In defense of NASA: was Re: Wirin' up blinkenlights

From: R. D. Davis <>
Date: Fri Jun 9 00:16:01 2000

On Thu, 8 Jun 2000, Paul Braun wrote:
> <rant>
> Absolutely. If you only take a narrow view of life, the internet could
> look like a tremendous waste of money and time.

Well, the ARPANET did have a big flaw in it didn't it, I mean, they
spent all that money, and look what still happened: the invasion of
the AOLers (no offense to any AOL users here, I'm talking about the
onslaught that nearly crippled Usenet several years ago that was like
an infinite influx of first semester students who'd just gotten their
usernames and passwords in CS101). ;-)

In all seriousness, the internet, like many other things, is a double
edged sword. It allows us to communicate more easily, and is
extremely useful; it's a wonderful research tool. On the other hand,
the Internet is a great wasy for some people to wasts vast sums of
time, and, look at how easy it makes things for the government to spy
on vast numbers of citizens due to the way it's been set up. Is
the lack of security on the Internet possibly a well designed feature
disguised as a flaw? Had the ARPANET never existed, isn't it likely
that some other, perhaps more secure, form of communication may have
originated without government intervention and become just as popular?

> The space program, while costing the taxpayers a sizable amount
> of money, has produced huge quantities of spinoff projects and
> technologies that have definitely benefitted mankind.

Yes, I remember as a child, there was that new orange powdered space
age drink mix called Tang, which was marketed as a spinoff of the
space program, the drink of the astronauts, available in supermarkets
everywhere. :-) :-) :-)

> If you take the previous poster's comments back several hundred
> years, the Spanish could have said, "Why should the Queen spend
> our money on that Columbus guy? He's just some obnoxious
> "explorer" who only wants to satisfy his curiosity. What a waste!
> We have everything we need, right here."

Hmmm... interesting to think about.

> I've been following the space program for as long as I can
> remember, and it always irritates me when someone says that the
> only reason we're doing it is to make some sci-fi geeks happy.

You may be surprised that I agree with you: there are other reasons
besides that. For example, the space program also exists so that
large corporations can make billions of dollars in profits and use
some of those profits to grant favors to the politicians who helped
them make the profits extorted from taxpayers.

More seriously, I know that there will come a day when the earth may
become uninhabitable, and space exploration may be our only key to the
survival of creatures living on earth. However, I seriously doubt
that everyone would be able to leave, and imagine that only a
relatively small number of carefully selected people and other
creatures would get to leave and possibly survive, leaving the
majority of the earth's inhabitants here to perish. What's the point
in that?

However, at the rate things are going, we'll probably cause our own
extinction because of overpopulation and the resulting damage to the
environment, long before we can find another planet to destroy.

> Most of the people in the space industry, I would venture to guess,
> are probably not sci-fi nuts but damn good engineers and scientists

Unquestionably true, and I have a lot of respect for the skills and
abilities of such engineers and scientists; however, could not their
abilities have been put to better use for society?

> who are gaining a lot of valuable research from NASA and the like.

Yes, but I wonder how much of this is actually necessary, and if it
really does do much to improve the quality of people's lives. After
all, the technology used in building comfortable houses to live in has
been stable for many years. The automobile hasn't really improved
much since the 1970s. The field of medicine would probably have done
just as well, and perhaps better, if the money was spent on it, and,
who knows, those horrid HMOs may never have even come to exist. Have
the foods we eat improved as a result of the space program? Have
people become kinder and more civil to one another as a result of the
space program? Has the space program had any positive influence on
spirituality and humanity's relationship with Nature?

Yes, I can see how some of the technolgy has benefitted the U.S. and
it's allies throughout the free world militarily, and has possibly
been beneficial in that respect, but, again, perhaps a double edged
sword, not always used for peaceful, or defensive means, a sword that
can also slice the one who created it. Perhaps it's been useful for
the strategic defense initiative, but, that's been delayed and our
most trustworthy and esteemed (<-sarcasm intended) president has
crawled on his hands and knees to Russia asking for their permission
for us to implement it! Perhaps he's so used to crawling on his hands
and knees submitting to Hillary that he just can't help this, but
that's no excuse, is it?

I look foward to your answers, and if I'm wrong or am overlooking
something, I'd very much like to know about it.

R. D. Davis             
Received on Fri Jun 09 2000 - 00:16:01 BST

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