Media Casualties Mount
Administration Split On Europe Invasion
Administration In Crisis Over Burgeoning Quagmire
Congress Concerned About Diversion From War On Japan
Pot, Kettle On Line Two...
Allies Seize Paris
Gore Book Sales Tank, Supporters Claim Unfair Tactics
Satan Files Lack Of Defamation Suit
Why This Blog Bores People With Space Stuff
A New Beginning
My Hit Parade
Instapundit (Glenn Reynolds)
James Lileks Bleats
Winds Of Change (Joe Katzman)
Little Green Footballs (Charles Johnson)
Eject Eject Eject (Bill Whittle)
Alan Boyle (MSNBC)
Space Politics (Jeff Foust)
Space Transport News (Clark Lindsey)
NASA Space Flight
A Voyage To Arcturus (Jay Manifold)
Dispatches From The Final Frontier (Michael Belfiore)
Personal Spaceflight (Jeff Foust)
The Flame Trench (Florida Today)
Rocket Forge (Michael Mealing)
COTS Watch (Michael Mealing)
Curmudgeon's Corner (Mark Whittington)
Tales of the Heliosphere
Out Of The Cradle
Space For Commerce (Brian Dunbar)
The Speculist (Phil Bowermaster)
Spacecraft (Chris Hall)
Space Pragmatism (Dan Schrimpsher)
Eternal Golden Braid (Fred Kiesche)
Carried Away (Dan Schmelzer)
Laughing Wolf (C. Blake Powers)
Chair Force Engineer (Air Force Procurement)
JesusPhreaks (Scott Bell)
Nanobot (Howard Lovy)
Lagniappe (Derek Lowe)
Geek Press (Paul Hsieh)
Redwood Dragon (Dave Trowbridge)
Turned Up To Eleven (Paul Orwin)
Cowlix (Wes Cowley)
Quark Soup (Dave Appell)
Assymetrical Information (Jane Galt and Mindles H. Dreck)
Marginal Revolution (Tyler Cowen et al)
Man Without Qualities (Robert Musil)
Knowledge Problem (Lynne Kiesling)
Cut On The Bias (Susanna Cornett)
The Funny Pages
Cox & Forkum
Day By Day
Happy Fun Pundit
Amish Tech Support (Lawrence Simon)
Scrapple Face (Scott Ott)
Quasipundit (Adragna & Vehrs)
England's Sword (Iain Murray)
Daily Pundit (Bill Quick)
Daimnation! (Damian Penny)
Z+ Blog (Andrew Zolli)
The Kolkata Libertarian
Midwest Conservative Journal
Protein Wisdom (Jeff Goldstein et al)
Dean's World (Dean Esmay)
Yippee-Ki-Yay (Kevin McGehee)
Spleenville (Andrea Harris)
Random Jottings (John Weidner)
On the Third Hand (Kathy Kinsley, Bellicose Woman)
Inappropriate Response (Moira Breen)
Inadvertent Comic Relief
Warblogger Watcher (Cowardly Anonymous Idiotarians)
Other Worthy Weblogs
Ain't No Bad Dude (Brian Linse)
A libertarian reads the papers
Anna Franco Review
Ben Kepple's Daily Rant
Dropscan (Shiloh Bucher)
End the War on Freedom
Insolvent Republic of Blogistan
James Reuben Haney
Mind over what matters
Page Fault Interrupt
Sand In The Gears(Anthony Woodlief)
The Blogs of War
The Fly Bottle
The Illuminated Donkey
What she really thinks
Where HipHop & Libertarianism Meet
Zem : blog
Space Policy Links
The Space Review
The Space Show
Space Frontier Foundation
Space Policy Digest BBS
USS Clueless (Steven Den Beste)
Unremitting Verse (Will Warren)
World View (Brink Lindsay)
The Last Page
More Than Zero (Andrew Hofer)
Pathetic Earthlings (Andrew Lloyd)
Spaceship Summer (Derek Lyons)
The New Space Age (Rob Wilson)
Rocketman (Mark Oakley)
Site designed by
There is no point in being coy about the role of military incentives in the advancement of science and technology. After all, it has a history far older than that of aviation and space science. But this does not suit the narrative the X prize needs, and so the foundation has transformed the story into one of private (yet populist) enterprise battling public (yet elitist) prevarication.
