Friday, February 15, 2008

Lost in space

So as ever with grand government announcements we have to ask what are they really up to. Given the near pathological requirement to divert public attention from the complete pigs ear they've made of the economy its time for a little cynicism ( the Balls up will be later - after Alistair Darling has soaked up enough blame to be replaced by Gordon's miny me.)

Its Not Flash - Just Gordon, but this time it is to be flash (the flash part being the light from your money being burnt as a diversion by the government ). If your bank account could sense danger then its master alarm would be going of on hearing about manned space flight.

The day before we have yet another school day being dedicated to the latest mad cap idea from Ed Balls (translation - to make friends with the arts establishment again - after upsetting them over arts grants).

Nicholas Sarkozy wants to go to Mars, and who knows after his first term in office the French people might be willing to pay to send him there.

Now Labour want manned space flight !

Let me sum all this up: it is a DIVERSION. The aim to to fill the headlines with something other than the decay of Gordon Brown's failing government. And anyway its not like they are actually going to do anything, the only thing that's going to get launched is another review.

The BBC plays ball with the old - look at all the things that were developed for space - neglecting to show how many of them fit right into the robot strategy anyway.

The UK gave up its lead in space capabilities when it became the first country to ever abandon the ability to put satellites into orbit. ( Nip down to the science museum to see the Black Arrow Rocket.) Given the economic disaster the country was at the time perhaps it was a necessary move, but a shame neither the less.

But then we wised up. The UK said stuff sending apes into low orbit - lets make money doing something useful instead. We went into satellites. So the UK space strategy backed robots. This was a piece of genius.

By contrast the US space programme is really an aerospace job creation scheme. The Shuttle and Space station may look flash and are no doubt a lot of fun to play with, but they are almost useless. Did you know the International Space Station is planned to end use in 2016 ? They may not have built it by then ! So by the time the international space station is built it will be time to destroy it again. ( The US having a problem as its shuttles will have been retired or all lost by then ). The only thing it achieves is keeping Russian weapons engineers occupied doing something a little less of a threat to humanity than they would be if they worked for the highest bidder.

Now ESA wants to be a bigger player ( do you see think link with Sarko luming expensively on the horizon here ).

So Brown is thinking of spending money on this sort of thing ! In 50 years time you'll be able to buy all you need to know about human space flight in the same way you can buy a jumbo jet. There is absolutely no need to waste vast amounts of our money on it.

If you want to do something impressive either back the Skylon launch concept or back missions like Cassini - that really is one of the most wondrous missions man has ever conducted (I recommend a few hours exploring what they are doing). But I'm making the mistake of getting sucked into the detail and premise of the New Labour deception. My guess is this is all a media strategy for positive news which the government can be associated at a time of bad headlines. The worrying thing is we all know they are willing to burn billions of pounds just to keep their own jobs safe in parliament. Perhaps they are mad enough to buy into the low earth orbit - playing golf on the moon fiasco with our money, just to buy a few headlines !

Update: Looks like Daniel Hannan has a similar take on all this - see his article over at the First Post.


Anonymous said...

Oh come on, let them build their own manned spaceship, then perhaps they'll all get in it and clear off and leave us alone.

John M Ward said...

Wrong robot for "Lost In Space", though Robbie, pictured (originally from the outstanding "Forbidden Planet") has, I think, also said "Danger!"

Thinking of what sepoyagent has suggested does remind me of Douglas Adams' Golgafrinchans, and yes, that was the solution they found. Just remember to make sure they take all the image consultants, hairdressers and the rest with them when they go...

Man in a Shed said...

John I stand corrected - however I still think its going to cost !

John M Ward said...

Cost it will, and I am in two minds about that.

This world really needs to be looking at other "baskets" in which to place some of our human "eggs". As matters stand, we really have nowhere else to go if we should become unable to survive on Planet Earth for some reason -- and who knows what the future might bring? We cannot assume we shall be safe here indefinitely.

Manned spaceflight to other worlds is desperately important, and shouldn't be dominated by one or two superpowers.

At these still relatively early stages (as not much has been happening to develop this area of endeavour in years) it remains hugely expensive -- just as calculators, computers and all sorts of other devices were in their early stages of development.

It should be treated as an investment in the future in both these senses.

If Governmental organisations had handled our money properly and wisely down the years, there would be far less controversy over developing a proper, ongoing manned spaceflight programme.

As it is, we can barely afford it, let alone justify it, and that might one day condemn us all to death, including present and potential future generations.

I wouldn't want to leave them with no future -- and I'm not even a parent!

Man in a Shed said...

I guess I don't see the first mover advantage here yet. The technology has some way to go and we are already involved in the most profitable and technically challenging part of it.

For the future of humanity we will need to go to other stars and that's some way off.

I have a picture of sun set on Mars as my laptop background at the moment and whilst its incredible to look at (thanks NASA and JPL) I think I would go mad if its what I saw everyday through a small port hole or faceplate.

PS If your intrested in this sort of thing there is a great set of lectures at JPL online here. They are like Horizon used to be before it dumbed down. Some are better than others - take a look at 2007's.