There Is No Plan

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Mars Rules. Earth Screwed. Fix Earth First.

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We spend our lives looking for reasons not to do things.

Sometimes we’re just too tired, or too fearful of embarrassment, or too lazy. Sometimes we use shiny distractions to keep our minds off the important stuff. We go shopping instead of talking about family problems, we buy trinkets for our kids instead of getting to know how they really tick, we deal with the onset of middle age by buying a sports car we can’t afford. We shoot a complex piece of machinery up to an uninhabitable planet to take some really cool pictures and dig for water.

It just so happens that in the last few days, we actually did the last one. Science nerds with wacky, deliberately incongruous, look at me hairstyles, polo shirts and lanyards jumped for joy as they watched their math equations work out exactly as planned. They aced the test. It was great.

Pretty soon, the Curiosity Rover will begin its slow drive to a nearby mountain to look for evidence of water. Along the way it will beam back really cool shots of the Red Planet, confirming what we already knew, that is indeed red. It will no doubt find something that the scientists in their polo shirts will determine is mars-shattering news that life, could, once, many billions of years ago, possibly, have existed on Mars, if the circumstances for life had existed there, instead of where they do exist, which is here.

On boring old Earth.

My concern with this Curiosity business is that its curiosity misplaced. It’s yet another shiny distraction from the whole universe of problems that we face right here at home. Famine, disease, poverty, war, global warming, resource problems, extremism, economic stagnation, nuclear proliferation, cultural pollution, and intolerance. The list goes on and on. But it’s a list that’s all right here, and we’re looking for ways to avoid dealing with it, using shiny toys.

My problem with Curiosity is not the money. It’s cheap. Nor is it with the ingenuity. Clearly these guys did a great job getting this contraption down to the red dirt in one piece. Nor is it all the great gizmos that we’re going to be putting in our pockets that came out of all this ingenuity. All good.

But we felt the same way about going to the Moon, back in 1969. And since then the world has gone to hell for a million different reasons. We all came together to marvel at the sheer science no longer fiction of it all, but have we gone back to the Moon to do stuff since the seventies. No.

My problem with all this curiosity is that its misplaced. We need to get way more curious about solving our own problems, before we start frolicking in the lifeless red dirt of a planet 150 million miles away.

Nobody is going to be living on Mars any time soon. We’d have to bring our own oxygen, millions of miles. There’s no water. There’s no nothing except red dirt. Landing on Mars requires going from 30k mph to Zero in seven minutes. I sure hope my great-great-grandkids don’t take that trip. And if they do, I hope they take 5000000 SPF sunscreen because they’re gonna need it.

The NASA Space Program has a vaguely Orwellian quality. It seems primarily designed to keep our minds off the real problems that our nation lacks the will to solve. It’s far, far easier to focus on a nerd with a mohawk than to use that spirit of American teamwork to fix our political process, or create an industrial policy, or fix our schools. For the foreseeable, boring old Earth is the only place we got.

We need to get more excited about it.

Couldn’t smart guys and girls in polo shirts and lanyards sit in a mission control and fix the joint we live on now, you know, first?


Written by coolrebel

August 8, 2012 at 6:52 am

Posted in Washington

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