An engineering student’s Blog

” …All of this. All of this was for nothing – unless we go to the stars.” – Infection, Babylon 5, J. Michael Straczynski

The Change We Need

This is taken directly from the premier issue of the Mars Society’s official journal, the Mars Quarterly.

The Change We Need

As the year 2008 moves toward its close, those of us concerned with the human future in space are faced with both a crisis and an opportunity. On the one hand, the situation appears to be dismal. The U.S. budget deficit is running at a record level of $500 billion this year, with all signs pointing toward an incredible trillion dollar red-ink blowout next year. Our new President, while not an outspoken opponent of the space program, has no track record of support for it either. So, if budgets need to be lashed, NASA – particularly the Bush administration’s Vision for Space Exploration – could easily end up on the block. This is all the more the case since NASA
unwisely chose to devolve the VSE from its original formulation as Moon-Mars-and beyond vision to a Moon only program, thereby depriving it of all popular support or scientific justification.

On the other hand, the displacement of the Bush crowd from policy making positions provides an opportunity to reformulate the space program into something much better than the Lunar dead-end that the VSE had become. Spending the next generation working on an “Apollo on geriatrics” return to the Moon would have been an enormous waste. Now we have a chance to escape that fate. During the election campaign, Barack Obama criticized the American space program, saying it was no longer inspiring people the way it had done in the 1960s. His point is well taken. But is the answer for an uninspiring space program cancellation, or transformation? Do we simply abandon the timid goal of a return to the Moon, or bravely embrace the challenge of humans to Mars?

Calling for the initiation of a bold space program in the face of current economic crisis may seem totally unrealistic, but the fact of the matter is that it is in the toughest of times that the greatest of deeds have been done. It was the Lincoln administration, faced with a rebellion that threatened to destroy the nation, that initiated the visionary project of building the transcontinental railroad. It was the Roosevelt administration, faced with a fascist onslaught to enslave humanity, which initiated the greatest scientific mobilization the world had ever seen. It was the Kennedy administration, faced with imminent threat of nuclear war, that launched us on our path to the Moon. With respect to the space program, the situation remains as it has for the past three decades. NASA needs a goal, and that goal should be humans to Mars. This is so, because Mars is where the science is, it is where the challenge is, and it is where the future is. But with respect to the nation, the issue has reached its critical moment.

We are faced with, as Obama has said, quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “the fierce urgency of now.” Because now is the time when we decide whether we are going to rise to the occasion or not. Is the dream of an unbounded future going to live, or will it die, snuffed out by a defeatist acceptance of the age of limits?

“Do not go softly into that good night.”

It is in times of darkness that the torch needs to be lit. It is in times of fear that the flag needs to be raised. A humans to Mars program would help mobilize our economy, at a time when it needs to be mobilized, and inspire millions of youth to develop their minds. But it would do more than that. It would raise the flag, the flag of courage, and hope, and the pioneer spirit. It would say to the world, and to ourselves, that we will not accept defeat. That we remain a nation whose great deeds will continue to be celebrated in newspapers, and not just in museums. That we as a nation are not old, but young; that we are living not at the end of our history, but at its beginning. It would say, in no uncertain terms: “Yes we can.”

That’s the change we need.

Robert Zubrin is the President of the Mars Society.

mars1

Filed under: Economics, Mars, Politics, Space, , , , , , , ,

Transparent Stimulation, check. Economic Crisis as distraction, check.

http://www.recovery.gov/

This website will detail the history and application of the recently signed into law, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

I’ve been waiting for some time now in a sort of “show me” mood since the election. Its my humble opinion that this is a step in the right direction. And regardless of the outcome of the political efforts to reach across the aisle and work with minority republicans, “bipartisanship”, it showed, I think, a degree of maturity I have not seen in a while. Even if they made dozens of concessions to please republicans including a large tilt towards a still unproven method of stimulus – 288 billion in tax relief – in exchange for a less than hand full of GOP votes, that is even if it didn’t work as well as democrats and the administration had hoped, it may have prevented the moral justification to fillibuster and prevented the bill from being signed within the first 3 weeks of the administration. The only tax relief I was looking for was an expanded tax credit for new home buyers since I plan on buying my first house this year, originally proposed to be 15000 was trimmed, or should I say HACKED, to 8000, it was previously 7500. But hey, I was going to buy a house weather or not there was a tax encentive for it. Not exactly proof of the ineffectiveness of tax relief but here we are. Its not going to be the deciding factor of people entering the market for a new, or thier first house.

Now if the administration can get to work on the housing and financial elements of the economic crisis while this stimulus act works to keep the ship above water, things should work out. I’m still waiting for the administration to name the new NASA chief and see how theyre going to change things in the space program. I hope – they have a look at the Mars Direct plan or derivatives of it to begin the manned exploration of the red planet and inspire a new generation of explorers, scientist and engineers as the Apollo program did. Its been said that for every dolar invested in the space program the economy gets 7 or 8 back, if thats not stimulus Ill eat this keyboard. Obama doesnt need to go far to ask his new Secretary of Energy about the benifits for investing more in science, basic research and an inspiring, ambitious space program.

Im currently reading “The Case for Mars” by Robert Zubrin. And I’m again simultaneously ashamed and delighted. Ashamed I have not picked up this book before – published in 1996 – it has changed a lot of how a Mission to Mars would be effectively formulated. And delighted at the simplicity and practical nature of the plan – the idea is, as I currently understand it, to go the way all exploration has been effectively done, by living off of the land and radically reducing the cost of the mission by engineering the solutions needed to utilize the Mars environment rather than shipping everything needed for the mission with you. Rocket fuel, water, essentially all of the raw materials required by a technologically advanced settlement is all there on the red planet just waiting to be used by those with the skills and knowledge needed to engineer the solutions.

From the Preface :: “The key to this plan is the mission’s ability to use Mars-native resources to make its return propellant and much of its consumables on the surface of the planet itself. It is the richness of Mars that makes the Red Planet not only desireable, but attainable.”

I highly recommend the book so far to anyone interested in space exploration.

Filed under: Economics, Mars, Politics, Science, Space

Just how bad is the Economy

found these 2 graphs at the Swampland blog at TIME.

Scarry enough – lets just say its bad no matter how you look at it and a stimulus of some sort is required – preferrably a stimulus that works (:

 

Nancy Pelosy has interesting staticians

Nancy Pelosy has interesting staticians

 

TIME compares the last 6 reccessions, WRT percentage of job loss from the begining of the reccesion

TIME compares the last 6 reccessions, WRT percentage of job loss from the begining of the reccesion

Filed under: Economics, Politics

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