Editor's Note: No More Space Stations

No More Space Stations

The very drive that sent humans into space has, ironically, created a world in which space travel is no longer remarkable - but Russ Pitts wants his space stations, just the same.

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I share your love of the unknown and I hope that we as a race don't ever stop trying to break new boundaries. Space travel is every bit as remarkable as it ever was, and putting people on the moon is still astoundingly difficult. I see our current status as a massive fall from a golden age of scientific endeavors, people who claim that space travel, or attempts to travel to other planets, or to other solar systems are wasted money in the light of current events ought to remember that our first trip to the moon prompted scientific research that greatly contributed to the computer (let's hear you call THAT wasted money).

"China - widely recognized as the biggest, current, potential long-term threat to Westernized Democracy"

lol yeah... just because they're the biggest, doesn't mean they are big...

like sure, they are BIG enough IF THEY WANTED TO. but they don't.

I mean the US has been the biggest, current, potential long-term threat to eastern communism for half a century, that doesn't mean they started a war with china just for the fun of it...

and another thing, as you say, they've already been to the moon. call me when china goes to mars.

and I say, bring on another cold war. single greatest driver of technological development and human endeavor in recent history.

I'd rather go out in a dooms day fire with humanity pushing it's self to the limit, than sitting here as a species stagnating, tweaking our iTunes playlists...

at least medical research is still going strong.

I love space, even though it scares me at the same time. Most of my day dreams involve space in some way and I don't want that to change any time soon. I know I'll never get into space myself, so my dreams have to make do.

See you space cowboy.

Russ Pitts:
Editor's Note: No More Space Stations

The very drive that sent humans into space has, ironically, created a world in which space travel is no longer remarkable - but Russ Pitts wants his space stations, just the same.

Read Full Article

It does break the heart how flimsy the aspirations of our children are. I teach middle school, so I can corroborate what that study found. In our celebrity-obsessed culture, kids want to be rich and famous. Professional athletes, singers (rappers)... even the "nerds" want to be video game designers or computer animators. "Everyone wants to get into the act," so to speak.

I, too, remember a time when kids based their dreams on how "cool" a job looked, rather than on how much money or fame it commanded. Firefighters, policemen, teachers, important jobs. And if you look at it, it's not that different now--kids wanted (and still want) to be the things they look up to the most.

In the history of forever, kids haven't changed a single bit. They still learn the same way, try the same things, and generally function in an identical way as caveman toddlers once did. Kids haven't changed. Parents have changed. Culture has changed. We're so obsessed with entertainment, and it colors our entire culture. The kids growing up in that culture learn that obsession earlier and earlier each generation. All play and no work makes the future for our kids very hollow.

The only thing that's going to get the result you're looking for is a major change of culture. We have to break the cycle: People demand to be entertained, the market provides, the people consume, the market learns what sells best and saturates the market with it, and the people's tastes become increasingly superficial to match... and still they demand to be entertained. It's a chicken-egg standoff, and I'm not sure who has to move first or how. Will people start demanding more from their entertainment in a culture that has taught them that sit-and-consume is worthwhile entertainment? Will the media suddenly abandon the profitable method of pushing entertainment distilled down to the lowest common denominator? Will celebrities finally decide they're tired of being famous for being famous?

Any movement of this sort has to come from the people... but the people are held entranced by mass media, robbed of the knowledge of their power to change it. If we're to have any hope, the change has to start with the kids, as cliché as that sounds. But how? They spend less than 12% of their lives in school (and that includes bathroom time). They spend more time sleeping than that. The parents are, by and large, products of the very system we're hoping to shake up, so they're not much help en masse.

(It's sad when the best-working model for how to effectively change a culture from the ground up comes from the worst human being on record. Hitler knew full well, you take the kids out of the current culture, and you have tabula rasa. You can craft a new culture (for good or ill) and plant those seeds firmly. And then, of course, you can use the media to keep it entrenched for as long as you please.)

