I posted a comment on YouTube today and Donald Brent asked me to explain why I believe Musk has set space exploration back a decade. I have explained this a couple dozen times on popular space blog forums in previous years, before I was banned from all of them. The story starts in 2008 with the Chandrayaan 1 lunar mission.
By 2010 data was released that strongly indicated ice on the Moon. This was a pretty big deal and should have pointed the space agency straight back at that prize we never should have taken our eyes off of. Unfortunately, a campaign contribution by a certain entrepreneur made his hobby rocket the priority and talk about the Moon was verboten. The President gave his infamous “we’ve been there” speech and that was it for almost a decade. Slowly, year after year, the evidence for ice and other factors such as radiation made it clear we were not going to Mars anytime soon and the Moon was the best destination. It has also become clear that nearly a half a century of LEO space stations have been a tremendous waste of time and resources.
The ISS had been scheduled to be decommissioned in 2016 but because it was the NewSpace cash cow and essentially the piggy bank for SpaceX, it is still going in circles up there, going nowhere, at 4 billion dollars a year. The best course would have been to decommission the space station to nowhere a couple years early and build Sidemount as a lunar Heavy Lift Vehicle. It broke my heart when they killed it. On the wings of maybe, downing birds of prey. The worst wrong turn NASA ever made was buying into the scam that is NewSpace. The first flight of Sidemount would have been in 2013 and 6 a year means roughly 36 heavy lift missions would have been flown by now. If those missions had been dedicated to a lunar return we might be getting ready to land people and move into a Moon base about now. Of course that probably would have depended on abandoning LEO- which is the only place the SpaceX Falcon could go. See how that works?
Not content with having his own satellite launch company handed to him by the taxpayer, Musk has never done a thing to dissuade or denounce his rabid fan club posting, literally, libraries of death-to-SLS propaganda over the years. He promised a cheap astronaut ride to the ISS years ago and we have yet to see it. His next boondoggle is the space-junk-horror-movie that is Starlink. 12,000 refrigerator size smallsats and now a possible 30,000 more. NewSpace has been pushing their scam for over a decade now and the effect has been to program those who were teenagers a decade ago to be true believers today. Tens of thousands of people who are interested in space, perhaps several hundred thousand, are followers of Musk and believe his whole Mars-as-a-second-home-for-humankind con.
In the 1970’s the true prophet of space colonization, Gerard K. O’Neill, early on eliminated Mars and other natural bodies as possible colony sites because of the requirement for Earth gravity. Humans thrive in 1G and nothing indicates lower gravity does anything but harm. A million years of evolution is not going to be undone because Mars happens to be a convenient P.R. theme. Mars is too far away, without enough solar energy, and with too much gravity to make landing easy and not enough to keep humans healthy. Mars, like Low Earth Orbit, is a complete dead end. The future is the Bernal Sphere built with lunar resources and space solar energy powering Earth as the economic engine financing space colonization. No other plan has even a small chance of succeeding. Humankind will never create off-world colonies courtesy of billionaire hobbyists. Only state-funded public works projects on the scale of Hoover Dam or the Panama Canal will create the infrastructure required to start up factories on the Moon and begin to build the necessary industrial base.
4 thoughts on “Ten Years Gone, and Counting”
I’ll prefix this response with four things:
– I think there is a seperate Hug posting comments, but I’m the original one I think.
– There are things I have learnt here that I appreciate and I thank you for that and this blog has given me an opportunity to have a look at my previously unquestioned beliefs.
– I don’t believe that by typing this comment I’ll change your thoughts on any matter, but perhaps in the journey I can refine my own.
– This is going to be a long one and I’m going to probably say a lot of dumb stuff, but hopefully you can appreciate my message. I’ll put a TLDR down at the bottom.
