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Monday, February 20, 2012

DO WE NEED TO SEND A HUMAN INTO SPACE AGAIN?


Today is the 50th anniversary of John Glenn's orbit ride.  Not a particularly monumental achievement, as ten months earlier, Yuri Gargarin (in front to the left) circled our planet, and four months later, Gherman Titov (behind Gargarin) went around the world 17 times, staying aloft for more than 24 hours.  Glenn (above) took only three laps in 1962.

I find that the older I get, the more curmudgeonly I became.  I only recently accepted the contention made by some of my colleagues that our winds, sun and terrestrial bio-growth will be insufficient to provide the satisfactory needs of our growing world population, currently 7 billion, and expected to reach eleven digits.  However, there is hope for me, as I believe the addition of fusion and the ocean could well make up that required difference, but, here I go again, only for one to five billion people.  I am of the opinion that, even in the United States, lifestyles will continue to decline, perhaps forever.  It is entirely possible that my generation lived at the peak of human society, thanks to petroleum.

But back to the National Aerospace and Space Administration, a little more than six months ago my posting was entitled:


Click on that link to appreciate my view that NASA is obsolete (however, guaranteed:  the aeerospace industry will find a way to portray China as a dangerous space nemesis), yet deserving of preservation to maintain cost-effective but visionary exploits, such as the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence.  SETI?  Like Jodi Foster in CONTACT?  Yes.  Suppose there are civilizations billions of years ahead of us and have found a way to signal the solution to world peace or cure for cancer or answer to peak oil and global warming?

They would probably send us these messages electronically, or using Cepheid variable stars.  I'd want to set aside a dollar of my tax contribution each year to advance this field, as I would think, most of you, too.  That is all NASA would need to orchestrate a progressive SETI program.  

Mind you, consistent with my selective grinchy thoughts, I'm beginning to think that, while there might be other "life" somewhere out there, we might be the only strain to reach intelligent status.  No aliens, flying saucers, God, whatever.  Just us to maintain the future of intelligent live in our Universe.  What a responsibility!

Certainly, my sense is that space tourism is yet another anachronistic fantasy maintained by adventurers who wax with the romance of the stellar unknown.  Just one fatal accident would end that nonsense.  Plus, how many can afford $200,000 for Virgin Galactic's spaceflight?  The answer is 430.  

What about Space Exploration Technologies' quest to replace NASA as the private sector answer to maintaining the International Space Station?  First, the ISS is a $150 billion failure.  Why bother?  Where is the profit?

So the answer to this posting is NO!  At least not now.  Someday, if Humanity finds a solution to Peak Oil and Global Warming, can adequately feed and maintain the world population and need a compelling international crusade to replace wars, then, YES, of course.  Hopefully, that will be as soon as the 22nd century.

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