June 8, 2012

Bravo 308, or, Why I Hate Astronauts, Part Two...

Of course I don't really hate them. How silly of you to think so. I'm just trying to make a point and get your attention... (Again with thanks to Terry, at the previous post. I create pearls because of such gritty commenters.)

Anyway, I think people get muddled in their thinking about space, because they imagine that going to places like Mars or the Moon must be giant one-swoop affairs, where a huge rocket takes off from Canaveral, sheds several stages, and then proceeds on to Mars or Venus. Then heroic cosmonauts pick up some rocks, and reverse the process to get back home. Voila, a great moment in human history. Worthless little rabbits like us are awestruck that we are can witness such heroics on our TV's.

But there's a different way such explorings and what-nots might work out. Think about Antarctic exploration and science. Imagine that SF State University (next door to me) wants to do research in Antarctica. Do they build a ship? Stuff it with all necessities? Train some heroic Antarctic-nauts in simulators, to prepare them for the severe conditions? And do they then set sail for the antipodes all on their own?

Of course not. They pack a few boxes of gear and fly to New Zealand in comfort. Then, in a bit less comfort, they take take a C-17 to... Tah dah! MacMurdo Station, our Antarctic base. Where they will find bunkhouses and chow-halls, gyms, a bowling alley, and even a chapel. Plus helicopters and crawly-machines galore. And, especially, they find expert staff who will assist them in whatever crazy things they are doing.

I think that's what future space doings will be like. IF (the big if, the cosmic if...) IF we can get the cost of getting stuff up into orbit to maybe a tenth of what the Space Shuttle costs. Then we will soon see bases in orbit. How will that happen? Who knows. But there will space hotels for sure, and they will need permanent staff. There will be lots more satellites and space telescopes, needing servicing from time to time. Cripples who can afford it will want to move to space, where they can be fully mobile in zero gravity. There will develop a population. Things will start to percolate, and the result will be somethings like MacMurdo. The starting point for a thousand-and-one different projects. The base camp.

Think about all the fools who climb Mt Everest. (There were lines recently, leading to some deaths. Lunacy.) Well, that is very expensive. Comparable to what I suspect a trip to space will cost soon. Think of all the fools who buy huge yachts. They will be able soon to go to space soon, for comparable expenditure, and more prestige. All of these things will lead to people living in space to facilitate this stuff. Living in space-shacks and shanty-towns. Making homes out of empty fuel tanks and cargo containers.

How do I know about what happens in the Antarctic? Because an old family friend, Sandwich Girl, works at MacMurdo every winter (which is the Antarctic summer). Pictures here. Here's a bit from her blog...

sandwichgirl.com » Blog Archive » i'm back!:

...oh hi antarctica. It's me, sandwich.

i came down to the ice this season for winfly,* an early deployment that comes in august to help open the station for mainbody*. for 6 weeks, i worked in the BFC* getting gear ready and together for science groups. the night sky has been spectacular, the nacreous clouds incredible, the temperatures colder than i ever remember (-80F windchill? really!?), and the work has been busy and fun.

winfly has been mellow, but not boring. i've been working on some silly things for the craft fair, went on some walks, visited the pressure ridges*, took a nodwell* to castle rock, blew bubbles in -40F (they turn to a shredded papery substance), organized a balsa man antarctic regional event, re-created the bowling alley, chainsawed holes in the ice, watched the movie "the room" (wow. just wow), and saw a face-melting concert by colorful and talented local folk. mcmurdo, you are an excellent village full of wonderful people.

now is the time when winterovers leave, and the rest of the summer crew arrives in droves. this year is interesting, since there is a lack of bedspace in christchurch nz due to the massive quake last february. passenger flights come south only twice a week, instead of every other day. my science team, Bravo 308, arrived a couple days ago, so i have since moved from the BFC to the lab to help things get ready for our fishing season. [The scientists are studying fish.] i'll be here until mid-december. looking forward to more fun and fish, but until then, trainings....

Here's our friend...

Allie in Antartica
Posted by John Weidner at June 8, 2012 8:23 PM
Weblog by John Weidner