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An American On Mars By 2030

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Daedalus
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If there were a government program I did not support, I suppose I would feel robbed if I were taxed to support it. But I do support space exploration. And as an egoist I am glad to see tax money going towards space exploration, and I consider many other government programs a waste and robbing Nasa. If Nasa has had failures in the past, it almost always can be attributed to lack of funding. About half the country is also glad to see tax money spent on a MMM.

How can you support a program that is paid for by money taken from people who don't want to use it on the program?

Have you heard the phrase, in reference to, for example, a radical group such as the klu klux klan, "I don't like what they say but I like that they can say it." This is based on the idea that you can support someone's right to free speech without supporting their actual speech. This seems to lie in parallel with the idea that you can support someone's right to use what they produce (money) in a manner that they choose, without supporting the actual manner that they choose to use it. Let's ignore for a moment all of the flaws of NASA and other such government institutions. If someone doesn't want to spend their money on NASA, do you still support them being forced to spend it on NASA? You say half the country is glad to see tax money spent on a MMM. This means that half is not glad to see their money go to such a program. Who is to say that that half doesn't have a say over what they can do with the money they earn?

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Putting a man on the moon is not necessary to know 'where the moon came from'.
Actually it was necessary. The alternative was to send robotic sample return missions to the moon. Russia did this, and their robots returned a few hundred grams of random moon dust and rocks. Little was learned from that. Apollo astronauts learned geology (especially from Apollo 15-17, and on 17 a full fledged geologist went) and were able to land in places that were too rugged for robotic landers to land in (like Hadley's Rill) and brought back a piece of the original crust of the moon. That is not easy to do, and was impossible for robotic explorers to do at the time. Based on what astronauts found, and not what robotic explorers found, they did in fact find where the moon came from.

If that money had been spent subsidising private (non-space) related research, would there have been more benefits? And why do you think that computers are an offshoot of the space program - the theory of computation had been developed by people like Turing and Von Neumann several decades before the moon landing.
The purpose for going to the moon was not to create spinoffs. But you cannot deny that there were spinoffs, notably in the field of medicine, and computing. I didn't say 'computers' were an offshoot of the space program. I said 'personal computers'. IBM recieved a large contract from Nasa for the computers and new computational technology used in the Apollo program. That money enabled IBM to do the research required to go from mainframes to PCs.
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Perhaps this makes more sense in context, but its little more than a hyperbolic strawman as it stands. Spending money on fighting poverty doesnt equate to 'teaching the alphabet to the mentally retarded', and the fact that astronauts happen to want something doesnt mean that money should be spent on giving them it.

Say what you want, but Rand was not engaging in the strawman fallacy. There are few human beings in whom the quality of rationality was so pronounced. Rand never allowed her judgment to be affected by anything other than a relentless search for the truth. Rand's statements about the War on Poverty were unerringly accurate. LBJ's Great Society -- that federal crusade for coerced egalitarianism -- did indeed include a largesse of historic proportions for special education. Federal intervention in schools was billed as a way to short circuit the endless cycle of poverty. (In no way was this largesse moderated during the Nixon era.) And it was right and proper for Rand to mention the ambitions of our scientists and astronauts. Rand's entire life was dedicated to celebrating and protecting the rational men and women of this world from the the envious, the incompetent and the slothful. The idea of our Apollo heroes being reduced to carrying bedpans is one for the Horror File indeed.

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How can you support a program that is paid for by money taken from people who don't want to use it on the program?
50% of Americans support a MMM. 73% support sending humans to space. So the majority of Americans do at least support manned spaceflight. The majority of those who support manned spaceflight support a MMM. Even if there was little support for it, I do not see that Nasa's budget keeps anything they are interested in from happening. And I do feel that exploration is in the best interest of the country. Also it becomes hard to listen to the objections of those who don't support the space program when their reasoning is flawed (i.e. "no resources in space", "no benefits to exploration", "not possible" etc).
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If someone doesn't want to spend their money on NASA, do you still support them being forced to spend it on NASA? You say half the country is glad to see tax money spent on a MMM. This means that half is not glad to see their money go to such a program. Who is to say that that half doesn't have a say over what they can do with the money they earn?

No one here is arguing against the idea of voluntary financing of government. That is not the crux of the debate. Once we achieve true laissez faire, perhaps space exploration will be handled entirely by private corporations. But today we are quite some distance from that ideal society. We have to do business with the government we have, which is a mixture of capitalism and socialism. In a completely free society, no one would be forced to contribute to national defense. However, in today's world, we have no choice but to use the resources of the federal treasury (gained almost entirely by coercion) to fight terrorism, fund courts, patrol our borders, print money etc. It is also appropriate in a mixed society to use some of the coerced funds to go to the moon and Mars. In this way we can ensure that "If the United States is to commit suicide, let it not be for the sake and support of the worst human elements, the parasites-on-principle, at home and abroad."

