Category Archives: Space Science

The Value Of Space Exploration

An essay:

For its part, Webb suffered repeated delays and cost overruns even before the COVID-19 pandemic slowed work on a number of projects in both the public and private sectors. Initially meant to launch in 2010 at a cost of $3 billion, Webb eventually launched last December at a final cost of more than $10 billion. Similarly, the enormous Space Launch System rocket has cost more and taken far longer to lift off from Kennedy Space Center than originally planned – though NASA now expects to finally launch the rocket that will take astronauts back to the Moon at the end of August or beginning of September.

All the same, criticisms focused on excessive delays and busted budgets tend to fall by the wayside when we see the results of America’s space exploration programs. That’s certainly been the case with Webb, whose first images have received a rapturous reception by the media and public alike. But few people would say that this sense of wonder and inspiration is the reason America invests as much of its national resources as it does in space exploration, and even fewer would say it’s worth the financial costs involved.

One of these things is not like the others. I’m confident that history will record that SLS/Orion played a trivial, if not non-existent role in actual space exploration. And (as always) I would reiterate that out exploration of space will be much more effective when it is rightly viewed as not an end, but a means to a grander goal: the development and settlement of a new frontier, and the expansion of life and consciousness into the universe.

Ukraine And Space

Thoughts on the implications of the invasion, from Bob Zimmerman.

[Friday-morning update]

The repercussions of this for the space industry could be broad and unforeseeable.

It was always a mistake to make ourselves so reliable on Russian/Ukrainian hardware.

[Afternoon update]

Ukrainian invasions have affected our own space policies in the past.

As Jeff notes, if the Russians pull out of ISS, their human spaceflight program wouldn’t have much to do.

[Mid-afternoon update]

Yet.

[Saturday-morning update]

Eric Berger runs through the potential implications for space.

To Mars Or Not To Mars?

That is the question at this Oxford debate this evening (in a couple hours, sorry about the short notice).

[Update toward the end of the debate]

As I’ve noted in the past, debates like this are pointless, because they are a false choice based on a false premise. We don’t have to choose between populating Mars and saving the planet; we have abundant resources for both. The false premise is that this is going to be a collective decision whose outcome will be determined by an Oxford debate. People who go to Mars will be doing so with their own money, so people on Earth who oppose it are going to have to make it illegal to prevent it. There is a word for people like that: jailers.