11 October, 2009


That's basically what Firedoglake's Lisa Derrick's saying.  It's okay if you're an asteroid, but heaven forfend actual scientists crash something into the Moon:
Blowing shit up just to see what happens is pretty effing juvenile. And when it costs billions of dollars, it’s just damn stupid. I am all for science, for scientific research, but firing a huge rocket into the moon to make a big boom, exploding part of lovely Luna, our sweet Selene, was one of the most egregious acts of masturbatory hubris ever executed by this country under the guise of scientific research. And I say this as someone whose father was a test astronaut/human factor specialist for NASA.
Well, gee, that makes you quite the authority on All Things Space Science, then.  A test astronaut, even.  My goodness, he must be more wise to the ways o' science than Steven bloody Hawking.

Let me say this as someone whose neighbor was an astronomer: you're full of shit, Lisa.

Firstly, and most easily, cost.  NASA's budget, 'tis true, is somewhere in the billions and billions range.  This project, however, was not:
NASA crashed the rocket and a satellite into the moon's surface on Friday morning in a $79 million mission.
You'd need - lessee -  26 of these missions to make it to "billions" - $2,054,000,000, in fact.  Anything less than 26 is just a billion and change.

As for the science, well:
Look: at some point, we need to find out if this water exists or not. A dedicated mission for this would cost a lot. Adding a special detector to a subsequent mission would be nice, and maybe even necessary, but this is perhaps the quickest and easiest way to look for the water. Sending up a plume makes it possible for telescopes on Earth to look for the water as well, and that provides a lot of backup.

I like the idea of doing this, since it’s not terribly expensive as these things go, has a high probability of working (we’ve done it before under more difficult circumstances), and can be done without affecting the main LRO mission.

And the subsequent whining about all the damage to the poor, pristine Moon:
The crater should be about 100 feet across and 16 feet deep, and the plume may reach heights of 30-40 miles above the lunar surface.
But her real beef seems to be with the idea that icky, imperfect us might do anything horrible like establish Moon bases or something.  And besides, shouldn't we be spending all that money on Darfur, or starving kids, or something?  You know, the usual "won't you think of the children/you can't desecrate the sacred!" arguments that people who can't really argue the science fall back upon.

So lemme ask you this, Lisa, since you don't seem to understand that scientists haring off after what you consider to be ridiculous goals often come across unexpected benefits to humanity: what are you going to say when those unexpected benefits come rolling in?  I don't think it's farfetched to believe that science in space could end up paying dividends we never expected.  And if there's water on that thar Moon, at least we'll have a drop to drink if things go pear-shaped here on ol' Planet Earth.

Or are you going to argue that people who didn't stop global warming before the big droughts hit should just go thirsty?

People like Lisa Derrick infuriate me.  Good intentions, no fucking brain.  It's one of the reasons going to the Lake is such an exercise in frustration most days.  And I have better things to do, so here endeth the rant.

With "friends" like this, who the fuck needs DIsco?


Lindsay Stewart said...

Testify Sister Dana!

I had a similar argument the other day replete with a crazy tangent into sexist la-la land with the claim that rocket = phallus, NASA = mean old men, luna = women, science = sexual assault. I kid not. When I called my crazy friend on that, I was informed that women simply could not be sexist.

There was the exact same numerical failure, quoting billions of dollars to fly the rocket of evil, NASA's annual budget is around 17 billion, total. By comparison, Iraq is costing about 12 billion a month. Then there was the big problemsto solve here on earth/starving children nonsense. Mind you there was no answer to my question on what the odds would be of those 17 billion being put toward feeding the starving if NASA were shuttered.

I'm all for treehugging, eating local and organic, reducing carbon footprints etc but a lot of these folk don't seem to have the least clue of just how much their lives are materially and spiritually improved by offshoots of the space program and the research done with the meager dollars given to the dream of discovery.

Cheers mi amiga,

Cujo359 said...

I saw the headline of that story, and the summary, and didn't bother reading further. There really are some hare-brained articles there. I suppose that's a hazard with having so many contributors.

Did you post this as a diary over at FDL?