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Let's take this principle further... good schools and colleges are essential to any rational person; every sensible person wants good roads and infrastructure; who can object to state of the art research facilities; a rational man would love to have access to art museums... should the government be funding all these, or just your particular pet project?

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So you want either a government program which allows access for all to space, and/or welfare? Both these concepts are pretty socialistic.

I don't want a space program. It's socialism par excellence. Steal money from the people who earned it and spend it to employ top scientists for years to invent a pen that can write where there is no gravity.

I'm not against space exploration. I'm against the way it is done. And the way it is done it shouldn't be done at all. It destroys value. Sending a man to the moon or to mars has not enough value to anyone to make people pay for it freely. So instead of allowing them to spend money on cars and groceries, they fund a space-project that send a guy up there and back. For 20 Billion Dollars. And that's it. It's like building a golden stairway leading nowhere. I'm not against the stairway. I'm against the fact that it leads nowhere, which is a direct result of operations without profit motive. So if you want to play Robin Hood, at least give money to poor people to buy food instead of keeping scientist and engineers from doing the work that is actually needed.

If "clown" is your idea of what the pilot of the first spacecraft to another planet is, then you have much to learn about Objectivism. As for the end not justifying the means, no one here is aguing against making funding of government voluntary. But as long as we have a mixed economy is is appropriate to try to get millions and billions more into the space program. As Rand said, "The American flag on the moon—or on Mars, or on Jupiter—will, at least, be a worthy monument to what had once been a great country."

This is nonsense. It's not a monument to the greatness that once was. It's a monument of its decay. Socialism isn't good just because it's done by the US. I don't know what in the world made Ayn Rand say such a strange thing.

The rest was already tackled by Hal. (Thanks!)

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Let's take this principle further... good schools and colleges are essential to any rational person; every sensible person wants good roads and infrastructure; who can object to state of the art research facilities; a rational man would love to have access to art museums... should the government be funding all these, or just your particular pet project?

As long as we have a mixed economy, we must make sure that the best within us is not destroyed. So if we are going to support the parasites, the moochers, and "pour more money down the sewers of the war on poverty," we must make sure that the Men of the Mind are not forgotten. Soviet Russia was a landscape of horror, but think how much worse it would have been had the dictators not identified the brightest children and put them on a higher educational track in science, music, dance etc.

You mentioned roads. If you could push a button that would instantly end all government (federal, state, local) maintenance and administration of roads, would you? Who would pave them? Fix broken stop lights? Enforce traffic laws?

Like Ayn Rand, I see nothing wrong in acknowledging that we have a mixed economy and that as long as we do, there are better and worse ways for the government to spend coerced funds.

This is nonsense. It's not a monument to the greatness that once was. It's a monument of its decay. Socialism isn't good just because it's done by the US. I don't know what in the world made Ayn Rand say such a strange thing.

I'm sorry that you disagree with Ayn Rand. However, I'm not even sure that you undertand her position. Your statement "Socialism isn't good just because it's done by the US" indicates that you haven't even grasped her argument. If it's any consolation, you're not alone. I've encountered dozens of people over the years who have read Ayn Rand and didn't "get" her.

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True. Somehow Nasa needs to be funded like the military.
Ideally, NASA ought to be gradually pahsed out over the course of the next two decades. It won't be, of course. Therefore, while such time comes, it ought to be more autonomous from the Federal government.

Aircraft are considered experimental until they have flown hundreds of test flights. It would take forever to gain that kind of experience with the shuttle.

Yes, but the Shuttle is not an aircraft. Nor was it ever intended to fly as often as an airliner.The ost optimistic projections were for a maximmum of 26 flights per year; divide that by 4 craft in the fleet, and it's less than 7 flights per shutlle. Naturally the testing regime would be different.

And to build one, see how it does, then build others would be very difficult and expensive. You'd have to create an industry to build shuttles that would stay in place for decades if you build one at a time.
True. And perhaps that's exactly what is needed. Space travel gets comapred to air travel a lot, but its clsoest analogue is sea travel. Think about developing the shuttle as you would an aircraft carrier, and see where that leads you.

I'm a longtime fan too. His design for re-entry is ingenious. No matter what orientation it re-enters, it automatically rights itself to the optimal orientation for re-entry. However, it won't work for re-entry from orbit. At 18000 mph, those wings will rip off. He'll have to come up with another method if he wants to do more than go up and down. And perhaps he will.

