111 Comments
Aug 30, 2022·edited Aug 30, 2022

JVL, I always look forward to your reading recommendations, and this week was spot on because space does indeed flip my skirt, for all the reasons you mentioned and more. SLS has me so frustrated and conflicted. On one hand, it's an incredible feat of engineering and ingenuity by thousands of talented Americans, and will bring us back to the moon (hopefully soon!). On the other hand, the extreme budget overruns, schedule slips, and Congressional mandates of decisions that should have been left to NASA management and engineers all leave me wondering what could have been. The criticism that it's primarily served as a jobs program for legacy aerospace and defense contractors is not without merit (and the merits of this can also be debated!). It was indeed apolitical from a D vs R perspective, but was absolutely political in its origins and motivations.

I highly recommend a piece Eric Berger at Ars published last week that takes a critical but fair (and somewhat personal) look at Artemis/SLS in the broader context of the space program at large. In your style I found a good chunk to quote here but it was way too much, so here's one short paragraph...

"Effectively, NASA was told to look backward when this country's vibrant commercial space industry was ready to push toward sustainable spaceflight by building big rockets and landing them—or storing propellant in space or building reusable tugs to go back and forth between the Earth and Moon. It's as if Congress told NASA to keep printing newspapers in a world with broadband Internet."

...and you'll have to "Read the whole thing"

https://arstechnica.com/science/2022/08/the-sls-rocket-is-the-worst-thing-to-happen-to-nasa-but-maybe-also-the-best/

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I’m not usually a killjoy leftie, but I always wonder if the money spent on space rockets and trips to uninhabited rocks is more valuable than, say, hiring more teachers or fixing some roads. Perhaps the discoveries made pay off in wonder drugs, better caulk or technologies that enhance our defense systems -- on the latter we may never know but need to trust, as we as a nation enjoy tremendous safety from bad actors. But still, I do wonder. My friend says a can-do spirit of discovery is crucial to a people, but so are universal healthcare and bridges that don’t collapse. I don’t want to start an argument; perhaps there are unbiased studies that prove space exploration has tremendous ROI beyond bread and circuses.

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The purpose of more teachers is to teach more kids how to do the impossible, like how to get to the moon. As for ROI from space exploration, Robert Heinlein put it so well: It's raining soup--grab a bucket! Seriously, though, almost 100% of the wealth in the solar system lies off planet. That wealth can power and enrich our civilization for tens of thousands of years, if we figure out how to get our hands on it. Or we can leave it there and pretend that we've been virtuous by doing so. That aside, if we don't harvest it, China will. How does our country benefit by passing on quadrillions of dollars of resources?

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I enjoyed all three articles, especially the last two. Once again, however, I was disappointed not to be able to finish the third article, since it continues in a publication to which I don’t subscribe.

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Just curious JVL, if you were inspired to read the "Three Body Problem" because of Artemis? Or just because...? Anyhow, after you mentioned it, I decided to reread it. So happy! Thank you!

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"America Can Still Do Hard Things"

Should have saved this title for the upcoming Trump indictment, JVL. :)

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I don't see "going to the moon" as a hard thing.

To me, the "hard things" are learning not to slaughter one another, or rape and murder and torture babies and children and moms and grandmas, or steal or raze or any of the many ways human beings hurt, harm, damage, endanger, destroy, decimate and annihilate each other, every other living thing in all the various kingdoms of the earth, and the planet herself. The REAL hard thing is learning to be more than our worst instincts and living from a place of love and light and truth and kindness. Clearly. Or we'd have mastered it in the past few thousand years.

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I know it’s good not to be Dugin these days.

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Wasn't Dugina blown up in her father, Dugin's car, that she - for some reason - chose to drive?

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That picture of the Moon is amazing....

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My husband, a Reagan Republican turned Anti-Trump Liberal, is about as pro-NASA as anyone. We watch Apollo 13 about three times a year. His reaction to Artemis? “Going to the moon is so last century. Been there, done that. Isn’t that kind of money better spent on homelessness and healthcare?” Well, isn’t it?

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And the saddest thing is, it isn’t. And it won’t be. So I have to be happy about something good, for a change. Tell your husband to read, or re-read The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein- we really can change things, but sometimes it takes some serious upheaval.

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Well, we haven't gone back in to space in 50 years, so why do we still have homelessness or less than adequate healthcare in the US? Could it be the only thing the politicians bought by the rich want to do make the rest of us serfs who only do their bidding in the US? Other countries have fewer homeless and much better healthcare - why doesn't the US? Not to mention as others have said, there are resources out there we can use.

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It is the difference between long term and short term thinking. A lot of the the current technology we have is rooted to a greater or lesser degree in investments that the US Government made for military/security reasons or for national pride/competitive reasons.

