The Big Picture: Once Upon a Time in The Future

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Once Upon a Time in The Future

This week, Bob rants about the abandonment of the Space Shuttle program.

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Poor Bob.

It fell out of the media spotlight, Bob. That's all that happened. The media would rather give Justin Beiber a music award, or show pictures of racist right-wing idiots, or talk about how to shop safely on Black Friday.

I'm probably more at the bleeding heart end of the spectrum, but Bob, I gotta say you have balls to stand up for what you believe to be important. Thanks man.

actually, what happened to the space program is that the USA lack a competitor. The WW2 and the cold war with the USSR, as bad wars are, did give a big kick in the ass to the humanity. By fearing that the communist would populate the moon first, the USA push themselve over their limit and created the apollo program. Now that the focus is only on war against terrorist, that push is no longer there. I bet that if al-kaida was an actual country and that they were trying to go on mars first, chance are that the space program would be still nicely funded.

Bad move America, looks like it's up to Britian and the space S.A.S. to discover Prothean technology on mars. Don't worry, we'll share the discovery... for a price.

There's always the private sector and other nations. The Russians launched Garriot into space and got him back safe and sound.

I grew up wanting to go into space. When eyesight and other factors made it clear that I wasn't cut out for that life, I focused on writing about space instead.

Bob, I like you am glad that the luminaries of science fiction, from Heinlein to Roddenberry, are, for the most part, dead. This would sadden all of them. It certainly does me.

There are groups on Facebook and whatnot who are interested in seeing programs like Constellation continue. Unfortunately, we're a minority. Since we're not screaming racist epithets or ignorant insults at our current Commander in Chief, it's unlikely we'll be heard. This is a country where clever and smart television like Firefly, Better Off Ted and Rome have to knife-fight for their audience share while American Idol, Jersey Shore and Cougar Town make embarassingly large piles of money for people who don't give a damn about this planet or anybody on it save themselves, to say nothing of other planets that might sustain our population if we just put our minds to it instead of waiting for the next pandering, flickering image to come at us between advertisements.

The problem that the space program faces is a lack of tangible goals. The reason people used to care about NASA was because of the cold war, and the goal of NASA was to beat the soviets, and show American dominance and supremacy through science. Since the Soviet Union collapsed, the US hasn't had an enemy on the same technological level as us, so most people no longer care about progressing technology, unless it's being made by Apple.

The thing about people is that most of them have no foresight, and don't care about the future. This is the EXACT SAME reason for America's recent economic collapse, people not caring about the future, borrowing and spending money that they don't have, with a live now, care later kind of attitude.

When people don't have a direct, tangible goal for the future, they forget that the future even exists, which is why this program is being shut down. This is sad.

I do see your point Moviebob and agree.
I would even go as far as agreeing with the choice you made in the hypothetical World peace or colonization on mars in my life time.

I heard an excellent metaphor the other day: "NASA is a teacher at a preschool where the toddlers get to decide whether the teachers keep their jobs or not." That's what having to answer to the American taxpayers and budget-writers is like.

Incidentally, I did some arithmetic one time after NASA had endured yet another round of budget cuts ("cuts" as in "we just cut off your leg, now go run a marathon to prove we shouldn't cut off the other one") and discovered that NASA's bloated, wasteful budget cost me a whopping... quarter. Yeah, if my taxes weren't paying for them, I could buy an extra instance of Damage Protection at my local video rental place.

Public Broadcasting is another favorite scapegoat of people who don't want to cut the actual fat from the budget.

But you know what? I think that if Clarke and his kin were still around, they might actually have done something to prevent this nightmare. People get everything they know from the media these days, and popular sci-fi about space travel would be better at keeping the public interested than any actual education or science ever would.

I'm confused. I'm pretty sure Bob had admitted to watching the Colbert Report, and yet he doesn't seem to know that the guy harped on it back when the cancellation was announced months ago? I feel the need to use a Die Hard line here: "Welcome to the party pal." I'll then follow it up with, "There's fashionably late and missing the wagon." Still, its true that public interest in current space programs has waned quite a bit. Even my nephews would rather just sling webs than fly in space. I mean, being Spider-Man would be awesome, but I'd take the Enterprise over it anyday (unless its an NX class, in which case I'll leave it to the Duchess and his/her 'crew').

