the space race is over

“My son and I stand beneath the great night sky
And gaze up in wonder
I tell him the tale of Apollo And he says
“Why did they ever go?”
It may look like some empty gesture
To go all that way just to come back
But don’t offer me a place out in cyberspace
Cos where in the hell’s that at?”


I had to look something up on earlier today, and was met with the grainy footage of an astronaut descending the ladder to the lunar surface, exactly 40 years ago today as I start typing this, thanks to the “flash” script that grabbed my browser as I entered the site.

I hadn’t forgotten, just not usually big on anniversaries, but between prompting from facebook and the other website I had occasion to click onto, I decided it was Blog Time!!!kapow

See, I had occasion to browse – and there was nada, nothing, zip.

That can’t be right, thought I, Big B’s people would never let such a PR opportunity pass by, independent of anything else, especially with the new Administrator and Deputy Administrator for NASA having just been confirmed by the Senate.

So, a quick google revealed:
Obama honors Apollo Astronauts – I’m sure something will float up on the whitehouse website about it, eventually.
Not that there is much to it, according to that report.
Maybe they got served some roast beef… (never mind, inside joke).

Seriously though, WTF?

Apollo 17 ascent – click for video

I am sick of the bloody nostalgia and reminiscing.
If there is to be actual honoring of such events, and there really ought to be, as it truly was a historic event promising so much potential future accomplishment, then let it be something substantive – not empty words and grainy footage – this is the occasion for actual substantive initiatives to get back out there and do something.

There is too much talk and too little behind it – just go ahead and commit to substantial resources for a realistic and long term space policy that actually goes somewhere.
At this point it almost doesn’t matter where, as long as it leads to something more solid and permanent than powerpoint presentations and rejected test models rusting on the ground.


  1. #1 Ben
    July 21, 2009


    Doing something for the sake of just doing anything isn’t necessarily a great idea.

    Yeah, we need a vision for space policy. But be careful what you wish for. I don’t think the last Vision for Space Exploration was that great an idea or actually amounted to much. And we need vision for a lot of things. Vision is not something our society does well at the moment. I personally think we need a vision for staving off local and global environmental degradation far more than we need a vision for space policy. I don’t mean we should stop space exploration, but that if NASA muddles along for a while, it’s just a pain for you and me. Muddling along while we sink into a ever hotter and more deforested and degraded sewer is a problem for you, me, and everyone.

  2. #2 rnb
    July 21, 2009

    Why not try both?
    There is no guarantee we know enough or have the capability
    of controlling the environment as much as we might need.

  3. #3 Jonathan Vos Post
    July 21, 2009

    The space race is over? Who won — Japan, Russia, European Space Agency, India, or China?

  4. #4 travc
    July 21, 2009

    I’m “meh” about the current manned spaceflight efforts. It is a very good capacity to possess, but it gets used for pretty stupid (and insanely wasteful) things.

    Mars presents an interesting case (while the moon doesn’t really) in that it is too far away for us to effectively teleoperate robots on the surface. Interactivity is a very good thing for exploration. I could see putting a crew in orbit of Mars to operate robotic landers (and sample retrieval craft). Arguably not a stupid idea (though arguably not a good one either).

    Putting people on the surface of Mars (or the Moon) makes very little sense. It isn’t like there is a hell of a lot they can actually do locked inside pressure hulls or spacesuits. Deep sea exploration is a good analog.

    It will make more sense in the not too distant future… the entire “frontier colony thing”. However, before we send people, we should have an actual facility with resources there. I imagine established robotic factories being a prerequisite.

    PS: Instead of focusing so much on putting people into space, could we instead plow some real resources into getting mass into space much more efficiently? I’d be a hell of a lot more excited about big railgun, space elevator, or even better air or balloon launch capabilities. That is what we really need for humanity to expand beyond the Earth.

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