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« An Islamic Space Program? | Main | Mission To Nowhere? »

Non-Partisan Space Ignorance

Now here's a blog post that I could really sink my teeth into, if I had the time. If you're interested in space policy, and the intersection with politics and left-right ideology, this has it all in the comments. Matthew Yglesias wonders why the government explores space.

This post epitomizes the fact that space is a non-partisan issue--neither side gets it. This is, in my opinion, part of the problem, because as long as both sides agree, right or wrong, or at least as long as there's no consensus in either party about what we should do, there's unlikely to be little progress, because it's not a differentiating political issue on which people vote, as I pointed out after the elections last year.

But Matthew's comment section is chock full of the standard myths about space, by commenters both "left" and "right," and interestingly, not being a regular reader of his blog, I was pointed to it by science writer and blogger Dave Appell, himself somewhat of a lefty who thinks that Matthew is totally out to lunch here.

Posted by Rand Simberg at January 07, 2004 10:30 AM
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Applebaum on Space Exploration
Excerpt: Another Washington Post column, by Anne Applebaum: Mission to Nowhere.Mars, as a certain pop star once put it, isn't the kind of place where you'd want to raise your kids. Nor is it the kind of place anybody is ever...
Weblog: Spacecraft
Tracked: January 7, 2004 12:10 PM

And then there was this bit of whimsy from Anne Applebaum:

"None of which is to say that it isn't interesting or important for NASA to send robotic probes to other planets. It's interesting in the way that the exploration of the bottom of the Pacific Ocean is interesting, or important in the way that the study of obscure dead languages is important. Like space exploration, these are inspiring human pursuits. Like space exploration, they nevertheless have very few practical applications. "


Posted by Duncan Young at January 7, 2004 01:02 PM

But observe, she's dead right. Exploration as such doesnt have no practical applications. And nobody at NASA is working in directions on making exploitation possible.

Yes, im interested in fate of hypothetical martian bugs too, but nothing justifies the outrageous price tag of it.

So does this mean we should abandon the efforts ? No, just first things first and lets actually work on getting that price tag into range that would be appropriate for scientific projects.

This cant happen without large-scale development of near-earth space.

Posted by at January 7, 2004 02:16 PM

From the Fox column:

>"I want to see a debate about our space goals
>that is actually framed in terms of the two
>parties' supposed philosophies--big government
>versus private enterprise. Collective effort
>versus individualism."

It's a good thing you wrote these are "supposed" to be their philosophies. In practice, far from all Republicans are hostile towards Big Government. Especially these days.

I personally like to view space exploration as one of the few unifying factors we still have. For example, my online friend Dennis Wingo and Walt Anderson @ Orbital Recovery Corp. are currently putting together a solar-electric "space tug" with the Europeans. Here we have a conservative-libertarian guy from Alabama(?) doing commercial business with Old Europeans. It may not suit the tastes of the ideological purists, but this kind of free enterprise/government collaboration is probably going to open up more economical frontiers in space than forever waiting for cheap access to orbit.


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