Happy Lunar Landing Day!

38 years ago today, mankind walked on the Moon. The Moon!

Hopefully, one day soon, we’ll go back there, and then on to Mars. I sincerely hope I live long enough to see Mars Landing Day. The fact that I can wish for that and there’s a possibility of it coming true is just amazing.

With all the political shenanigans going on, we often forget that we live in a really wild and wonderful age, when things that were science fiction, if not outright fantasy, in our Grandparent’s day are now reality.

A Hundred Monkeys In a Hundred Space Suits

Charlie Stross has a great essay up about the futility of Space Colonization:

This is not to say that interstellar travel is impossible; quite the contrary. But to do so effectively you need either (a) outrageous amounts of cheap energy, or (b) highly efficient robot probes, or (c) a magic wand. And in the absence of (c) you’re not going to get any news back from the other end in less than decades. Even if (a) is achievable, or by means of (b) we can send self-replicating factories and have them turn distant solar systems into hives of industry, and more speculatively find some way to transmit human beings there, they are going to have zero net economic impact on our circumstances (except insofar as sending them out costs us money).

He does, however make a strong and pertinent distinction between Space Exploration and Space Colonization, the former being relatively easy, cheep and doable (since we are doing it and have been for the last fifty years)as opposed to the latter, which is nearly impossible, (whatever Gene Roddenberry had to say on the matter to the contrary). He also makes the point that the practical walking, working and moving about in space should be done by robot probes and satellites, a notion to which I heartily agree.

The news about the spot of bother on the International Space Station this week got sidelined, what with Paris Hilton having a courtroom meltdown and A dozen Republican Would-be-Kings shootting themselves in the foot over immigration. But if it hadn’t been for a couple of computers, we would have had a lot of dead Astronauts and an inoperable Space Station hovering above our heads. Putting people’s lives in the hands of computers is silly, criminal and wrong. Charlie Stross also points this out, that a manned mission to An extra-solar planet, given the current state of technology, might be considered a crime against humanity, given the horrible conditions they would be subjected to for decades.

There will always be a romantic idea about going to the Moon or Mars and maybe, just to go there and come back would be a worthwhile endeavor but living in Outer Space, is foolish and deadly. Besides, we can learn more from one robot probe on the moon than a hundred moon walking monkeys.

Please, won’t you think about the monkeys?

Link via Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing.

If You Need Me, I’ll Be Under the Bed, In the Fetal Position, Crying For Mommy

According to Omar at Orgtheory, only 73.6% of Americans believe in Heliocentrism. While this may be upsetting, we should rejoice in the fact that, according to Kieran Healy over at Crooked Timber, more people than that are down with interracial dating (83%). Kieran goes on to point out what a marvel it is that the numbers are so high for interracial dating, seeing as how it’s only been forty years since Loving vs. Virginia and there are still people (mostly elderly dinosaurs) who are again’ it. There’s no excuse however for that Heliocentrism number. We’ve known Heliocentrism to be true mathematically and astronomically for more than three centuries and we proved it empirically more than forty years ago.

So, for anyone out there still harboring a bit of doubt: yes, the Earth does revolve around the sun. This isn’t one of those questionable theories like gravity or evolution or electromagnetism, where there’s still a little wiggle room (we’re only 99.998 percent sure about those three). We know Heliocentrism is a fact because we’ve been to the motherfucking moon, people. You can’t build a rocket and go to the moon on it if Heliocentrism is false. It just won’t work. And as big a fan as I am of Interracial relationships (being in one) I’d gladly swap those numbers, if just so that I’ll be able to sleep at night knowing that almost a quarter of my fellow countrymen aren’t concerned that the leprechauns that hold them down to the surface of the Earth aren’t going to bite them in their sleep.

A Brief History of Manned Space Flight

Cyrano De Bergerac was the first man to visit the moon. When he arrived, he found a young Chinese woman named Chang’e who was witty, intelligent and fond of wine. They had a brief but passionate affair. Cyrano eventually tired of life on the Moon and one morning, climbed back into his hot air balloon and put the thing into reverse. He left a note pinned to Chang’e’s pillow but there is no record of what he wrote. It was beautiful and passionate and utterly cold, no doubt. Several months layer, Chang’e gave birth to a rabbit. Things work differently in Outer Space.

The rabbit, while the first animal in space, was not the last. The United States and the Soviet Union both spent inordinate amounts of rocket fuel placing dogs, mice, rats, chinchillas, iguanas, turantulas, several colonies of ants and assorted birds (mostly parrots) into orbit at a rate that you just wouldn’t believe. On at least one occasion, the United States launched a capsule stuffed with three thousand eight hundred and fifty two speckled guinea pigs, just to see if they could. Then there were the primates. For whatever reason, all the Chimpanzees sent into space returned with their intelligence greatly augmented and full of a desire to conquer mankind. This fact was kept secret form the general public until 2000, when, due to clerical error, one of these maniacal super chimps was accidentally elected president of the United States.

Yuri Gagarin
, the first man to orbit planet Earth (who was not entirely fictional) was reportedly to have said from his space capsule,”Well, here I am in heaven and I don’t see any God.” This anecdote was made up by Khrushchev and attributed to Gagarin, who was far more popular than the Russian Premiere. Unfortunately, Gagarin died just a few years later when his jet encounter foul weather and crashed.

There is no weather, foul or fair in heaven. No God either. Just stars and infinity. Enough room for everyone. Planets and comets. Fountains of methane. Hurricanes bigger than the planet Earth. Black Holes. Giant clouds of sparkling light that give birth to stars. Wonders greater than can be conceived of here, at the bottom of our little well. We look up through our narrow opening and dream of the moon, of Chinese girls and rabbits, lovers who fly to heaven in hot air balloons and heroes who ride smoking rockets into a sky that never ends.