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How do you feel about NASA?

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Steve Parker
Posted on Thursday, August 11, 2005 - 12:42 am:   

I'm not an American, so it's not my taxes that are getting used, but in the interest of prompting more activity on this board, I'd like to ask the following question:

How do you feel about funding for NASA?

I was delighted to watch the shuttle landing live on CNNj (I live in Japan). The sadness of past tragedies is still there, of course, but I find myself in support of the continuation of manned mission (so long as safety is the absolute highest priority).

How about it?
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Jim Van Pelt
Posted on Thursday, August 11, 2005 - 06:54 am:   

I read some interesting statistics on NASA funding and how paltry it is compared to where we spend money elsewhere. It's depressing.

Of course, I'm a school teacher, so I'm used to paltry, depressing funding.
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Steve Parker
Posted on Thursday, August 11, 2005 - 07:28 am:   

As far as I know, NASA have been seeing nothing but bugdet cuts for years on end. That's particularly sad considering the way that people in foreign countries idolise and love NASA above any other US government institution.

When I asked my students (I teach English to businesspeople in Tokyo) to tell me about a news story this week, all they could talk about was the Discovery landing!
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Tivo
Posted on Thursday, August 11, 2005 - 08:29 am:   

The sad thing about NASA is that they seem too afraid to articulate any goal besides spending zillions of dollars to say - we came, we took pictures - we left. I'm a die-hard people in space proponent but I used to turn green watching Golden making (non-)vision speeches for NASA (and I liked Dan Golden a lot). This is after Dan Quail was NASA's point man.

Now we have (stoic) Griffin saying, he, like mister Spock, prides himself for have no emotion (or vision). Just give the public a reason to care.
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Mastadge
Posted on Thursday, August 11, 2005 - 04:17 pm:   

I like NASA, but they need some PR, bad. Something that'll make people willing to allocate some budget to them. Seriously, almost fourty years ago we went to the moon. That was exciting. Ever since then, we've been sending people up into orbit in shuttles older than I am. They may very well be doing Very Important Experiments that will be of Great Benefit to the Future Of Humanity, but I don't know anything about that, and neither do most people. All they see is the same thing happening, again and again, with the occasional embarrassing and tragic catastrophe. They need to do something different, if solely for the sake of getting the people behind them again.
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E Thomas
Posted on Thursday, August 11, 2005 - 06:59 pm:   

They may very well be doing Very Important Experiments that will be of Great Benefit to the Future Of Humanity, but I don't know anything about that, and neither do most people. All they see is the same thing happening, again and again, with the occasional embarrassing and tragic catastrophe. They need to do something different, if solely for the sake of getting the people behind them again.

This is interesting. I have heard murmurings amongst SF fans that they ARE doing really cool experiments up there, but as you say, who knows about them? If only the media wasn't only excited about NASA when it looks like the astronauts are going to go up in flames.

For years I had a very positive view of NASA, but just from a layperson's perspective it seems that there is something wrong with the system as all we're hearing about is bureaucratic errors, budget woes, and potential failures.

I think there is a lot of cynicism about NASA right now, and the "Gee whiz! Space is cool!" kid part of me feels guilty that I take part in it.

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Tivo
Posted on Friday, August 12, 2005 - 08:23 am:   

In order for (peopled) space travel to take off, it needs more than PR. It needs REAL goals beyond obscure experiments. There must be pressing financial and social imperatives clearly articulated. Otherwise the whole thing is going to fade away. Robots can do experiments and they're a lot cheaper. There must be a clearly articulated vision for people in space.
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Stephen
Posted on Friday, August 12, 2005 - 01:04 pm:   

You guys hear about how in a few years they're going to have commercial tourists trips to the moon?
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Dunmore
Posted on Friday, August 12, 2005 - 03:28 pm:   

Yes, Stephen, that's what they're saying, but surely that's all spin. It will never happen in, as it were, the recent future.

With respect to you all, I think this whole thing about "space travel" is a total white elephant. We are so completely without the means to make this a worthwhile endeavour that anything we're doing now is almost laughable were it not for the fact that it involves so much cost and, sometimes, the lives of extraordinarily brave (or dull) people who volunteer to go up there.

Notwithstanding the merits (or not) of NASA, the whole thing is one big publicity stunt. And that's all.

Or, if you like, it's a macho thing -- the US showing how big it's cock is in respects to the inferior phalluses of the rest of the entire world, who are too busy trying to scrape a few grains of rice together to be concerned with "exploring" the vastness of the emptiness of the void of Space.

So: you can stick your space travel up Uranus (oh yes, the old ones are the best).

But, seriously, what are the objectives? What is the point? Tivo mentions having real objectives above. How can there be real objectives when we already know what is out there?

