Griffin: Stick to the Moon

By Phil Plait | November 19, 2008 10:01 am

Last week, I wrote about NASA Administrator Mike Griffin, and how he may be replaced when Obama takes office. Given that he was a Bush appointee, I imagine he must be thinking he’s on his way out as NASA’s top banana. That may explain why he made a public statement aimed at Obama about NASA’s future.

Basically, he said that the incoming Administration needs to stick with going back to the Moon, and that backing down from such an endeavor would be a mistake. After commenting that he would be honored to continue on with NASA if asked, he said:

“Two successive Congresses – one Republican and one Democrat – have strongly endorsed the path NASA is on. I think it’s the right path,” Griffin said.

“For 35 years since the Nixon administration, we’ve been on the wrong path. It took the loss of (space shuttle) Columbia and (the accident investigation) report to highlight the strategic issues to get us on the right path,” he said.

“We’re there. I personally will not be party to taking us off that path. Someone else may wish to, but I do not.”

That’s a pretty strong statement, and makes clear his thoughts (refreshing from someone in charge of a government agency). I happen to agree with him; going back to the Moon is what NASA should focus on, as long as the science is not sacrificed.

The caveat here is the economy. If we lapse into a depression, then NASA may be the first on the chopping block. But I hope that’s not the case; NASA employs many thousands of people, and letting them go would be a huge mistake, both economically and for the future of the nation.

Also, the rockets that take us to the Moon will be capable of vastly larger payloads than we can currently loft, making solar system and deep space science easier. Look at what the Cassini Saturn probe is doing, and then imagine launching much larger probes with far more capabilities than we have now… going back to the Moon can benefit all of space exploration and science if done properly.

Personally, I think Griffin will be replaced, and I don’t have a clue who might be the person to take over. But I do hope they listen carefully to what Griffin has to say. Some of what Griffin has done in the past needs to be forgotten (or maybe even apologized for), but on other topics he’s right on the money.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: NASA, Piece of mind, Politics, Space

Comments (76)

  1. Mitch Miller

    “NASA employs many thousands of people, and letting them go would be a huge mistake, both economically and for the future of the nation.”

    You can’t just say that it will be a huge negative impact on the nation economically. Why would it be any worse than when some other thousand random people get layed off?

  2. Mitch, it’s not just the hundreds of thousands of people who work for NASA — it also affects the companies and contractors for NASA, as well as the tertiary industries connected to them. The ripple effect would be huge.

    Plus, NASA and its contractors are responsible for much of the technology R&D that go on in this country, for the development of tech that goes into many sectors unrelated to space; cut that budget and we’re effectively pissing away our future in technology. It’s like eating your seed corn; cutting of your nose to spite your face.

  3. argh… cutting OFF your nose to spite your face.

    WHEN do we get a preview function for our comments?

  4. Charles Boyer

    The only problem with keeping Griffin is that it would signal to NASA employees that there will be no change in the culture there — one that has rotted from within by many accounts. New leadership and new ideas might reinvigorate the agency.

    You can’t just say that it will be a huge negative impact on the nation economically. Why would it be any worse than when some other thousand random people get layed off?

    In the spirit of being nice, I will mildly point out to you the contributions NASA has made to this country through spin-offs and derivations of the technologies it has created or propelled development of is probably what Doctor Plait is getting after.

  5. JoeSmithCA

    I’ve been told by some of my retired peers, this is nothing like the depression. Lets hope we don’t get to that point. There is a joke around my work, maybe others have heard it as well:

    “It’s a recession if someone else looses their job, its a depression if it happens to you.”

  6. Mitch Miller

    ccpetersen,

    I don’t see why NASA is different from any large private company. Is the death of NASA any worse than the death of some other 1000+ person company that creates jobs, employs contractors and fuels innovations? The later are allowed to fail (or lay people off) and are doing so at an alarming rate currently.

  7. Quiet Desperation

    If the recession is a depressin’ don’t come a’knockin’

    No, wait… I’m all mixed up here.

  8. Cheyenne

    NASA needs relevancy and success in the near term. That means successful missions of exploration and discovery as soon as practically possible. Griffin should go because he hasn’t delivered on that, because the mission of NASA is hazy and not understood by the public at large, and, well, as leader he is ultimately responsible for that (plus, it’s just time for a new face, somebody who is a stronger leader).

    What is the universe even made of? How did the universe begin? Is there life on other planets? “Small” questions like that should be the focus of NASA.

    Moon mission in 20 years? Feh! BORRRRRING. A place to maybe mine He3? Maybe a radio telescope on the far side of it as we dawdle our thumbs for half our lives in wait?

    Forget that. Scrap those ideas (and the dumb ISS) and task the brilliant engineers and scientists of NASA (and their international partners) to get to work building fleets of incredible probes and telescopes to get out into the solar system and answer the really important questions of our universe.

    We should make NASA exciting, relevant, and on the front page of our newspapers every month sometime soon describing the latest successful landing of a probe onto Venus, an impact into a comet, a first light picture of the 3rd generation Hubble, directly sampling an ocean on Europa, Terrestrial Planet Finder……gosh there is so much to we could be doing!

    But now, because of Griffin and NASA’s mission (and their budget priorities with the ISS and Moon landings, etc) we even have to put on hold approved missions like the Mars Science Lab for lack of funding. Sad and dumb.

  9. Mark T.

    The last time I looked, and I may be off, NASA was only about 0.058% of the national budget. Hardly worth destroying all those dreams to save a few pennies.

    Anyone know how much the invasion of Iraq has cost so far?

  10. Mitch Miller

    “The last time I looked, and I may be off, NASA was only about 0.058% of the national budget. Hardly worth destroying all those dreams to save a few pennies.

    Anyone know how much the invasion of Iraq has cost so far?”

    Why is the Iraq war a waste? It created thousands of jobs, employed subcontractors ect. (I personally think the Iraq was a huge waste but I don’t see why the job creation argument doesn’t work for both)

  11. Cheyenne

    The Iraq war costs about $255 million per day. That’s $1.8 billion a week. Not to mention the “cost” of thousands upon thousands of Iraqi dead, US soldiers killed and maimed, and ruined international relations.

    What that has to do with astronomy and science is up for discussion.

  12. gopher65

    War is an economic waste because you are just tossing your money away. There is no ripple effect from the purchase of military equipment. Once you buy it, that’s it. Then, 5 years later, you replace it cause the other guys have built something better. (It’s like buying a new iPod every 6 months as they come out. Waaaaaaste). With R&D you get a huge ripple effect. The money you spend does exactly the same thing as military money (employ labourers, use up resources, etc), but then it does more work afterward.

