Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Why Hasn't Mars Caught On?

You'd think it would. Compared to putting men and women on Mars, putting men on the moon was a baby step. The trip to Mars will take months, and the astronauts will have to wait 3 years for the planets to align again so they can return. But NASA's unveiling of the Mars spacecraft yesterday went almost unnoticed.

I think the problem is Bush had the idea, and he had it at a time when he easily could be accused of trying to divert attention from Iraq.

Now, I suppose, people will say we have to get the economy and healthcare fixed before we think about going to Mars. Reviving the space program seems extravagant. But what about those people living in Detroit? Are they supposed to pack up and move when the automotive industry shuts down? Maybe so. It's happened before. Happened with steel.

But the thought of those auto-workers turning out spaceships, of Detroit at the red hot center of the Mars Mission, seems to me to be a hopeful thought at a time when hopeful thoughts are hard to find. Godspeed, NASA. Go for it, Detroit.

16 comments:

Decidere said...

I have family that works for NASA. But there's little shareable between NASA technology and Detroit technology. And we've bound our space program to a political end with Russia, which now means Putin, which now means poor cooperation and delivery. All to go off to a planet that ceased to be that interesting 30 years ago as a poorly timed political ploy. Yet we couldn't give Detroit the $34 billion they asked, we low-balled them to $17 billion for 2 companies (about 100x the AIG bonues, 1/10th the AIG bailout, about 1/500th the total amount of our total bailouts, unless you go with the $12 trillion figure - I no longer know what numbers to believe).

Decidere said...

Oh sorry, Detroit got loans, not straight cash free like Wall Street.

Billy Glad said...

I suppose we would have to get beyond the beer cans welded to the fins and no astronaut will go up in a spacecraft built on Monday or Friday thing, wouldn't we?

Decidere said...

Yeah, I'm waiting for the 2.0 release.

Decidere said...

Why haven't electric cars caught on? Because we're insane. We handcuff our automakers with our buying habits, are basically condemning GM's electric car to the dustbin, while praising the Tesla and the Think. What's wrong with this picture? Well, the Think is heavily government subsidized. The Tesla will come in at $50K with subsidies, though it won't be available anytime soon. The Chevy Volt? $40K after subsidies, but somehow that makes GM uninventive and behind-the-curve. The same kind of people who make these complaints are the ones who praise the iPhone, not noting that Nokia makes I think a half billion phones a year, something like half the market, while Apple has 0.1% penetration. We're worried about $160 million in AIG bonuses while $12 trillion is being handed out. We think we can repeat "Mars Mars Mars" like "Axis of Evil" and it will automatically engage the human spirit (without envoking the more promising "Mars Needs Women").

The beer can thing reminds me of back yard rocket propulsion tests, how to incinerate a grill using jet fuel and the like. Makes for great YouTube - who needs trips to outer space now? We can just do a mash-up of better sci-fi films. Narrated by Rutger Howard.

Billy Glad said...

But, you know, Des, creative destruction works in unpredictable ways. What goes forward when a company evolves, for example, are core competencies. One of the problems with Detroit is figuring out what they were good at and may still be good at.

When I worked at Immigration, one of the projects I got involved with was the then new ADIT program. Plastic identification cards with a hard to get alloy embedded in them. Visited a little factory in Dallas where ingenious machines were producing the cards on a rube goldberg kind of production line. Mechanical hands flipping the cards over, things like that. Turns out the company making the cards used to process motion picture film. Technicolor I think it was.

Billy Glad said...

Here's an interesting little history of the diesel locomotive, a GM competency.

I like the last paragraph about the steam engine builders.

Maybe Detroit would be better suited to a massive effort to electrify and extend rail.

Tom Manoff said...

The funding is going to tough over these years. I could see the whole thing going down.

I worked with a designer --I'm blocking his name --who designed the new NASA logo back in the 70's. NASA ran little TV and Film programs and Richard Dana (I think?) did one of the early computerized visual logos. I did the music.

A lot of money! They had a big budget for public relations. I can't imagine they have that kind of money these days.

GirlfromtheBronx said...

Why hasn't Mars caught on?"

I blame it all on the valley girls.
They went and ruined the word "awesome" for me. Now, more a synonym for cool, it no longer engenders wonder and amazement. Maybe language has shaped culture in such a way that we've collectively lost the ability to become awe-struck. The Mars,Shmars generation.
Does anything inspire awe in people these days?

For the record, over here at our house, I think we've seen Apollo 13 fives times if we've seen it once. Same for The Right Stuff.

From your lips to somebody's ears!

Billy Glad said...

Yes. In all seriousness, I believe America's decline at home and abroad has been directly related to abandoning Space. America cannot be America without a frontier to conquer. The frontier is America and America is the frontier. Without it, we're lost. Like most of Europe, just a museum.

Decidere said...

We didn't have much of a space program in the 90's. We had real goals and cyberspace. Actually I agree with you in the sense that the moron-in-chief abandoned cyberspace and turned back to fossils.

Tom Manoff said...

Hey. No making fun of Apollo 13 or the Right Stuff. I can remember the first nights watching Sputnik. Seemed like a new age.

I have to think about the space thing, Billy. A lot of nations are doing it now. Right? But not putting men in space. That's us and the Russians, the other nations going with the Big Two.

Billy Glad said...

Sputnik was the biggest mistake the Russians made. We buried them. Broke them in the space race and arms race. We own space. But you see how low we've fallen? The Nineties? Cyberspace? Hell, men, that's where we lost our way!

Tom Manoff said...

Why would i want a Chevy Volt for 40k when I get a little gas burner form India for 2k?

Something's rotten in Denmark.

Decidere said...

Eggs, cars running on egg yolks, green eggs and ham, all sorts of sulfur-producing combustibles.

Tom Manoff said...

Yeah, you're right. They have bio- diesel cars. Why can't that work in the US?