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The land of the rising rocket

During most of the "space race," the United States lagged behind. The Soviet Union beat us to every single landmark: first satellite. First man in orbit. First to orbit the moon. They won every single event, up to the very final, most important one: the first man on the moon. And once we pulled that off, they announced (sounding much like a petulant child) that they never intended to land on the moon, that it was overrated and unnecessary.

But a funny thing happened after we had our moon landings. The space program kind of trickled off. It seemed that once we had made the big splash in the Sea of Tranquility, the American people kind of said "OK, that was fun, let's find something else to do."

I am a huge believer in space exploration. I think that the survival of the human race demands that we get off this mudball and find new worlds, new stars to call home. The ability of this planet (and, for that matter, this sun) to support human life is finite, but our potential is not. We are one asteroid away from oblivion, with all our eggs in this one blue-green basket.

Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, the Soviet rocket scientist and cosmotologist, famously said that "The Earth is the cradle of humanity, but mankind cannot stay in the cradle forever."

Sometimes I wonder if the reason that our fascination with space exploration -- as a reality, not a fantasy -- ended because we no longer had a rival. Competition tends to bring out our best efforts, and when the Soviets stopped racing with us, we stopped running ourselves. The space shuttle and the International Space Station are little more than stop-gaps, not truly serious platforms for exploration. They tend to focus down, on Earth and Earth orbit, not outward to the infinite.

Well, we might have our challengers again. In the last few weeks, two countries have made tremendous accomplishments in space travel -- and both are Asian.

India managed to successfully launch a satellite into Earth orbit, then de-orbit it and bring it back to earth (well, technically, sea) safely. It was small and relatively primitive, but it worked.

And while India was playing with plowshares, China pulled out its sword. It successfully attacked and destroyed a satellite in earth orbit. This not only served to cause huge immediate headaches for those in the satellite business (it increased the amount of "space junk" by a significant percentage, threatening all other satellites with damage or destruction from collisions with the debris), but put the world on notice that China has proven it has the capability to destroy satellites at will -- weather satellites, communication satellites, GPS satellites, spy satellites, and, if they chose, spacecraft and space stations.

For years, the "militarization" of space has been a huge issue. Treaties have been signed limiting or banning weapons in space, or that can reach space. While the wisdom of such pacts can be debated, the plain and simple fact is out: China can reach out and swat pretty much any satellite that it finds offensive, and that reality is not going to change.

Will this serve as a wake-up call for the United States, once the undisputed king of space exploration? Or will we cede the cosmic "high ground" to those who wish to claim it?

I sincerely hope not.


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Comments (18)

You will be shocked to lear... (Below threshold)
nikkolai:

You will be shocked to learn what has been done scientifically on the shuttle. Bio-medical technology that has far-reaching potential will soon be announced. And it has the potential to touch everyone on earth.

That India worked "the plow... (Below threshold)

That India worked "the plowshares" last week was not nearly the problem of China suiting up for the "sword" fight. China has been expanding it's relevance by increasing the military budget for years. And tied to this was China's promise (or threat) to "re-evaluate" it's foreign exchange currency. I want to think they are positioning themselves against the Islamist threat. But I see no evidence of that. The two announcements from China recently are cause to worry - though globalization is one of the areas that can keep them talking to us.
Should we be saying "Buy at Wal-Mart and save the planet"?

I guess Bush should have go... (Below threshold)
blackcat77:

I guess Bush should have gone along with the treaty to de-weaponize space. By destroying their own satellite, China was sending us a message. Now let's see if Bush gets it or whether he continues to act like a petulant child.

China won the war? to shoot... (Below threshold)
Scrapiron:

China won the war? to shoot down a satelite using American technology sold to them by Slick Willie and Algore. I guess it's still a win for them even if American developed the guidance systems the are using. They will also use the American guidance system in their first nuclear attack on America. Yesterday it was dhimmi's selling out to China. Today the dhimmi's are using the terrorists handbook or the terrorists are using the dhimmi's handbook to destroy America. Nothing has changed in the democrat party and won't until they gain complete control with a Communist/Marxist style government.
Need any further proof than the actions in the house of rep's yesterday? If you can't see what they are doing then all of that elitest education was a waste. Communist/Marxist governments purge educated people, the trenches are full of them in Southeast Asia compliments of the dhimmi's in the 70's.
Sam Walton built WalMart on a buy American first idea, his educated elite children are pushing buy China first since they are dollar hungry and a product of the dhimmi anti-American education period in America.

