Grunsfeld explained his concerns about Webb and the hundreds of single-point failures it faced during the deployment process in space. So many things could go wrong, he said worryingly. He thought something probably would go sideways, and then where would NASA be the next time it went to Congress and asked for big money to fund an ambitious science project?
I have been simultaneously both looking forward to and dreading the day that this venture was officially launched. It’s been a long hard journey getting to this day, even for the vicariously interested in the subject. It was conceived of, then it became an albatross and was cancelled, then it was revived and now it has finally been launched.
The first time I heard about the telescope was back in 2013 when I took the featured image of the touring promotional telescope prop. I’ve checked in several times in the intervening years, checked in just to make sure it was still going to be launched one day. I had almost given up on the thing when I heard that they were launching it today.
I dreaded its launch because I vividly remember the launching of the Hubble telescope, the world’s first orbital astronomical observatory, cheering the successful launch only to discover that the lenses for the telescope had been shaped wrong and that it wouldn’t be useful unless astronauts went out into space and did repairs to it. We had staked so many hopes, dreams and dollars on the Hubble and from the layman’s perspective it was a complete failure even though it successfully made it into space.
Sure, after the corrective lenses were installed it took really pretty pictures, but the initial failure of NASA to produce a satellite that worked as planned colored my feelings of everything the telescope did afterwards. Not too long after that was the series of failures of NASA ventures that seemed to point to a failing of big government in my mind, an observation that seemed to apply to everything government tried to do.
It wasn’t until after I was disabled and had time to spend following abandoned childhood interests like space and science that I developed the understanding of just how hard it is to do anything in space. Just how many points of failure there are in even the launch of any rocket into space, let alone the kinds of complexities that go into the research robots that we seem to deploy every few years lately.
The complexity of the James Webb seemed almost to guarantee failure. Failure that could be delivered on Christmas day like a stocking full of hazel switches. Mercifully, blissfully, the launch went off without a hitch. I almost can’t believe it. However that is just the first thing that has to happen in order for the telescope to get to where it is going in shape to do the job that it needs to do. A complex list of automated instructions that have happen flawlessly in order for the telescope to function properly when it gets where it is going.
…and where it is going is beyond the reach of our current manned space technologies, so a rescue mission like the one that Hubble required to function will not be possible for the foreseeable future.
Finally, on January 8th, the last piece of the puzzle fell into place and the primary mirror successfully unfolded and was secured in position. Now we wait six months until the telescope arrives at the stable orbit that was intended for it, and is cool enough to do the telescopic work it was designed to do. As a bonus, Webb used less fuel than expected to get into its insertion orbit, so it should have a longer than expected lifespan out on the edge of human space.
The light of distant galaxies has already reached Webb’s shiny mirrors and still-slumbering science instruments. Soon, the rest of the telescope will waken and start to make sense of it.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
In 1989, Voyager 1 was about to leave our Solar System. Dr. Sagan, who was a member of the mission’s imaging team, pleaded with NASA officials to turn the camera around and take one last look back at Earth before the spaceship left our solar system.
He then presented that grainy image of the pale blue dot to the world in this press conference.
Editor’s note. I ran across a story a few months ago that reminded me of this photograph, and while I was digging up the image at the Planetary Society website I realized that the image would be thirty years old today.
Rather than quote a story written for the twenty-sixth anniversary I wrote the above quick piece and scheduled it for the thirtieth anniversary date. NASA had been planning for this date longer than I had, though. They had been working on an updated image, and they had scheduled the release of the image for the day before the actual date so that news of it would make headlines on papers and websites well in advance of the anniversary. That’s the kind of impression you can make when you wield the manpower and economic force of a national agency.
I tried to save the page for this newsletter on Archive.org several times but received an error. I’ll just cut and paste the text of the damn thing here, that way there won’t be an emotional outburst when I go back to find the thing and it’s gone here in a few years:
BBC World Service – 13 Minutes to the Moon BBC How the first moon landing was saved. The full story of the people who made Apollo 11 happen and prevented it from going badly wrong. Theme music by Hans Zimmer. Added, go to My Music to see full list. ranthony I’ve been sitting on this podcast until the 50th anniversary day rolled around. That was Saturday. Pretty interesting podcast so far. I’m up to episode 5.