As a culture, we're losing our imagination. Anything that involves imagination is labelled childish, and we shun it. As a result, kids (who want more than anything to be like adults) are dropping it, too. Fame and money are the golden calves, and anything else is cast aside as stupid and useless. The more generations that pass, the harder it will be for us to ignite any sort of imagination--the media will just turn it into a product, and the people will demand to be entertained.

(Pro Tip: Rome had to fall. That might just be what it takes.)

Russ Pitts:
snip

Hey, I still have ambitions of being an astronaut. Just because I'm hedging my bets on a degree that will help me out on the off-chance I don't actually become an officer in the Air Force, get a pilot slot, achieve rapid promotion, get selected to be a test-pilot, and then get hired by NASA (or Space-X, the rate they're going), doesn't mean I'm not still aiming for that goal. :)

But I disagree with the notion that flying in space is becoming trivial. Nothing about using several tons of liquid explosive to launch you at Mach 23 is trivial.

I think the reason interest in space travel (and pretty much anything else important) is waning is because most people are exposed to the 24-hour news cycle that blows up every single story, and real news gets lost in the noise. Jon Stewart put it best when he was interviewed by MSNBC's Rachael Maddow: "How do you think you guys would handle the Moon landings today? Would it be possible to give them MORE coverage than Balloon Boy?" And it's true. They pump up so many stories on slow news days, that when actual news happens, they can't possibly cover it any more than anything else.

Shuttle Launches are reduced to a footnote on the bottom of the screen, and maybe 5 minutes of Live coverage, while some ridiculous story, like Kanye West interrupting Taylor Swift gets analyzed by every single news person on staff.

Blame Politics.

It's like this, right now you have those Baby Boomers and their left wing idealogy in control of the media. The general attitude that they sell is "we shouldn't be worrying about space, when we have problems to solve down here on earth". Of course the left wing is great at identifying problems, but not so great at solving them. The world copes with things like overpopulation, resource shortages, and other problems, for which there is no easy solution, and most certainly no moral ones.

Space Travel is a rational solution to a lot of problems down here on earth, the fact that we can use it to obtain more resources and living space can solve a lot of the problems we have right now. According to some things I've read, we can terraform mars, and probes already have determined there are mineral resources there ripe for exploitation (hence all the science fiction about Martian mining operations). Of course this would take decades, or even centuries of work, especially the terraforming aspects of the thing. A good reason to get started.

For those who have read this far (a lot of people don't like it when I say bad things about the left wing), understand that today there is a tendency to outright mock "the greatest generation" and their rational approach to things. Busting on the culture of the 1950s with it's more right wing, logical, and competitive world view is pretty common. Indeed games like "Fallout" are giant mockeries of the entire period and it's mentality when you get down to it. In "New Vegas" for example you have a space museum where it's revealed that the objective of one pre-war corperation was to build a fleet of space ships piloted by robots to gather resources from the rest of the solar system. It's presented in the most ridiculous context possible however, with the entire idea being mocked.

Ditto for the entire anti-Communist stance throughout the "Fallout" games where the entire thing is poked fun at and presented as ridiculous. Doubtlessly coming from the fact that the vocal 50% of the population who control the media see no real problem with either communism or socialism. Of course this attitude means that those people are not at all alarmed by the idea of a "Chinese Space Program" despite everything, and don't have the kind of competitive fire. They would rather take the money from things like the military and space programs and funnel it into social issues that cannot be morally resolved, and will simply continue to get worse with the expanding population.

The basic point here is that the Baby Boomers who are calling the shots basically conditioned the kids we're hearing about according tot heir own mentality. These guys are
the hippies and radicals of yesterday. A lot of criticisms about the Baby Boomers and their mentality and morality have been made, but you rarely hear them in the media. As these are the guys running the media, writing the books, and similar things they are the ones who more or less decide what you get to hear, what's presented as right and wrong, and of course decide how those who came before are generally going to be portrayed.

