July 16, 2003

All Suited Up and No Place to Go

Houston, we have a problem. Astronauts twiddling their thumbs, to be specific. Nasa currently has 144 highly-trained, well-paid space voyagers on its books. It has also put the manned spaceflight programme on hold in the wake of the Columbia incident, after already reducing the number of flights over the last couple of years.

There is no shuttle flight scheduled for another nine months. That is likely to be scrapped when the latest internal audit is published, showing just how dilapidated the shuttle fleet is. Nasa is trying to run spaceflights like the UK is trying to run trains.

Nasa's Inspector General has found that astronauts could be waiting up to ten years from recruitment until their first flight. They are recruited in their prime as the prime pilots and those years are completely lost -- to Nasa, to military from where most of them are drawn, and to themselves.

I have Meandered in the past about the space programme. It has been grossly underfunded and completely under-utilised. We went to the moon in 1969 with less technology than I have in my pocket calculator. Yet no human has left earth orbit since 1972.

This is beyond ridiculous. If the enthusiasm of the 1960s had been maintained, there is no telling where we would be. Estimating conservatively, we might have only gotten as far a permanent colonies on Mars. Still, that would be a start.

Posted by david at July 16, 2003 02:10 AM | TrackBack

We could have done all that, I guess. The only question is why?

Posted by: Huw Raphael at July 16, 2003 02:30 AM

Though I didn't discuss the implications of Martian colonies in my Meandering on this subject, I did give a few reasons for permanent moon bases:

"For those of you who think things like Moon bases are a fanciful waste of tax dollars, perhaps you haven't considered the full implications. You might not be interested in the purely scientific opportunities, such as giant telescopes so powerful they could read a newspaper on earth or see the surfaces of planets orbiting other stars. But what about generating the entire energy budget of our planet? That would be just using solar power and current technology. But what about technologies just around the corner? The Moon is rich in the isotope helium-3, which could provide the key to developing nuclear fusion. Not only could this power the earth and the Moon bases, but it could become the fuel of space travel, much as nuclear fission is used in submarines and aircraft carriers today."

I don't think we will know the potential of Mars until we put the effort into finding out exactly what's there with manned missions.

Posted by: David Holford at July 16, 2003 03:12 AM

I think you're saying "because it's there and because it might be worth it."

Is it salvific?

Posted by: Huw Raphael at July 16, 2003 08:02 PM

I'm saying we don't know if it is worth it unless we go. But I also think that there is value just in the going.

I suppose that it is salvific. I think we should explore the fullness of God's creation and assume stewardship over it. I think we have yet to fully realise all the blessings God has for us through His creation. Likewise, we have yet to fully realise all of creation itself.

Scripture would seem to indicate no part of creation is divorced from the work of Christ. "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him." Col. 1:15-16. I don't know if there is any patristic support for this, but then again, applying theology to the possibility of interplanetary exploration might not have been at the top of their agenda.

Posted by: David Holford at July 16, 2003 08:47 PM

I've never yet heard a response to the "why" of space exloration that doesn't sound (to me) like "well... we can, now, so why not?"

It seems, to me, rather like potatoes at the Eucharist. It's not fobidden, so why not?

Personally, I don't know - and so I'm inclined to say, "no" unless a better than, "Gosh, just think of it, man!" should come up. In our human world, where fewer and fewer of us are willing to submit our ideas to God's Church, I have yet to see a new thing - including the net - that I can honestly say, "you know, we'd all go to hell if we didn't have that." More and more that is becoming my standard: without it, will we go to hell?

I used to be rather all gung-ho on science and all. I think right now I'd rather have us all bombed back to the stone age, because having no free time to dream up "new things to do" seems to make a majority of humans the best they can be. Yet, I eralize that it was a few millennia in the stone age that gave us the smarts to do what we do now - still everything seems a new Tower of Babel. And telescopes on the moon sound more like Babylon than I can feel comfortable with.

Hard work.
Some food and needed rest.
No free time - and no real "Mad money" to spend if some free time should come up.

But that's just me. Your mileage may vary, as they say on the net.

Time together.
Time to repent.

Without'em we'll all go to hell.

PS: I really like the new "reply email" feature!

Posted by: Huw Raphael at July 16, 2003 09:25 PM

What I think your saying is that the essence of the Christian life is staying out of hell and the only way stay out of hell is to be a monastic. Even in that I think you have minimalised it to the bare bones.

The thing about living in the stone age, or even the middle ages, is that you wouldn't have to live under those conditions for very long. Work hard, catch a disease, die young.

There are a lot of things we can do that we shouldn't. Cloning come to mind. I'm not particuarly gung-ho on science. And I think the worldview of most of the scientific community is wrong. That doesn't mean that the creation is bad and that exploring it and using it can't be for the glory of God.

I could even suggest that we have an obligation to explore it for the glory of God.

Posted by: David Holford at July 17, 2003 02:42 PM

I answer yes to all the things you say. Science that lets us live to 100 only allows the majority of us to spend our youth in idleness and TV indoctrination, and our old age in an increasingly drug-based pseudo-life. At both ends (and in the middle) we pretend death isn't real.

As to being monastic, the church pretty much teaches that, saying even marriage is a form of monasticism. All of us are, to one degree or another monastic - each with our cross to bear daily. That's why we are called to live life in that joyful sorrow. Not to get distracted by the world system and all of its gee-gaws and doodads. Yes, creation is wonderful, but when it distracts us, we're in trouble. But I'd love to hear a council have talked about "exploring for the glory of God" :-)

Of course all of this begs the question of what any of this has to do with a gov't flying a rocket off into space. To which I answer nothing at all, it's all about the individual Chrisitian. But you know how I feel about Christians playing in gov't in these increasingly unChristian (if not anti-Christian) days.

Posted by: Huw Raphael at July 17, 2003 03:02 PM