T Nation

Bush's Genius?

Whether you’re a fan of the Bush Administration or not, you probably remember the kooky ‘Moon-to-Mars’ Vision a la 2004:

Our third goal is to return to the moon by 2020, as the launching point for missions beyond. Beginning no later than 2008, we will send a series of robotic missions to the lunar surface to research and prepare for future human exploration. Using the Crew Exploration Vehicle, we will undertake extended human missions to the moon as early as 2015, with the goal of living and working there for increasingly extended periods. Eugene Cernan, who is with us today – the last man to set foot on the lunar surface – said this as he left: “We leave as we came, and God willing as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind.” America will make those words come true.
http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2004/01/20040114-3.html

I was with many in thinking, “Maybe it’s possible, but not on those time tables.” And willing to guess I wasn’t in the minority:

Bush’s grand space exploration vision appears to be on the verge of being scuttled well before launch.
http://www.space.com/news/commentary_vision_040429.html

So, now that it appears it (or something close) is going to happen;

[i]NASA said on Monday it plans to build a permanently occupied base on the moon, most likely at the lunar north pole.

The habitat will serve as a science outpost as well as a testbed for technologies needed for future travel to Mars, and construction will follow a series of flights to the moon scheduled to begin by 2020.[/i]
http://in.today.reuters.com/news/newsArticle.aspx?type=worldNews&storyID=2006-12-05T034032Z_01_NOOTR_RTRJONC_0_India-278968-1.xml

And the time lines apparently weren’t that conservative nor the vision an uneducated one;

The survival of the human race depends on its ability to find new homes elsewhere in the universe because there’s an increasing risk that a disaster will destroy the Earth, world-renowned scientist Stephen Hawking said Tuesday.
http://www.space.com/news/060613_ap_hawking_space.html

I’m not going to say Bush is a genius, but I can admit that I was wrong in thinking the Moon-to-Mars Vision to be way off-base.

And so I’m not accused of cheerleading; He was wrong not to fire Rumsfeld and should’ve rectified the situation in Iraq long before, and for reasons better than, the midterm elections.

Let me get this straight. You want to credit Bush with the plan and/or the timetable?

Bush is an idiot.

Personally, I don’t see any advantage to going back to the moon or to sending humans to Mars.

Robotic probes can be used to explore Mars for a fraction of the costs of sending humans there.

You don’t have to bring the probes back; and losing one is a setback, not a national tragedy.

We already have the ISS which, it turns out, is a costly but mostly useless piece of space junk. All the talks about having a micro-gravity laboratory to conduct experiments have turn out to be hot air: Actual micro-gravity experiments are conducted in free-falling Boing 757s for a fraction of the costs.

NASA’s budget is always a contentious issue. They should use what little is given to them to maximize the amount of new knowledge.

Figuring out better space propulsion systems and sending probes throughout the solar system would teach us a lot more than a guy running around Mars ever will.

They could also afford to maintain and even improve the Hubble Telescope, now slated to be crashed on Earth once the James Webb telescope is deployed.

Bush a genius? Hardly. As with most other things he’s meddled in, his plan increases the costs astronomically while producing less results.

His only genius is that when the whole program is scrapped, it will probably be under a Democratic government, and the Republicans will spin it as “Democratic lack of vision.”

[quote]vroom wrote:
Let me get this straight. You want to credit Bush with the plan and/or the timetable?[/quote]

If you’re asserting that he’s only a mouthpiece for a more intelligent brain trust, why would you assume that I spoke solely about the man and not about the Administration? Especially since I referred to the Administration and specifically said, “I’m not going to say Bush is a genius”.

Did you not disparage the Administration’s ‘Moon-to-Mars’ plan? If you did, do you think now you might’ve been wrong? I was.

[quote]pookie wrote:
Bush is an idiot…[/quote]

Hawking too?

