A Bit of a Chat, part 2

By Phil Plait | March 9, 2012 1:55 pm

Last week, I was interviewed by my friend Ken Plume for his "A Bit of a Chat" series (which has a pretty stellar list of geeky guests, I must say). That interview is online for your earball pleasure. We talked Dragon*Con, quiz shows, being a little dirty, Bill Corbett (hi Bill!), and then NASA. Oh boy, and then NASA. I spouted off pretty good on that particular topic.

And if hearing me blather for way over an hour isn’t enough, you can also listen to the time he interviewed me back in May 2010.


Comments (7)

  1. Messier Tidy Upper

    Good talk – thanks. :-)

    Few small things if I may.

    Whilst I agree with most of what you said, I disagree with you on Gingrich’s moon base plan. If it was properly funded and a real effort made I think we could establish one by 2020 and setting a deadline – just as JFK did with his “..before this decade is out” is something that can help and is far better than vague “someday” stuff. Of course todo so we’d need to pour in money and effort and focus on and prioritise it and take a few risks and perhaps, sadly, push on despite losses but if they could beat the deadline with Apollo then we can surely do the same now – and it would be a great investment that could boost the national economy and raise national morale and get people excited about science and space again.

    Now I agree that in many ways Newt Gingrich is a horrible person and presidential candidate and many of his other policies – if his rhetoric can be believed & frankly, I think he’s an egotistical pragmatist who doesn’t believe all he says* – are pretty terrible but when it comes to space exploration I think Newton Gingrich is Astronomical Units better than the alternative candidates including Obama.

    I just wish other better candidates in other areas were saying what Newt does and as positive towards the space future as he is. I hate the fact that people are knocking Newton Gingrich’es Moon base plans like that notion of a Lunar colony is worth mocking when it really isn’t. :-(

    Also when it comes to naming Space Shuttle astronauts would John Glenn count? I mean he was a Shuttle astronaut albeit a more famous ‘Mercury’ seven one! ūüėČ

    Personally, I can name quite a few Shuttle astronuats starting with Andy Thomas who most Adelaideans and most Aussies have heard of, also Paul Scully-Power the first Aussie to fly into space albeit that oceanographer changed his nationality to do so, Pamela Melroy, Marsha Ivins – who I ‘ve heard giving public lectures, Sally Ride – the first American woman in space, Ken Ham the resuable spaceplane pilot not the eponymous creationist, Mark Kelly – Gabrielle Gifford’s husband and pilot of the penultimate Space Shuttle flight, Ilan Ramon the Israeli astronaut who died aboard the Columbia as well as Kalpana Chawla and others from that lost crew and Challenger and quite a few more.

    Now, okay, I’m a space buff & hardly typical of the general public but I wonder if its really true that so few can name a single Shuttle astronaut – given the numbers who have flown a lot of Americans would surely have met or at least seen some of the hundreds of astronauts in person and many will know them as family and friends, right?

    Plus is it actually official that Starfleet of Star Trek is a military force as opposed to a space fleet that does science and exploration and is also used for military purposes? I’m no huge trekkie but I gather this is a somewhat disputed and contentious issue in that community.


    * Which is also true of virtually all polititicans. The exceptions that really do believe and mean all they say are very few and far between and often far worse than these egotistical pragmatists who will say what they think they need to to win such as their religious zealots like Rick Santorum, Michelle O’Bachmann and Jim Inhofe.

  2. Messier Tidy Upper

    Michelle O’Bachmann

    Oops, Michelle Bachmann – I blame David Letterman for constantly calling her that on his show. Apologies to any nice members of any real O’Bachmann family(ies).

    Whilst on with corrections that’s :

    Ilan Ramon the Israeli astronaut who died aboard the Columbia as well as Kalpana Chawla and others from that lost crew and the lost Challenger‘s crew and quite a few more.

    Notably civilian school teacher Christa McAuliffe along with Commander Francis Scobee, Michael Smith, Ellison Onizuka, Judith Resnik, Ronald McNair & Gregory Jarvis. (I admit I had to check and confirm some of the other names there.)

    PS. Seconding your “Double NASA’s budget”comment there – in fact I’d even say triple or quintuple it. NASA gets so little – less tahn half of 1% if memory serves – and so much is really wasted on so many other less useful, even harmful things like foreign aid to Pakistan, Africa and China.

  3. Some interesting points here…However, I would like to address the single topic of Star Fleet’s role in society.
    As a Computer geek, my response to the question is “yes”. After all, it is an “or” question and any set of conditions connected by “or” is true if ANY of the conditions are true. Now…having said that bit and established my creds as a pedant, let me move on to a slightly more serious opinion about the question.
    My picture of reality is that, yes, Star Fleet is, primarily, a military organization. Points that support this:
    1) uniforms and a clearly defined command hierarchy.
    2) All crew go through an (undetailed) education and training program at Star Fleet academy.
    3) The only civilians on board are either high value passengers being transported through the universe via secure means, or, scientists taking tactically important experiments for testing, or, civilians being rescued from shipwrecks.
    4) In both the movies and TV shows, we see examples of Star Fleet being involved in combat, ranging from fairly small skirmishes to large-scale battles.
    5) Although their stated purpose is to explore, it is amazing how often the episodes end up with armed conflict in them. Typically scientists do not have that happen, although it is quite common for the military to find trouble.

    All that having been said, I also realize that the franchise started out being “cowboys and indians in space” and, did not get that far away from that basic theme. Also, most people would not find it all that exciting to see a bunch of geologists clambering over a rock formation, giggling wildly and chipping off chunks of rock.

  4. Messier Tidy Upper

    PPS. #Gimme space! ūüėČ

  5. sHx

    “Plus is it actually official that Starfleet of Star Trek is a military force as opposed to a space fleet that does science and exploration and is also used for military purposes? I‚Äôm no huge trekkie but I gather this is a somewhat disputed and contentious issue in that community.”

    I am a moderate trekkie myself but I had no idea there was a debate of sorts within the community (freaks the whole lot of them) as to whether Enterprise was primarily a military or an exploration vessel.

    From what I can remember Enterprise was always one of the most powerful spaceships in the Starfleet. You don’t send ships like that to do your scientific exploration (unless you can create them out of thin air in giant replicators). You send around expensive ships like that for ‘diplomacy’; that is, to explore options, hopefully, other than military.

    How did this Star Trek subject come about anyway? I didn’t listen to the audio because I’m still cross with Phil over his embarrassing performance during the Peter Gelick fakegate fiasco.

    “Michelle O’Bachmann”

    Genuine LOL moment. I’ve seen people confusing Obama with Osama before but Michelle O’Bachmann is new to me.

  6. artbot

    Interesting talk, but hard to listen to since the host kept interrupting every large point you were trying to make.

  7. Matt B.

    I had an earball once, but it wasn’t a pleasure. I had to go to the doctor to have it removed.


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