Monday, January 30, 2012

Confessions of an Unrepentant Space Cadet



This is a difficult admission for me but recent declarations perpetrated by a certain presidential candidate who I believe is a sociopath with megalomaniacal leanings has prompted me to come out of the closet, so to speak. I freely admit to the world that I am an unrepentant “Space Cadet.” All my life I have been an avid fan and supporter of NASA, manned space flight, and the belief that humanity’s future is out among the stars.

Out of all the nerdy burdens I have had to carry all through my life the term Space Cadet is the one that has brought me the most grief and outright ridicule. The blame for this condition probably rests with me being a highly impressionable child during the heyday of the Apollo program and the original Star Trek television series. Some of my clearest memories of that time have me watching American astronauts both walking and later four wheeling on the moon. Often times by the end of that day I would be tuning into the interstellar adventures of Kirk and Spock kicking butt and exploring “strange new worlds.”

When I have had time to ponder what made me this way I imagine some caveman ancestor of mine sitting outside the tribal cave gazing off towards the horizon and wondering what the hell is on the other side of the mountains he sees in the distance. I have to figure that if my ancient predecessor had half the wanderlust I feel at some point he probably up and left everything behind to go find out. Obviously he survived long enough to hook up and make a few babies with some hot cave lady from another tribe before becoming a snack for a saber tooth cat or a meal for unfriendly locals but since I am not the sharpest knife in any drawer I doubt he was successful much beyond that.

 In other words, the idea and excitement of exploration of new frontiers is encoded in my very DNA. For my liberal tendencies I figure Roddenberry is the blame since the moral and ethical dilemmas Kirk and the rest of the Enterprise crew had to face while exploring the galaxy were great lessons in human compassion and understanding that have stayed with me all my life.

For me the cancellation of both the Apollo program and Star Trek was a testament to how the optimistic but troubled 1960’s were replaced by the overly realistic and preoccupied 1970’s. The overwhelming refrain from that era involved the argument that federal dollars were being wasted on space exploration when we were engaged in the Cold War with the Soviets and fighting a war on poverty and drugs here in America.

Hey I admit it, those voices were largely right, big bucks were going to a whole bunch of questionable projects and in a far more perfect world all that money would have gone to cure sickness and end poverty. The only problem with the argument about bucks being wasted on space exploration was that even in the heyday of sending men to the moon NASA’s percentage of the federal budget was very small potatoes compared to the money going to defense and social entitlements.

However, priorities had to be set so I understand why the space program was paired down to the barest minimum. Just enough was left operating so we could save face and not let anyone get the idea we were ceding the ultimate high ground to the nasty commies. The grandiose plans to follow up the Apollo missions with a lunar base and sending astronauts to Mars were put on a permanent hold.

The shuttle program has come and gone without any operational replacement to get Americans up into orbit. This has forced NASA to cough up about fifteen-million a person so our guys and gals can hitch a ride in their old but dependable Soyuz, an embarrassing situation for a country that prides itself on its extraordinary “Exceptionalism” as compared to the rest of the planet.

However, while things look bleak for certified Space Cadets like me things are changing for the better if you look close enough. Several upstart corporations are pushing the developmental envelop which in a couple of years should offer Americans a range of advanced launch systems to get back into space. On second thought may I should have said things were looking good until the self-proclaimed savior of Western Civilization arrived on the Space Coast of Florida last week.

This small and strange man stood on a podium and promised to not only establish a lunar base within the period of his two-term limit but also make it an actual colony. He then went deeper into his delusions by saying this settlement could achieve statehood once it had a population of thirteen-thousand souls. While that little sanctimonious bastard has about a snowball’s chance in Hell of being elected president of the United States thank God in Heaven for a Constitutionally mandated two-term limit.

The space program has long suffered from a giggle factor among the general, non-geek, population not enamored with space exploration. The last few years there were some signs that this giggle factor was dying out as people became more aware of the real benefits associated with the space program but in one swift move, that little man has returned it all to the subject of jokes and outright derision. If anyone needs to be sent to the moon to establish a lunar settlement it is that joke of a man and his android looking wife.

Just for giggle here are a few Space Cadet organizations that are seriously pushing into the final frontier:
Mars Society
Planetary Society
SpaceX
Virgin Galactic  
Bigelow Aerospace
Scorpius Space Launch Systems

Hopefully one will be cheap enough one day for your truly to ride into orbit, that way it will be easier for the Mother Ship to pick me up. Long Live and Prosper y'all.

15 comments:

Cloudia said...

Nanu Nanu!



Warm Aloha from Waikiki
Comfort Spiral

> < } } ( ° >

Mr. Charleston said...

the benefits from the space program have far, far exceeded the cost. But I believe it's time to step back from it and re-evaluate. The antiquated methods we are using to get to space are far too expensive and ineffective. I think we should pour the entire space budget into developing nuclear fusion which would not only solve our energy needs but also provide the fuel for the next step in space exploration. Make it so.

Sarge said...