  13. gopher65

    Infrastructure building is the same way. Big ripple effect from building additional mass transit, bridges, sewers, power lines, etc.

  14. Gary Ansorge

    Luna as a resource base for the construction of solar power satellites might well be something the general public could understand and get behind. Initial start up costs for such a meg-project are always very large, but as a long range investment the potential return is enormous. Gerard K. O’Neilles original estimates(based upon the proposed efficacy of the space shuttle) for such a project was $100 billion to build the first power sat, with each succeeding sat costing $ 10 billion. Each power sat would generate 1000 Mw. 20,000 such power sats would generate 20 trillion watts, about equal to our current planetary electrical generation. It would require a large construction facility on Luna, to mine the heavy construction materials from which the sats would be built (in space)at the L5 site, then towed to their respective geosynchronous positions.
    The power is beamed to earth using short wave radio(probably near the 2.4 ghz of satellite transmissions), with 90% conversion efficiency, 24/7 availability, no on earth waste generation or pollution.
    As a peripheral benefit, the construction site would have spin off into other sites, for Lunar far side deep space telescopes, etc.

    Yeah, I think if properly explained, even Joe the Plumber could buy into that,,,

    GAry 7

  15. Mark

    Sorry BA, but I totally disagree. Manned exploration at this point is not economically feasible. The money should be spent on automated scientific missions. We can do dozens (or hundreds?) of those for the price of one manned mission. We should concentrate our resources on increasing scientific knowledge; along with trying to develop a real (economical) space shuttle. There is no advantage to sending people instead of robots, and there is a huge downside.

  16. Phil, I’d be interested to hear any comments you may have on the Planetary Society’s recent Roadmap for Human Space Exploration, where they rather put the Moon on one side without exactly ruling it out.

    http://www.planetary.org/programs/projects/space_advocacy/roadmap.html

  17. Mitch Miller

    How is buying a new ipod every 6 months a waste? Apple spends a ton of money on research, buy products from other companies like NVIDIA and makes products that people want which are getting better and better.

  18. Mitch Miller

    I think you guys have a bias against millitary spending since you do not like what the millitary does. Now, I agree with you guys on this as I am a pacifist but as far as the economy is concerned building missles and bombs is the same as shuttles and space stations. If you want to argue that the long term (20 year+) benefits of space research is much higher you are free to (although millitary research often ends up in civilian technology down the line as well) but that is a somewhat different argument than we can’t shut down NASA because of the short term economic fallout.

  19. “;going back to the Moon is what NASA should focus on, as long as the science is not sacrificed.”

    It will take science to get there, no matter what we do. Even hitting a golf ball on the moon is an experiment in rudimentary physics. I say whatever it takes to get humans interested and on the moon, let’s do it. If Coca-cola signs and Hilton hotels are the first major structures we build there, so be it.

    We are explorers by nature. Columbus didn’t sail across the Atlantic on a geology expedition, or to conduct biology experiments. Regardless of the mission, let’s stop talking about it and GO!

    8)

    p.s. Speaking of science, there’s a hearing going on right now at the Texas State Board of Education regarding teaching science, not religion, in science classes. Go to tfn dot org for more details.

  20. SLC

    Mr. Cheyenne hits the nail on the head. It is time to realize that the manned space program is a gigantic money sink that takes away funds better spent on ambitious robotic space projects. Bob park and Steven Weinberg are 100% correct and accurate in advising a scaleback in the manned space program. But of course, there are some who think that Park and Weinberg don’t know what they are talking about.

  21. Leon

    One nitpick about Griffin’s statement: I’m not sure I would say that two Congresses have strongly endorsed it, when they’ve failed to fund it.

  22. Tim

    I wonder why you support the moon mission as the next focus for NASA. Surely building those Ares rockets will be good thing for the whole of solar system exploration. But I much prefer the current proposal of the Planetary Society “Beyond the Moon” (http://www.planetary.org/programs/projects/space_advocacy/20081113.html), leaving the moon aside and going for deep space with the final destination: Mars.

    I think this proposal makes very much sense (at least to a layman like me ;-): it will be much cheaper (skipping those lunar landers) and you will get much more attractive goals in the nearer future, like near earth objects.

  23. BaldApe

    Mitch,

    The reason I’m a science teacher and not a grocery store clerk is that my father worked for NASA. I was inspired by the manned space program, inspired to learn about science, inspired to believe the world can be a better place, because human beings were doing something new and important and edifying.

    It’s hard to see how the Iraq war does anything particularly edifying. Yeah, the military does research, but it’s classified, so there’s little stimulus to the civilian economy from it. I suppose some people are inspired by the idea of shooting the people who were responsible for 9/11 people, but that doesn’t seem to me to make the world a better place. Yes infrastructure spending has a big ripple effect, and I strongly support such spending, especially on non-carbon based electric generation, but it’s not as inspiring, at least to me, as human beings living and working on the moon.

  24. Grand Lunar

    “For 35 years since the Nixon administration, we’ve been on the wrong path.”

    I agree whole heartedly with Griffin on this.

    We should never had got rid of the Saturn rockets. Going to the moon was the right track for our future in space. Who knows where we could’ve been by now.

    I hope the right descisions are made this time.

  25. Mike R.

    People need to move off the planet. The moon is the most logical first step. Our main goal should be to establish a permanent outpost on the moon, make it self sustaining, then make it profitable. I doubt we can ever put a man on Mars if we can’t put one on the Moon for an extended period of time. We should also be working on space stations that can grow to become actual living environments.

    Once we are living on the moon and in orbit in a real way, the solar system is ours.

    Probes are wonderful, but if humanity wants to realize it’s potential, we need to move off the planet. Sending hunks of metal and silicon around the solar system probably doesn’t impress our galactic overlords all that much.

  26. Elmar_M

    Ok, here are my two cents:
    1. On the cost of military: Spending money on research for military technology and spending money on new military equipment means money is spent in your own country. However if you spend it abroad in a war say in Iraq, where the US is spending billions in rebuilding infra structure that was destroyed and on supporting a government that is “friendly” then this is not going to do any good (economically) for people in the US. Sorry to say that, the war is a waste of money, period (IMHO in all aspects it was a waste).

