May 20, 2013

Mind-Bogglingly Dull!

My son Rob wrote:
I was watching a documentary from National Geographic, titled "Evacuate Earth". The premise of that documentary is: A neutron star is heading towards Earth, and in 75 years the Earth will be destroyed, so we must evacuate the Earth, and leave our solar system entirely.

Unfortunately... Their solution is MIND-BOGGLINGLY-DULL!! And from a Catholic angle, down-right evil. Their solution to this hypothetical problem is the following:

Have all of the governments of the world bring all the scientific and engineering minds of the world together, and build one single Orion-style spaceship in one location, this single spaceship will be a little larger than Manhattan, and take 200,000 or so people out of our solar system.

While this ship is being built, the next step would be to have government bureaucrats travel the world, and carefully look for people with genetic diversity to put on this spaceship.

This idea is completely idiotic... The idea is dull and boring! It's something an early 20th century industrialist would have approved of! It's something that Henry Ford would have loved! It is something that Richard Branson might puke at...

There's almost no mention of bringing down the cost of launching vehicles into space through increase of volume of traffic. There's no talk of private industry like SpaceX, Bigelow Aerospace, or Virgin Galactic taking on some of the burden. (They did indeed mention private companies building spaceships in that documentary. But the one ship that was mentioned exploded on the launch pad. The message was clear: Don't trust private companies as they'll screw up, government workers know what they're doing!)

How fast do you think we could lower launch prices in the situation put forth in that documentary?

There was some talk about far-out technology that might be used for propulsion, but thankfully they decided on the most practical means of getting large numbers of people into space: Project Orion.

One giant spaceship, organized by well-meaning government agents to take a small number of people (0.0028% of the population of the Earth), launched from a central location to parts unknown.

What about the rest of humanity? T.S.? The small number of people who would be selected for this spaceship would need to be "genetically perfect" to coin a phrase. Eugenics is never a good thing, and in the end it always ends badly.

Building just one single spaceship is also incredibly stupid for another reason: What if some end-of-the-world terrorists get together and try to destroy the ship? They justify their actions by saying "No should be allowed to escape judgement day!" What then?

Why not have hundreds of smaller Orion ships, that can carry millions of people altogether? Why not allow people like Richard Branson to build a fleet of Orion-style spaceships? How many ships do you think that man will build to save god-only-knows how many people just to satisfy his own delusions of godhood if he had access to the nuclear material to build them and money was no longer an object?

Heaven-forbid they ask shipping companies for help in building large spaceships. Heaven-forbid they ask the cruise-line industry about entertainment on their one single large ship, or how to manage large numbers of people in a confined space... Heaven-forbid they consult with anyone from the private sector! Those icky people are just in it for the money, unlike the pure-of-heart, head-held-high, altruistic government bureaucrats.

It is maddeningly frustrating to watch something like this... It had so much potential, but it was squandered...

This really reminds me of those complaints that one hears from time to time, that America has lost her "greatness" because we no longer do things like the Apollo Program. That's pure Industrial Age thinking; big government puts on some razzle-dazzle extravaganza, a few people do something exciting, and the rest of us are just spectators. And that's what "national greatness" is. Pfooey!

Posted by John Weidner at May 20, 2013 6:47 PM

There would be no market for manned space flight w/o the government, John.

Posted by: Terry at May 22, 2013 12:09 AM

Hmm. didn't we go through this before?

No, government is the initial market for private spacecraft. With manned flights being necessary for jobs like ferrying astronauts to the ISS, or repairing satellites.

In a similar way many businesses on the frontier got started by supplying the US Army. (The Goldwater family of Arizona is one such.)

Lots of our current tech started with government programs. But as costs come down the private sector expands into that field, and the government share of the market becomes minor. That's what will happen with space.

Government paid for initial development of the Internet. (No liberals, government did NOT invent it. Govt paid a private company to do so.)

Posted by: John Weidner at May 22, 2013 6:16 AM
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