Simply put, I think what we need to see is a massive rebellion against the Baby Boomers and their principles. Embracing an idealogy similar to that of the so called "Greatest Generation" (updated for current times of course), and by that I don't mean a satire of it, might be "wrong" by liberal standards but is likely to get things done that need to be done. That's what's going to get us into space again and make the US more competitive.

As far as the dreams of kids go, I've read similar things, and again that comes down to who is running the media (despite denials of it) and setting a lot of societal policy. One of the problems with an educational system based on "self validation" rather than competition and performance is that there is little being tossed at kids to get them to seperate fantasy from reality, and realize what's practical and what isn't. Today's educational system isn't likely to force a reality check on some older kid who wants to be a professional Athlete, but actually encourage that dream until it's too late. It it's like decades past and those "unlikely hero" sports stories, with today's testing and all the attention paid, the kids who actually have a chance of that are identified REALLY quickly. Ditto for when it comes to academic achievement. Even if it's in kindergarden, I think the entire "I want to be a superhero" thing and similar stuff needs to be discouraged as well. Establishing a line between reality and fantasy (all kids movies and such aside) is especially important, especially given the increasing capablities of our young (each generation surpassing the former in capabilities slightly). If you encourage that kind of thing, I think it's going to lead to problems with detachment from reality that we're facing today, where we have kids killing people and stuff without realizing the repurcussions (a big part of this is that with increasing capabilities, kids are smarter even if immature, and capable of things that previous generations weren't).

Advancements in space technology will be most handy when our alien forefathers return to harvest us, but I also long for man to join hands with the lost Merlantians, under the sea. If we could find means of long term existence under water, wouldn't earth orbit space dwelling be a piece of cake?

Ah Russ, you are listing my broken hopes and dreams. My new hope is that a China-India space race actually yields something profitable (a friend of mine has researched asteroid mining) which will spur everyone else to participate. A new space race built on free enterprise and scientific advancement, and not political ideology or militarism. A man can dream, can't he?

Therumancer:
Simply put, I think what we need to see is a massive rebellion against the Baby Boomers and their principles.

That already happened in the 1980s when the hippies sold out and the yuppies took over. Turns out greed-oriented right-wingers don't see any short-term profit motive in exploring space either. And their allies in the religious right think the End Times are only a few decades away, why would they care either?

If you look at the roster of space tourists and current advocates of space travel, who are they? The government of the People's Republic of China, a half-dozen extremely wealthy IT entrepreneurs, some Iranian-American venture capitalists, the founder and CEO of Cirque de Soleil, and a gay boy-band singer (though Lance Bass never actually got into space). I'll add Warren Ellis, since his graphic novel Orbiter was one of the most heartfelt pleas in support of space exploration I've ever read. This group doesn't easily fit into your simplistic dichotomy.

Falseprophet:
Ah Russ, you are listing my broken hopes and dreams. My new hope is that a China-India space race actually yields something profitable (a friend of mine has researched asteroid mining) which will spur everyone else to participate. A new space race built on free enterprise and scientific advancement, and not political ideology or militarism. A man can dream, can't he?

Therumancer:
Simply put, I think what we need to see is a massive rebellion against the Baby Boomers and their principles.

That already happened in the 1980s when the hippies sold out and the yuppies took over. Turns out greed-oriented right-wingers don't see any short-term profit motive in exploring space either. And their allies in the religious right think the End Times are only a few decades away, why would they care either?

If you look at the roster of space tourists and current advocates of space travel, who are they? The government of the People's Republic of China, a half-dozen extremely wealthy IT entrepreneurs, some Iranian-American venture capitalists, the founder and CEO of Cirque de Soleil, and a gay boy-band singer (though Lance Bass never actually got into space). I'll add Warren Ellis, since his graphic novel Orbiter was one of the most heartfelt pleas in support of space exploration I've ever read. This group doesn't easily fit into your simplistic dichotomy.

