A recent discussion in the comments section led to this entry in the Space Cynics blog. Specifically, a guest appeared to take pity on me for my lack of, um, vision, I guess, because I don’t subscribe to the kool-aid vision of STS, ISS, VSE, you name it as just being around the corner and the best use of anyone’s (read: my) time.Well, let’s see if I can clarify this:
The development of manned space is stuck in 1st gear, engaging in endless do-overs of the same essential function it’s been doing since the days of Gagarin – sending very small payloads for limited periods into low Earth orbit, on relatively pointless missions for huge expenditures of capital.
I am not referring to the commercial sector and their comsats and imaging sats – those are businesses, and they are in it to make money (and have generally been doing quite well at that for some time).
My unwillingness to drink the kool-aid is forged from years of watching one slick presentation after another try to pitch the public on the next great thing: either from the alt.space community or from NASA and their partners – and then have it quietly tossed into the bin while another idea is pushed into the limelight. ISS and the Shuttle are but two examples of overpriced white elephants which have no real value to either the private sector or to the taxpayers, certainly not worth the price of admission. The private sector is similarly littered with countless projects that were dubious to begin with…
The reason I began this blog is, in part, to help save other people from getting sucked into the latest huckster proposition without at least using their critical faculties to peer behind the smoke and mirrors and see what is really viable. Years ago, after giving a talk at a conference in Melbourne Australia on the space industry value chain and the reason why launchports and launch vehicles were a bad place to be focusing one’s time (regulatory and market issues being the primary), one of the engineering students approached me and said “I just want to go home and cry.”
My response: “I’ve done my job.”
He is now a very happy engineer, still in aerospace, but working on a real project at a real company and has a career ahead of him.
One of the most valuable things you have in your life – that is irreplaceable – is time. Money can be lost and earned again. But your life you never get back. So as a Cynic I’m here to call BS on Kool-aid fantasies wherever I see them, because there just aren’t enough of us out there to fight the siren songs being sung from every corner of the alt.space.tragic world.
They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers.
But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.
-Carl Sagan (R.I.P.)