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If Nature Abhors a Vacuum Why is It So Hard to Send Manned Ships Into Space? February 12, 2012

Posted by bobv451 in death, gummint, New Mexico, science, sense of wonder, space.

It was with real sorrow I saw that NASA is forsaking the Mars exploration. In the words of this article, Mars lost.

No, we lost. If the race is to the stars, that is. If it is to become a third-world, second-rate country then we are certainly crossing the finish line.

The conjecture is that NASA figures Virgin Galactic, SpaceX and other private companies will do it. Fine, I’d say, but there is an incredible impediment skyward for that, at least in New Mexico. The trial lawyers have spent a reported $200k lobbying to kill a bill limiting liability at Spaceport America. IOW, they want to sue the place into oblivion at the first accident.

If you are smart enough to accumulate $200,000 for the ride and smart enough to go through the release form where it states in *three* places “you may die if…” and the form must be signed at least 24 hours prior to launch to give time to think it over, then I’d say you are well on your way to understanding the danger. Everyone dies. I’d love to go up in the Virgin Galactic launch vehicle to space, and if I had to die, there’s no way I’d prefer more. But that’s just me. If I had $200k, I’d pay for the privilege of maybe dying on my way to space. Color me DD Harriman. And if I didn’t augur in, then I’d have one hell of a story to tell for the rest of my life.

Word is that Virgin Galactic is pulling back a bit because of the lawyers. VG has sunk more money into offices and the like in Las Cruces but they haven’t yet ponied up a dime to the state for use of the spaceport. It might well be they pull out and go to the Mojave site or Wisconsin or wherever. The loss to them would be negligible at this point. To space tourism in NM, it would be a crushing blow if not a fatal one.

This isn’t to say Spaceport America would close. 90% of the facility schedule would still be A-OK to go as unmanned launches are lined up and waiting to blast off. But space tourism is, excuse the expression, the boost NM needs. Thanks for trying to kill it, ambulance chasers. And thanks, NASA, for killing our entire space program.



1. Stephen Smoogen - February 12, 2012

I don’t understand why everyone always blames NASA. NASA is an organization of many people of which NONE have any control over the amount of money they can spend or where they can get that money from. Even the high level bueracrats which finally announced “yeah we aren’t going to Mars anymore” only did so after years of doing anything but that in the face of the facts.

The fact is that the American public by and large does not want to go to Mars. It does not want to go to the Moon. It really doesn’t want to go into space at all because it doesn’t see how that makes them richer, better or more entertained. Heck they want every f’ing thing given to them, but they don’t want to pay a cent for it. And so when push comes to shove if it aint bread or circuses it will get cut. NASA scares most Americans because they are terrified about a satellite falling in their bedroom and write their congress critters to stop that (having seen some of the letters, emails, donations with letters etc.. it is just insane.)

The fact is that NASA has basically had to beg, borrow, lie and steal to do any Mars run since 1977. The only reason they got any launches lately has been because those little robots on Mars were able to pull enough heartstrings that cutting them got write-ins from kids and parents saying that was horrible. So they got a couple more launches, but only with so many strings attached that instead of a ton of little robots they could only do 1 big one every now and then.

So please don’t blame NASA, it is the messenger that we kill because it is convenient. They have made their share of mistakes and we can focus on them and not realize that we Americans are the culpable ones. We who believe in space have not done enough to engage and educate those who in their ignorance don’t know that the investments we made into NASA have given us so much of the “free ride” we enjoy. And in the end, we didn’t pull up stakes when we should have and found a place that wasn’t diving towards the Fall of the American Empire faster than a comet into the sun.

bobv451 - February 13, 2012

I can’t disagree that people don’t want to go to Mars or the Moon, but when we do they feel pride in an incredible achievement. Most people don’t want to do anything but make it to the end of the week and collect their paycheck.

My problem with NASA is just this: they should supply the vision. They should be our advocate since no one else will. von Braun had the vision and the expertise but the manned exploration process stopped with him. NASA has marked time since then and its triumphs have been almost in spite of itself.

But it’s that “vision thing” that’s lacking. Without it, why fund NASA at all?

Stephen Smoogen - February 13, 2012

Well NASA has done lots of “vision” items. There have been close to 8 projects to return to the moon, 4 to go to Mars, and at least 4 high orbital space station projects since the 1960’s. Each one has died a withering death of “how much will it cost, can you make it cost less, no one is going to die now, what can the moon do for us?” questions from various elected leaders, beuracrats, and writing campaigns.

Directors and spokespeople who try to go off the reservation with “We can have a working moonbase in 8 years.” quickly find themselves retired or spending all their time filling in congressional investigators into waste fraud and abuse. And immediately you get a new appointed director who drills into all that to make various investigating committees feel better. It doesn’t matter who is in the White House, doesn’t matter who is controlling Congress… the ball started rolling down hill years ago :/.

2. Stephen Smoogen - February 12, 2012

My apologies for the grumpiness. I spent last week explaining to several people that going to Mars was not part of Obamacare and having NASA not go there now wasn’t a defeat of that. [Or that we should defund NASA because it is what forces evolution in our classrooms.] When you have voters who lobby Congress with views like that…

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