I wonder if Rutan or Branson will try to develop the basic Spaceship One design into a semi-ballistic passenger spaceplane (sub-orbital, actually, but I like semi-ballistic better). Imagine New York to Tokio in under two hours!

It would be very expensive. More expensive than Concord ever dreamt of being, but less than the $20,000 a pop Branson is promoting now with his propposed Virgin Galactic. More useful, too.

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If you could push a button that would instantly end all government (federal, state, local) maintenance and administration of roads, would you? Who would pave them? Fix broken stop lights? Enforce traffic laws?
No, I would not want overnight transition. However, I would want a transition. The question would be: where to start. It seems reasonable to begin cutting back new government road project, particularly large ones. I think the first one to be handed to cut back is the road to Mars :lol: .
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If you could push a button that would instantly end all government (federal, state, local) maintenance and administration of roads, would you? Who would pave them? Fix broken stop lights? Enforce traffic laws?

Something tells me that I wouldn't need to waste hours stuck in traffic, if private companies were in charge of roads. We'd probably see much less accidents, too.

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However, I'm not even sure that you undertand her position. Your statement "Socialism isn't good just because it's done by the US" indicates that you haven't even grasped her argument. If it's any consolation, you're not alone. I've encountered dozens of people over the years who have read Ayn Rand and didn't "get" her.

The American Flag on the moon arrived there because of stolen money wasted on a space program. It is one of the worst things one can do with that money. You're right. Concerning that quote, I don't get her. What was the argument I haven't grasped?

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Space is an extremely hostile environment. There is no air, water, food, fuel, spare parts, etc.. You are exposed to cosmic radiation and very rapidly moving objects without any shielding by the atmosphere.
Just about the same can be said of other inhospitable places where people thrive today. Consider Las Vegas (no food, water, fuel, spares, etc), or the many tunnels built under water (no air down there).

Radiation, I grant you, is a nuissance. But we know the ships we build already are well insulated. In the future, colonies on the Moon will protect themselves by the simple expedient of building underground, or piling Lunar dirt on their cities. On mars the same methods would work, and perhaps there will be an atmosphere someday.

As for meteoroids, the danger is real but statistically slight. Do you worry about being struck by lightning, even during a thunderstorm?

There are no resources in space valuable enough to justify the cost of going there to get them.

Not if you go by the Apollo model. However, disspating energy isn't expensive. And rockets are far from the only means of reaching space. It matters very much where you're starting from. From the Moon, for example, you could reach the Earth in a couple of days without using any fuel at all (except perhaps some for minor course corrections). How? By launching from a magnetic launch track. Imagine a stright track several kilometers long, with a ski jump at the end. There's no air, remember, so no air resistance to slow you down. The track can impart the required velocity and direction to the craft.

Next you need to loose the velocity. The Apollo astronauts did, too. Back then they used the Earth's atmosphere to break. It worked perfectly well, and was much cheaper than the alternative (carrying the fuel needed to slow down).

So mining the Moon would require a huge investment, and have certain operating costs you don't usually worry about here (like finding enough air). But there are advantages as well, like the maglev track which can run on solar batteries (two weeks of uniterrupted sunshine per month, without a cloud to absorb even one erg of it).

All energy requirements on the Moon would be smaller than on Earth because of the lower gravity. You can dig deeper, and it costs you 1/6 as much going down or coming back up.

Solar power, as noted, is plentiful. Solar batteries are expensive, but they last a long time and require little maintenance. Refinign the ores mined could also cost less on the Moon than on Earth just for that reason.

As far as mannufacturing goes, the Moon boasts cheap energy and an unlimited supply of very hard vaccum. A lot of mannufacturing processes require vacuum, which means pumps using up energy. On the Moon, a simple snorkel off to the surface would suffice.

The Moon is also a good platform for astronomy, much better than the Earth in many respects. The lower rate of rotation means a longer period of observation. The lack of air means one can gather infrared, ultraviolet, gamma rays and X-rays as easily as visible light. And th enight is fourteen Earth days long. Plus, the lower gravity means cheaper mirrors (they won't need to be structurally as strong as on Earth to resist deformation).

And radioastronomy, forget about it! Not only would more wavelenghts be available because no atmosphere blocks them, but if you put your radiotelescopes on the far side of the Moon, you'd have a Moon's-thickness worth of insulation between your scope and the radio noise produced on Earth.

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The American Flag on the moon arrived there because of stolen money wasted on a space program. It is one of the worst things one can do with that money. You're right. Concerning that quote, I don't get her. What was the argument I haven't grasped?