    2. While I do respect Mr Griffin and the Bad Astronomer a lot, I do not agree with the goals that were set by the Bush administration and propagated to Mr Griffin.
    My personal opinion is more in line with most of the new space people: Make it cheap (and I mean really, really cheap) to get to LEO first. Once you are in LEO, you can get pretty much anywhere. Getting to LEO is still insanely expensive and the new architecture Ares1 and Ares5 wont change anything about that. If they ever get of the ground that is. Currently they are faced with troubles from budget to weight, to time overruns. Some of them certainly have been blown out of proportion by some new space people that would benefit from the failure of the programme though. Nevertheless it still stays true that these vehicles wont make space any cheaper, more affordable or within the reach of smaller science institutions. Wouldnt it be better to make space generally more affordable first, before we go to the moon, mars, or anywhere else? What point is in having a station on the moon, if after a couple of years we find that it is to expensive to maintain it?

  27. tacitus

    Cheaper ways of getting into orbit also need to be considered. The difficulty and expense of getting into orbit is a real stumbling block for rapid development of space resources. There has been a flurry of interest recently in Japan over the concept of the Space Elevator where scientists are beginning to believe that such a project will become feasible within the next couple of decades.

    When the Japanese get serious about something, it’s time to sit up and notice. While it may be premature to start investing billions into the concept (there are still plenty of really tough technological hurdles to cross) we should not drop the ball on it either, or we could be left far behind in launch capability in the years ahead. A viable space elevator would be a real game changer for everyone.

  28. tacitus

    BTW: I don’t actually care who is the first to build a space elevator — so long as one gets built. (I would, prefer it to be NASA or perhaps the ESA, but even if it’s China, it would still be a great day in the history of space exploration).

  29. JoeSmithCA

    You know what I think? The heck with bailing out the banks, the car industry, mortgage industry and funding the war. Just give me the money. I hear by declare myself the The Republic of Joe Smith and I declare war on Mars! Alright now lets get the military contractors loans from the banks and lets build a fleet of spaceships (using nuclear powered flight, this is a military operation!) and conquer Mars! We must strike first before the little green men attack!

  30. People don’t need to move off the planet, we need to learn how to live on this planet without destroying it.

  31. Mitch Miller

    BaldApe,

    I am a scientist and would be unemployed without the NSF. I do not think it is fair for me to argue that the eliminating the NSF would have a huge negative impact on the economy because it is not true. If I think that it helps humans create new technology I can argue that but that is a different thing.

  32. I agree with Cheyenne. Moon and Mars landings are, as far as I can tell, probably many decades away from having serious practical or scientific benefits. For now, I think we’re better off focusing on the projects that will advance scientific understanding in the next decade or two.

  33. DG

    If you want bigger rockets for outer solar system research – build them for that. Forget the money wasted on going to the moon in the process.

    Using the moon for power generation? That involves another set of completely undeveloped technologies, and would be an even bigger waste of money if we tried to develop them to correspond to near-term moon missions.

    I do believe we need to get off the planet at some point. But why does everything technological have to be a new Manhatten Project? That’s what’s wasting our money and killing NASA science. We need to give the project the time it needs. I mean, how long did we spend working on Hubble before it launched? That’s just sitting there in LEO taking pictures!

    We should be gearing up for the Moon, but with a target launch a few more DECADES down the line. This is the only sensible way to have everything.

  34. Some points:

    1) NASA employs 300,000 people.

    2) Manned spaceflight is expensive, but that’s a large part of what NASA does, and should be doing.

    3) I haven’t read the Planetary Society’s statement yet, but I will. As of right now, I am not behind a long-term goal of reaching Mars. The case for that has not, in my opinion, been made clearly. Missions to the Moon and near-Earth asteroids is a better goal, with Mars somewhere down the line; the difficulties with such a mission are still very large compared to a lunar base.

  35. Quiet Desperation

    Mike R. Says: People need to move off the planet.

    Can I pick which people? :-)

    Our main goal should be to establish a permanent outpost on the moon, make it self sustaining, then make it profitable.

    OK. Help me fill in the details here:

    1. Build moonbase.
    2. ???
    3. Profit!

    Oh, wait, thought I was on Slashdot for a moment. ;-)

  36. Elmar_M

    Well there is the often ignored and denied issue of overpopulation that our planet will face in the not so distant future. Unfortunately our space faring capabilities are far to pittifull for them to pose any solution to the issue, even in the long term. The result: wars, wars, wars, civilizations and entire people that will vanish from this planet. The environment will be the least of peoples concern when they will fight for their naked lives. Its a bleak future, but if the chinese, the indians and the other overbreeding people in this world dont get their act together a very, very realistic one, very soon too…

  37. On space exploration: as much as I’d love to go into space some day as a tourist, manned space missions inherently have a terrible science-per-dollar ratio, and the ISS has been nothing but a giant boondoggle of international bureaucracy and politics. (Key example: its orbital inclination, which is steep for the sake of going over Russia so Russian citizens can see it with binoculars, adding to the cost of every launch for no valid scientific reason.)

    I’d rather see more probes along the lines of Spirit/Opportunity, Cassini, and Galileo. While we learned a lot from the Apollo missions, satellites and landers with suitable instruments can do almost anything human can do in person.

    If space elevators ever become a reality, then we can re-examine the cost effectiveness of manned missions or permanent colonies.

    On economics: it’s the Keynesian broken window fallacy to say, without qualification, that cutting government jobs will cause permanent unemployment. For the NASA staffers who lose their jobs, it does indeed suck to be temporarily unemployed. But if the government cuts taxes in tandem with expenses, then the funding to pay those salaries still exists: it has simply moved from the government sector to the private sector, where ideas have to compete on merit rather than navigation of bureaucracy.

    As an unfortunate caveat, though, the Federal Reserve’s habit of artificially lowering interest rates by pumping money into banks (normally through “open market operations”, but now through bailouts) results in citizens artificially valuing the present over the future. In a healthy economy, low interest rates exist only if people are saving money instead of spending it, because they are valuing investments in the future over consumption in the present. But when the Fed dumps money into the system to lower interest rates artificially, investment is no longer attractive. Result: people stop caring about the future, because they feel that it’s already taken care of by someone else. They end up with negative feelings about science and research, both basic and applied, because it takes too long and doesn’t give them anything *now*.

