Jeff Bezos blasted into space today with three other people. Everyone, and I mean everyone, has an opinion about it. Even Variety magazine did. (That’s worth a read BTW). So fwiw, here’s 1o things I thought about it:
- It’s good to see more interest in space in general. NASA and other space agencies do plenty in terms of space exploration, but often it is overlooked by people. Suddenly — for better or worse — people are talking about space again.
- It’s good to see money being spent on space travel. NASA has suffered for years with cutbacks. Decades. Here’s to more money being effectively used in space.
- These flights of Branson and Bezos are small steps in terms of space travel. They are miles behind SpaceX even, never mind NASA or other space agencies. As we like to say in business: it’s a good start (implying there is a long way to go).
- Small steps can lead to big steps if they continue to pursue this and pour money into it. That’s a big if. Like any space exploration, it is hard to continue to make people interested in it after it starts to seem repetitive. They might find it much harder to get space tourists to pay a small fortune their 10th or 15th flight. Never mind after the first person dies (and someone will).
- Even if everything goes well, it could still fail in the longer run. The Concorde failed and it was much simpler technology than this stuff. Not everything that is the best and fastest gets to succeed.
- I can’t see the ROI on space travel. Musk and SpaceX can get away with it because they have a client with the money to spend on it (i.e. NASA). Not sure if Bezos can wrestle some of that business away. Then again, perhaps there’s a global market for these services.
- I think there would have been a much more positive reaction if it wasn’t Bezos or Branson leading these endeavours. Give Musk credit: he lets the real astronauts do the work. Plus none of these men are inspiring to most people. They aren’t John Glenn or Neil Armstrong: they are billionaires. Bezos was at least smart enough to Wally Funk with him: that was a good distraction from the other members on his team.
- It will remain to be seen if they can catch up to Musk, or if they are even interested. Musk can act the fool, but he seems driven to push private space exploration to the limits. I can see Branson dropping out soon once some other thing comes along. Bezos is a bit of a mystery to me.
- People are criticizing them for spending money on space rather than here on earth, but Bill Gates spends his fortune on such things and he is criticized mightly for it. It’s a no win in terms of spending your money. They all should pay more taxes. (Although a lot of tax money in the US goes into the military budget. That’s a different but related issue.)
- Here’s to more inspiring people going to space soon, and to more inspiring space travel. Let’s hope this leads to that.
(Image: link from the Variety article)
This piece on the Milky Way photographer of the year is filled with amazing photos of…well, you can guess. (One of the photos is above).
This is a good piece on the efforts to study Venus. It won’t be easy to do, but it will be rewarding.
Finally, this piece on how black holes are visualized is excellent.
This piece (Worst technology failures of 2020) by MIT Technology Review has a list of the bigger technology failures of 2020. Some of them, like Quibi and facial recognition abuses, are well known.
One listed here may be the greatest technology failure of them all, though for many it is not considered a failure at all. That is the unregulated pollution of space with tiny satellites. As the article states:
Since prehistory, humankind has looked upwards for awe and inspiration, to imagine what forces created the world—and which might end it. But now, that cosmic view is being contaminated with the reflections of thousands of inexpensive commercial satellites put aloft by companies like Amazon, OneWeb, and SpaceX, who want to cover the Earth with internet connections. Sixty satellites can swarm out of a single rocket.
To see what I mean, check out this picture from the article:
Telescope views from earth are being marred with the light of all these satellites. This is today’s problem. Tomorrow’s problem is going to be all the other pollution, light or otherwise, which is going to result from the rush to put things in space. Science is getting wrecked by this.
Already astronomers are thinking of putting telescopes on the dark side of the moon to escape such problems. But without regulation, who knows if even this will be successful? To hear Elon Musk yammer on, he’s just going to be throwing who knows what into space. He’s already launched one of his stupid cars into the atmosphere. Hardly the guy you can trust to be responsible when it comes to deciding what should go into space.