Well, the problem is that we're dealing with fringe groups because of whom isn't in power.

What's more, I don't think there was ever a "Yuppie Takeover". What you actually saw was a bunch of hippies "selling out" under the belief that the best way to change the world and promote their ideals was to get into the positions of power themselves. This is how you wound up with so many liberals setting policy through buisiness and politics.

The thing is that this was viable because "The Builders" as they were dubbed were simply getting too old, people didn't live as long. They needed to pass the torch, and couldn't keep these people out (so to speak). Exactly the opposite of what has happened with "Generation X" which has been skipped over on any kind of massive, societal scale. That's why we're "The Lost Generation".

A lot of left wingers are going to point fingers at things like short-term profits, but the bottom line is that a lot of those guys who are in power would rather invest the money in social issues, rather than engage in any kind of long term investment the way previous generations were willing to think. Again it comes down to a principle of "we have problems on planet earth right now, why do we need billion dollar space toilets?".

Even today's greedy elite aren't involved purely because of a lack of short term profitability. Heck, space technology involves a great chance of holding tomorrow's "Microsoft" like pseudo-monopolies. The problem is that despite everything people aren't stupid enough to give big business this kind of technology. The limitations prevent too many private sector companies from wanting to get involved, keeping it in the hands of fringe investors and the like who seem to spend as much time fighting regulation as anything.

Especially to begin with space travel really needs to be handled by goverments, and it's really an issue for tax dollars. While private companies could quite probably make a lot of progress, they would be impossible to police effectively. You'd probably spend as much money trying to watch these guys and regulate them as you would spend yourself.

Not to mention the whole issue of say corperations providing rocket technology to a lot of differant nations. Right now one of the things keeping the WMD problem down is that very few nations have the technoogy to deliver payloads internationally. Anything that could be used to put a weapon into space, could also be used to say deliver a missle carrying a biological weapon or something into the middle of the US. This is why you see say... Iranian investors, and exactly why goverments are less than enthusiastic about such things.

What's more just imagine if some private group of capitolists, or a mega-corperation managed to build a space platform while ignoring the international pitfalls, and then revealed it was aiming missles at the planet and now in charge.

Not to mention the ridiculous seeming plot of an old James Bond movie, where a terrorist organization manages to get a hold of space technology and builds their own ship to go around stealing the ships of other nations.

Such things have to be tightly controlled, and only once we have an infrastructure in place and policing abillity should any kind of "private" sector development get involved. I don't care how "nice" people seem at the moment... for every dude who might really love space and want to work on this, there is probably some grinning psychopath who is more than willing to come up with the money so he can make my examples above seem like "My Little Pony".

Also, a lot of those same reasons are why I feel nations like the US need to compete in order to get there first (so to speak). I've also been of the opinion for a while that we not only need those "next gen shuttles" but that I think we might very well want to get together with some of our allies, pull out of the UN, and make one of our priorities keeping nations like China "planet locked" until we either achieve a world unity or they change signifigantly. I for one don't think the nation responsible for "Death Vans" (I could post a link again if needed) should have any kind of spacecraft capable of reaching the moon. Largely because of what kinds of things they can (and probably would) put on the moon, or even the ship itself. I'm thinking the US/UK and other nations should pretty much shoot down anything breaking the atmosphere from China as a matter of course. Arm some shuttles and intercept anything that launches or whatever. Unfair maybe, but if you read much about China I can think of few things scarier than that goverment/culture with spacecraft, even just orbital ones.

The way I see it, things started going down-hill the second we let accountants run our societies. Everything is about short term gain, and the only question ever asked is "cui bono?". Politicians kowtow to the whims of the electorate's wallets, and nothing grand is ever ventured. If it doesn't buy some investment banker, junk bond floater, or hedge fund manager his second yacht, it isn't green-lighted any more.