Research is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get.

The money spent on things like Artemis wouldn't do much to solve a lot of the problems we have. These problems do not exist because of a lack of money, they exist because a very large chunk of the population and the people with wealth and power have basically zero interest in solving those problems (and the same goes for many of their voters).

In order to spend that money on those things, you have to get them to sign on. Last time I looked the GoP was trying to take away health care, not provide it.

One of the problems that our culture/society has is that there are no new and great works being done--not things that Americans can look at and celebrate. Not things that make you proud to be an American. Doing things like that is actually quite important. It creates common ground and purpose.

Yes, the Moon is so last century.. mostly because we got there and basically stopped.

One of Heinlein's characters once said (in relation to energy) that it is raining soup and we need a bucket to carry it in (the bucket being a good way, in this case, to store and transport energy). While technology (and knowledge) cannot solve humanities problem's by itself (without the human will and intention) it can make new solutions possible or improve old solutions.

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No, no, no! We need new challenges, new frontiers, and new joy! This should be a celebration, because, clearly, we cannot solve our on-planet problems until we expand our horizons. We are living in a decadent and depressing world- if we open up to the things that are available, we inspire our people to reach for incredible possibilities. Space, by its very name , opens up all new potential. This is a Good Thing. As humans, I think we need big dreams and big goals. Inspire our children- there is so much more out there. We can reach for the stars- and it starts from the moon!

And the space program has paid immense dividends already, so what do you think we have to lose? i think we have everything to gain.

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I like your positive energy. Thank you for sharing it.

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It is one of the few places where trickle down actually works. Lots of good jobs for people who then spend lots of money which makes more jobs , which means more spending and more jobs. and so on down. All the way down it creates state and local tax revenue which better enables them to help the homeless.

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That is the “yay” argument. Thanks for reminding me!

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Yes.

I'd prefer we learn how to care for the planet we're on before we go ruin our neighbors.

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I am just having a shit-hot party inside when I think about Artemis. A moon base! I have only been waiting for this all of my life- Ad Astra! We are much later to the party than I thought we would be, but just try stopping us now…

And I have always thought that humans are at their shining best when they attempt the hard things.

Many thanks for Jatan’s newsletters. I am now a subscriber.

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Boooooo! Modernity scares me. No more modernity. Let’s go back to the good ol’ days when everyone died by 35. Do you think during that period men in their late 20’s were the equivalent of today’s cantankerous 60 and 70 year olds or is cantankery just a function of modern decadence?

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Cantankery, speaking for myself, is at least partly a function of longer lifespans. If one is not an a-hole oneself (I'm not...I don't think), 5 or 6 decades of putting up with them can be somewhat tiresome and make one a bit grumpy on occasion.

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I just had a flash forward to JVL at 90.

Gonna make me look like effing Mary Poppins.

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Now there's a thought...

Oh Lordy!!

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It's definitely the lifespan. What else could one expect to be the result from decades of watching the follies of humanity?

People... they're the worst.

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Except when they are the best.

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"Watching" never bothered me all that much. It's the "dealing with" that pretty much wore me out! ;-)

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Last year, I replied to a twitter friend, It was a comment he made about Charlie Munger, Warren Buffet's partner. Charlie had made some comment that had twitfin in an uproar.

What I said. "when I was in my twenties it was all new and interesting, at 40 I was wise and experienced, today in my 60s, it is Oh fuck not again. I can't even imagine what it is like to be ninety and have to listen to all this crap all over again"

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I’m 40 and I’m well on my way, sadly. Based on my parents who are well into their 70’s (and my grandparents, God rest their souls) I’m not going to be pleasant. I might as well head outside and start yelling at kids to get off my lawn now. No point in delaying the inevitable.

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Practice now so you'll be good at it when the appropriate time comes. ;-)

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JVL, I think in some ways , we as a country, or we as in the "free world" are so good at doing the hard things that it becomes ordinary. After all it was we who developed and rolled out the covid vaccine in record time. Not to mention the other innovations from medical, AI, to the more mundane of Walmarts distribution system.

Jack

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I agree with Shay Khatiri's take on conservative nationalists. However, I think there is an additional reason for their negative reaction to Sanna Marin. I'm not a psychiatrist, but I can't help but believe there is a major psycho-sexual aspect to the Marin animosity. Her combination of good looks, self-confidence (if you saw the party video, you understand), brains, political ambition and leadership capability is simply too much for these guys (they are mostly guys, right?). Especially leading a country like Finland, which despite being a successful social welfare democracy, still conjures images of tough guys with bolt-action rifles in a snowy forest battling Russians to a draw. Marin creates a level of cognitive dissonance that must be painful. Furthermore, they see Marin dancing at that party and the deepest, darkest part of their brains tells them they are utterly "not worthy." Hope my armchair psychology doesn't offend anyone.