Hack the Moon Hack the Moon – Jan 27’One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.’ But it almost didn’t happen. Apollo 11 was the mission that enabled… Full Story Astronaut Michael Collins, Command Module Pilot for the Apollo 11 mission, visited the MIT Instrumentation Lab…
Why Apollo 11 Wouldn’t Have Happened Without Lyndon Johnson Texas Standard – Michael Marks – Jul 19, 8:14 AMOn Oct. 4, 1957, Senate Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson, and his wife Lady Bird, were entertaining friends at their ranch in the Texas Hill Country. The Johnsons often took after-dinner walks – a habit they developed after he had a heart…
How Space Exploration Provided A New Career Path For Women Texas Standard – Alexandra Hart – Jul 19, 8:55 AMParish Hirasaki was not planning on being a scientist. At least, not when she first got to Duke University. “I was sent off to college to find a husband,” Hirasaki says. “And to get a teaching degree so if god forbid anything…
The archive was finally successfully made. I know because Nuzzle has subsequently gone offline and when I went looking for the link embedded in this article on archive.org, this week was in the archive. Not much else from Nuzzle is, though.
This was the original postscript for the article published at the same date and time. Thank you Archive.org!
Listening to the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe #732, they briefly got into the fact that they would be releasing that episode on the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. Having spent several hours on that day listening to podcasts about the historic occasion, I was jarred into putting an entry on the blog that mentions what is hands down the best podcast about the moon landings that I’ve run across so far.
It’s Thirteen Minutes to the Moon from the BBC, one of several podcast moments that I shared in the newsletter for Sunday. If you only listen to one podcast about the moon landing in your life, listen to this one:
As for the other things in the newsletter apropo to the event, wehackthemoon.com was just a cool website. It was mentioned in one of the early episodes of Thirteen Minutes to the Moon. The one about software, I’m pretty sure. All kinds of interactive stuff to do there and the only way to experience it is to click on the link and go there. The Texas Standard stories are pretty self-explanatory. Then there was this film that was advertised far and wide right before the anniversary,
I’m looking forward to getting a chance to watch that movie. Since I couldn’t do more than link the trailer, I didn’t even bother to include it in the newsletter that day. It was already getting more exposure through podcast advertising than I could ever give it by sharing the trailer.
I remember watching the moon landings in our old TV room in that house at the corner of 3rd and N in Leoti that we called home in the 60’s and 70’s. I can remember that wood-paneled room with it’s threadbare carpet, and the static-filled reception that we got on the old black and white TV set we had back then. Everyone was crowded into the room with us kids that day. I don’t remember who all was there, but I remember being aware that this was a big moment in history because so many people wanted to be in the room with us kids while we were watching TV that day.
I really thought there would be a permanent human presence on the moon by now. It’s a shame we’ve squandered so much time not doing the important things in life and instead focused so much time and energy moving little green pieces of paper around. I’m hoping that the moon-orbiting platform finally gets built. With that in place the gateway to deep space will finally be open, as well as the moon base that we should have founded twenty years ago, at least.
The brothers Novella had the missing brother George on the podcast today. George’s question of HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) vs. internet is a no brainer and I can’t believe no one mentioned the reason why HVAC is easily sacrificed. You don’t know why either, dear reader? Maybe it’s because none of you are architects.
You don’t need HVAC in an Earth shelter home or a cave. Why? Because the earth just under the sun-warmed crust is 68°F all year long. This is true everywhere except in the frozen North, where it freezes to a depth of several feet. Much further North than the brothers Novella reside. Just dig into your nearest hillside and you will have access to cool air or warm air (if warmth is what a constant temperature of 68 degrees is to you) all year ’round.
It’s the internet I’m keeping. I need my information. Good information is the difference between life and death. I’ll deal with the vagaries of having to bundle up against the cold on the rare days we get it in central Texas.
Going on about this specific episode of The Skeptic’s Guide; the newb, Cara Santa Maria sounds so selfish talking about space colonization. She definitely lost my respect there. Human space colonization is inevitable. It’s why people still live all over the face of the Earth. We expand to fill whatever space we have available to live in. If we can make it habitable, we’ll live there. Otherwise the archeologists will stumble across our bones when they show up to find out why people died there.