Ever since I was 6 I dreamed of going to the stars, sadly that will have to remain a dream for the time being. I don't mind other countries going ahead with their space programs and seeing what wonderful things they could come up with (hopefully they'll let a couple of Americans in on the party provided we have some good tools to back them up)

Aw :(.
And just as we here in sweden are finally getting our own stuff underway.
I'm honestly sad that this would happen, as to me space has been a constant fascination since childhood. And in my more mature eyes, I find the whole idea of space-exploration to have the potential to continue being the single greatest human endevour in modern history.
Since it's one of few that doesn't just end with us trying to kill each other.

And space is fancy stuff.

AjimboB:
The problem that the space program faces is a lack of tangible goals. The reason people used to care about NASA was because of the cold war, and the goal of NASA was to beat the soviets, and show American dominance and supremacy through science. Since the Soviet Union collapsed, the US hasn't had an enemy on the same technological level as us, so most people no longer care about progressing technology, unless it's being made by Apple.

The thing about people is that most of them have no foresight, and don't care about the future. This is the EXACT SAME reason for America's recent economic collapse, people not caring about the future, borrowing and spending money that they don't have, with a live now, care later kind of attitude.

When people don't have a direct, tangible goal for the future, they forget that the future even exists, which is why this program is being shut down. This is sad.

I've always thought the best goal for space travel is so that when the time comes, humanity wont be destroyed by our sun going nova on us.

Humanity as whole has this preposterous idea that the world's problems can be solved. Hunger, sickness, war, poverty these things have always existed and they will continue till the Apocalypse of mankind. Man is too different and diverse for any of these problems to actually disappear. What we need to do is just make sure that our own people are safe and continue to advance as civilization. In America, can anyone tell me a major scientific breakthrough that actually advanced our society forward? Yeah sure we got a black prez. Whoopee not caring but I guess that is the problem with America these days is that we are so ignorant of other things and have ended up creating a vacuuum u pour arses that our heads are so deep in the rest of the world continues to either hate or laugh at us for stupidity. When I was younger I read that we got man on the moon I was like wow i the span of about 20 years we went from sub-orbit to the moon. I was thinking well by that logic we should be able to have people living on the moon by the time I start drinking. Sadly we know this is not to be true. I is things like this that makes me lose my faith in this once great country and want to move out of country.
/rant
Im gonna go cry in a corner now I cant take this anymore.

The main problm with cities on Mars Bob is we lack terraforming technology to make Mars and the Moon places worth living on. Overall I share ur regret over humanity seeming to be in a tech slump where we try to make a ever cooler cell phones while other dream techs get no time. Sadly much like before we probably need a war to galvenize tech to go forward again, as long as its not nuclear.

I don't have much to add, most of the above posts seems to be covering a lot of the bases, but I just wanted to say: Thank you! This was the first time I actually heard someone express this point of view publicly.

I was unaware of this, and now feel kind of bummed.

Sure, like you said, we got a lot of problems on this planet that we should try to work towards fixing, but shit.. Space exploration and colonization is supposed to be the future, the next big step for humanity and not something to throw aside.

Bleh, like i said, i feel bummed ;(

I get where you're coming from Bob, but can you honestly say You wouldn't jump at the chance to compete on Who Wants To Go Into Space?
Besides getting the Star Trek future means a Third World War and if I can't fight Nazis, it just ain't worth it.

Darks63:
The main problm with cities on Mars Bob is we lack terraforming technology to make Mars and the Moon places worth living on. Overall I share ur regret over humanity seeming to be in a tech slump where we try to make a ever cooler cell phones while other dream techs get no time. Sadly much like before we probably need a war to galvenize tech to go forward again, as long as its not nuclear.

It's still worth a go.

In my opinion the age of space exploration is over. The new science frontier, in my heavily biochemistry studying view, is the human genome and genetic technology. Look at a DNA molecule, that's the future.

EDIT: also giving a highly biased view of "scientists" not all of us work on making your ipods smaller. That's the fields of physics (and even then not all of physics anyway.)

