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Scoutfish

NASA - Moneyhole!

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Wow, a post by Merlyn in a non-atheism related thread, and even more rare, I actually agree with him . . . . this time!

 

I heard Obama on the radio today say that he plans to send man to an asteroid, an asteroid?

 

Any manned flight to Mars is a death sentence. There would be no way to get anyone back from the surface of mars.

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For years we've heard the argument that space program money develops technologies that then trickle down to earth uses. Solar cells, dehydrated food, etc. etc. It's a rather weak argument. How much more efficient it would be if we took that same funding and used it to directly develop new technologies with specific benefit to our needs here on earth. Let the benefits trickle on to the space program.

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While necessity is the mother of invention, usually the more exotic needs lead to more efficient solutions that can be implemented into everyday use. In some cases, you don't even realize that the everyday use exists until someone sees the potential to apply already-existing technology in an entirely different way.

 

 

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I'd rather keep weather satellites, GPS, Search & Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking, and the general benefit of verifying e.g. nuclear treaties and always seeing where countries are amassing troops. And I'd really like to know when (not if) a car-sized asteroid is calculated to hit the earth.

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Obviously, this is a difficult issue, as resources are becoming strained and money is getting tight. That being said, I think that the greatest reason for keeping NASA afloat and primed up is a quote I came across while at an uncle's house for Easter (I was reading either the VFW Magazine or the American Legion Magazine): "If you control space, then you control the air and the land". The originator of the quote was a general with the People's Liberation Army Air Force. And that, in my mind, about sums it up.

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Many of the same arguments about a future Mars mission was said after JFK announced that man would walk on the moon. One common argument was that we wouldn't be able to get a man off the moon (sound familiar, Gonzo?). And they were right - at the time of the announcement, we couldn't get a man off the surface of the moon. Heck, we could barely get a man off the surface of the Earth, let alone on a long journey to the moon and back. But, faced with such an intriguing challenge, we managed to do both.

 

A mission to Mars presents the same kinds of challenges, just magnified. We're farther along in figuring out how to get people to Mars and back, and farther along on figuring out how to land and take off from the surface of Mars when the first moon missions were announced - and the goal for doing so is over 20 years, when JFK made his announcement, the goal was about 10 years.

 

Since NASA was created, it has invented, developed, or refined a number of things that impact our daily life. Use an ear thermometer to measure body temperature? Thank NASA. Lightweight, cordless power tools? Thank NASA (Black and Decker invented a battery powered tool, but it was heavy and the charge didn't last long - it was NASA that tweaked the technology to give us the Dustbuster). Wear lightweight glasses with scratch-resistance plastic lenses? Thank Nasa. Use a Brita water filter? Thank Nasa. Smoke detectors in your home? Thank NASA. Comfortable atheltic shoes? Thank NASA for their insole technology. Invisible braces? Thank NASA. Need Kidney Dialysis? Thank NASA that it's available. CAT or MRI scans? Thanks, NASA.

 

Tang? That poor imitation of orange juice made from an orange powder? Not NASA - that's a myth. Came from General Foods back in 1957 - it just became associated with the space program because it was a dehydrated drink mix sent in to space with astronauts and adverstised as being sent in to space with astronauts by General Foods.

 

Throughout the history of NASA, that "moneypit" has generated an awful lot of things that have benefitted us, and may never have been developed had NASA not needed it. We can only imagine what kind of tools and innovations will result from us attempting a nearly 1 1/2 year manned mission to Mars. NASA deserves all the support we can give it. I'm much more concerned about the money pit that is the US Department of Commerce.

 

 

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When I think of CT, I think of Sir Godfrey Newbold Hounsfield, the guy who had this idea of using a computer to take density readings of a radio diverse density and compile it into an axial view of the body. The conventional Medical Radiology industry shut him down, but finally he talked to EMI (Electric & Musical Industries Ltd) who had no problem thinking digitally.

 

The first CT macines came from EMI and the results were called EMI scans until the rest of the imaging world decided to get on board

 

Sorry, just the musings of an old x-ray tech who worked with one of the first EMI scanners in the Chicago land area at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood Park

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Gonzo,

 

Yeah... On this one, I agree with Merlyn, as well as most everyone else on the board, as well.

 

Great nations have great visions, and then back up those visions with great actions.

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Some interesting points.

 

I think the manned spaceflight stuff is pointless. A good way to keep currently employed people with political clout employed.

