2005-03-21

High clouds. Who cares?

So I saw an article in the NYTimes Science section about NASA diverting money away from confirmed projects to shuttle/space station/moon/mars projects (LINK HERE). This is a shame, for sure. I was going to post something about how we need to fund these geophysical research projects in order to understand climate change etc., but blogger.com went down and I didn't know what to do. So instead of posting here, I resorted to the age-old tradition of posting to a usenet-style group (LINK HERE). I tried to keep it short and sweet, but I don't think anyone reads that group anyway.

The point is that NASA is being torn asunder by this new fascination with sending people to the Moon and Mars. And don't forget that stupid space station that should have its name changed to the International Space Money-Pit. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for exploring space, with both people and "robots," but we are obligated to concentrate on basic research as well. These are two completely different goals, and should be treated separately. One competing against the other is not fair for either, especially with non-scientists in charge of so much of the decision making.

2 comments:

Renee said...

we should still be happy that there is money for the space program at all... I agree that the space station and the space shuttle are not the most exciting ways to explore space. But I do think it's important to keep our goals high and our pockets open. Economically it might not be the greatest plan to send people to the moon or to Mars, but geez, that would be SO COOL! There is plenty of science to be gained from such missions.

It is a shame that projects like the Earth Observatory and other space-based Earth research projects are being grounded by the exorbitantly high cost of keeping rovers on Mars, but remember: the rovers were designed to last 90 sols, and have been going strong for over 400. That in itself is a testament to the strength of our ability to go, well, where no one has gone before.

.brian said...

I totally agree that it would be cool to send people to, say Mars. In fact, I'll volunteer right now to go to Mars. It is one of humanity's top goals (aside from reducing war and disease) in the next century.

My main point is that the science goals are much more limited than is commonly believed. For example, low gravity experiments from the shuttle and ISS have produced few interesting results. It is good to do experiments, but we should get our priorities straight.

Let's have a concerted mars/moon colonization effort. Let's dump billions of dollars into it. I'd suggest taking some of the money from the National Missile Defense fund... we could market it as Species Missile Defense (missile being a euphemism for a giant rock hurdling toward Earth). But let's have this be a separate mission for NASA than basic research. Divide these two very different goals, and conquor them together.