The thing that holds us back from colonizing space is building a functioning arcology which includes not just self sufficiency, but sustainability. People have to want to live in the arcology, given other choices. Until we can solve that puzzle we won’t be colonizing anywhere, successfully.
Antarctica not currently populated is a correct statement. Antarctica is by design not populated. It would be populated along the coasts by this point had there not been agreement that the continent was off-limits (which was a mistake in my opinion) consigning the continent to third-world status where no country or individual can ever be sure to be able to make a property claim.
I’m beyond my tolerance for stupid these days. With stormtrumper on the one hand pretending not to see the lies, and anti-vaxxers and GMO fear-mongers on the other pretending that no evidence is evidence, someone throwing the “there’s no reason to be in space” bullshit at me puts me just this side of airlocking that person on principles.
It is human nature to explore. It is human nature to want to be the explorer, not the vicarious observer. Do you disagree with me? Are you then saying that Everest is not seeing an ever-increasing number of people who want to summit? That we aren’t seeing trips to the antarctic and the arctic by people just wanting to go there? You’re saying there aren’t remote outposts in all these places I’ve mentioned, set up specifically for purposes of exploration? Are you saying that exploration has no value just for exploration’s sake? How interesting.
Sustainable arcology. Several steps above the biosphere project. As a former architect, speaking about architecture, I know of what I speak when it comes to this subject. When we have a sustainable arcology we will have a transplantable model for human colonization. Until that time we are just sightseers and explorers on temporary missions. This has value, and boots on the ground has the ability to fix unforeseen problems like the Apollo 13 rescue effort or the problems presented on the first moon landing. There is value in exploration of that nature, as these microcomputers that are now embedded in everything and are irreplaceable in modern communications can attest.
To enable human expansion across the solar system, NASA is working with private companies and international partners to develop the Gateway, an outpost for crewed missions to the Moon that also supports scientific discovery and opportunities for a lunar economy. The agency is involving college students and faculty with the adventure of human space exploration through the 2019 Revolutionary Aerospace Systems Concepts – Academic Linkage (RASC-AL) competition. RASC-AL is seeking proposals from the university community in four categories related to the Gateway and supporting capabilities that will establish a long-term human presence in deep space near the Moon and on the lunar surface.
The latest whiz-bang idea from Donald Trump is this idiocy he calls the Space Force. Even his Vice President, a strangely quiet man lost in the shadow of Trump’s vast vanity, has gotten in on the deal. Yesterday he was promoting the idea publicly. Today on the Texas Standard I hear that Maddog Mattis is gungho to get right on this stupid idea and make it a reality. That’s weird, because I thought even Maddog was against it. When a guy nicknamed Maddog doesn’t want to do your idea, you should know it’s probably even crazier and dumber than you might have thought.
Let me spell out just how dumb this idea is, from the perspective of decades of Science Fiction reading. The Earth sits at the bottom of a pretty deep gravity well. It’s face would be more visibly pockmarked than it is were it not for the wind and water action on the surface, not to mention the verdant tree growth, masquing the damage inflicted on the Earth from simple rocks that it has encountered in it’s annual journey around the sun. There are tons of rocks out there in space. Tons of them. Asteroids that could extinguish all life on this planet, in an instant. If we want to destroy any spot on the globe, that potential is out there right now. It is just waiting for anyone, anyone, to go out there, strap a rocket motor to the thing, push it this way or that and hey, presto! you’ve vaporized the target of your choice on the surface of the earth, and probably several hundred square kilometers around it.
The stupidity of believing we could continue our warlike ways into space was spelled out quite well in Robert A. Heinlein’s libertarian exploration novel, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. In that book we accompany the main character as he plots revolution against the Earth that sent him to a penal colony on the Moon. In order to avoid any major spoilers, I will simply observe that lobbing rocks at the Earth figures heavily in the plot of that novel. A Space Force is akin to the stupidity of placing the exiles from the Earth at the top of the Earth’s gravity well and daring them to get back at us. I expect a lunar penal colony will be the next great idea that Trumpists will come up with, that’s how dumb the idea of a Space Force is. The world of Starship Troopers is waiting for us down that route through time, and I don’t recommend that future, either.
