If You’re Going To Take Mars…

Take Mars.

First, I don’t have any particular itch to go to, or send people to Mars. I think it can wait. I also see the potential to repeat the error of Apollo if we follow Dr. Thronson’s advice:

A useful tautology: humanity’s second—or third or fourth—mission to Mars will never happen unless there is a first one. Vastly more resources have been expended on concept design and technologies that appear to be necessary for sustained Martian exploration, with comparatively fewer specifically on the most essential mission, the first one. Just as with all programs of human exploration, the first Mars expedition will be very—very!—different from every one that follows. It will have to be more limited, more focused, and necessarily affordable from the start. More will be learned on a first mission, no matter how limited it is some respects, than on any subsequent one. However, in the current, uncritical, and comfortable environment for proliferating concepts for human exploration beyond LEO, there seems to be only modest interest in the difficult process of in-depth, critically reviewed engineering designs for the first Mars mission.

I disagree that “all programs of human exploration” had a first mission that was “very-very! different” from those that followed. The Vikings did nothing different on their succeeding journeys than they did on their previous ones. Neither did the Polynesians. There was little difference between Columbus’s first voyage, and his subsequent ones, or those of others. They all used the same basic technology. There were no significant differences until the technology evolved — more efficient sails, canned food, ship-board clocks for navigation, steel hulls, steam engines. Similarly, most exploration of the North American continent were very similar, from the initial ones by the early French explorers to Lewis and Clark, through Walker and Fremont. Not until the development of first the Conestoga, and then the railroad was there any significant improvement. In fact, as I write in the book:

Once Columbus showed the way, fortune seekers and settlers didn’t wait for shipboard clocks, or steam engines, or steel hulls. They set sail for the New World with what they had. A century or so ago, Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benét wrote a poem about the days of sail, whose first stanza was:

There was a time before our time,
It will not come again,
When the best ships still were wooden ships
But the men were iron men.

Even with Apollo, the subsequent missions weren’t that different from the first, in terms of how they were carried out, except they got better at navigation and precision in landing sites, and took more equipment, such as rovers, to expand the science. So I don’t accept his premise that the first Mars landing will be significantly different than the second one. But the next series of lunar missions will doubtless be much different from Apollo, because Apollo was done in an economically unsustainable way, because there was a national imperative to do it. We have to avoid that with Mars.

I also think that there are some elements of straw man here. No, we don’t need to go to the moon to get to Mars. But we do need to develop some infrastructure if we are going to do it in anything resembling an affordable way, and no, a government-developed heavy lifter is not part of that infrastructure. But I don’t see any societal will to compel the government to do a manned Mars mission in the foreseeable future. If it happens, it will happen privately.

Who Is “On The Run”?

Al Qaeda? Or us?

[Update a few minutes later]

The rise of Al Qaeda and the administration’s Benghazi lies:

…what accounts for Obama’s weird attraction for this “Muslim revivalism,” despite all its Medieval tenets and near-psychotic behaviors?

No, he is not a Muslim. I repeat NOT (just to be absolutely clear). Nor is the president a Christian, unless you count Reverend Wright as such, which is ridiculous (and we all know he’s under the bus anyway).

Obama is a postmodern agnostic par excellence. But like so many schooled in post-modernism and cultural relativism, he has an immediate and intense enmity for anything that smacks of imperialism — and an equally intense desire to be seen as supportive of (although certainly not to live like) the downtrodden of the Earth.

Which leads us back to Benghazi. You don’t have to be Muslim to love the Muslim Brotherhood or even, consciously or unconsciously, sympathize with the goals, if not the actions, of al-Qaeda. You just have to have been imbued with a blind hatred of imperialism. That’s all you need.

And as Dinesh D’Souza documented, he has that in abundance.

The Democrats Own ObamaCare

…and its political costs keep rising:

Obamacare, unlike Social Security, Medicare and Part D, wasn’t consistently supported in public opinion polls. Quite the contrary.

Please don’t pass this bill, the public pleaded, speaking in January 2010 through the unlikely medium of the voters of the commonwealth of Massachusetts when they elected Republican Scott Brown to the Senate as the 41st vote against Obamacare.

Democrats went ahead anyway, at the urging of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and with the approval of President Barack Obama. They made that decision knowing that, without a 60th vote in the Senate, the only legislative path forward was for the House to pass a bill identical to the one the Senate passed in December 2009.

No one had intended that to be the final version. Democrats expected to hold a conference committee to comb the glitches out of the Senate bill and the version House passed in November.

Voters had done all they could do to signal that they wanted not a Democratic version of Obamacare but a bipartisan compromise or no legislation at all. Obama and Pelosi ignored that demand.

The the ultimate peril of their power, one would hope.

The Danger Of Anti-Libertarianism

As exemplified by Chris Christie.

One of the nastiest strawmen continually being flung is that libertarians are anarchists. No, the Occumorons are anarchists, and nihilists (or at least they look to them for their political tactics, even though they want the government around to give them stuff). Limited government, as the Founders laid it out, is not anarchy. In fact, you could almost say that a lawless government of men, like the current one, is more anarchical than one based on the Constitution and law.

Search And Rescue In Tenaya Canyon

There are some lessons to be learned here. We were just up there ourselves a couple weeks ago. People don’t realize how rugged it can get coming down from the high country into Yosemite Valley, even though most of the routes are pretty well known after many decades of hiking/climbing. Without modern tech (cell phones and helicopters), they might have died from exposure up there, even in the summer.

The IRS Scandal

The campaign to wish it away:

…based on the actual evidence, Klein was foolish to say the “scandals are falling apart” in May, and it’s foolish to say it now. At the end of the day, I suspect that the recent disregard for the facts and the odd framing of the scandal is really about creating a “permission structure” — a phrase Klein is no doubt familiar with — for those on the left to help begin speaking of the scandal as if it’s not legitimate. In fairness, it’s not just Klein dismissing the scandal — here’s MSNBC’s Steve Benen, The New Republic, and CNN hitting the same theme. After all, the White House Press Secretary recently surprised observers declaring IRS a “phony scandal.” We journalists might be expected to be suspect of the White House’s motivations for dismissing the IRS scandal, but it seems some of us have received marching orders.

I think we’ve seen at least one of the marchers here.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!