Had an accountant been the King of Spain in 1492, Columbus never would have set sail. Had JFK thought like somebody working at AIG or Goldman Sachs, there wouldn't have been a space programme to speak of. Etc etc. Accountants and lawyers are usually small-minded people (the German word "Krämerseele" - "monger's soul" hits the nail on the head), so they will never understand concepts like honour or glory, or the idea of bold risk-taking. Well, as long as it isn't with other people's money, and the tax-payers bail their bonuses out anyway. "To boldly go..."? Please. Nowadays, it's "show me the money".

Short term profit. It's all anybody cares for these days. In a way, I am glad that middle schoolers want to become athletes - at least, becoming a pro footballer or olympian usually requires dedication, commitment, excellence and even sacrifice.

We are truly screwed as a society once the middle schoolers say that they want to grow up to be corporate lawyers or investment bankers.

Space marine games don't make people more interested in science or space exploration. They make people more interested in being a grunt in the armed forces and shooting people.

Your note brought a tear to my eye.

Ahh, I remember those days. Back when /science/math nerd was a trendy goal. I miss that.

synthpoplove:
Your note brought a tear to my eye.

Glad I wasn't the only one.

I'm reminded of that tidbit in that movie, 'Interstate 60' I think? In which a character says that the reason the world is crazy is because people run out of frotiers to go to. Before, people who were unhappy could always go to the unexplored regions, travel west and try to make their own rules, or die trying ("that's how all the crazy people ended up in California"). Nowadays the entire world is mapped so we crazy people have nowhere to run from. So we end up doing silly things like 4chan raids and Sealand.

The day space travel becomes commonplace and the world needs a few crazy people to go spend the rest of their lives in an asteroid across the universe is the day things start to get normal as well.

I hate to rain on your parade but the Greatest generation was able to launch a man onto the moon by underfunding urban and mostly minority attended schools, deny the public a universal healthcare system (the only first world nation to do so), use illegal tactics to undermine political and social groups like the Student Non-Violence Coalition, the American Indian Movement, the Black Panthers as well as destroy the lives of thousands of people who did not conform through the COINTELPRO programs run by the FBI.

I can understand how a middle class white person growing up in the suburbs can find inspiration from the past generations achievements but as a a minority whose family witnessed the horrors of CIA backed coup d'etat's in the South and Central Americas and the discrimination of the IMF that used unfair loans to undermine our economies I find no inspiration in the cold, radiation filled vacuum of space.

Space exploration...the words of the resident Nobel Laureate ring in my ears: what has it actually accomplished? The ISS is (arguably) humanity's greatest achievement in terms of technology and engineering, yet we have learned nothing from it. Meanwhile, a few rovers on Mars collected tons of data for mere peanuts (comparatively speaking). I hate to say this, but there is considerable resistance in the scientific community to space travel, at least in the old ranks. That doesn't mean it's not something worth aspiring to, even if it is for the sole purpose of having a huge "We Fucking Did It!" parade.
Believe me, I would love nothing more than to retire on a space station orbiting Jupiter in 60-ish years, but I really don't see it happen. Want to blame somebody? Blame the idiots who squander money, blame the military, blame teachers, blame politicians, but please for the love of the almighty Atheios, try to fix it.

Heh, I bet the Chinese pilots manage to 'accidentally' knock over the American flag. I know I would, if I had the chance.

What a destructive generation we live in. I blame video games.

But yeah, Space has become boring. Like a movie advertised too long before release, everyone has built up the idea in their imaginations so much that reality simply fails to deliver. Our cutting-edge technology seems outdated compared to popular culture.

Once we get faster-than-light speeds or wormholes or whatever - THEN come talk to me. The siren lure of space exploration will sing us all to our vacuum graves.

You're making me feel old now. Actually, I've been feeling the push when I starting going back to conventions. Well, it's not like this is anything new; I remember watching the movie "Apollo 13" when the one of the people mention how boring traveling to the moon was. I also remember how Dennis Miller invited Tom Hanks to his show and talk about their differences over the whole space program.

Rage against the dying light.

 

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