Ayn Rand did not deny that stolen money was used to put Americans on the moon. Nor, for that matter, would she have denied that stolen money was used to finance that other triumph of the intellect, the Manhattan Project and the atom bomb. Ideally, no one should have to pay against his will for any part of the federal budget. But, like it or not, virtually every dollar in the U.S. Treasury is there by means of coercion. Given that under the current semi-statist regime, those dollars are not going to get back to their proper owners, we Objectivists can counsel our leaders on how best to spend them. Ayn Rand said, "Of all our government programs, the space program is the cleanest and best: it, at least, has brought the American citizens a return on their forced investment, it has worked for its money, it has earned its keep; which cannot be said about any other program of the government." For me, the dividends paid, physically and spiritually, have been enormous.

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So all here (I hope) have agreed that government funding through coercion is wrong. Presumably, most here also agree that the welfare of any form is wrong. Everyone does not seem to agree about where to start cutting these unnecessary government programs.

I say reduce programs at the point where it will most damage the moral argument for welfare. In my estimation, the best areas would be medicine, unemployment and social security. When these are cut and we find that people are saving for their own retirement, people without jobs are not starving and people who pay for their own medicine are not dead, a huge blow will be dealt to the welfare mentality. Plus, these programs take up a gigantic portion of the federal budget - far more than NASA's budget. Once the other programs are gone, we can start abolishing government funded science/space projects.

In the meanwhile, we can also advocate that the government respect property rights in space. That will be the best incentive for private companies to go to the moon and beyond.

For the record, I will still be inspired by any successful space project that is government funded.

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I'm sure there are many brilliant people at NASA. However, if the government did not have a monopoly of the space business, these people would have been working productively at private companies.

If the government did not run schools and fund them out of tax-money, private schools would be able to thrive, instead of being a tiny proportion of th market. As things stand, it's tough to compete when a competitor is offering his product for free.

If Canadian broadcasting shut down its Classical music FM stations, a private station may be able to compete for that segment. As things stand, there may not be a market for two (this is based on a real-life example).

NASA is not the biggest part of the budget. So, in that sense, it would not be a top priority. I agree with FeatherFall's list of biggies, and would definitely add education (K-12 and later) to that list. On the other hand, unlike those, NASA is easier to unwind -- just stop doing whatever it does, one thing at a time.

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I'm sure there are many brilliant people at NASA. However, if the government did not have a monopoly of the space business, these people would have been working productively at private companies.
Have you considered how long it would take for private industry to start a space business without the focused research that Nasa provided? In the 60s, private industry did not have access to the German scientists like Von Braun who helped us get started. They did not have access to the captured V-2 German rockets. In the 60s, what would the business plan be for private industry? There are currently 14,000 civil servants employed directly for Nasa, and almost 100,000 (I think) contractors. Maybe in the future private space industry can support this number of people, but certainly not for a long time.

And BTW... I don't care if I work for a government space program, or a private space program. If they're doing manned exploration, I'm there. The private space industry is in its infancy though, and they haven't even orbited a human yet.

Daedalus, what are your thoughts on going to the Moon before going to Mars? Do you support that as well? Just curious.

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And BTW... I don't care if I work for a government space program, or a private space program. If they're doing manned exploration, I'm there. The private space industry is in its infancy though, and they haven't even orbited a human yet.

But would it not be better to be involved at the private level - morally, economically, and even scientifically?

True, the private space industry is in its infancy, but you'd be getting in on the ground floor of something that has nowhere to go but up (pun recognized, but not intented). There are investment opportunities, career advancements, and scientific opportunities that are the result of merit, without political pressure factoring in.

For example: What happens if this noble plan of the Bush Administration gets crippled by the next President who might think space flight is a waste?

I'm all for space flight (Earth is so last century ...), and have the highest regard for anyone who can make a career in that industry ... but I don't see NASA getting to Mars before Paul Allen (or another dedicated entrepeneur).

[And, by the way ... I'm not sure if you're aware of it, but the quote in your sig is originally Robert Heinlein's: "The meek can have the Earth. The rest of us are going to the stars." (Time Enough for Love, 1973)]

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Unless Bush plans on us firing missiles at Bin Laden from Olympus Mons, I don't see how a Mars program fits in with the concept of government aimed solely at protecting individual rights. What is the justification?

The idea that this will lead to new technology is a Utilitarian defense (if the result is good, the action is good), and should be rejected on those grounds.

On the other hand, if NASA came to my door asking for a donation for such a program, I'd provide one. I'd like to see it happen, just not funded by tax money.