The movie "The Right Stuff" instead of making me proud of the Mercury Seven forced me to learn more about the other astronauts who didm't get the glory and the ticket-tape parades - the X aircraft test pilots - Yes, like Chuck Yeager. America lost its first three astronauts in the Apollo program fire - before them came a long list of USAF and NASA
test pilots. And, the operative term being PILOTS...

Sarge

Windsmoke. said...

I reckon we won't see a lunar or mars settlement until at least next century no matter what the policitians promise today by then you and me won't be around anyway if it does happen, as Captain Kirk used to say Beam Me Up Scotty, or did he? :-).

Sue H said...

I can't for the life of me see the morality of expending vast resources on getting a few people to the moon when we cannot feed, house and employ the millions already on this planet!

I know the old adage of 'what if Christopher Columbus hadn't sailed west to discover the New World......' will raise it's head - but millions on the point of starvation and disease probably don't give a flying monkey if a lunar base gets built, they're just busy trying to stay alive.

I like to dream - but dreaming doesn't get the bills paid and the washing done!

Randal Graves said...

KLAATU BARADA NIKTO

Pretty damn expensive to ship humans there and back again, but I'm definitely pro-space. Cost shouldn't even be an issue, but since no one dare take a Ginsu to the Pentagon, it is. A few dozen drones killing poor Afghan and Yemeni bastards, or another swanky telescope or remote-controlled 4x4?

Life As I Know It Now said...

I am all for learning more about the universe. We have learned so much already and I am constantly amazed by our discoveries as we search for how, what, when, where and why. Humans want to know what the universe is all about and how we fit into that picture.

Akelamalu said...

The truth is out there.....

John McElveen said...

I'm giving her all I've got Captain---- (hope my wife doesn't read this....)

Beam me and my Man Cave up dude!

J

lime said...

yeah with all the terrestrial concerns both domestic and international i was just so comforted that the moron was prioritizing moon colonization so high.

Beach Bum said...

Cloudia: Live long and prosper.

Mr. Charleston: Damn straight! Now First Bush did buy a working nuclear engine from those nasty and broke Russians back in the very early 1990s. NASA sis have designs for their own nuclear engines as far back as the 1960s. Called "Project Orion" it would have used actual nuclear bombs to push a spacecraft. The aviation magazine published by the Smithsonian had a article years ago talking about it and how it could have been possible to have manned missions to the outer planets before the start of the 21st century.

Sarge: Yeah, I saw The Right Stuff myself and it was so awesome I read the book. Can not remember the number but there were several X-craft I wish they had developed further.

Windsmoke: You very well could be right, although check out the Bigalow Aerospace link on this post. Those guys and gals already have a private space station in orbit. It is unmanned and is just for test purposes but they have some far out ideas about how far their stuff could go.

And I almost forgot about the Chinese, they are off the proverbial chain with some of their plans.

Sue H. I see your point but the resources used by NASA in a year were spent in a couple of days by the US military in Iraq. All jokes aside money spent to develope technology for space exploration has advanced lifesaving medical equipment and created thousands of jobs here in the US. The chips used in computers came from the need to reduce the weight of old style electronics used back during the 1960s. No, all this did not come overnight but I do very much believe the benefits of the space program do outweigh the cost.

Another point is that I would much rather see the United States spend billions on something that will advance science and technology for the entire human race than waste money on bombs and missiles that just kill.

Randal: Amen! Check out the SpaceX link, the dude who runs the company is even crazier than me and swears he can bring down cost of launching stuff and people into space low enough for poor fools like me to take a ride.

Then there is Richard Branson and his Virgin Galactic, its expensive now but give teh dude a few years.

Life As We Know It: I've got to admit I want to be Captain Kirk. And not just because the guy can get friendly with green skinned babes.

Akelamalu: Well, my wife swears my brain is out in deep space with the truth so I guess that is another reason I'm like this.

John: On an unrelated note, I hope my wife never reads my stuff either. If I suddenly disappear for no reason you can assume she finally did look at my blog.

Lime: Newty was just playing to the Space Coast audience, he never would follow through. Now it is messed up that guys and gals with serious PhDs are working at theme parks since the shuttle program ended.

I remember American pundits making fun of the Russians right after the collapse of the Soviet Union when the same thing happened over there.

Pixel Peeper said...

We have to thank the space program for making it possible that we all have computers at home.

Hats off to the people who made all that possible with computers that occupied rooms larger than my house and less power than some laptop!

John McElveen said...

BB- Code e-mail is MMATB----"Meet me at the Battery" for either one of us! LOL

We'll meet the first Tues at 7:00 am after the date of the e-mail...... You'll recognize me by the knife sticking outta my back and the bruised face!

Glen said...

Have we learned nothing from V? Of course we need to spend money on a space program - we need to be the ones invading them!

Marja said...

I am sure that the space program had some advantages but also think that it is not a priority at the moment. I did love captain kirk and spock and always enjoyed it. would have loved to be beamed up myself. live isn't perfect sight