IMO, NASA’s job isn’t theoretical quantum physics and I think projects like the ISS, Martian Rovers, and Hubble will only draw attention for so long. That and the preeminent quantum physicist suggests going to the Moon and Mars.

[quote]lucasa wrote:
pookie wrote:
Bush is an idiot…

Hawking too?

IMO, NASA’s job isn’t theoretical quantum physics and I think projects like the ISS, Martian Rovers, and Hubble will only draw attention for so long. That and the preeminent quantum physicist suggests going to the Moon and Mars.[/quote]

Do you have a direct quote?

From what I’ve read, Hawking said that we need to develop the means to travel to other solar system; that we need to figure out a way of attaining near light speed to make such exploration at least possible.

His argument is that humanity is vulnerable to a global catastrophe while it is confined to Earth. Having colonies on the Moon or Mars won’t allow us to survive if Earth, for some reason, becomes inhabitable.

The only place I see Hawking mentioning the Moon, is when he say that conventional chemical rockets, such as those used to get to the Moon, would require 50,000 years to get use to the closest solar system.

As for those other projects, the Martian Rovers and Hubble have given us immense quantities of data to increase our knowledge of the universe. The ISS, while being a lot more costly than Hubble and the Rovers put together, has given us almost nothing. It’s a white elephant that should be dropped from orbit into the sea.

[quote]lucasa wrote:
pookie wrote:
Bush is an idiot…

Hawking too?

IMO, NASA’s job isn’t theoretical quantum physics and I think projects like the ISS, Martian Rovers, and Hubble will only draw attention for so long. That and the preeminent quantum physicist suggests going to the Moon and Mars.

[/quote]

What does the moon have to do with quantum physics? If you are refering to Hawking then probably mean cosmology which is a little more relevent but still, not really. The moon?! Who cares?!

Oh look, another rock!
Oh look, another one.

This scenario works for Mars too.

[quote]pookie wrote:
lucasa wrote:
pookie wrote:

Do you have a direct quote?[/quote]

Direct, no. Paraphrased;

[i]The British astrophysicist told a news conference in Hong Kong that humans could have a permanent base on the moon in 20 years and a colony on Mars in the next 40 years.

“We won’t find anywhere as nice as Earth unless we go to another star system,” added Hawking, who arrived to a rock star’s welcome Monday. Tickets for his lecture planned for Wednesday were sold out.

He added that if humans can avoid killing themselves in the next 100 years, they should have space settlements that can continue without support from Earth.[/i]

He said could instead of should, but the context of the whole message gave me the impression that we should start getting colonizing now with the goal of self-subsistence within a century.

[quote]His argument is that humanity is vulnerable to a global catastrophe while it is confined to Earth. Having colonies on the Moon or Mars won’t allow us to survive if Earth, for some reason, becomes inhabitable.

The only place I see Hawking mentioning the Moon, is when he say that conventional chemical rockets, such as those used to get to the Moon, would require 50,000 years to get use to the closest solar system.[/quote]

The moon, agreed, Mars is propositioned as being self-sustaining (with lots of work).

Let me start by saying that I agree that the usefulness of the ISS has long since expired. Clinton should’ve cut NASA’s funding when he was in office, I blame him. :slight_smile:

However, I think you’re separating the inseparable. Being able to get people to the colonizable planet is just as important as making sure they’re alive when they get there. If that’s the case, what’s the protocol? How many robots do you send first?

[quote]LIFTICVSMAXIMVS wrote:

What does the moon have to do with quantum physics?

If you are refering to Hawking then probably mean cosmology which is a little more relevent but still, not really. The moon?! Who cares?![/quote]

The Moon and Mars have little relevance to quantum physics, that’s my point. Packing enough explosives under someone to propel them to the Moon, NASA can do, now.

Ion drives, Fission/Fusion, matter/anti-matter, are still more toward Hawking’s realm/idea IMO. Even then, NASA will need to be even more cautious with more advanced technology, shuttle debris after a Challenger-like incident is much more preferable to fallout.

