Friday, September 14, 2007

Can to ten backwards in Japanese?

Posted by goatchurch at 5:10 AM
What the heck is going on here?:
It has been many decades since we explored the Moon from the lunar surface, and it could be another 6 - 8 years before any government returns. Even then, it will be at a large expense, and probably with little public involvement.


To win the Google Lunar X PRIZE ($30 million) a team must successfully land a privately funded craft on the lunar surface and survive long enough to complete the mission goals of roaming about the lunar surface for at least 500 meters and sending a defined data package, called a "Mooncast", back to Earth.
That was published yesterday. Just in case you haven't read the news today:

Japan launches lunar probe

Could these businessmen really be so up their backsides? The Chinese send up one of their own next month. You'll find that their public is actually involved, by agreeing to have their taxes spent on it, and celebrating it as a source of great national pride.

Trust our business elite to formulate an economic theory that implies without any evidence that a particular means of funding is a source of virtue.

In translation, the words "privately funded" can only mean "billionaire joyrider". The Ansari X Prize paid out $10 million dollars for a space-ship that was built at the cost of $20 million dollars by the co-founder of Microsoft -- and it probably cost less than his taxcut.

After all, what else are they going to do with that money? Go for joy-rides into space on former Communist rockets sold off cheap like the rest of the Russian economy? You can read it everywhere:
Google's billionaire founders are also paying $1.3m for a space connection of a different kind.

Sergey Brin and Larry Page have struck a deal to park their personal "party plane" on a restricted Nasa airfield near the internet company's headquarters in California. In return, they will allow the US space agency to put scientific instruments and researchers aboard their Boeing 767 and two other Google aircraft.
Back in the old days we just lifted the $1.3m from their bank accounts using the tax system and only allowed scientists and engineers who moved the project forwards onto the site. In this new era we'll have to waste time putting wrapping plastic over the experiments to prevent Martinis being splashed over them.

Anyways, what kind of scientific instruments can you put in the back of a party plane, exactly? A thermometer? I think we should be told. This is soon going to get out of hand, and we'll have embarrassing incidents like when "14 high-rolling CEOs" took the controls of a nuclear powered submarine in 2001 and sank a Japanese ship with school children.

When you are super-rich, the whole world becomes your play-ground, and everything which the scientists, engineers and mechanics have built up over the decades are just as toys to be used and broken.

By adding a small bit of show-biz glitz, combined with years of mass mis-education, the Western public can be sold the lie that this could possibly lead anywhere, and that the space-tourism movement isn't one vast self-indulgent, counter-productive drag on any human progress no matter how you define it, when we should all be pissed about it, not applauding it.

Our expectations have become this low and this stupified.


Anonymous ArsGeek said...

What’s special about the Google X Prize is that it captures the publics imagination. Private industry will be going into space, and they will be doing so to turn a profit, just as any private industry seeks to do.

The X-prize helps mitigate some of the costs of R&D, operations and the mission itself, it also serves as a publicity vehicle.

I’m not particularly disappointed that space tourism will be for the vastly wealthy - at first. Prices will come down as production and launch costs go down as well.

What really excites me is that we’re going into space - we as a race. And we’re doing so not just for government showboating. The space race was, in essence a pissing contest which just happened to have tons of scientific and practical benefits that trickled down to the general public.

We cannot and we should not rely solely on our governments to get us into space on a permanent basis. It’s going to take private industry, profits and a reason other than pure knowledge seeking (unless humanity pulls a 360, solves every problem on Earth and moves to an altruistic society) to get us out there.

Yes other nations are going into space, yes there will be a second space race. Yes, it will still be a glorified pissing contest between governments to see who can get the furthest, fastest. Some of the innovations from these projects will trickle down to private industry but lately it’s private industries advances that are moving into the government sphere, not the other way around.

9/16/2007 06:18:00 AM  
Blogger goatchurch said...

See more recent post for how much this captures this member of the public's imagination.

A single prize obviously can't mitigate the costs of R&D because the odds of winning are so low you can't borrow against it. Therefore only people who can afford to lose the full cost can enter, ie billionaires.

I don't know where this government vs. private sector ideology emerges from. They are two very different social mechanisms with an array of strengths and weaknesses. Private sector can't give you roads, and government can't give you popular TV shows.

You cannot dogmatically claim that one is better than the other as a general rule. I have seen no argument on the facts as to how space travel could be done better by "private money". In fact, the limited ambition of this competition is good evidence that it isn't.

Saying that this is the first step to more impressive things is just fantasy. The Ansari X Prize didn't lead to anything after it was won on account of lowering the benchmark from 100 miles to 100 kilometres. Why would this one go anywhere?

9/20/2007 11:52:00 AM  
Blogger Matt said...

"Private sector can't give you roads, and government can't give you popular TV shows."

Oh, I don't know about that. Pretty much every single major highway or public works project in Sydney in the last decade has been built and operated by private companies. And any number of the most popular shows on television have come from the public network.

But, you know. Obviously not.

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