 

There is a point of diminishing returns from the Space Race Approach to technological invention. Let's acknowledge, like Merlin, the good stuff that's come up. . . but I'm skeptical equivalent "Big Bang" techno results are going to follow.

 

I'm up for non-manned stuff. Hubble's been great!

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"I'm up for non-manned stuff. Hubble's been great!"

 

Thanks for the unintended lesson in irony.

 

Without manned spaceflight, the Hubble Space telescope would have been the biggest embarrassment in space exploration history.

 

Besides the fact that the problems of the mirror's spherical aberration would never have been corrected without manned spaceflight, there were a total of 5 space shuttle missions devoted to replacing failing components and upgrading sensors and instrumentation. The telescope was not designed to be maintained by robots, and in fact, many of the upgrades done were to systems that were never designed to be replaced at all. And if you saw some of the solutions to that, you'd see how it would be easier to train and send a human than to build a robot.

 

So, in car terms, the Hubble went from being a lemon to a standard model to a high performance vehicle (while still changing the oil and replacing the tires as needed) thanks to manned spaceflight.

 

 

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At the height of the space race, American engineers were faced with a daunting task. Give astronauts a device that will allow them to take notes in zero gravity. Obviously, there would be tasks that would require an astronaut to log a message or reading for later use. Pen technology at the time was all based on gravity. Pens required the pull of gravity to deliver ink down the tube to the roller. Fountain pens would be a huge mess. So NASA spent millions developing a delivery system that would work without the pull of gravity. The zero G pen. You could write upside down! A fascinating advancement and proof the space program was delivering on its promises to enhance our lives on earth.

 

The Russians faced the same problem. They solved it with a pencil.

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Actually, that's an urban legend. The pressured ink cartridge pen (space pen) was invented independently and did not receive government funding. The pen was offered to NASA who thoroughly tested it, and both they and the Soviet space program eventually adopted it as their space-rated writing instrument.

 

While a pencil may seem like a simple and elegant solution, the reality is that broken pencil tips can pose danger in zero gravity. Prior to the space pen being adopted, grease pencils were used by both NASA and the Soviets for safety reasons. One problem. They are prone to smudging easily.

 

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=fact-or-fiction-nasa-spen

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Yah, I can imagine da same arguments being made in the court of Ferdinand and Isabella, eh? Why "waste" money on high-risk exploration with this Columbus fellow? Why not consolidate the domestic gains and economy after the Spanish Crusade?

 

Same arguments in da time of Jefferson and Meriweather Lewis. Jefferson was always a small-government advocate. Why finance a major, high-risk exploration?

 

Fact is historically that da only countries that matter long-term in the world are the ones that take such risks and finance such exploration. Beyond provision of infrastructure, it's da other thing that is uniquely the province of government. Da private sector just doesn't have the resources or boldness for long-term, high-risk research and exploration.

 

The country that explores drives its economy, drives its educational system, spurs innovation. Da country that navel-gazes at its domestic needs withers and dies.

 

China knows this. That's why they're mountin' expeditions to go back to the moon, but do it better than we did. And of course, if yeh control space it's like controllin' da seas of old... yeh control everything else. And yeh never know what yeh will find. Spain found gold where it was only lookin' for a shortcut to spices.

 

Now, if yeh really want a waste of money, it's starting-and-stopping big research like this. Training up a new, young crop of scientists and technicians and explorers and then cutting them, so they go to Europe or Asia to continue their work. So when Bush set NASA on the course for Mars, he cause da agency to focus its aim and resources. For Obama to stop and make 'em shift gears (or mothball everything) wastes 8 years of effort.

 

Yeh can cut my Medicare at any time if yeh keep the nation movin' forward into space and other high-risk, high-tech research and development. It's a ten-times better investment in our future and da future of freedom.

 

Beavah

 

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I think da Beavah is spot on. We have no idea what resources are out there and we won't find out if we don't go. If we don't, somebody else will and they will reap the benefits.

 

If you think a colony on the Moon or Mars is impractical, put a poll on some of your favorite forums and see how many people would sign up to go. How "practical" was it to go from the East up the Oregon Trail? How practical was it to follow the Santa Fe Trail? Lots and lots of people did it. A lot of them died and they all knew the dangers.

 

To ignore the exploration of space is just as Beavah said: The Spanish tell Columbus, well, that's all very nice, but we'll just stick around the coast here.

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