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Braindrops from the Clouds of Earth-X  

Damn it, Jim, I’m a Capitalist not an Explorer!

Posted onAugust 5, 2011 by     Leave a comment

Way back when, the first space shuttle took off. I couldn’t really understand why there wasn’t a national holiday, even though I’m in the UK, so I nicked off school to watch it (at least it was on TV). This was it: we’re in the future! Can’t be long for jet packs all round and shiny silver suits.

As a kid, I was pretty enthralled with the idea of space flight. Still am, I guess. And now an era has ended.

No flights. Earth orbit flights. Landing on the moon. That’s NASA in reverse. Summed up:

The argument usually seems to be ┬áthat it simply costs too much – even though NASA produces $10 for every $1 invested. So I guess it’s the short-sightedness of seeing easily how much it will cost without seeing the guaranteed return. But exploration and research doesn’t really work like that. Sadly, to me, it’s the triumph of capitalism over the spirit of adventure; the need for ROI instead of JOY.

So the last shuttle flight is the end, for now, of the USA in space. With a budget deficit the size of a planet, when will they dare venture again? And if they don’t, who will fill the gap? Europe? India? My cynical view is that space flight will only occur if it’s about laying satellites, new alloys, that sort of thing – you know: making a profit. With capitalism now global, compared to when men landed on the moon, or even when that first shuttle headed off, it’s difficult to see the desire for profit margins ever changing (TV news is full of economics these days; I’m sure that never used to be the case!).

So whence the trip to Mars? Pub conversation yesterday suggested that one of BRIC nations, perhaps, once fully established in the New World Order of wealth and economic power, might have so much cash sloshing about that they then think: “you know what, fuck it – let’s build a massive space ship and get OUT THERE!”.

Me? I’m less optimistic than Mark.

R.I.P. space shuttle.

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