This is funny on a couple different levels. First, as Clark writes, "How about we campaign for a moratorium on political references to McDonalds except by ACTUAL sophomores?"
A few days ago, I got an email from someone at NPR, asking me to point him to people who opposed commercialization of space, so that they could present "the other side" for a story on the Ansari X-Prize, since we all know it's always important to present the other side, no matter how whacked out, in order to pretend to have a "balanced" piece. Well, here's a prime specimen.
I didn't mention that the treaty outlaws the militarization of space because, well...it doesn't.
It outlaws the emplacement of weapons of mass destruction on planetary bodies, but there are no strictures in it against military activities per se. Otherwise, it would have outlawed ICBMs, which travel through space to reach their ultimate destination. In fact, I always found it amusing that the anti-missile-defense types wanted to maintain space as a sacred sanctuary through which missiles could pass unimpeded.
Of course, one of the purposes of the treaty was to in fact remove one of the incentives of militarizing space, by rendering all of it to a state in which there was little to defend. I'm not sure that's the best way to spread wealth into the universe, whether in the form of fast food, or human freedom. But based on other comments in his little piece, we already know what Mr. Ball thinks about the latter.
[Update on X-Prize Day]
If you can imagine it, that capitalist universe-destroying monster, Chris Berg, actually likes the idea of a lunar McDonalds.
Me, too, even though I rarely eat there.Posted by Rand Simberg at September 28, 2004 04:39 PM
TrackBack URL for this entry:
Listed below are links to weblogs that reference this post from Transterrestrial Musings.
Blinded By ...
Excerpt: Well, not science. In this column Philip Ball comes out, shedding his sometimes useful disguise as a thoughtful science journalist to reveal his superstitious beliefs. Behind the populist image of the X prize lies an unsettling agenda. What could it b...
Weblog: Crumb Trail
Tracked: September 29, 2004 09:23 AM
I'm not sure that's the best way to spread wealth into the universe, whether in the form of fast food, or human freedom.
Hmmm. . .
If the goal is to use expansion into space to foster human freedom (a goal I support) then I guess you would agree that learning how to successfully conceive, bear and raise babies away from the Earth is the mission-critical task, no?
Otherwise, we are forever tied to the Earth, correct?Posted by Bill White at September 28, 2004 07:13 PM
Oh, how irritating:
"There is a respectable tradition of scientific innovations being stimulated by cash prizes."
There is *nothing* about the X-Prize that has *anything* to do with science. As I recall, Mike Melville did not do any microgravity experiments in his 100 km flight (the M&M's were for entertainment).
There is an orthodoxy in the scientific estabilishment, like in all human institutions. Unfortunately, at the moment, space settlement and space economic development lies outside this orthodoxy. It's amazing how it limits the thinking of otherwise highly intelligent people.
The source of this orthodoxy is of course political (think Sagan vs. Teller). But we have got to move beyond a point where space is used as a proxy for idealogical battles between the right and left. It just blinds people to the real benefits and risks of space development.Posted by Frank Johnson at September 28, 2004 07:55 PM
I'm not sure what to make of his article; he didn't really offer any alternative avenues of exploration to the X Prize so we are left to assume he thinks the status quo is fine. Nor did he make the case that without the X Prize 'militarization' of space would be stopped dead in its tracks.
I think the true motivations of the X Prize founders and funders are somewhat beside the point; it will succeed (or not) in the public eye so far as it fires imaginations and delivers on its promise.
I do believe the X Prize is valuable beyond simply accomplishing the goal it sets forth for its participants; it demonstrates that people don't have to rely on governments to move society forward. It encourages the development of more of the kind of people who push the envelope for the better ... not just here in the US but around the world as well.
It is by increasing the population of doers in the world, rather than some strawman he constructed of rockets carrying the populations of various dictatorships into space, that the X Prize will increase freedom in the world.Posted by FRNM at September 28, 2004 07:56 PM
No matter what happens from this point on, the x-prize is already a success. Beyond that in reinforces the idea of prizes, which hopefully there will be more of in the future.Posted by ken anthony at September 28, 2004 08:04 PM
Note Dr. Ball's contemptuous reference to McDonald's in space, and by implied extension all merely money-grubbing low-minded off-planet commercial ventures.
