything else seems to be going backward. Space exploration is an absolute good. To those people who think our tax dollars would be better spent elsewhere, I say your good-intentions are being misspent. Complain to the Pentagon who spends 2 billion dollars or so per stealth bomber and sinks untold billions to give "democracy" to a Middle-Eastern country that probably doesn't want it. Complain to a Congress that spends a billion here and a billion there to build beautiful but completely unnecessary bridges in Alaska, or to give massive corporations billions in tax breaks in a bid to "stimulate the economy". Because America wastes money (and always has and always will) on so many stupid things (war, corporate handouts, pork) and not enough on the right things (education education education), should that necessarily mean America should be forever prohibited from spending a lot of money on something important and worthy?
Anyway, I've been getting on my high-horse for two postings now; I should get back to my inanities (not to say these posts weren't inane, just not willfully inane, which is a different thing). Tonight, if all goes to plan, I'll be attending a discussion led by former President Jimmy Carter (he of the malaise)on education at Emory. If it's interesting, I'll let you know how it went.