Here’s hoping that in the rush to do more and more space development (a good thing) there is also an effort to make sure it is well thought and regulated (also a good thing).
Do you know who Kathy Sullivan is? I didn’t. I know who Elon Musk is. I know James Cameron. Not to mention many other astronauts, athletes, etc. I’d argue she is as great as any one them. After all, she is the first woman to reach the deepest known spot in the ocean after being the first American woman to walk in space. That’s amazing.
If you’d like to know more about here, there’s this piece in the New York Times. And of course she has a Wikipedia page.
(Image attribution: NASA – Great Images in NASA Description, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6449687)
In exciting news, the United States, China and the UAE are all sending missions to explore Mars. It’s not the same as the space race: there have been already a number of visits to Mars. But it’s great that the interest is continuing and we will learn more about the mission as a result.
For more on this, see: ‘We are all Martians!’: space explorers seek to solve the riddle of life on Mars | Mars | The Guardian
Image via the article.
The problems with colonizing other worlds can be read here: Humans Will Never Colonize Mars.
It’s a bucket of ice water to dump on the head of anyone who optimistically thinks it will happen. It may happen, centuries from now. More likely places like Mars will be colonized by robots that will do a lot of the activities we once expected humans to do.
Quite a lot! And it took quite a lot to figure it out! Did you know part of the mission of the space suit is just to filter out body odor? Or that the spacesuit of one astronaut can be used to help another astronaut with a failing suit? There’s lots of interesting facts about spacesuits, here: Apollo’s PLSS And The Science Of Keeping Humans Alive In Space | Hackaday
This is fascinating: The Apollo 11 mission as told through the astronauts’ heart rates | Popular Science
A good reminder that even the best prepared and most cool can still have elevated heart levels under stress.
If you have ever wondered that, then read this: Where are all the aliens? — Quartz
It brings together all the ideas behind this and describes them simply and clearly.
It’s not explicitly stated, but if you read this: If you think NASA is frustrated with SpaceX, you’re probably right in Ars Technica, then you may draw the same conclusion. It seems SpaceX is taking advantage of its partnership with NASA to position itself to get the point where it can get by without it and eventually compete with the space agency.
If that was not the case, then I would expect SpaceX to stick to missions that were separate from NASA and supportive of NASA. Instead they seem to be trying to compete with NASA for the same missions.
It’s a tricky call for SpaceX: if they are not careful, they could ruin their partnership and find themselves without a steady source of income to fund their ambitions. I’m all for both NASA and SpaceX both being viable for the long term. Let’s hope that happens.
Really. There is a kickstarter going on right now you can contribute to: LUNAR MISSION ONE: A new lunar mission for everyone. by Lunar Missions Ltd
The team there says….
We plan to send an unmanned robotic landing module to the South Pole of the Moon – an area unexplored by previous missions.
We’re going to use pioneering technology to drill down to a depth of at least 20m – 10 times deeper than has ever been drilled before – and potentially as deep as 100m. By doing this, we will access lunar rock dating back up to 4.5 billion years to discover the geological composition of the Moon, the ancient relationship it shares with our planet and the effects of asteroid bombardment. Ultimately, the project will improve scientific understanding of the early solar system, the formation of our planet and the Moon, and the conditions that initiated life on Earth.
I think this is the most fantastic Internet project I have seen yet. I highly recommend you check it out.
Thanks to Kottke for pointing it out.
Posted in cool, science
Tagged astronomy, astrophysics, cool, crowdfunding, exploration, kickstarter, kottke, lunar, moon, NASA, science, space
Over at A CUP OF JO is “15 Genius Tips for Living in Small Spaces” that really are worth a read if you live in or plan to move to a small apartment or condo or dorm. It’s advice taken from a couple that live in a 250 square foot place, and they practice what they advise. 250 square feet is very small, as you can see:
And yet it looks like a beautiful space. Take a look.