I’m not sure whether this paragraph should be here, because you didn’t really mention it specifically in this post, but I feel like talking about it (I agree that Side-Mount looked to be a pretty solid concept though)
Fundamentally there’s nothing wrong SLS; it’s mostly the current price-tag. From what’ve I read of yours, you argue that space will always be costly so the price-tag is justified. Space will always cost loads yes, but I believe that costs can be reduced. Another problem for me at least is that the cost associated with a SLS just seems unsustainable by the US government for developing a permanent lunar base.
Yep, let’s get this out of the way. I think SpaceX is doing good things for the most part.
I feel that you overestimate the lobbying SpaceX does. Commercial cargo and crew for the ISS really isn’t just SpaceX welfare (as far as I’m aware). There was a relative need for these services and SpaceX were able to get them through submitting fairly valid proposals. Also the project was underfunded so is it really it’s fault that it’s behind schedule?
Ok one thing I absolutely agree with, holy **** some of these SpaceX fans are just painful to look at. You find them in the comments of every rocket related thing and it always; ‘Musk is my god, he will take us all to Mars and everything else is the worse thing alive.’ Luckily they don’t have that much sway, but it irritating to see the disregard for anything else.
The 5 meter thick ice wall artificial gravity space stations are likely the ultimate future of space exploration, I agree with you on this, but currently as you probably aware they’re not achievable, funding wise at least.
A. is a testing ground for what it really takes to maintain a sustained presence in space
B. was always intending to stay in LEO to do research, not to help with reaching outwards as that has been put on the back burner as it requires a lot of funding.
C. was not kept around just to give SpaceX funding.
– (These are things I consider to be correct)
– (I know you don’t think LEO is space, but that’s a discussion for another time)
Funding is the biggest problem for most of these things.
SpaceX looks good because it seems that they might be able to reduce the amount of funding required for space exploration.
The space stations for permanent human settlement of the solar system require loads of funding, and feel currently impractical as a result.
This is my thought dump, apologies if no good.
“Space will always cost loads yes, but I believe that costs can be reduced. Another problem for me at least is that the cost associated with a SLS just seems unsustainable by the US government for developing a permanent lunar base.”
You are obviously clueless about how much military programs cost. If you understood how much the DOD spends on cold war toys you would never have written that.
“I think SpaceX is doing good things for the most part.”
The worst thing that has ever happened to space exploration. You drank the Kool-Aid and there is not much chance of deprogramming you now.
“The 5 meter thick ice wall artificial gravity space stations are likely the ultimate future of space exploration,-”
Water…not ice. Water derived from lunar ice.
“The space stations for permanent human settlement of the solar system require loads of funding, and feel currently impractical as a result.”
Not space stations…habitats. Bernal Spheres. Miles-in-diameter-Hollow-spinning-artificial-moons.
There is no cheap.
Ok, let’s go.
When I’m talking about “unsustainable for the US government”, I’m not talking purely about money. (well I might have been, but that’s why I discuss these things; to learn).
Anyway I now consider it to be unsustainable in the more bureaucracy sense, when the funding for the space program has to compete with other sectors. The military spending of the US government has always been justifiable within the government; large amounts of spending on space stuff not so much.
“There is no cheap.”
Depends on your end goals and how you plan to get there. Though to be fair anything linked with space is leaning towards the more expensive side of things.
(also as far as I aware there’s nothing wrong with calling a Bernal Sphere a space station)
We don’t really have Kool-Aid in Australia; is Woolworths Brand Orange Juice good enough?
Anyway there is always hope for most people. (in reasonable circumstances)
I replied to you with a new post. As for military spending being justifiable while space not so much: that has to do with the Apollo 1 fire. On that day the aerospace industry realized Human Space Flight Beyond Earth Orbit (HSF-BEO) was going to be hard money. They chose the easy money of cold war toys. Nothing says we the people cannot make the DOD start buying spaceships to carry nuclear weapons instead of submarines and bombers. It would cost about the same and ratchet down the launch-on-warning situation we have had for half a century…and the superpower space fleets would also be able to defend the planet from asteroid and comet impact threats. See how that works?
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