    So the sad result is that, if NASA’s staff were cut but Fed intervention continued, the result would be that government NASA jobs would be replaced with private sector retail jobs (e.g. burger flippers and Wal-mart cashiers). But that’s itself the fault of the Keynesian ideas that run deep through both US parties (i.e. that you can stimulate your way out of a recession by printing money to hire more government workers, or by printing money to cut interest rates).

  38. Lisa

    it’s not just about the rockets being more powerful to get there in terms of payload. If we want to send manned space missions future, we need to have a better if the long terms effects of radiation on both people AND equipment. The galactic cosmic ray spectrum is different from that of any environment we’ve been able to monitor in the past, including the international space station because we are shield by our own magnetic field. This is the best way to find out how our equipment will hold up to the tests of time because we willl be able to examine the damage… can you tell i work on a project for future moon missions? i guess i’m just a big fat biased scientist.

  39. Thank you. Ironically, between me asking and you answering, I found Paul Spudis’ blog (via Emily!) – he has a thing or two to say about it, too.

  40. Cheyenne

    Phil- If NASA should be doing manned missions than they need to do a much better job of explaining what they are doing, why the are doing it, and what the concrete benefits of it are. And also, (since there is no such thing as a free lunch and they have to work within budget) why manned missions have a priority over other missions.

    Elmar- Goodness. Smile up a little. From what I can see the future is so bright I have to wear shades ;)

    And speaking of PR- anybody heard the latest ball (actually, “crucial tool bag”) drop from our spacewalkers? Even things like lubing up the joints on the ISS are very difficult. A permanent moonbase is going to be much, much harder than most people realize (I think).

  41. Charles Boyer

    Cheaper ways of getting to orbit … space elevator …

    Build the rope and you’ve just assured yourself of a Nobel Prize in Physics and/or chemistry. Too bad there’s not a Nobel for Materials Science.

    1. Build moonbase.
    2. ???
    3. Profit!

    2: Helium-3. Something in abundance on the moon. Something that can be used for fusion reactions without that nasty hard radiation. At $5.7 million dollars per kilogram in current US dollars, there’s lots of profit in that something.

  42. changcho

    We should do both, the science (MSL, Cassini, etc.) AND the manned spaceflight. W.r.t the latter, hopefully we will move beyond just doing the ISS.

    I am ambivalent at Griffin staying; if he stays, fine. If he does go, it will be very important to pay a lot of attention to the possible candidates for the NASA chief role…

  43. justcorbly

    For 35 years since the Nixon administration, we’ve been on the wrong path

    We all know that, but it’s nice to see it said.

    NASA’s budget, like foreign aid, is commonly seen as much more costly than it really is. If times get really tough, it will be an easy whipping boy. (BYW, until we get to 25 percent unemployment and all the banks close and all their depositors lose everything, were not as bad as the Great Depression.)

    What should we do? NASA should continue a robust program of unmanned research probes that push the envelope. More importantly, it should focus on building a private and public infrastructure to provide long-term support for manned space travel. No more building entirely new launch systems for every new program. Returning to the Moon and keeping people their permanently is the best way of building out that infrastructure. Finish the ISS and then convert it into something that’s actually useful, like a construction and staging station for manned missions to the Moon and beyond.

    One more thing: We go too slow. Spend some serious money on developing breakthrough propulsion that can get us to the Moon in hours and Mars in a few weeks. Travel, in space or anywhere, is easier if you aren’t gone for 18 months.

  44. bjn

    Did he really use “Democrat” as an adjective after correctly using Republican? He’s obviously a partisan happy to twist the language into this “Democrat Party” adolescent nonsense. I’d fire him based on using Republican bastardized grammar alone. This guy didn’t think NASA has a mission to study this planet’s climate.

    What is the actual plan to get back to the Moon? Where does NASA detail the plan and the mission goals?

    Aha, here’s a for-public-consumption pdf boldly starting out with quotes from our brilliant two-term commander in chief: http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/55583main_vision_space_exploration2.pdf

    I used to belong to the Planetary Society, but I think we need to prioritize understanding this planet, its ecology, its resources, and its climate before pushing human missions to the Moon and Mars. If there’s really profit to be had mining the Moon, let the space entrepreneurs figure out how to get it without having NASA build the infrastructure.

  45. Elmar_M

    Charles, unfortunately there is no practical fusion reactor yet. There are some attempts at making one. Most are about using D and T or D+D or the most optimistic ones use P+B. P*B actually has He3 as a result :)
    I really hope that one of them works, it will give us a few more years to deal with the other issues.

    Cheyenne, I might be overly pessimistic, but I do have a record to be rather good at extrapolating current developments into the future. E.g. it is less than 17 years ago that I held a speech about nuclear fusion in my highschool class. Back then I managed to get the attention of my class mates by painting a rather bleak scenario about wars that will be fought over the remaining oil resources in the world, if we dont succeed. Well it took much less than 20 years to see the advent of these things (and that is only the beginning).

    Anyway, the almost explosive increase in world- population has been ongoing and has only slowed down marginally.
    Sadly it is not us maturing our approach to this issue, but human tragedies like HIV, wars, starvation and catastrophies that have mostly contributed to this slowdown. Nevertheless the world population is still growing. At the current rate I see a 11 billion population in 25 years from now. That is NOT a long time. From what I know we would be able to sustain 12 billion people by converting all (!) farmable land into dutch garden farmed land, the most efficient way to grow plants (in regards to land). The environment is of course going to be of no concern to anyone at that point.
    Of course this situation will inevitably lead to discontent among people. Discontent people revolt, kill, call for wars. It is just a question who will shoot at each other first. The others might manage to get away with a blue eye. E.g. if India and China were to war each other, then the Europe and the americas might get comparably little fallout.
    Looking at past records, it is much more likely though that we will be involved somehow.
    Think about it! Look at the news and tell me that I am too pessimistic, please! I beg you! Give me some reasons to see a bright and shiny future, because I have none.

  46. tacitus


    Build the rope and you’ve just assured yourself of a Nobel Prize in Physics and/or chemistry. Too bad there’s not a Nobel for Materials Science.

    That’s ok — I’m sure the inventors will settle for the boatloads of money they would make spinning 22,000+ miles of the stuff.

    It does seem to be a long way off, but threads, twine, rope, and fabrics made from carbon nanotubes have great potential for being hugely profitable in many fields, including building materials, bulletproof vests, etc, that billions of dollars is being invested in creating longer and stronger threads, and great strides have already been made — even in the area of mass production.