[quote]Oh look, another rock!
Oh look, another one.

This scenario works for Mars too.[/quote]

The Moon, I’ll agree, is just a rock and that’s more the point of it. If you can colonize and sustain yourself on the moon, you could colonize live just about anywhere.

Mars, on the other hand is much more than just a rock, if you developed the technology to click your heels and travel to a hundred solar systems of arbitrary distance from Earth. Between gravity, atmosphere, chemical composition, surface temperature, surface radiation, etc., you’d be lucky to find a planet even half as habitable as Mars. And if you could click your heals and travel to another solar system, why wouldn’t you colonize Mars?

[quote]lucasa wrote:
However, I think you’re separating the inseparable. Being able to get people to the colonizable planet is just as important as making sure they’re alive when they get there. If that’s the case, what’s the protocol? How many robots do you send first?[/quote]

If we’re to live on another planet, we need to find it first; and then we need to be able to reach it in a reasonable number of years. If you can reach at high percentage of the speed of light, then intersideral travel becomes feasible. Those are one-way trips, but they’re still manageable within one lifetime. The robotic probes could be sent out to the most promising candidates to later report on their findings. You don’t want to send a colony ship and have them arrive 50 years later on a barren rock.

As for creating a self-sustaining habitat on Mars, it’s quite possible. But it wouldn’t allow the human race to survive for very long should the Earth become inhospitable. The habitat might be able to sustain a small population indefinitely, but without Earth, it is likely they wouldn’t ever be able to spread to the rest of the planet.

And if you’re talking about terraforming Mars, we are then getting way ahead of ourselves. We can’t even come to grip with Global Warming here, I don’t think we’re quite ready to engineer other Earths “by hand” just yet.

Note that all those are very interesting scientific endeavors; and I’d be all for them if there was an unlimited budget available.

Given the financial realities of NASA, I’d prefer for them to invest in mission that have high “returns on investment” knowledge wise. Sending and bringing back humans from anywhere is prohibitively expensive.

[quote]pookie wrote:

However, I think you’re separating the inseparable. Being able to get people to the colonizable planet is just as important as making sure they’re alive when they get there. If that’s the case, what’s the protocol? How many robots do you send first?

[/quote]
Pookie, good point.

Any planet we could colonize would just be another planet for us to mess up. We should figure out how to fix and not mess up the one we’ve got.

Humans were able to evolve on Earth for a reason. The likelyhood of finding an inhabitable planet is very small and even if we could create the necessary resources on an inhabitable planet would it be feasable?

Science fiction has greatly oversimplified and trivialized the technology required to sustain life under non-Earth conditions. We must remember that there is no such thing as “free lunch”.

[quote]LIFTICVSMAXIMVS wrote:
Science fiction has greatly oversimplified and trivialized the technology required to sustain life under non-Earth conditions. We must remember that there is no such thing as “free lunch”.[/quote]

There are good arguments on both sides of this debate.

However, if we are going to learn to live on a planet that isn’t Earth, we’ll eventually have to put people on another planet and live there.

It doesn’t matter whether that is Mars or someplace infinitely further away.

[quote]LIFTICVSMAXIMVS wrote:

Any planet we could colonize would just be another planet for us to mess up. We should figure out how to fix and not mess up the one we’ve got.[/quote]

First, if you want to get technical about it, most likely any planet we land on we’re going to have to ‘mess up’ in order to live on it. And not to veer too far off in the wrong direction, but “fix” assumes that its broken and your assertion precludes the idea that it can fix itself. Mars has enormously higher CO2 concentrations than Earth, a much lower albedo, and will need considerable amounts of warming to be as fertile as Earth.

But I do agree with pookie and yourself, climate science is so infantile that we’re nowhere near showing up on a planet and pressing the terraform button. Listening to Hawking (obviously he’s being pessimistic), we need to get our butts in gear.