What life on this planet needs to understand is that we are at war with the rest of the universe, because the universe wants to kill us. Everywhere outside of the blanket of atmosphere that covers the Earth, death awaits. Gasping, freezing, boiling, death. We don’t need a Space Force because we don’t need to militarize space. Everything about going to space is a weapon. The rocket engines are weapons, the ships are weapons, that lug nut you forgot to tighten properly is a weapon after it comes loose, hurtling through space at thousands of miles an hour just waiting to intersect some habitat somewhere and destroy it. We cannot be at war with other people in space, because killing each other is far, far too easy to do out there. A moment of carelessness and everyone dies. Not exactly the place for the murderous or the stupid. Our only hope for the future is demilitarization, and it’s a pretty faint hope at that.
The demilitarization of space is the opposite of a Space Force. This is all aside from the fact that a Space Force is probably just another boondoggle like Reagan’s Star Wars. A boondoggle that will go nowhere and cost billions. It’s a stupid idea endorsed by stupid people. Or as Stonekettle Station put it, the money goes in the black hole and never comes out.
Splitting this so-called space force off from the Air Force (and presumably pulling the space-related components out of the other services as well), what does that give us that we don’t have now — and not just give us, but give us to such a degree that it justifies the cost and significantly increased complexity? What are the distinct requirements, the technology, skillsets, logistics, communications, training, facilities, targets, strategies, tactics, objectives, and missions that will define this space force? And how are those distinctly different from the current Air Force, distinct enough to warrant an entirely separate service with its enormous associated cost?
Why both an Air Force and a Space Force, instead of a single Aerospace Force?
Like everything else with Trump: what are the details?
Apparently I was being too subtle in the article above. Let me be more blunt. If you think that militarizing space is a good idea, if you think that Donald Trump isn’t proposing this project just to the line the pockets of his donors, then you are a member of group I refer to as stupid people. You are the kind of person that watches Iron Sky and masturbates to the images of swastikas on the screen.
Just FYI, if you watch Iron Sky and find you can’t laugh at it, then you have no sense of humor. You take yourself too seriously. You take your country too seriously (if you are an American) It is a European film made specifically to poke fun at Americans. Watch it again and again until you find the humor in it. That is my suggestion to anyone who finds they can’t laugh at themselves. If you undertake this effort maybe, just maybe, you will cease to be a member of the group I labeled stupid people.
We can’t realistically militarize space. Believing otherwise is to fall for storytelling tropes. If we don’t get past this self-hatred, we are done for as a species.
Featured image screencapped from empireonline.com. De-Orangification completed here.
President Trump arrives today at the annual NATO summit in Brussels fixated on the fact that most members are falling short of defense spending targets, going so far as to declare that the current state of affairs “just doesn’t work” for the U.S.
I don’t support anything the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) does, even when what he does happens to coincide with the things I think should be done. They should be done, just by someone else.
NATO? I was never a fan of NATO until Vladimir Putin and his OHM puppet decided they wanted to destroy it. Now, I’m thinking I love it. I think NATO should go cyber and cripple the online infrastructure of Russia until they get rid of Putin and hand back Crimea. I think we can do that much more cheaply than building tanks and planes and training soldiers, the things that NATO currently does.
Which is why Putin has adopted this information warfare strategy himself. Because it does less damage to the customers he hopes to milk after he destroys the US alliance against Russia. So we Americans and our allies should conduct information warfare on him instead of letting ourselves be trolled like the OHM is doing now. This strategy worked for the Moon race, why wouldn’t it work now?
Back when I was first arguing the concepts behind Atheism is Not a Belief System my main antagonist on the BBS cited the Big Bang as proof of god’s existence on more than one occasion. It was one of his cherished arguments, one that he was convinced there was no answer to. According to him god willed the creation of existence from nothingness, in his eyes an absolute proof of his Catholic god. The rebuttal to this particular line of argument involves understanding physics and extrapolating data to its ultimate conclusion. Essentially there was existence before there was what we know as spacetime today, and what we see as matter today existed then, perhaps in some other form. We don’t know what that form is or how the concept of before could be measured before there was time, but you can’t get something from nothing without god, ergo there was something before.
