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« The First Time As Tragedy, The Second Time As...Tragedy | Main | Risk Taking »

Alternate Universe

Robert Roy Britt has an interesting roundup of opinions about the future of human spaceflight, including some envisioning such a future without NASA, and some that yours truly has espoused once or twice in the past.

William Hartmann remains firmly mired in the past, however.

"This is naive and wrong-headed," says author and artist William K. Hartmann, also a senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona.

Hartmann thinks international governmental cooperation is the best way to get humans to the Moon or Mars. Eventually, if a proper framework can be set, commercialization could and should blossom, Hartmann figures...

...Hartmann, whose latest book is "A Traveler's Guide to Mars" (Workman Publishing Company, 2003), worries whether any possible new Bush directive on human spaceflight would serve long-term global interests, however.

"Do we want to hand over this unique moment and all those resources to a bunch of deregulated CEO's with their short-term, self-serving accountant mentality?" asks Hartmann. "Or can we design a strategy that fosters a better global payoff for our grandchildren?"

Newsflash, Dr. Hartmann. CEOs with short-term, self-serving accountant mentalities don't put their own personal fortunes into developing reusable tourist vehicles. This is exactly what has to happen to foster a global payoff for our grandchildren. The "give NASA billions of dollars and hope for the best" approach has been an unmitigated failure.

Posted by Rand Simberg at December 09, 2003 09:09 AM
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So Hartmann thinks international government cooperation will get us to the Moon or Mars. One would think a scientist would look to empirical observation of similar situations before speculating on the efficacy of a particular approach. After all, international governmental cooperation has brought been such an overwhelming success, especially in such well known tourist havens as Bosnia, Rwanda and Palestine. And the International Space Station is daily expanding the frontiers of human knowledge. Not to mention the astounding success of the U.N.


Posted by Man Mountain Molehill at December 9, 2003 11:42 AM

Another example of how people with scientific training think that their education qualifies them as experts in all the ~lessor~ fields like business and politics.

Hartmann (and people like him) think that "international governmental cooperation is the best way to get [planetary scientists] to the Moon or Mars." But even in that they are wrong, having learned all the wrong lessons from Apollos 17 through 19.

Posted by Raoul Ortega at December 9, 2003 01:19 PM

I would reword Hartmann’s comment to read -

Do we want to hand over this unique moment and all those resources to a bunch of regulated bureaucrats with their short-term, self-serving cover your butt mentality?

Posted by Rocket Man Blog at December 9, 2003 02:13 PM

What's sad is that most of the public will agree with Hartmann. Only NASA can or should do space with maybe the help of some its socialist buddies over seas!

Posted by anonymous at December 9, 2003 03:48 PM

Yes, of course leadership groups that make decisions by comitte are far superior to the nimble and decisive leadership of a profit motivated individual. pfft...

There is a political model that will work for space exploration that is also the most successful business model. Communism. And I'm not a communist. I think it sucks as a means to govern freedom loving people. But to get something done, which companies succeed? Those with centralized and unquestioned leadership. Not the fuzzy happy companies that are models of socialism, taking umpteen meetings and everyone's blith opinion into consideration. Certainly, there is room for inclusion, but it needs to be channelled into capitalistic competitiveness where do-or-die comes into play way sooner than lift-off.

And not to be droll, but again - this is why space should be militarized. The military has the luxury of spending money we don't (and don't want to) see to get things done - and our military has demonstrated it's world superiority through the inventiveness of private miliatry contractors and industries. If not commercial, then military objectives are the next most sure bet. NASA, the ESA and every other procedure laden politically vulnerable organization is inevitably going to be mired in procedure and never get around to real space exploration.

Either way, I'd be happier than what we have now, which is beurocratic bloat.

But do I think China will beat us? Only if we keep giving them our secrets and letting them walk off with top-secret laptop hard drives. They don't have an original thought in their heads and until the open up their infrastructure to capitalism and the innovation it CAN provide, they'll be relegated to mimicking our successes.

foo... there blows some steam. I feel better.

Posted by Jerry Carter at December 10, 2003 06:59 AM

I struck by how much this comment... "They don't have an original thought in their heads and until the open up their infrastructure to capitalism and the innovation it CAN provide, they'll be relegated to mimicking our successes." sounds like what was said about the Japanese auto industry.

Posted by ken anthony at December 11, 2003 08:16 AM

Ken, I was referring to the Communist party in China... not Chinese in general - they're some brilliant people. Mr. Honda, among others, demonstrated my point (in reference to your comment on the Japanese Auto Industry). He started off as a machinist I think who started making motor bikes... and look at them now. That was a thoroughly capitalistic enterprise and he had plenty of competition along the way.

And I shouldn't be so harsh. China IS becoming savy to the ways of the world, but the still retain a fringe of unoriginality (and again, 'they' refers to the PLA and it's political arm) and disingenous negotiation tactics. Espionage is an honorable method of research in Bejings eyes.

Still, we have plenty of targets for blame. If Bill Clinton hadn't handed over our ballistic missle technology (this is a long and complex story which I summarize and dump on his head)... their space program would not be where it is today. Then again... if we hadn't been able to acquire the minds we did after WWII....

Posted by Jerry Carter at December 11, 2003 12:30 PM

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