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Let’s Get On That

19 December 2012

According to the award-winning documentary Blade Runner, we should have colonies on other planets in less than seven years. Science, I’m looking in your direction.

It’s not like us being behind forecast is a new thing. We were supposed to be doing manned Jupiter missions 12 or so years ago, according to 2001.

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It’s not science’s fault we’re not where the sci-fi visionaries of the past thought we should be. If it was just up to science (as if that was a generalized entity), we’d have colonized Mars years ago, probably. It’s more a question of earthly priorities. We get in our own way all the time, and we let other things (real estate collapses, wars, auto industry bailouts) eat up the cash we could have used for research. Now, I’m not saying that these were the wrong things or the right things to spend money on — that’s politics, a field I don’t stray into often — but they do cost money, plain and simple. Money that we’re spending on those things is money we’re not spending in other places.

And that’s the thing I don’t get — sci-fi movies are largely dystopian. They’re dark, bleak versions of the future world… where we’ve inexplicably mastered space travel, though the companies that seem to control everything in these sci-fi dystopias would be unlikely to fund the massive amount of research necessary to make interplanetary travel a reality. They’d be more concerned with making profit here on earth, squeezing every last bit of money out of this planet they could before a lack of resources forces them to go offworld for new business opportunities. And if I was a betting man (I am, just ask Las Vegas), I’d bet that isn’t something that’s going to happen in the next seven years.

We’ve lost the sense of national wonder and awe we used to have for the space program. Back in the 60s, astronauts made the cover of Life and Time and a whole host of other magazines. They made TV appearances and were, for all intents and purposes, national celebrities. Even in the 80s, I remember astronauts being pretty popular. But somewhere along the way, they lost that popularity, and apart from a few of us nerds, the country stopped paying attention.

So, your opinion, folks — what do we need to rocket the space program back into popularity? (I didn’t realize that pun until after I wrote it; I’m not going back to change it now.) What does NASA or the ESA need to achieve to get the entire world interested again?

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. 20 December 2012 0839

    I still think that if they wanted to do colonies/etc. they could.

    Suppose they want to build a colony on the moon.

    They would need to do things like:
    *) Build Unmanned supply ships – Ships to truck materials/supplies to the destination and return to earth/ISS.
    *) Deliver materials for an Air Scrubber (strip Carbon from CO2 to make it useable again).
    *) Deliver fuel for powering things.
    *) Deliver prefab buildings that can be assembled in a few hours. We’re not talking Waldorf Astoria, I’m talking Motel 6. The supply ships could land and be used for habitats even.
    *) Deliver TONS of Air to the destination for use in pressurizing and making a habitat.
    *) Deliver TONS of food/water that can survive there.

    Anything I’m missing ?

    • 20 December 2012 0846

      We totally could. We’ve had the technology for decades. The problem is cost, which is massive. And it would have to be funded by private industry, who wouldn’t do so unless it was massively profitable.

      Though I did hear a proposal from a private company who had a plan to colonize Mars with 80,000 people at a cost of $500,000 per person, that cost being borne by the private citizens who would make up the colony. Interesting idea.

      • 20 December 2012 0921

        That’s the only way we’ll ever REALLY get anything done. Private people doing something they see a need for. That’s the only way we’ll EVER get cures for disesases. Its too profitable for them to just make treatments to extend life.

        Cure things ? Never. That would end a revenue stream for them.

        Eventually things like indi gogo and kickstarter will be how real advancements are made (Things like this – http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/282006 they’ll NEVER come from a big corporation).

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