Unless you want to posit god, the continuance of existence is a fact due to the law of conservation of energy. In order for the bang to occur the matter had to be there to explode in the first place. You can’t have an explosion of nothing. An explosion of nothing is a miracle of godlike proportions, and positing god just adds the complexity of the creator of god and then his creator’s creator, in an infinite loop of creator beings that mirrors the common expression turtles all the way down. Either existence always was and always will be, or there is something else we don’t yet understand at play here, as far as the cosmos is concerned.
As a baseline, our understanding of what is occurring really is in question. What we casually refer to as dark matter and dark energy makes up most of what we refer to equally as casually as the universe. Dark matter is no more certain to be one simple thing than dark energy is. These are merely placeholders like unobtainium, a number to plug into the missing holes in our understanding of the universe. We don’t know what most of the universe is made up of, and we don’t know what kind of energy is pushing it to expand at the rates that we can measure from astronomical observations. We simply can’t see everything we need to see to understand the universe at a fundamental level.
In much the same fashion, black holes exist both in this spacetime and outside of it. The Schwarzschild boundary marks the point at which normal space ceases to exist. Inside that radius we can’t know what is occurring because spacetime breaks down beyond that point. We can, and do, theorize as to what occurs and maybe, someday, we will be able to test some of these theories. But until we can go and directly measure a black hole what we are left with is mathematical proofs that we must accept as true because the math is valid to the extent that we understand it. In the meantime we have found black holes in our observation of the universe, so their existence is an established fact, much like the matter that we can calculate is present in them even though we can’t see them directly. That is the part of them that is outside of our spacetime, the matter we can’t see because it passed the Schwarzschild radius and is invisible beyond the lensing effect of that radius.
The above is simply the prequel of this entry to the blog. The bare minimum explanation that I feel I need to include before even linking the podcast that spawned this little jaunt down hypothetical lane.
Inquiring Minds is a show that I listen to pretty regularly. There have been two or three episodes that I passed up over the run of the series, but as a rule I try to give them a listen because I find their reliance on science to be pretty solid. This episode though, this episode pushed the limits for me. I liked the conversation, but I disagree with the conclusions that Sean Carroll comes to in the episode. Conclusions that he states with far more certainty than we can possibly justify, even with my limited knowledge of the math involved. We simply don’t know how the universe will end, or even that it will end. We don’t know that it ever began, either. He said as much in the podcast, but then he went on to repeat the heat death story that most physicists fall back on these days.
If any part of string theory is real then there are other dimensions to spacetime than the four dimensions that we currently can measure. In any one of the many other possible dimensions, gravity may have effects that we can’t predict and that gravity might very well exert forces that would explain some of the measurements that we currently mask with the labels dark matter and dark energy. To phrase it the way I prefer to think about it, the universe is currently accelerating into the big bang. The universe is a nearly indescribably complex toroidal shape, in my estimation, but even that is a gross oversimplification. Hawking radiation hasn’t been demonstrated to exist, so black holes don’t necessarily evaporate away. Nor do we know that space without mass and time is really a thing that exists at all. What we can say is that the universe appears to have sprang from what we think is on the other side of a black hole.
Who is to say it isn’t the same one at both ends? I’m certainly not well-versed enough in the math required to argue this conjecture knowledgeably. What I’m attracted to is the poetry, the symmetry of the circular rhythm created by the universe expanding and contracting over eternity, spawning and collapsing the multiverse or many worlds hypothesis that seems to be the most promising explanation for observed quantum effects that we’ve come up with. Maybe, just maybe, they are occurring simultaneously on different dimensions.
May 2020. I’ve seen two articles this week on the subject of dethroning the Big Bang Theory. I tried to post this article on a group as a reply to one of those posts, but it was rejected, even as a comment. This blog entry isn’t about god or even the god of the gaps, something I was accused of by the harridan that rejected the original post. The story of my poor benighted Catholic opponent and his mistaking learning for understanding was just the hook to get the reader to the point where they might read and understand my objections to Sean Carroll’s insistence that the heat death of the universe was something that could occur.
I understand that Sean Carroll thinks the evidence points at this, but I still can’t see how there can be existence (the universe) without matter and energy to make existence possible. The moment that the last ounce of energy is expended, the last free electron compressed with the last free proton into neutronium and consumed by a black hole, there isn’t a universe left to die. It simply ceases to exist in any measurable way.
In much the same way that I think scientists don’t understand what their data is telling them, I don’t think that the detractors of the Big Bang Theory understand the weight of the evidence behind the theory.