The question is not IF</... (Below threshold)
Jim in Texas:

The question is not IF man will go to the stars; the question is what will his mother tongue be?

Right now its problematical that that tongue will be English

scrapiron, your right about... (Below threshold)
bryanD:

scrapiron, your right about a lot of what you say, but Bush refuses to rectify that which he can. The Red Army has controlled the former US Naval port at Long Beach since around 1997. A nd last year, inbound port INSPECTION facilities (in Bermuda?) were awarded to China. Dubai never sold their interests either. And who can forget Bush sr tinkling glasses in Beijing during the Tianamin Square massacre. Remember the Bushes and Clintons are TIGHT! They're globalists, and national borders are bad for business; a 10 minute inspection ups the cost too much.

Wait a second!Didn... (Below threshold)
hermie:

Wait a second!

Didn't all the critics in Congress and the 'experts' dredged up by the MSM kept on saying that systems like these were technically impossible and that the US should save money and time by immediately discontinuing all research in these projects?

Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, ... (Below threshold)

Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, the Soviet rocket scientist and cosmotologist, famously said that "The Earth is the cradle of humanity, but mankind cannot stay in the cradle forever."

It could sustain humanity, but decent people will need to leave soon because the population of the civilized world is declining while the Muslim population is ascending. After Jesus returns to lead an army of Muslims to "break the cross, kill the pigs, and make all the world for Allah," grandchildren of people like us will need somewhere to go.

It must be great to be able... (Below threshold)

It must be great to be able to blame Clinton and the Democratic party for everything that's wrong with the way you see the world and why things don't square up with your right wing fantasies.

Jay Tea's post is one of the best I've seen on this site in a long time. It's forward looking and would take the cooperation of all Americans to solve these issues.

We can sit here and point fingers at each other or we can get our act together and confront some of the challenges laid out in this post. Imagine how well our "smart" bombs would work if an advisary were to knock out just some of the GPS satellites needed to guide them to their targets.

One of the reasons the rest of world fears the US is due to the fact that we can hit anyone anywhere on the planet with out having to move a large portion of our army or navy. By knocking out our space guidance systems that option is no longer on the table. That was the message China was sending and I'm glad Jay was able to pick up on it.

Our ability to be a super power depends on our space technology superiority. Once we lose that edge things will get real hard for us real fast.

Jay Tea, thanks for the excellent post.

Well, well!!" And ... (Below threshold)
olhardhead:

Well, well!!

" And while India was playing with plowshares, China pulled out its sword. It successfully attacked and destroyed a satellite in earth orbit. This not only served to cause huge immediate headaches for those in the satellite business (it increased the amount of "space junk" by a significant percentage, threatening all other satellites with damage or destruction from collisions with the debris), but put the world on notice that China has proven it has the capability to destroy satellites at will -- weather satellites, communication satellites, GPS satellites, spy satellites, and, if they chose, spacecraft and space stations."


maybe not quite at will.....http://spectrum.ieee.org/jan07/comments/1691

god bless our troops,
ol'

Jay said "...The ability of... (Below threshold)
scotty:

Jay said "...The ability of this planet (and, for that matter, this sun) to support human life is finite, but our potential is not..."

While that statement it true, we are not even close to the finite end of the Earth's, let alone our Sun's, capacity. The Zero Population Growth crowd would have us believe we are quickly approaching 99%. I'd say were not even to 10% yet. If you took the entire population of the Earth right now and plopped them down in Texas, the population density (~8800 people /square kilometer) would be less than, New York City at 10200, and quite a bit less than Manhattan proper at 25400. I'm not advocating reckless abandon here and we should be good stewards; but, before we panic and send rockets off to discover new places to live lets take a deep breath and take a realistic look at our situation.