    The jury is still out on the overall feasibility of a space elevator (lots of engineering issues), but I suspect that within a decade we will, at least, be close to having the materials science required to build one. Then some serious experimentation and design work will begin.

  47. Pisces

    I’d like to see space travel and exploration popularized the way it was in the 60’s through the 80’s. We need more PR….there’s so much wonder in the universe that the average person isn’t exposed to.
    Remember Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos” series? Where is today’s equivalent? Why aren’t major events in science and space exploration featured more prominently on network news? Someone has to bring these amazing discoveries to the attention of the people who pay for them: the taxpayers. In the immortal words of Gus, “No Bucks, No Buck Rogers”.
    I think Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites, among other civilian enterprises are on the right track….bringing the wonder of space travel to anyone who can afford a ticket to ride the rocket.
    Also international ventures shouldn’t be overlooked. Pooling resources on a global scale would make a return to the Moon or an expedition to Mars much more feasible….as well as larger and more effective probes.

    …..and don’t get me started on the state of space science in education these days!

  48. amphiox

    I agree with Mike R. The point of manned spaceflight is not science and can never be just science because robotic missions will always be able to do the science cheaper and better. The point of manned spaceflight is to move us further along the trajectory that leads to the establishment of self-sustaining colonies someplace other than earth, which is the only way to ensure the longterm survival of our species.

    Manned spaceflight, in essence, is a security issue, not a science issue.

    However, I suspect that it would be technically easier and more practical to build orbital habitats, ala Biosphere II (except, of course, that they have to work properly!) housing populations in the range of 10000 to 100000, or whatever number is required to have a genetically stable population in the longterm, rather than trying to build and sustain colonies on hostile worlds like the Moon and Mars.

    The environments of these habitats would be tailor designed to suit humans, and all you have to do is strap an engine on one of them, and it becomes a spacecraft. In the beginning, of course, you’d have to lift materials from earth into orbit to build them, but eventually, you should be able to get your resources from space. When population growth nears the maximum limit, you could move your habitat to a source of these resources, like an asteroid or comet, build a new habitat, move half your population into it, and repeat the process.

    Thus the human population can spread outward from the Sun, and not be limited by the availability of suitable planets. It wouldn’t be all that long before the outer edge of this “colonization bubble” reaches the nearest star, without there having been any deliberately planned interstellar mission at all. Of course the caveat here is that these most far flung habitats would require a source of energy independent of its distance from any star, such as fusion.

  49. Jeeves

    So, assuming we can go back to the moon, what are we going to *do* there? There must have been many people who said that once we got a beachhead in space, the solar system was basically spread out before us. But now that we have the ISS, everybody calls it a white elephant and a boondoggle. I can’t help thinking that’s exactly how a moonbase would end up, if and when it gets built. It’s nice and all, very impressive, but what is it actually *good* for?

  50. Tim G

    I think NASA’s focus should be on projects like the Terrestrial Planet Finder and its successors. Vesta, Ceres, Europa, Enceladus and Titan should be studied more with probes. Funding for development of new propulsion technologies like VASIMR should be secured.

    Perhaps Ares V rockets, which have a better payload-to-LEO capability than Saturn V rockets, can play a role.

  51. Tim

    I very much recommend reading the Planetary Society’s memo. It’s not a Zubrinesque utopian plan, but very much based in the real-world.

    But in case you don’t find the time, here the main points (as I understand them):

    – NASA’s budget is quite restricted and it wont get better soon (world economy crisis).

    – The absolut near-time focus should be building Ares/Orion as soon as possible.

    – Setting the moon as the target for 2020 presses the tight budget such that there’s no room for adjustments. It is much better to set long-term goals (beyond 2020) and minor “milestones” along. These intermediate goals can be adjusted according to time and budget.

    – building the moon-lander will be quite expensive. This could endanger the whole program and Ares/Orion.

    – The public opinion: It’s hard to sell a distant goal (like reaching the moon in 2020) the paying public. There will be a long time with no mayor achievements and the target (moon) might look like just another Apollo mission from the past.
    In order to keep the public interested it would be better to reach smaller targets in shorter time, like a first deep space mission (seeing the earth as just tiny spot in space! Just think of what the “blue marble” did for the public opinion).

    – Many other intermidiate steps, that can be reached quite cheaply (at least compared to a lunar landing). These intermediate step can be achieved in a pay-as-you-go way. Budget restriction wont hamper the whole enterprise.

    – Along with that extensive robotic exploration and sample return mission to Mars.

    Ok, the main target is Mars and I know that most people see no value in setting foot on Mars. But I think it’s a cultural imperative. One has to be frank about that: it’s not for the science or finding out if once there was life on Mars, it’s because Mars is (as for as I know) the only other place in solar system where human settlement is possible. And that’s the reason why we should reach for Mars.

  52. Nigel Depledge

    Mitch Miller said:

    How is buying a new ipod every 6 months a waste? Apple spends a ton of money on research, buy products from other companies like NVIDIA and makes products that people want which are getting better and better.

    But iPod technology doesn’t spin off any other new innovations, whereas space technology does. Also, iPods aren’t getting “better and better”. Instead, manufacturers are adding features that expand the job it does (e.g. videos and games as well as music). Compare an iPod with a personal CD player, and you will find that, given adequate-quality headphones, the CD player always produces better sound quality.

    The same goes for military. Because the DoD keeps all of its patents secret (an abuse of the patent system if ever there was one, but that’s a separate debate), no new non-military tech can be spun off from the military R&D.

  53. Nigel Depledge

    Mark said:

    Sorry BA, but I totally disagree. Manned exploration at this point is not economically feasible. The money should be spent on automated scientific missions. We can do dozens (or hundreds?) of those for the price of one manned mission. We should concentrate our resources on increasing scientific knowledge; along with trying to develop a real (economical) space shuttle. There is no advantage to sending people instead of robots, and there is a huge downside.

    It astonishes me how often this argument crops up.

    While the robotic missions return good data for a fraction of the cost of a manned mission, and can do so without risk to human life, you have missed the most inmportant factor.

    Inspiration.

    No amount of robotic probing can inspire ordinary people as much as a single manned mission going (erm … boldly) where no-one has gone before.

    The human endeavour of, as the only real example, the Apollo missions inspired people to become scientists and engineers; and it inspired others to support science and technological development. Without this, how much less funding would NASA have today? I have no idea, and we have no way of knowing, but it must be a huge difference.

  54. Nigel Depledge

    Mark Miller said:

    although millitary research often ends up in civilian technology down the line as well

    Such as what?