It slips by so easily one might almost forget to ask: What's wrong with McDonald's in space, or for that matter down on Earth? Why do they merit Dr. Ball's Oxbridgian sneer? The work of McDonald's teeming GED-level wage-slaves may not compare on an individual basis to that of Picasso or Dr. Einstein, but in the aggregate it is arguably far more valuable. A humming economy generating gobs of wealth is a necessary pre-requisite for creative minds to have the luxury to create. Without aggregate excess wealth there is no such thing as the lovely education Dr. Ball received at Oxford University, courtesy of the English taxpayer, nor the university libraries able to pony up $1,500/year for a subscription to Nature which allows him to earn a handsome living producing nothing of more actual use than well-written opinions.
There is no space program -- for any purpose -- no Peace Corps, no NPR nor BBC, no United Nations nor UNESCO, no NSF-funded PubMed and no EMBL. It's just anxious peasants scratching around for their next meal, and half the time eating the seed corn and overgrazing the commons because there's just no other damn way to survive the winter.
The reason we have more art and science and miracle drugs in the twenty-first century than there were in the sixteenth is not because art and science and disease-free life have only now become valued at their true worth, but because only now do we have the excess capital to support such highly capital-intensive ventures. Capital generated largely by reg'lar working stiffs at, yeah, McDonald's among other places.
Wiser if no better-educated Ph.D.'s than Dr. Ball understand this. Dick Feynmann and Victor Weisskopf, to pull names out of a hat, were humbled by the enormous good luck they had to be born into a society wealthy enough to afford them the luxury of doing no more than goofing around thinking about the infinite.
One can, hopefully, attribute Dr. Ball's narcissistic naivete to his youth, and hope that he will outgrow it.
As for his exasperation with the idea that national territory might need to be militarized, as he puts it, or defended as one less jejeunely jaundiced might, I can only suggest he take a month's fling at plying his wordsmithing trade in Baghdad or Grozny, and then, possessed of some actual life experience, come back and opine on how useful security is to such lovely social ventures as timeless literature and rational drug design.Posted by Joe Plaice at September 28, 2004 08:06 PM
It is my offhand recollection that it was the Test Ban Treaty that banned nuclear explosions in space. before that there had been at least one nuclear test in space (Starfish)which taught everybody about EMP the hard way. The Test Ban Treaty was what killed Orion.Posted by Jim Bennett at September 28, 2004 08:31 PM
"It slips by so easily one might almost forget to ask: What's wrong with McDonald's in space, or for that matter down on Earth?"
I've never understood how people on the left can so easily simplify an issue: corporations=evil. Corporations are not entitites themselves, they are made up of people, both people that work for them and shareholders. If a corporation is healthy, then both its employees and shareholders prosper, and isn't this a good thing?
But at least he didn't mention Halliburton.Posted by at September 28, 2004 08:56 PM
I think i heard Tim Blair describe the invocation of McDonalds as being the first corollary of Goodwin's Law.Posted by Andrew at September 28, 2004 08:57 PM
You can contact Nature at:
Why not send them a note that the Outer Space Treaty does not ban the militarization of space?
That treaty can be found here:
http://www.oosa.unvienna.org/treat/ost/outersptxt.htmPosted by at September 28, 2004 09:04 PM
Article IV of the Outer Space Treaty states:
"States Parties to the Treaty undertake not to place in orbit around the earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction, install such weapons on celestial bodies, or station such weapons in outer space in any other manner.
"The moon and other celestial bodies shall be used by all States Parties to the Treaty exclusively for peaceful purposes. The establishment of military bases, installations and fortifications, the testing of any type of weapons and the conduct of military manoeuvres on celestial bodies shall be forbidden. The use of military personnel for scientific research or for any other peaceful purposes shall not be prohibited. The use of any equipment or facility necessary for peaceful exploration of the moon and other celestial bodies shall also not be prohibited."Posted by at September 28, 2004 09:18 PM
Well, at least the fool didn't say "colonization by Halliburton."Posted by Mark R. Whittington at September 28, 2004 09:42 PM
Did Mr. Ball attend the MoDo School of Journalism?Posted by Bill Maron at September 28, 2004 09:47 PM
On Monday the Independent had an article concerning Branson's announcement of Virgin Galactic, in which they pulled the "NPR balance" trick by ominously pondering the impact on the atmosphere from tourist spaceflights. They handwringingly opined that such flights would compound the severe damage already being inflicted on the atmosphere by jumbo jets.