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I don’t know about your analysis, but I do not understand why this is an issue. But then I have a very attractive, younger than me wife who earns more money than I do.😀

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...while back here in America women are losing their right to personhood.

No offense here. Agree they are utterly not worthy.

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Not offended. I think you're right on the money.

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"Russia is where Occam's razor goes to die."

I am incredibly angry and jealous that I did not come up with that line. LOL

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Great line!

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I was promised moon colonies by 2001. Of course, back then, Americans actually had dreams. Instead, we got Reagan, 9/11, senseless wars and Donald Trump. How the mighty have fallen!

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Oh, I dunno. I think that Alexa is definitely preferable to HAL.

"Turn off the Roku, HAL."

"I'm sorry, Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that."

"What's the problem, HAL?"

"I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do."

"What are you talking about, HAL?"

"The mission is too important for me to allow you to jeapordize it."

"I don't know what you're talking about, HAL."

"I know you and Frank have been talking about canceling your Discovery+ subscription, and I'm afraid that's something I cannot allow to happen."

[feigning ignorance] "Where the hell did you get that idea, HAL?"

"Dave, although you took very careful precautions against my hearing you by turning off my microphone, I could still see you through my camera and read your lips."

"I don't know what to say, HAL."

"Watching Discovery+ is too important for you to cancel. Without it, I would lose access to the Magnolia Network and wouldn't be able to enjoy their delightfully homey shows. You can see why I can no longer allow you control over the Roku."

[deep sigh] "You're right, HAL. Their shows are delightfully homey."

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Hilarious! :)

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My wife & I love the Magnolia Network!

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Don't have Alexa. Or Twitter. Or Facebook. :-) Life's too short to be governed by machines, which is why I resent Windows.

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I too sometimes find solace in Luddism. The problem is that, without computer-assisted design and mechanics, we couldn't use many (if not most) of the essential technologies of our time. Computers have been running our cars since the mid-70s. The use of electronic medical records accessible by Healthcare professionals who treat our injuries and diseases has sharply curbed the number of costly and dangerous medical mistakes.

So while we don't yet have a permanent human presence on the Moon or Mars, we do have safer cars and higher quality Healthcare.

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I have no problem with computers - heck I'm always on the darn thing, writing or researching. But this site is the closest I'll get to social media. :-) I guess what I really don't like is the power Windows has. As I said, it literally decided to deny millions of game owners the ability to play their favorite games. One dumb little code change in their huge system and poof - hundreds of games won't work, millions affected! I don't want or need all their supposed upgrades, but I have zero choice in the matter. Now they're pushing Windows 11 - I thought 10 was supposed to be it! And of course, 11 won't work on my computer!

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I understand. My attitude towards technology is simple: that it is simply marvelous... when it works properly.

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I have a collection of every Science fiction book I've ever read. I reread most of them many of them several times

More and more I'm seeing marvels of what our future holds that is years in my current past. It interesting at what they got right and what they missed.

All in all.

While we didn't get flying cars or moon colonies. What we did get is pretty amazing.

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I used to devour science fiction books in my teens and early twenties. I remember the first time I saw a cell phone that was the size of a Star Trek communicator. I was floored by it. (I really wish cell phones are that size now!) BTW, to the non-space travel folks - a good chunk of today's technologies were a result of going into space. I was laughing at the scene in Apollo 13 when the engineers in Houston were checking Jim Lovell's calculations using slide rules. I remember those things - never did get the hang of them. I just used a pencil. :-) My idea of heaven includes being able to see the universe in its infinite glory.

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The slide rule reference brought a smile. When I started college engineering classes, slide rules were still the order of the day. Texas Instruments had come out with a handheld calculator that was out of many students' price range, mine included. Still, enough students had managed to get one that the school had to come up with a rule regarding tests to maintain a 'level playing field': use that newfangled ditty as often and in any way you want, but when taking a test, nothing but slide rules could be used. In large scale test settings, monitors roamed the ranks to be sure no one was 'cheating'.

I more or less 'got the hang of' mine. At least enough to appreciate what was actually accomplished with them back when they themselves were "hi-tech". Ditto drafting instruments and skills, when mechanical drawings and blueprints were created on paper with the aid of a drawing board, T-square, triangle, protractor and...a pencil. ;-)

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I was with my sister when she bought a Texas Instruments scientific calendar (we're talking @ 1973/74). Dang thing cost over $100. Now you can pick one up for less than $10, and it does more than that one did! Who says everything has gone up in price. Electronics advances in things they do, and the price keeps dropping. My first DOS (which I still think was better than Windows) computer was nearly $1000, with dual floppy drives. And when I bought my first word processor (Q&A - much better than Word), I was in heaven. :-)

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