2000th post as well. Rather glad it was biology themed.

Wow, lots of anger in this one. I'm sad that the program is over, but I soon got over it. My guess is that it will eventually be revived, but for now people have much more important things to worry about.

The only thing I do now about this subject is accept the truth and get over it.

It's hard for me to give a shit about the space program with the economy still mostly in the shitter. I'm not waiting for world peace or a cure for every disease to make space exploration a possibility but in terms of priorities, space isn't too high up there for me. It seems that most politicians seem to agree.

I'd rather see money for NASA going to slightly more tangible and (perhaps) immediate goals like changing the way we go about creating energy.

I didn't even know that this happened, and now that I do I'm simultaneously pissed off and disappointed.
I thought that the colonization plans, or the precursor to them were on track. And now they're not?
Screw the problems on the Earth, in fact screw the Earth, I want to live on Mars. This should be top priority number 1, our future is beyond Earth, and for now we're all still stuck on it.

Onyx Oblivion:
Poor Bob.

It fell out of the media spotlight, Bob. That's all that happened. The media would rather give Justin Beiber a music award, or show pictures of racist right-wing idiots, or talk about how to shop safely on Black Friday.

This probably has something to do with it too.
If more people cared about the space program, or even knew about it, Constellation might actually have been a possibility, if people got pissed about this, it might continue.
But the majority of pop-culture at large would rather focus on the stupid shit.

We've been to the moon and lost interest because we found nothing of value.

That's pretty much it. Space became boring because there was nothing in it for us. Sure, there is likely precious metal and other resources throughout the cosmos, but good luck getting at any of it. At present, reaching the moon is the best we can hope for and getting there and back safely is still dicey. Much less setting up colonies on other celestial bodies.

Take my word for it, this will never happen unless a gold deposit is found. Only then will space travel become interesting again. The television show Ice Road Truckers are not delivering supplies to a bunch of hippies living in peace and harmony. They are delivering to a diamond mine. Unless similar materials of value are found and a stellar gold rush ensues, space exploration will move forward very slowly, if at all. It is too costly and ultimately uninteresting to do for its own sake.

I'm something of a scifi fan, and I think space travel is boring. As boring as regular travel, if not more so. That is simply the reality of it. It was interesting for a while when it was thought impossible. Now that it has been not only done but done routinely, that is exactly what it is: routine.

The current generation has grown to maturity when space travel has been routine and boring. It has not been exciting since the first Columbia mission in 1981. (Or maybe the Challenger disaster in 1986) Since then, it's been utterly uninteresting. Young adults today regard it as noteworthy as the bus. (Despite the Columbia disaster in 2003)

Maybe if new craft had been designed and launched, instead of the same boring shuttle with different names stenciled on them, interested could have been buoyed. But, it hasn't.

Personally, I do not care about the billions of dollars spent on the space program nor do I think that is money better spend elsewhere. I find the space program boring regardless. That really doesn't matter.

Frankly, at this point, the fans of space travel are into it for it's own sake, and anything that exists for its own sake is liable to die an unlamented death when people lose interest.

Interest was bolstered in the 60's with the idea of beating the Russians, but once the cold war ended and nationalism has waned, what kept it afloat? What keeps it afloat for those who care?

Jesus Phish:

AjimboB:
The problem that the space program faces is a lack of tangible goals. The reason people used to care about NASA was because of the cold war, and the goal of NASA was to beat the soviets, and show American dominance and supremacy through science. Since the Soviet Union collapsed, the US hasn't had an enemy on the same technological level as us, so most people no longer care about progressing technology, unless it's being made by Apple.

The thing about people is that most of them have no foresight, and don't care about the future. This is the EXACT SAME reason for America's recent economic collapse, people not caring about the future, borrowing and spending money that they don't have, with a live now, care later kind of attitude.

When people don't have a direct, tangible goal for the future, they forget that the future even exists, which is why this program is being shut down. This is sad.

I've always thought the best goal for space travel is so that when the time comes, humanity wont be destroyed by our sun going nova on us.

See, that's the problem. What you're describing isn't a tangible goal, because the sun exploding is SOO far off that no one in the world can care to think that far ahead.

