The Space Cultural War

There is one, but it is not Moon versus Mars.

18 thoughts on “The Space Cultural War”

  1. Proposal for a 29th Amendment to the US Constitution (Congressional term limits being the 28th):

    Congress shall pass no law, directly appropriating moneys for commerce, arts or the sciences. Congress may appropriate grants to public or private foundations representing such, upon 3/5ths approval of both chambers. The President shall either approve or veto such grants. Upon veto, a 2/3rds majority Congressional override will apply. Grants may not be in perpetuity, shall not exceed 5 years in duration but may be renewed by Congressional action following the rules described herein.

    1. Strike everything after the first sentence in your proposed amendment. The slurping of ‘nonprofits’ and ‘foundations’ at the public trough is bad for the continuance of a republican form of government.

      1. There are times when government money can help. Like establishing rural electrification or internet service, roads and bridges, developing and distributing medicines, etc. But that doesn’t mean government needs to administer such and should not. I think the 5 year sunset clause and prohibition of perpetual grant money is a good way to cap that.

    2. As part of the 28th Amendment, in addition to term limits, I’d add upper age limits to eligibility for election/re-election to both Congress and the Executive Offices of President and Vice-President.

    3. The 29th Amendment would largely do away with most government departments that directly interfere in the areas of commerce, the arts and sciences. That includes NASA, NIH, NIAID, etc. If NASA wishes to continue it could become part of the Jet Propulsion Lab, or NIST or even Underwriter’s Laboratories. The point being there is no need for that final ‘A’ in NASA. That would take care of legacy Apollo.

  2. I’ve listened to Rand say redoing Apollo many times and it is always met with a question, “What?” This is because the concept in Rand’s mind isn’t something people associate with the word. What follows is a well thought out explanation but what sticks with people is the what? part. I’d distill that notion into a sentence or two and just say that and leave off the Apollo altogether or bring it up at the end, “like with Apollo.”

    “The technological differences between Artemis and Starship are no accident. They reflect a deep and longstanding conflict within the space community: whether America’s next goal in space should be a permanent human presence on the Moon or a settlement much further away on Mars.”

    The technological differences arise not from where to go next but the mindset and institutional biases of these two participants. SpaceX is a black swan and their existence along with changes in how the government does business opens unforeseeable opportunities on the Moon, Mars, other places off Earth, and even on our little planet.

    “Our future in space will be decided not by any logical argument, but by which faction has the greater resolve: those who want to settle the Moon first or those who want to go straight for Mars.”

    Our future in space will be determined by the people who go there and those that support them. Logic, resolve, persuasion, and profit will all play a role. But right now, our future in space is being determined by SpaceX and while Musk wants to go to Mars, SpaceX will help people who want to go to the Moon go to the Moon and people who want to do things in other places go do those things in other places because the reciprocity enables Musk to try and do what he wants.

    Rand is right, the battle isn’t between the Moon or Mars. All things are possible and to the extent there is a battle, it is in communicating the benefits of a future where people and groups are able to pursue their desires and only some things can be predicted. How to concisely communicate this situation has been a challenge long before we went to space and the debate has dominated governments, economies, and the global populace. There is no snappy term for this concept yet, although many that try and come close.

    1. Part of this is human nature and how we act as a population rather than as individuals. We have to trust humans to be humans and that bad outcomes wont be eliminated but they will be dwarfed by the benefits. There is an element of magical thinking involved as we have to have some faith that while we can’t predict the future in specificity, that we can predict a general outcome.

      We are looking into the abyss and filled with fear and excitement. The future has never been so impenetrable to us and all of our frames of reference are being stripped from our cognition except for the basic fundamentals of human nature and this is an enormous challenge because for all of our history, we have struggled to understand what it means to be human.

  3. Strange I thought Earth was in Space. So we got billions working , living and playing in space, where the culture war?

    Maybe first we need to be successful with something like this.

    Would the resource be better off being spent hardening Earth habitat, than trying to create fragile backup/external habitats.

    1. There are plenty of people that can choose to work on one or the other. We don’t have to force anyone. You also can’t forget that the expansion of human activity and the Cycle of Discovery will have expected and unexpected benefits to people living on Earth.

      Your comment reminds me of how Bernie said we had too many types of deodorant and if we only had one, that all those resources could be used for his pet political projects without understanding that the increased economic activity not only provided workers with paychecks but the government with more tax revenue for them to waste.

  4. We going to the Moon, not to mine the Moon but to determine whether there is mineable water in lunar polar regions [both].
    So go to Moon and then quickly go to Mars.
    We are not going to Mars to make settlements on Mars, but rather to determine if Mars is the most habitable planet other than Earth. Similar to Moon is terms of not spending much time on Mars, but Mars is larger area of exploration compared to lunar polar region. But if find out early that Mars is not habitable, then we immediately stop exploring Mars.

