Monday, December 28, 2009

Question of the day...

...The first in an irregular series of "quick hit" posts of stuff that has been bugging me, not all of which will be political. For instance, like tonight's premier post...

Why aren't we on the moon?

NASA's space program started in the late 1950s. At the time, they used IBM 7090 series mainframe computers in Mission Control.

State of the art at the time, they would be considered little better than abacuses built with kite twine and rubber bands by today's standards.

Each one cost nearly $3 million in that era's dollars.

Yet with those expensive relics, they sent men in hollow metal tubes over 230,000 miles to the moon and brought them back.

More than once.

Moving forward to 2009...

Last week, we went to the Grand Canyon from Phoenix - at approximately 230 miles, 1/1000th as far.

On that trip, we brought:

2 cell phones
2 laptop computers
1 IPod
2 digital cameras
1 10-year old TI-83 graphing calculator (I *always* have that with me. Yes, I'm a geek. :) )
2 digital watches with all sorts of features (stopwatch, compass, etc.)

$5K total, tops.

And that's not even counting the various computers in my truck...mostly because I can't even begin to identify them all.

In short, we had more computing power on our waistbands and in our backpacks to go to the Grand Canyon (which is close and isn't going anywhere anytime soon) than NASA used to send people to the moon (which is a lot farther away and definitely qualifies as a "moving target").

And we are relative electronic lightweights - no Blackberrys or PDAs or whatnot. No multiple cell phones. No portable game consoles. No portable DVD/digital entertainment units.

So could someone please explain to me why we ("we" as in Americans as a group) are content with putting satellites into orbit and not much more? Putting people into space hasn't gotten any tougher, at least in terms of the physics, but our tools to get the job done have improved exponentially.

We should have had multiple manned Mars missions by now; instead, our best pilots, engineers, and scientists are devoted to operating a freight line to the International "Space" Station.

That's not a criticism of them; they are doing incredibly well with what they have been assigned to do. The fact is, however, that the ISS is closer to the Earth (approx. 200 miles up) than Phoenix is to the Grand Canyon.

I know politics is a part of the problem - if there isn't a way for campaign contributors to make money, lots of money, off of an initiative, it's going to be difficult to get Congress and the President behind it (and that is *any* Congress and President, not just the current ones or their immediate predecessors).

Still, it might be time to forget about bank bailouts and various schemes to funnel tax money to the wealthy and focus on moving the country forward, socially, culturally, and scientifically.

1 comment:

Thane Eichenauer said...

>Why aren't we on the moon?

Because Donald Trump hasn't built a golf course there yet.