The point of the book is that the Big Bang theory has a solid track record of explaining well-established facts about the Universe, …If you want to challenge the Big Bang theory, you’d better be able to explain the basics before you have a shot at explaining mysteries like dark matter.
If you want to dethrone the Big Bang Theory, you have some heavy lifting to do. Explaining the earliest fraction of a second after the bang? Good luck. How long was that first second? How do you measure time before there was space as we know it to measure it with? Before there was energy at understandable levels?That sort of math is way beyond my pay grade.
The two authors of the book The Cosmic Revolutionary’s Handbook are so tired of answering questions from people who hate the Big Bang Theory that they wrote a primer for all those people who aspire to take the theory down. A more scholarly breakdown of the problem can be found at Astronomy: Is the Big Bang in crisis? It really isn’t a crisis concerning the cyclical nature of the universe we observe. Explain that first second. Go right ahead and try. Don’t tell me about it though. I’ll wait for the scientists to take the theory apart. That is what science is.
The ending of this article is now about the beginning, just as the beginning of the article is about the ending. Cyclical, see? Just like the universe.
If you wanted to somehow illustrate the complex vorticular dynamics of the dual Torus structure that defines black holes on all scales all in one simple 2-dimensional symbol, you might draw something similar to the ancient Chinese Yin and Yang symbol. This animation, which was created by animators directed by Nassim Haramein for his “Black Whole” DVD, shows how the dual torus and the Yin Yang are describing the very same dynamics through animated graphics.
’OUMUAMUA, an object tumbling through space that was discovered on October 19th, has already made history. The speed at which it is moving relative to the sun means that it cannot be native to the solar system. Its official designation is thus 1I/2017 U1, with the “I” standing for “interstellar”—the first time this designation has ever been used.
That is exciting. Some scientists, though, entertain an even more exciting possibility: what if ’Oumuamua is not an asteroid, as most think, but an alien spacecraft? Asteroids come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, but ’Oumuamua seems particularly odd. As best as astronomers can tell, it is cigarlike, being roughly 180 metres long but only about 30 metres wide. That makes it more elongated than anything known of in the solar system. Such a shape would be a sensible choice for a spaceship, since it would minimise the scouring effect of interstellar dust.
During the formation and evolution of the Solar System, significant numbers of cometary and asteroidal bodies were ejected into interstellar space. It is reasonable to expect that the same happened for planetary systems other than our own. Detection of such interstellar objects would allow us to probe the planetesimal formation processes around other stars, possibly together with the effects of long-term exposure to the interstellar medium. 1I/2017 U1 ‘Oumuamua is the first known interstellar object, discovered by the Pan-STARRS1 telescope in October 2017. The discovery epoch photometry implies a highly elongated body with radii of ~ 200 × 20 m when a comet-like geometric albedo of 0.04 is assumed. The observable interstellar object population is expected to be dominated by comet-like bodies in agreement with our spectra, yet the reported inactivity of ‘Oumuamua implies a lack of surface ice. Here, we report spectroscopic characterization of ‘Oumuamua, finding it to be variable with time but similar to organically rich surfaces found in the outer Solar System. We show that this is consistent with predictions of an insulating mantle produced by long-term cosmic ray exposure. An internal icy composition cannot therefore be ruled out by the lack of activity, even though ‘Oumuamua passed within 0.25 au of the Sun.
The first glint of hope for the future that I’ve seen since November 8th of last year comes from the Russian space agency. Talk about global political shifts. That sense of the surreal that captured me on November 9th continues to intensify,
Russia’s Space Agency (Roscosmos) has begun planning for its first manned lunar landing, starting with a recruitment drive for potential cosmonauts. The agency is looking for six to eight trainees with a background in engineering or aviation, or those who already have experience working in the space industry. All interested candidates will go through several stages of psychological, physical and medical tests during the selection process. The chosen eight will have to undergo some intense training until four remain. Those who get the job will pilot Russia’s next-gen reusable manned spacecraft Federatsiya.
Vladimir Putin, as part of his full court press to prove that Russia is still a world-class power (which, frankly, it is anyway. Who flies astronauts to the international space station? It isn’t the US) Mr. Putin has decided to ramp up the Russian space program and set a goal of returning to the moon, the first time for Russians to attempt a manned lunar landing.