    I have yet to see any of the high-end military tech leading to civvy-street developments.

    GPS is an obvious example, but the US military machine retains the capability to degrade the signal available for civilian use (which is why the US objected so strongly to Europe planning to install a similar system). But this example also falls down because it is not military technology. While it was funded by the military, the technology was already extant, and arises from metrology, which is a civilian science.

    What benefits have cruise missile technology (for example) given to the man in the street? How about plastic land mines? What benefit does this technology bring to civilian endeavours?

  55. Nigel Depledge

    Greg in Austin said:

    We are explorers by nature. Columbus didn’t sail across the Atlantic on a geology expedition, or to conduct biology experiments. Regardless of the mission, let’s stop talking about it and GO!

    Erm … not a good example, Greg. Columbus was hoping to get rich by finding a shorter trade route to India and China.

  56. Nigel Depledge

    SLC said:

    Bob park and Steven Weinberg are 100% correct and accurate in advising a scaleback in the manned space program. But of course, there are some who think that Park and Weinberg don’t know what they are talking about.

    Well, Park and Weinberg are physicists. When they talk about physics, I’m convinced that they do know what they are talking about. When it comes to money, not so much. Or have you forgotten the financial debacle that was the SSC?

    Note – I do not know if Park was involved in the SSC, but Weinberg certainly was.

  57. elmore

    What ever you do, contact your representatives and senators today! They ultimately control the purse strings. So whether it is manned or unmanned, Moon or Mars, there will be money involved and Congress has to know that there are people who believe that we MUST be in the forefront for space exploration.

  58. Greg in Austin

    Nigel Depledge said:

    I have yet to see any of the high-end military tech leading to civvy-street developments.

    Ever see on television a police chase at night with helicopters and night-vision cameras? What about lightweight body armor? Surveillance equipment? Those are just a few

    But iPod technology doesn’t spin off any other new innovations, whereas space technology does. Also, iPods aren’t getting “better and better”. Instead, manufacturers are adding features that expand the job it does (e.g. videos and games as well as music). Compare an iPod with a personal CD player, and you will find that, given adequate-quality headphones, the CD player always produces better sound quality.

    I have to disagree with you here, too. iPods came before iPhones, a direct spin-off. Millions of people now have iPhones. Because of the economies of scale, that reduces the cost of the individual components (such as accelerometers, touchscreens, wifi adapters, etc.) which directly benefits every other technology industry. And to say that a CD player is better than an MP3 player is just silly. They’re both digital, the only difference is the bit rate at which you record from CD to MP3. If both players have the same audio playback components, the sound would be indistinguishable.

    8)

  59. Greg in Austin

    Nigel also said,

    Erm … not a good example, Greg. Columbus was hoping to get rich by finding a shorter trade route to India and China.

    Thanks for making my point, which was that as human beings, we don’t need a scientific reason to explore. Apparently, greed is a good motivator. If the moon had a core of gold, or large deposits of precious metals, you bet we would have been back there sooner.

    8)

  60. Nigel Depledge

    Greg in Austin said:

    Ever see on television a police chase at night with helicopters and night-vision cameras?

    Helicopters and night-vision cameras are not based on technology that was invented in military research. They come from military applications of technology that was developed by civilian research.

    There is a difference between a technology (e.g. the detection of infra-red radiation) and the application (IR cameras).

    What about lightweight body armor?

    OK, I’ll grant you that. This is a military technology that is used in a paramilitary context all over the world. But, aside from the military and paramilitary entities (by which I include special police units such as SWAT), who uses lightweight body armour?

    Surveillance equipment

    I’m not sure what you’re getting at here. Do you mean audio bugs, spy satellites, miniature cameras, or what? And I think you’ll find that, apart from law-enforcement, these have no civilian application at all, and neither have they spawned civilian spin-off technology. And, in fact, these are all military applications of technologies that were initially developed by civilian research.

  61. Cheyenne

    “As of right now, I am not behind a long-term goal of reaching Mars.” – Phil Plait

    A doctor of Astronomy who has more knowledge of all things science and NASA in his little pinky than I have in my entire (little) brain thinks that a manned mission to Mars is something that he doesn’t back.

    Have a think on that for second (and then one more, OK one more Mississippi…) and realize what it means.

    It confirms that the ISS is not a good investment and a waste of time. Phil supports a manned mission to the moon (I don’t, we did that years ago- epically awesome on our part at the time), and so do many others. The ISS won’t be used for that, and neither will the so-called “science” that comes out of it. We already know how to get astronauts to the moon and what the effects of that short term space travel are.

    If we’re not going to send humans to Mars in this decade, the next, or the next thereafter (and we won’t if we’re honest with ourselves) the ISS doesn’t contribute and severely detracts from more noteworthy projects.

    Every year that passes by we build more capable robots. Every year that passes by the less sense it makes to send fragile humans up into the skies.

    The Air Force has a serious cultural problem with drones. They want Top Gun aviators- they don’t want to be considered XBox players. It’s the same thing with NASA.

    Sigh. Take the pain NASA and rip off the band-aid quick. You’re the coolest agency in the US- actually, the world (maybe the universe- but we won’t know until you find us some other civilizations!). With Obama’s win it’s open season for setting a new direction. You guys want to take the lead in giving us the answers to some of the most fundamental questions in this vast cosmic realm? Do you think you could do that better if we transferred money from projects like the latest recyclable pee machine to other ones?

    I’m really hoping for new leadership, a new mission statement, and a re-focus on what actually makes sense after this election.

  62. Nigel Depledge

    Greg in Austin said:

    I have to disagree with you here, too. iPods came before iPhones, a direct spin-off.

    Hmmm … In what way is the iPhone more useful than a traditional phone? And I’m fairly sure that VOIP existed before iPods had taken off. The iPhone is not a spin-off from the iPod, apart from being marketed by the same company.

    Millions of people now have iPhones.

    So? Billions have traditional phones, and these were not a spin-off from the iPod.

    Because of the economies of scale, that reduces the cost of the individual components (such as accelerometers, touchscreens, wifi adapters, etc.) which directly benefits every other technology industry.

    Hey, I never said there wasn’t any benefit, just that the iPod has not spun off any new innovations. Which is true.

    And to say that a CD player is better than an MP3 player is just silly.

    But nevertheless true.

    They’re both digital, the only difference is the bit rate at which you record from CD to MP3. If both players have the same audio playback components, the sound would be indistinguishable.

