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.


blankfist said...

So far, Crane, this has become quite the interesting source of distraction for me. Thanks for the well thought out entries. It may be a good thing that you're a lazy, unemployed intellectual.

For you to have a job would rob me of my five minute daily diversions. So, be sure to throw away the want ads and keep me entertained, monkey!

Anonymous said...

You're so smart!!

Fried Pepperoni said...

"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?"

Funny, I said the same thing about THE PHANTOM MENACE.

It is sad that the realities of space travel have nowhere near mirrored our fantasies about space travel. Sure NASA can land a camera on a comet, but where's our HAL to open the pod bay doors? Look at how the personal computer has evolved over the same period of time. Or video games from the atari to the PS2. Or Barry Bonds. NASA is woefully behind expectations in many regards. Not to mention, I still don't have my weather machine OR jet pack and that makes me angry everyday of my life. Hinesy-angry, almost.

So, Crane. Do you give any props to W. for issuing the mandate that we will get to Mars by 20whenever? Any truth to the rumor that he actually only wants to go up there so he can blow it up?

In all seriousness, I'd dyhump the Backstreet Boys (all of 'em) for the chance to go to space. Even if it were just a straight up, straight down trip, I'd be all over it.

But I'd much rather go to space with you and Heath. The first thing I'd do in zero gravity is make you guys play dodgeball with my pee.

JudgeHolden said...

Yeah, I actually wanted to mention that about Bush. Though I am happy he put forth some of his then-potent political "capital" back in 2002 or 03 so this country can once again get serious about space exploration (after a long, listless period of shuttle resupply trips to the space station), I am also a little pissed that, whenever we do get our asses to Mars, the name George W. Bush will be mentioned over and over again in the media, and not prefaced with "history's greatest monster". I will be a much older man then, but I'm sure I'll still remember with some sharpness what it was like to live in the US under the reign of W, what an $&#$ he was and what an &%*@ he made us all look like to the rest of the planet. But I guess even the worst presidents are capable of a few visionary things. I just wish it had been some other president to do so great a thing, like when JFK pledged to land a man on the moon. How great was that? The 21st-century's version of an American President making an inspiring pledge to go into space and do something that seems impossible does not hold up well by comparison. I mean, the 21st century! Shouldn't the president who tells us we're going to Mars have a 340 IQ and wear a really sharp-looking silver space-shirt? Instead we get this amiable, incurious guy who tells people he thinks about Jesus every chance he gets. I guess, in the end, it's less important who says it than that it gets said.

Man, I so do not have a job.

blankfist said...

You really just have a problem with Jesus, don't you Crane? You hate life because you live in one nation under God. Aetheist naysayer.

By the way, why don't you ever cus on your post? Your site is so PG. Take me on up to PG-13, Crane. For the love of Pete, I really need to see you type the occasional fuck.

Fried Pepperoni said...

Jobs are for people who hate space.