Sorting through the dozens (dozens!) of conspiracy fantasy sites talking about the grander plans and accusations floating around the interwebs in relation to this story, I begin to see a pattern. Vladimir Putin has embraced the lunar landing hoax fantasies (Here’s proof the first landing happened, subsequent landing sites documented here) and is beating that dead horse for all it is worth. Clearly this is part of a multi-faceted strategy to discredit the US and elevate Russia in international circles. It appears that Mr. Putin and Mr. Trump deserve each other.
There does appear to be a program though; and that program does appear to at least include moon landings if not the far grander moon base, shuttles and Mars landings that the soap opera digests of the internet can’t seem to get enough of. (Google search result) Since there is a program to return to the moon, I’d like to offer a word of advice to the directors of the various space agencies on the subject of returning to the moon. Advice on the subject of wasting more money on flags and photo shoots and no permanent plans beyond that.
Don’t do it.
Don’t let Putin go back to the moon just to erase the proof of previous US landings (if that is even possible) Don’t go back just to visit again and prove we can do it, again. Establish the permanent moon base that should have been established 20 years ago now. I cannot believe that I am sitting here in 2017 and we still don’t have a permanent moon base. Why is this even a thing?
Colonizing space, if it is ever going to occur, has to start with a permanently manned lunar base. The dark side of the moon would be ideal for long-range telescopes at the very least, and is an obvious reason to place a permanently manned base there if only to service and maintain those telescopes. Those Hubble pictures we all remember? Does anyone aside from me remember how they put that telescope in orbit and it needed glasses? That was the first servicing mission to Hubble. Followed by four more missions. Now imagine instruments on the dark side of the moon with a nearby manned outpost that could just go out and kick a transceiver (or the moonwalk equivalent) for pennies on the dollar, all while doing colonization experiments that will get us ready to go to Mars. (No I won’t change the phrasing to “far side of the moon.” I like the dark side of the moon. It reminds me of something) If we had a moon base and the resultant enhanced launch capacity and expanded near space traveling range that comes with it, it might even be possible to go out and service the James Webb telescope after it launches. That is, if it fails to deploy as expected. If it needs maintenance like the Hubble did, because spending billions on a telescope that is effectively out of service range makes absolutely no sense to me.
I’ve already run across a chorus of we can’t afford that‘s today just discussing this subject on Facebook. I’d like these people to justify themselves, just once. Just this once I’d like them to be honest on this subject and many other similar subjects. I want the people who complain about the economics of space exploration to admit, at least to themselves, that what they want is an end to space exploration altogether. I want them to at least admit it to themselves, because I know that is the goal whether they admit it or not so they might as well confess and get it over with.
Here’s a topical economic aside. Saying we can’t afford it when the government prints the fucking money in the first place is just this side of ridiculous. These people are happy to promote an increase in military spending when that spending is already higher than at any time since WWII. These are the same people who want to kill all spending on the arts and sciences and healthcare for the poor and disabled. They’ve long killed the spending on welfare and still beat the dead horse of welfare queens long after even the fake welfare queens would all be dead and gone. These we can’t afford its are just another demand for austerity; and like all austerity, they are an attempt to produce wealth through starvation. This isn’t really a viable long-term option, because you will starve to death eventually if you stay that course.
You want to talk about economics? How about the reduction in lift requirements to get materials off of the moon and into space, 1/6th the lift requirements of boosting these materials from Earth. Materials for the assembly of larger space vehicles and the solar satellites we will have to build if we are ever going to stop polluting the atmosphere burning fossil fuels for power. Those are all real economics that we are going to have to face at some point.
Personally I’m going to hold on tight to this ray of sunshine in the otherwise dismal post-apocalyptic double-plus good 1984 hellhole we’ve found ourselves in. I will continue hoping this renewed interest in space exploration will spur on the rest of the space industry to actually set a goal of a permanent base on the moon in the next 20 years. That would be completely doable and would prove that space colonization was possible. Let’s do that instead of go to war again because of the economy, if you conservatives don’t mind. Let’s spend money on that, waste money on that, rather than on bombs and weapons. Where do I sign up for that parallel universe? That simulation? Anyone have a clue?