Tom DeLay, space exploration, and Bugs Bunny
“(The moon mission) is expensive, but at the same time it’s incredibly important because the return to the people of the United states and the world is also very important.”
- Tom Delay, R-Texas, House majority leader
That’s $104 billion dollars “expensive,” Tom; to send some clown to an airless rock. I wouldn’t mind if there a scientific purpose that couldn’t be just as well served by sending a robot. Which reminds me…
Tom DeLay wouldn’t know a scientific purpose if it jumped up on his desk and knocked his coffee into his lap. He’s part of the whole anti-science, ‘Intelligent Design’ teaching, global warming denying, stem-cell restricting, brainless Terri Schaivo saving bunch that has shown a consistent inability to distinguish science from technology, way up on their lofty perch atop the religious tower of babble that passes for the Grand Old Party these days.
This is the same crowd that can’t come up with one shuttle mission to fix the most productive single scientific instrument of the last century, the Hubble Space Telescope. All the shuttle missions are tied up completing a useless tin can full of bored astronauts that goes round and round, and round some more while producing very close to zero science.
So what about Bugs Bunny? Well, remember the episode where our rabbit hero is Shanghaied onto a rocket ship for a trip to Mars? (I believe that is the episode which introduced our diminuitive, destructive little friend, Marvin Martian) Enroute to the red planet, he asks the voice in the radio; “Eh… why send a rabbit, doc?” The answer shouts out of the speaker at him; “Because RABBITS are EXPENDABLE, that’s why!!!”
Actually, it would be considerably cheaper to send a robot than a rabbit to Mars. Rabbits have to eat food, dispose of waste, and breathe air, which implies an extensive infrastructure that is prohibitively difficult to send on such a long mission across the airless void. Add to that the well-known propensity of human passengers to go stark raving bonkers cooped up with few others of their kind while isolated from the world, and you take a major chunk out of the mission’s probability of success right there.
Robots? They’re content to sit in total vacuum at 200 degrees below zero for 14 months, then spring into action. And they’re cheap enough that if a few don’t make it, we’ll shrug, redesign, and send more.
Our economy could use a boost from an emerging technology, and since we can’t really do much with genetic engineering or stem cells (thanks to protests on both the extreme left and the extreme right), robotics seems a logical place to aim our development. And there’s no better proving ground for robotics than isolated, inhospitable places like the moon or Mars.
That, Mr. DeLay, is technology, not science. But it could deliver science to our world right along with the economic-boom technology.
By the way, before you tell me “the spirit of man needs to explore space” or some such drivel, remember that human explorers of our own world could find air and food while they went (mostly) in search of an economic rationale for travel. Remember Columbus’ mission? “To find a new route to the Orient.”
We will colonize space shortly after finding an economic reason to go there. But space is awfully big, and we could use up a lot of explorers (and money) unnecessarily in the search. Remember… ROBOTS are EXPENDABLE!!!