    Not true, if the audio playback components are of sufficient quality – something I did stipulate in my previous comment.

    Next time you pass a hifi shop, pop in and see how many CD players they have, and then count how many MP3 players they have. In a recent poll of my 3 nearest hifi shops, it was more than a dozen versus zero.

    Now, I’m not going to claim that the two formats aren’t indistinguishable for most people for most of the time (especially using those crappy little earphones that come with most portable players). However, this is different from claiming that MP3 is as good as CD.

  63. Greg in Austin

    Hmmm … In what way is the iPhone more useful than a traditional phone?

    In the terms of making a phone call, nothing. In terms of having one hand-held device that has a touchscreen, camera, gps, acceleration and orientation components, wifi, music, video and internet, not to mention nearly unlimited software applications, the iPhone is marvel of modern technology. As a software and hardware developer, I know this technology has been around for many years, but until recently, it has been mostly unaffordable by the average person.

    What’s a hifi shop? ;)

    The last time I went to Best Buy, they had more MP3 players than CD players. Can you tell me what the difference is between the file format on an audio CD and an uncompressed WAV file? Then tell me what the difference is between an uncompressed WAV file, and an encoded MP3 at 320 kbit/s. Remember, most MP3 players, iPods included, can play back uncompressed WAV files. So, with the same headphones, and the same song, one on CD, one as a WAV file on an MP3 player, what’s the difference?

    8)

  64. gss_000

    @Cheyenne

    I have to take exception with your using Phil as the reason why a manned trip to Mars isn’t worth it. Stephen Hawking spoke in April and stated that manned colonization of the Moon and Mars was not only necessary but scientifically important. Since he’s probably one of the smartest men on the planet, does that mean the manned argument wins out?

  65. Cheyenne

    GSS- Well, I’m not really “using” him- I’m quoting his words on his blog. And since he is eminently qualified (given his credentials) to make a statement on what NASA should or shouldn’t do it seems appropriate.

    I’m pretty sure that if I matched up my IQ to Stephen Hawking’s I’d get stomped like a Narc at a biker rally- but that doesn’t mean he’s right in this case. As I remember he thinks we should do that to insure the survival of the species from catastrophes. As though we’re going to spot a comet that is incoming, jump into our millions of anti-matter powered spacecraft, and go set up a new life on Mars.

    I’m arguing (rather lamely probably) for more rationality and sound decision-making at NASA. And for them to take the opportunity of a new election cycle to embrace a new direction.

  66. Quiet Desperation

    iPods came before iPhones, a direct spin-off.

    Not to mention:

    – The first iPod was a (relatively) clunky unit with a vulnerable, mechanical hard drive that pretty much just played tunes.

    – The latest is a much slimmer unit with solid state memory rivaling the original hard drive, plays videos and can broswe the internet via built in wifi.

    The LCD panels and regularity of the backlighting have improved a lot as well. Sometimes it’s the little things.

  67. Elmar_M

    I am not quite sure what the whole Ipod thing is about. It is nothing but an overhyped and overpriced Apple product (like all of them are).
    Military research does have a huge impact on our daily lives. Without it, we would still be flying in propeller planes, e.g. We would have never even broken the sound barrier, even.
    Most of the rocket technology that brings science equipment into space is derived from rockets originally developed for the military (heck, von Braun was working for the German military in WW2 building the V2).
    The first satellites were spy satellites. Now we use the same tech for anything from comunications to earth monitoring and surveillance to google maps.
    Computers… Most of the computer tech comes from code machines and code breaking technology. Later it was advanced for nuclear rocket guidance. Heck 486 CPUs were prohibited to be exported to the USSR until rather recently as they were considered important military tech. No kidding…

  68. fred edison

    I’d love to see a manned mission to Mars, but at this time I don’t think it makes sense for many reasons. If Obama is a leader and a man with a vision of the future, he’ll strongly support the pledge and goal of reestablishing a long-term presence on the Moon. If the U.S. doesn’t do it, and we falter for whatever reasons, you can bet that other nations hungry for the prestige and exciting opportunities to be found there, will be more than happy to take our place and our pride.

  69. Martin

    Nigel, I’d say that your criteria of what’s a product of military research is pretty narrow. Certainly the space program has extended preexisting unrelated research and technologies to its ends in the same manner.

    However, if you consider GPS to be the only truly military achievement, you probably don’t know that internet started as a military ARPAnet project years ago. Heck, even microwave ovens are by-product of radars developped by military in the WWII. Nuclear energy would be certainly delayed several decades hadn’t there be the Manhattan project.

    Seatbelts in your car have been invented and researched by certain Murphy (yes, THAT Murphy) who once noticed that more army pilots died in car accidents than in the planes, and set forth to do something about it. He would just prefer having them wear six-fixed-points variety, that is much safer than todays three-fixed-points kind, but it is more difficult to adjust to different persons and therefore didn’t quite make it into the market.

    Aviation industry certainly made a big step forward during second world war too, as did, fo example, medicine. Or cryptography. Or computing.

    And, speaking about space exploration, first Russian space rockets were based on the infamous V2 that bombed London just a few months earlier; and first American space rockets were designed by their infamous author, von Braun. Yes, there were bright men at the beginning, who wanted to reach for the stars, but they had to turn to military and cajole them into building rockets, satelites and space stations – no one else had the will or resources to do so.

    Even Apollo program, run at the height of the cold war, was essentially a political project, not a scientific one. This is, of course, a far stretch, and I’m not crediting the army with that project. But if it were just for the science, we certainly wouldn’t put a man on the Moon in the sixties.

    Today there are pilotless planes and driverless cars, funded (if not directly developped) by the army, and these will surely someday appear in our garages. Phil has once blogged about the walking robot, do you remember? It is funded by – guess who? The army. It will certainly be sent into disaster areas one day.

    Yes, the price for all these achievements (especially those linked to the world war) was horrible. It probably means we can’t measure the human activities in the terms of technological and scientific advancements only.

    In general I’d be tempted to assume that military is directly or indirectly implicated in most of the technological and scientific advances. After all, the first spear was propably as effective againts rival tribesmen as it was agains mammoths.

  70. Nigel Depledge

    Elmar_M said:

    Military research does have a huge impact on our daily lives. Without it, we would still be flying in propeller planes, e.g. We would have never even broken the sound barrier, even.

    I don’t buy this.

    When Frank Whittle invented the turbojet engine, he was in the RAF, but his superiors really didn’t want to know.