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In a completely free society, no one would be forced to contribute to national defense. However, in today's world, we have no choice but to use the resources of the federal treasury (gained almost entirely by coercion) to fight terrorism, fund courts, patrol our borders, print money etc. It is also appropriate in a mixed society to use some of the coerced funds to go to the moon and Mars. In this way we can ensure that "If the United States is to commit suicide, let it not be for the sake and support of the worst human elements, the parasites-on-principle, at home and abroad."

Yes, the money has been stolen, and if it is going to be used for a collective purpose then it should be used in a manner that will give most back to the people that it was taken from. Do you think NASA is the answer to that? You quote Ayn Rand as saying that NASA is the only government organization that "has brought the American citizens a return on their forced investment," I think that I am getting more of a return from my money being spent on things like roads, police, and other organizations than I am from NASAs little adventures. How is NASA doing me more of a service?

Do you think the United States is committing suicide? I don't. Why waste all of those stolen resources?

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Daedalus, what are your thoughts on going to the Moon before going to Mars? Do you support that as well? Just curious.

Returning to the moon is not just a key component of a Mars mission -- it is a vital priority in itself. The conquest and occupation of the moon is essential to our national defense. Anyone who has read Roberft Heinlein's The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress is aware of the threat a moon-based power could pose to countries on earth. We need to seize the moon, declare a Monroe Doctrine of space -- and be prepared to enforce it with all our might. Secondarily, the moon will provide a valuable training ground and staging area for future planetary exploration.

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Unless Bush plans on us firing missiles at Bin Laden from Olympus Mons, I don't see how a Mars program fits in with the concept of government aimed solely at protecting individual rights. What is the justification?

The exploration and colonization of space is a critical part of our national defense. Any country occupying the moon has the capability of exerting a death grip on Planet Earth. I say, better a U.S. government-controlled moon than a Chinese or Russian or Saudi moon. Moreover, there are compelling reasons why establishing bases on Mars is critical to our survival. A meteor, asteroid or comet on a collision course with earth is a very real possibility. Having stations in the outer reaches of the solar system is essential as a means of early detection and intervention.

Tell me, how effective is your limited government going to be at protecting your rights when the entire continent is toast?

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Yes, the money has been stolen, and if it is going to be used for a collective purpose then it should be used in a manner that will give most back to the people that it was taken from. Do you think NASA is the answer to that? You quote Ayn Rand as saying that NASA is the only government organization that "has brought the American citizens a return on their forced investment," I think that I am getting more of a return from my money being spent on things like roads, police, and other organizations than I am from NASAs little adventures. How is NASA doing me more of a service?

Do you think the United States is committing suicide? I don't. Why waste all of those stolen resources?

NASA, if properly funded, will give you and your children a future. Remember, there was an exponential growth of freedom when the New World was opened up to Europeans. For three centuries, men were able to enjoy a life free of tyranny, an existence not known since ancient Greece. Sadly, as population density in the Western Hemisphere increased, so did the authority of government. In 2006, to what corner of earth can men yearning to be free turn? The only place is upward.

Now, you may object that government will be the very agency conducting the conquest of the space frontier. But that is no different than the American experience. Virtually every great expedition in the New World, from Columbus to Lewis and Clark, was government-funded. NASA is just a stepping stone. The first colony on Mars with be built with tax funds. But cities, factories, mines and farms will follow, built the same way Hank Rearden built his steel mill.

As for suicide, yes, any time, a nation allows the public sector to grow unabated, it is doomed. The U.S. is more socialistic now than at any time in its history, including the administration of FDR. With every year comes another giveaway program (prescription drug coverage). With every year comes the persecution of an individual for being productive (Martha Stewart).

Tell me why I should be hopeful about current trends.

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NASA, if properly funded, will give you and your children a future.

Sorry, but this is not a given fact. This is your opinion.

In 2006, to what corner of earth can men yearning to be free turn? The only place is upward.
You seem to be forgetting that the government who provides the stepping stone to the future brings it's chains along for the ride. There is no reason to believe that space will be any freer than any corner of the earth as long as the government is involved in the floor plans.

Now, you may object that government will be the very agency conducting the conquest of the space frontier. But that is no different than the American experience. Virtually every great expedition in the New World, from Columbus to Lewis and Clark, was government-funded. NASA is just a stepping stone.

Saying this is the way it's always been is not presenting argument. It's like saying, "yes, it's okay to steal money, but it's for a good cause." And that good cause may be more dubious than we realize at this point, regardless of the work of any science fiction author.

Hopefully, progress means breaking the chains of the past. This includes the government stealing money and being involved in services that are not proper for the government.

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