Even a goal like "manned mission to Mars within 20 years" is difficult for most people to grasp. People want their goals to be baby steps, yet at the same time, to somehow be significant, which is the basic problem faced by the space program, because the baby steps seem insignificant to people who don't understand the principles behind space travel, yet are fundamentally necessary for the final goal.

WorkerMurphey:
It's hard for me to give a shit about the space program with the economy still mostly in the shitter. I'm not waiting for world peace or a cure for every disease to make space exploration a possibility but in terms of priorities, space isn't too high up there for me. It seems that most politicians seem to agree.

I'd rather see money for NASA going to slightly more tangible and (perhaps) immediate goals like changing the way we go about creating energy.

If people had thought like you throughout history, every great venture would have been killed off before it had even started.

As I said in the comments to Russ's article, our culture today is run by accountants. And one thing that all accountants have in common? NOT ONE OF THEM ever accomplished anything remembered in the history books.

You want to know why no one cares about space anymore? Because when we went to the moon you know what we found? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Because of that, we got bored with space, hell, the only reason we went to the moon in the first place was because the Russians beat us to orbit and we had to one-up them somehow.

So no making out with blue skinned space ladies in my lifetime?

We need to make some serious headway on the environmental issues before we try to build cities on Luna. I'm not saying that because space travel is less important since there is nothing more important than expansion for the long-term survival of a species. It's just that the technology we invent to fix shit down here is the same technology that's going to put those cities on Mars. We shouldn't waste our time going there if we're not prepared to actually do something once we arrive. Putting humans on Mars right now would be completely pointless.

I don't understand how asking for proof of where Obama was born is racist. You have to be born in the US to be president, no matter what color your skin is.

You could argue that isn't been asked and answered, or is no longer in question. That's fine. Argue that the burden of proof has been met. No problem. But racist for asking? That's just plain lazy. "I don't like that you ask those questions, so I'm going to just call you a racist, and hope that you go away."

Kudos Bob.

Regardless of what anyone else has to say about the economy, homelessness, illness, feeding the hungry, etc the only way to get (North) America any better is to start building things again. The highest level of which is the space program.

Yes, it's expensive. Yes it has limited practical (profitable) results. But the budget for NASA was such a small portion of the overall US budget to cut this kills kids dreams. Maybe it's just a recent parent talking here but when I was my son's age, we were still walking on the moon. By the time the Enterprise did it's test flight off the back of a 747 I wanted to fly one. By the first shuttle launch, I wanted to work at NASA doing something anything so I could be a part of the space program. I fear that losing this interest for the next generation will do more for hurting the economy, homelessness, illnesses, etc.

Thems my two bits.

While I agree with a lot of what you are saying, Bob. (Although, I'm not sure how space travel and world peace interfere with each other in the first place...) I have to disagree with the part where you say that humanity hasn't given you any special measure of kindness.

Your JOB is to rant on the internet. You don't get to complain! ;)

I've been thinking about this sort of thing for awhile. It's funny actually, I was planning on starting a thread on this very issue, what with the shuttle being taken down and all.

It is sad, considering we don't really have an indefinite future on this planet. If we continue to treat it like somebody else's problem, we're going to find ourselves on a planet like "WALL-E" and no Axiom to run away in. Of course, if it comes to that, it may be the kick in the pants the human race needs to get up there. But then that's probably just as sad.

So sad. How about some music to cheer everyone up?

Keep looking up, and eventually we'll have no choice but to follow our gaze.

JoeyMousepadd:
I don't understand how asking for proof of where Obama was born is racist. You have to be born in the US to be president, no matter what color your skin is.

You could argue that isn't been asked and answered, or is no longer in question. That's fine. Argue that the burden of proof has been met. No problem. But racist for asking? That's just plain lazy. "I don't like that you ask those questions, so I'm going to just call you a racist, and hope that you go away."

Sure, and every WHITE president has had a bunch of mouth-breathers asking whether he was born in Sweden, Scotland, or Croatia.

Oh, wait, that didn't happen.

But the first time a black man takes office, it JUST SO HAPPENS... Sure, buddy. Lemme guess, you start every other sentence with "I'm not a racist, but..."

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