    Jet engine technology, once it had been proven in principle in a civilian context, was then wholeheartedly embraced by the military. According to Wikipaedia, the first plane to fly entirely using turboject power was a Heinkel.

    Most of the rocket technology that brings science equipment into space is derived from rockets originally developed for the military (heck, von Braun was working for the German military in WW2 building the V2).

    Again, you are at best partly right. Solid-fuel rockets have been around for over 1000 years. Large, liquid-fuelled rockets were indeed a development for military purposes, the V1 and V2 being the obvious examples. So, the technology that permits us to loft large loads into orbit was developed for military purposes initially, but was not invented by any military research programme.

    The first satellites were spy satellites.

    Simply not true. Sputnik 1 ended up having nothing more on board than a radio transmitter because the first Soviet rockets could not loft anything heavier than this into orbit. The first US satellite carried a scientific instrument (an X-ray detector), which is how the Van Allen radiation belts were first detected.

    Spy satellites, because they were large, came later.

    Now we use the same tech for anything from comunications to earth monitoring and surveillance to google maps.

    None of which was invented by any military research programme.

    Computers… Most of the computer tech comes from code machines and code breaking technology. Later it was advanced for nuclear rocket guidance. Heck 486 CPUs were prohibited to be exported to the USSR until rather recently as they were considered important military tech. No kidding…

    The USA’s export bans are not an indication of whether or not the technology was invented in a military research programme. I do not think that Intel has ever been a part of the military-industrial machine. However, this does not prevent the existence of military applications of computer technology.

    While the first working prgrammable electronic computer was indeed built at Bletchley Park for military code-breaking purposes, the technology and mathematical logic upon which it was based was largely in existence already. The first programmable computer was Charles Babbage’s difference engine, a mechanical device that he never finished. There is a replica of part of it in the Science Museum in London. Ironically, it took computer-controlled milling machines to make the parts with sufficient precision to make it work smoothly and efficiently.

    As for modern computers, they were only made possible by the invention of the transistor, which arguably was invented at Bell labs in the late ’40s – a decidedly civilian research environment.

    So my question still stands. Apart from the possible exception of liquid-fuelled rockets (which is arguable, but I’ll allow it here), what military research has spun off innovations that benefit us in our civilian lives?

  71. gss_000

    @Cheyenne

    Okay, but there are several problems. I really disagree with your position, but I can somewhat see it. My biggest issue is that while I agree the ISS is not a pure science institution, it’s wrong to see it as not doing science. The engineering there is fantastic. The ISS was just overly sold as a science platform. I think now that you are going to have double the staff, there’s going to be a lot more results. Still, expect engineering, like the testing of the VASIMR engine and the deep space internet protocols that was reported a few days ago.

    Also, his words on the blog, as I read them, were stating that we shouldn’t push towards Mars before the Moon. Why run before we walk? I don’t think it’s a general dismissal of the program (and I hope I’m not putting words into anyone’s mouth).

    BTW, NASA doesn’t make the decisions on what it works on. NASA executes the agenda of the President and the Congress, as stated by the NASA Authorization Acts. As such, you aren’t going to see the manned programs go away any time soon. They provide way too many jobs all around the country to contractors and companies, the same one who build the satellites.

    Still, I really want a manned person on Mars when we are ready. From personal experience, one field geologist will redefine what we know on the planet. For instance, today’s glacier finding, you could have someone very easily dig to find them and look at it directly.

  72. Nigel Depledge

    Martin said:

    Nigel, I’d say that your criteria of what’s a product of military research is pretty narrow.

    Perhaps you are right.

    I was wondering if someone was going to point out the weaknesses of the arguments I was making.

    However, if you consider GPS to be the only truly military achievement, you probably don’t know that internet started as a military ARPAnet project years ago.

    Yes, the internet was entirely a military tool. However, not only was the world-wide web that operates on the internet entirely a civilian scientific tool (invented by scientists at CERN), it can equally be argued that the internet was not an invention, but merely the application of existing technology.

    An earlier commenter claimed that military research has spun off innovations for use in day-to-day civilian life. While I acknowledge that many technologies have been rapidly developed by military spending, I still maintain that military research does very little in terms of spinning off innovations into civilian sectors.

    Heck, even microwave ovens are by-product of radars developped by military in the WWII. Nuclear energy would be certainly delayed several decades hadn’t there be the Manhattan project.

    Here you are absolutely right. These are the first two unambiguous examples of military research spinning off innovation into civilian life.

    Phew! That took a while.

  73. Nigel Depledge

    Martin said:

    [Several examples snipped out for brevity]

    In general I’d be tempted to assume that military is directly or indirectly implicated in most of the technological and scientific advances. After all, the first spear was propably as effective againts rival tribesmen as it was agains mammoths.

    I disagree.

    While there will frequently be military applications of new scientific developments, and while military funding will often bring about development of a technology from proof-of-principle to reliably-working device faster than can be achieved in the civilian sector alone, I still contend that military research makes at most a modest contribution to civilian innovations.

  74. Johnfruh

    I’m with Cheyenne …
    The supporters of manned missions are sounding like space cadets. Enough already with putting spam in the can and lobbing it at the moon and Mars.

    The ISS was a bad idea from the start. Even Carl Sagan spoke out against manned space flight because it sapped funding from real science missions. And yet they continue to push the idea. What can the weakest link (i.e. humans) add to our knowledge when our tools can do much better?

    Who cares how long the spam can survive in space? It does not help us to glean much sought after knowledge about our celestial neighbours. And who in his right mind would want to suffer the consequences of interplanetary missions? Why risk life and limb when we could risk only hardware?

    Have the robotic missions to Mars taught us nothing about the wisdom of sending our tools to do our discovering for us?

    Can you imagine the advances if all of NASAs efforts were focused on advancing the state of intelligent robotics?

    We humans are the best tool makers ever! This, and our brains, have brought us as far as we have come. We can now extend our reach to the entire solar system without having a real live arm attached to a person on the scene.

    In short, it is time to grow up! Spam in the can is now a liability rather than an asset. Even the military is wise to this (note the predator and all the other pilot-less drones).

  75. lauren kerrod babe

    i think all this about space and living on the moon and mars is facinating BUT george bush says that by 2015 he will have people living on the moon but i dont think it will happen because we havent really reasearched much about how it will affect us and them tht go to the moon what will they eat ????? will they survive ????? if they die is it worth it just coz we wanted

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