    1. Lunar exploration is not about human settlement on the Moon- but it possible the Moon could be more habitable than Mars. Or we might be able to the settlements on the Moon and not on Mars.

      Regarding whether Mars habitable, is the testing and develop of artificial gravity stations. One could say Mars exploration should include testing artificial gravity. But the use of Moon doesn’t require the use of artificial gravity- unless the Moon will settlements- the Moon is habitable.
      The reasons Mars could be most habitable place other than Earth, is because it’s got atmosphere of 25 trillion tons of CO2, and Mars has enough water.
      The Moon might have enough water and enough CO2 for settlement on the Moon. And you have issue of Moon’s low gravity. Obviously the Moon has less gravity than Mars and the Mars stronger gravity may not be enough gravity to have towns on Mars.

      The Moon is Earth’s gateway, if Mars is not habitable, the Moon is less viable- a gateway to what? Without Mars, it’s at least. one less place to go to.

      One thing about the Moon, is could be how we get space power satellites. But also seems Mars could have space power satellites, before Earth has them, or Mars is also how Earth gets space power satellites.
      It seems only really important aspects of Moon and Mars, is what does for the people on Earth. It seems there an immediate benefit from just exploration of Moon and Mars, but also huge long term potential benefits to Earth.

  5. There are all sorts of cultural wars about space.

    1) Robots vs. Humans/Science vs. Settlement. This is essentially two names for the same conflict. A significant fraction of the space “community” thinks that space should be entirely about science and that humans have no reasonable place in it.

    2) Moon vs. Mars. This conflict is about priorities and its intensity is stoked by the sense, on both sides, that doing one will preclude doing the other because the government will necessarily be footing the bill and the resources it is willing to devote to either are limited.

    SpaceX is the wild card here. It is now reasonable to suggest that the proper answer to this question is both – and at the same time. Until Elon has actually gotten both underway, though, expect continued sniping at one another by both sides.

    3) OldSpace vs. NewSpace. There are still a significant number of people, especially in the U.S. Congress, who think space should continue to be the private and exclusive demesne of NASA, DoD and the Legacy Contractors Club. This conflict will be decisively settled in the coming decade as NewSpace, particularly SpaceX, grinds more and more of OldSpace underfoot. When the lobbyists are laid off by OldSpace and their campaign fund checks stop coming, Congress will swing with the times.

    1. The difference between a base and Starship parked is largely about the amount of radiation shielding.

      It seems to explore the Lunar polar region, crew don’t need to spend much time on Lunar surface. The only purpose would be test long term effects low gravity on people, and you could test this effect upon animals and and plants rather than humans.
      Exploring Mars seems a lot different, you want long human stays on Mars. Though it seems should test artificial Mars gravity in rotating space in orbit, first.

      One can have a person stay in microgravity for couple months and then have them spend couple months of artificial Mars gravity and see if it reverses the microgravity effects.

      1. The other possibility, should it come to that, are gravity rehab/hotels in Martian Orbit. Crew can rotate through them on a scheduled basis to hopefully overcome the effects of long term exposure to Martian gravity with the chance of being able to return to Earth. Although I expect the desirability of the latter to decline over time.

  6. Hey, radiation!

    In the short term “space” close to Earth is more valuable than either the Moon or Mars. But absent dirt-barriers against lethal levels of radiation we can’t exploit those neighborhoods.

    So in my head, the first stop beyond near-orbit must be asteroid-retrieval missions. Park enough dirt in the orbit of interest, we can turn it into shielding. Add “junk” — the carcasses of dead satellites, probes, boosters, whatever — to the dirt ball. Might save some effort if any of that can be recycled into habs.

    Valuable minerals, or even volatiles, mixed with the dirt would be — valuable, right? But not the main focus.

  7. I don’t disagree about cultural difference between “let’s go and stay there” and “go and see and then leave it as if you were never there”. We see it on Earth. People want to live with a scenic view of mountains, lakes, forests; but then don’t want anyone else to live with those things. It’s envy.

    I just don’t think that culture war is what brought us SLS and Artemis I. That’s just a bureaucratic gravy train meant to retain engineering talent locked away by the government like happy cattle on the ranch. If they get off the ranch and find out what the real world has to offer; then NASA wouldn’t even accomplish what they have with SLS. As it is, it still took them more than twice as long as their worse predictions and with as much advantage as could be given. As much as they want a gravy train, they really did think they could do SLS faster yet they could not. Lack of motivation (because where does SLS go, what does it do for us?) played a part, but it wasn’t the only problem.

  8. The space innovators are moving faster toward independent other-world communities than the terrestrial political control freaks can innovate.

    They haven’t yet been able to create the mechanisms by which they should be able to a certain share of the riches of the solar system because it’s their natural right because they exist.

    Ticks. Your blood is ours by right.

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