Coincidentally, this is "Keep Space for Peace" week. At least Ball isn't wringing his hands over the thought that our nuclear-powered probes might contaminate outer space with radiation...Posted by T. L. James at September 28, 2004 09:53 PM
So what's wrong with the militarization of space? I mean, the default option without the presence of organized and disciplined armed forces, a/k/a the police and military, is a Wild West anarchy. This is preferable?
What planet do you need to be from to think that the absence of disciplined armed forces implies the absence of violence, and not the converse?
I can't imagine any private party considering a serious off-planet venture without knowing his investment will enjoy the security of some kind of extraterrestrial extraterritoriality and the military force to back it up.
Nor I think can anyone else, including the Nature fella. I suspect what he really means is not no military in space but no U.S. military. He would wish some kind of UN blue-space-helmet peacekeeping force that will impose his own Euroweenie values everywhere. Not sure why he thinks Americans or for that matter Chinese would think this a prime deal. I mean, golly, would I like to buy stock in a company doing business under the protection of UNPROFOR instead of the U.S. Marines? Ha ha.
Presumably Mr. Nature also doesn't allow himself to think about the implications of a future al Qaeda in space. Perhaps he figures that, sure, they learned to use the Internet to their advantage, but space travel is just way too technical for folks without the Oxford degree and will remain forever beyond them. . .
Posted by at September 28, 2004 10:00 PM
"I can't imagine any private party considering a serious off-planet venture without knowing his investment will enjoy the security of some kind of extraterrestrial extraterritoriality and the military force to back it up."
You're closer to understanding than you think, you just have the two parts of the story reversed. If you obstruct the extension of military power(as the ultimate guarantor of civil order) into space, you can thereby prevent the securing of the private property rights on which free-market economic activity depends.Posted by T.L. James at September 28, 2004 10:44 PM
Count me as someone who thinks we should militarize the hell out of space. Yes, I want OWPs and moon-rock accelerators and what have you. I want big American flags on them, too. And I want them up there before anyone else's. McDonalds on the Moon? Good, the workers and scientists and soldiers have to eat, too. Taste of home.Posted by Noah Doyle at September 28, 2004 10:48 PM
Vincent: And you know what they call a... a... a Quarter Pounder with Cheese on the Moon?
Jules: They don't call it a Quarter Pounder with Cheese?
Vincent: No man, gravity on the Moon is one sixth of that on Earth. They wouldn't know how the f*** to eat a Quarter Pounder there.
Jules: Then what do they call it?
Vincent: They call it a Twenty-Fourth of a Pounder with Cheese.
...Posted by Ben Zeen (a pseudonym) at September 28, 2004 11:31 PM
Many, many good points here (Rand's blog and his commenters rock mightily). But that Pulp Fiction skit was brilliant. Ben Zeen (or whoever you are): kudos.
My two cents: for God's sake keep the bureau-weenies away from space. Most health and safety regs that are law now were industry practice before. Allow the market to find the balance. I'm too old to enjoy the fruits of this (I'm 35, which is an indictment in itself - Apollo 11 happened when my mother was seven months pregnant with me) but I want my kids (when I have 'em) to be able to look to the stars without government sanction.
NPR is trying to perform a maneuver I've come to see all over the place: stand a story on its head, carefully prop it in place, and then seek kudos for its "balance." Good catch!Posted by Brian Jones at September 29, 2004 05:04 AM
You're closer to understanding than you think, you just have the two parts of the story reversed. If you obstruct the extension of military power(as the ultimate guarantor of civil order) into space, you can thereby prevent the securing of the private property rights on which free-market economic activity depends.
Therefore, how does expansion into space make us any more "free" as Rand asserted?
And, unless we bear children "out there" does any of it really matter? As good Jewish mothers have taught for thousands of years, all that really matters are the kids.Posted by Bill White at September 29, 2004 05:21 AM
...how does expansion into space make us any more "free" as Rand asserted?
By offering a new venue in which to create free societies.
And, unless we bear children "out there" does any of it really matter? As good Jewish mothers have taught for thousands of years, all that really matters are the kids.
