Nasa / Space

Getting pragmatic about space flight


Monte Cook--a pragmatist much like myself, only smarter and far more successful--has authored a four-part series at Space.com that articulates several points I have often wished to voice when people complain that there aren't hotels in orbit or civilian rockets to the moon. It's called Thinking Clearly About Space, and it's the cold splash of rational reality that far too many armchair NASA administrators desperately need. Here's the breakdown:

  1. Hustling the Future - There is no 'silver bullet' technology, policy, or funding level that will suddenly propel human beings into widespread spaceflight--and looking for the 'magic formula' does more harm than good.
  2. Everybody Wants Space - Yes, everyone agrees that the U.S. should have a space program. Nobody but us vastly outnumbered space freaks thinks it should rank anywhere near the top 25 in government spending priorities.
  3. Hardware and Hand-Waving - Quit complaining about the dearth of new spaceflight tech; no amount of realistic short-term innovation is going to change the fact that achieving orbit is prohibitively expensive, both in terms of money and energy.
  4. The Virtuous Cycle - Turning space flight over to the private sector isn't going to get us into space faster; if there was widespread profit to be made in space, the market would already exist.

So, now that I've ruined your day by painting a grim picture of my personal prospects for spending an anniversary evening on the moon, is there any hope? Plenty. The point of the series is not for anyone to stop dreaming of space, or stop working to get there. The point is to stop deluding ourselves into thinking it's easy, or that a solution is just around the corner. We're a long way from our goal, and it's going to take a monumental effort to get there, but that's only going to make success all the sweeter. Let's get cracking.

About

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

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