. . . Konstantin Tsiolkovsk... (Below threshold)
Scotty:

. . . Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, the Soviet rocket scientist and COSMOTOLOGIST, famously said that "The Earth is the cradle of humanity, but mankind cannot stay in the cradle forever." . . .

Those Soviets insisted on perfect hair and nails on everyone they sent into space.

ha ha

Scotty,If humans did... (Below threshold)
sean nyc/aa:

Scotty,
If humans didn't eat or travel, your stat that all humans can fit in Texas might be useful. Of course, we do eat and travel, so your stat is in fact completely irrelevant.

Sean, Thank you for pointin... (Below threshold)
scotty:

Sean, Thank you for pointing out that my stat is in fact completely irrelevant. I will make a few phone calls in order to stop my plans of moving the entire population of Earth to Texas. Whew! that was a close one. I'm glad you were there for me bud. Now I'm straight and will be moving the entire population to Austrailia instead. That way the population density will be 10X less. Like the density of Atlanta, GA or Dallas, TX.

Seriously, I am completely lost as to what point it is you are trying to make. Are you suggesting that if everyone were moved to one location, like Texas, that you wouldn't be able to eat or travel?

I think if everyone were move to Texas it would be actually easier to feed people. A highly efficient consolidated distribution system is much easier than the dispersed, energy intesive distribution system we have now. As for travel, you assume people would need to travel similar to what we do now. Think out of the box a bit.

Seriously, I am complete... (Below threshold)
sean nyc/aa:

Seriously, I am completely lost as to what point it is you are trying to make. Are you suggesting that if everyone were moved to one location, like Texas, that you wouldn't be able to eat or travel?
Scotty

My point was that I was completely lost as to what point you were trying to make.

Whatever the population density of Texas may be if everyone on earth moved there, there is no doubt humans do have an effect on the earth and it cannot sustain a significant increase in the number of humans while still supporting the average demands for food and petroleum.

This is not to say we are at 99% of the possible population for earth, I have no idea what it can sustain, but you stats about population density don't prove anything. Just because the Texas would be less densely poulated than NYC if everyone moved there doesn't mean the earth is only at 10% of its possible maximum population.

I don't know how you come to that conclusion, but it would be awfully entertaining to see you try to explain it.

The stats about popu... (Below threshold)
Scotty:


The stats about population density are to illustrate that the vast majority of the Earth is uninhabited or inhabited at very low density. By showing that the entire population of the earth moving to Texas would be a population density similar to New York City should illuminate the mind to the fact that that would leave the rest of the United States, Canada, Central & South America, Australia, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, India, China, Russia, and so on, for ... well, anything - like growing food, wilderness vacations, or for that matter many many many more people.

You seemed incredulous at my 10% estimate. Well you've been brainwashed like most everyone else. Don't feel bad, the elementary and secondary school system is geared 100% to promoting this propoganda. So, in the spirit making dramatic statments that it can be casually dismissed due to lack of understanding and deep indoctrination, I take back the 10% value and sharpen my pencil for some back of the envelope cacluations.

Instead of 10% the value is probably more like 0.1% that means 1000 times what it is right now or 6.5 Trillion people. Whats even more stunning is that as technology increases so does that capacity. With todays technology 6.5 Trillion is possible but in less than 10 years, that number is expected to be as high as 35 Trillion. Who knows how high that value can get. By the way the 35 Trillion is not my estimate its the United Nations. But, hey those guys are pretty incompetent, right? Also, NASA has done some interesting studies on this here: http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/vis/a000000/a002900/a002912/index.html

"[email protected]" sorry to hear you... (Below threshold)
jhow66:

"[email protected]" sorry to hear you fell and hit your head. Don't have it treated as you made a little sense in your post.

jhow66,I'm glad to s... (Below threshold)

jhow66,
I'm glad to see you're all right, I was begining to worry about you.

I didn't expect you to understand my post, it was literally rocket science.




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