Who says that we won't bear children out there? Why do you believe that this is some kind of problem?Posted by Rand Simberg at September 29, 2004 05:35 AM
I wonder how hard it would be to grow potatoes and grass on the Moon. Of course you'd have to build really tall fences to keep the cows from jumping over the moon. Heeeyyyyyy!!!! ***baaaa duoomp CHaaeeehhh***Posted by Josh "Hefty" Reiter at September 29, 2004 05:36 AM
Who says that we won't bear children out there? Why do you believe that this is some kind of problem?
My point is that bearing children is the tipping point key to "entering space" - - tourism is waay cool yet is ultimately a leisure activity, recreation or a hobby.
The great cruise ships of the 1910s and 1920s are famous for the first class tourism luxuries however once Ellis Island was closed to immigrants the great cruise ships were no longer profitable. The folks in 3rd class and steerage paid the bills for Cunard and White Star.
Permanent emigration off the Earth is what will create sufficient demand to support the ingenuity and investment needed to develop routine travel in space.
Posted by Bill White at September 29, 2004 07:30 AM
Permanent emigration off the Earth is what will create sufficient demand to support the ingenuity and investment needed to develop routine travel in space.
There will be permanent emigration, but it's not necessary to provide adequate demand.Posted by Rand Simberg at September 29, 2004 09:04 AM
Well, obviously childbirth in another gravity well works like it does down here. As for birth in free flight, if you must, nothing I've heard would suggest any particular difficulty. Probably quite the contrary; anyone who's been pregnant can tell you gravity during pregnancy is a real pain in the . . .well, everything from the lower back on down. It would not surprise me if 50 years hence rich women pay good bucks to spend the last two months in orbit.
Or is Mr. White worrying about the genetic issues, i.e. radiation?Posted by Leonard McCoy at September 30, 2004 01:15 AM
Why am I laughing so hard I'm crying at the phrases "Moonrock Accelerator" and "Chicken McNugget"? McNugget Meteors of Mass Destruction ... OMG!
Stop space-based McNugget Mass Drivers! Ban the Ansari X-Prize!
On a more serious note, the American government initiatives in space were inspiring and represented some of the greatest uses of government power in the history of governments. (Russia's program was marred by a lack of attention to safety. A lot of Cosmonauts -- and one Cosmodog -- died needlessly.)
When it comes to their looney anti-government rhetoric the X-Prize people could do with a lesson in humility. They stand on the shoulders of government-funded giants, and they need to respect that.
As for whether we Americans are "allowed" to militarize / commercialize / suburbanize / rocket-powered SUV-anize space, that ain't no U.N. flag on the moon.
American honor requires we withdraw from a treaty rather than violate it. Fair enough: a few swipes of a pen seems a small price to pay for progress with dignity. Treaty dissolved, problem solved.
How exactly is it to our benefit to be signatory to a treaty proscribing things only we are capable of, anyway? Such a treaty could only serve to embarass us.Posted by Moonrock McNugget at October 1, 2004 01:02 PM
No matter which way this notion is sliced, it boils down to this: We as human beings are not able to sit on our hands and wait for inspiration to hit us, nor are we able to tie ourselves down and not explore the universe of possibilities out there. We are explorers. We are innovators. And we've gotten lazy.
There are few things shown in history that stimulate giant leaps of knowledge in science and engineering. There is war and the need to defend ourselves or, in some cases, offend others. There is money, whether private or corporate, public or "borrowed".
In this instance, the exploration of space has long been dictated by the governments of the world and their contractors. The people going after the X-Prize sees more. They see a world where everyone is free to explore outside our biosphere, where inspiration and design of ships have yet to be fully challenged, and where, with any luck, that push towards such a brave, new world will get us off of our hands, off of our seats, and moving again.
We are human. We are a curious species. And, for better or worse, that curiosity points us out of the nest that is Earth and out towards the stars above.Posted by Monte Y. Pescador at October 1, 2004 03:14 PM
"Well, obviously childbirth in another gravity well works like it does down here. As for birth in free flight, if you must, nothing I've heard would suggest any particular difficulty."
Maybe so, but I sure as hell wouldn't want to have to clean up after that. Messy activities in zero gravity could be a real problem.Posted by Xavier at October 3, 2004 08:48 PM
Post a comment