The budget for NASA may be small, but it's enough to feed the starving population of some very small countries.
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m
Posted on Friday, August 12, 2005 - 03:55 pm:   

They're not exploring anything in orbit in shuttles, Dunmore. And damned if I know exactly what they're doing -- it's been a decade since I've cared enough to keep up with that stuff. Experimenting with chemicals and such in zero-gravity, seeing if they can do cool things and make cool materials that can't be done down here. Seeing how ants behave differently in zero-g. I don't know.
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Tivo
Posted on Friday, August 12, 2005 - 05:12 pm:   

First, I can tell you we "don't know" a lot of what's up there, but we do know some of what's up there.

1) Infinite energy from the Sun once you're above the atmosphere for an energy starved world.

2) An almost infinite amount of building materials to sustain the kind of life style most people want.

3) An infinite expanse to move into for an incredibly over-crowded world.

4) An environment where there is no problem with waste disposal - material or heat waste.
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Steve Parker
Posted on Sunday, August 14, 2005 - 07:55 pm:   

So, on one hand, there is forward-looking optimism from some quarters. On the other, a sense of disappointment and unsatisfied curiosity.

I agree with those who'd like to know more about exactly what's going on up there. Are we really getting tangible results from all the research they do? Results that translate into genuine advances?

A national Japanese news program mentioned that a number of the recent NASA experiments were related to the structure of proteins formed in zero-G. I'd like to know the possible benefits of something like this.

Tivo's "things we know" are the kind of things that make me want to write science fiction. But whether we actualy achieve them before we're all wiped out by environmental mismanagement is another matter. Dyson spheres are a very cool idea, but such a long way off.

And is current NASA activity really a step towards these things? Or is the human race just deluding itself about its level of technological progress and ability?

For all that, I still support manned missions. We mustn't stop just because it's difficult.
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Tivo
Posted on Monday, August 15, 2005 - 11:41 am:   

If you find the topical situations we face today: social, scientific, and political, annoying for the lack of vison in addressing them...and you're inspired to write SF - I urge you to do so. It may be that a combination of what-if fiction and interest in real problems are exactly the synergy we need to get better answers and to inspire others in doing more meaningful work.
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StephenB
Posted on Monday, August 15, 2005 - 12:16 pm:   

Dunmore: Actually man, I don't think it's all spin. I think they really intend to put rich people in shuttles orbiting the moon. This will be a good way to generate income for space exploration. Money can motivate anything.

I think the money spent on space exploration isn't very much compared to the sick amounts spent on weapons and war. I think a good portion of that should go into things like space exploration, along with education, relief, health care, etc.

But the problems, especially in the third world can't just be solved by throwing money at individual poverty ridden areas. I think what should happen, and what it would actually take, is a complete overhaul of our current global economic system, which would dismantle corporate dominace and capitalistic exploitation, which has been going on for quite some time and continues to go on. I also think an economic handicap should be in place for places without a lot of industry, to help make up for all the brutish exploitation.

I believe that nature and wildlife in places like Africa should be preserved to a greater degree then they are currently, even though there has been steps in that direction compared to most of the twentieth century. This will benefit the people there, because as of now, wildlife is the most profitable industry they have. If they can learn to co-exist with the natural world, both can matually benefit. There should be more resources and effort on the Modern world's part, to aid this. The idea is to restore the destruction and desertification reaped by imperialism.

We can do that and still continue with space exploration.
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Patrick Swenson
Posted on Thursday, August 18, 2005 - 11:37 am:   

Great comments on this! I believe NASA spent way too much time with the shuttle. While some cool, worthwhile experiments have been done, I'm of the mind, and agree with many, that most of this stuff in the upper atmosphere (at least now) can be done by the private sector. NASA should have scrapped the shuttle long ago.

So now we're starting to see a push toward Mars, but it should've come along a lot sooner. It's depressing knowing how long we'll have to wait. NASA may even have rushed DISCOVERY back into business, hoping to get back into space and revitalize their own agenda, and now the whole foam thing has set them back a little again.

When are they supposed to retire the shuttles? 2010? Not soon enough.
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S. Parker
Posted on Friday, September 16, 2005 - 04:41 pm:   

Check this article out...

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20050916/ap_on_sc/moon_rocket

It's not exactly bright in tone. I fully expected the financial committments of rebuilding the Gulf Coast region post-Katrina to have a big impact on NASA.
But I suspect this slowing in NASA's pace is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
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Laura Davids Todd
Posted on Tuesday, August 08, 2006 - 12:15 pm:   

"I think they really intend to put rich people in shuttles orbiting the moon".

Good!! Send all the Rich People, and developers, to someplace like the moon or Mars where they can't F**k up the Earth anymore. "Earth... love it or leave it!"

Seriously though...I do believe we need to put our research money into keeping our planet from turning into Mars or Venus. But, the space program has helped us learn a lot about the Earth and how planets work.

I think the most exciting parts of the space program are the flyby probes of Jupiter's and Saturn's moons. These moons might actually harbor life! This is what captures the imagination. As a matter of fact I wasn't at all interested in the space program until I learned about the possibility of life on Titan and Europa. I'm not excited about living in a space colony. I love this Earth too much to leave it.

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