Let's fly the first black woman to the moon, but send the checks to Jeff Bezos! On the congressional hustle that perfectly captures 2022 America
Taxpayers like housekeepers, janitors, etc. have been building sport palaces for billionaires for decades. The Buffalo Bills got a new stadium thanks to their mutant governor. I spend winters in San Diego and was so proud of the citizens when they voted down a new stadium TWICE, telling the Chargers to go shit in their hat. When given a choice, taxpayers almost always say no to billionaires. The federal govt. gives us no choices. "There is no freedom without choice."
Does the funding include a staff of biologists to form a committee to decide whether an astronaut candidate is a woman? Can biologists also determine if a person is OF COLOR or not? How is this decided? Does each candidate get assigned a hex code (RGB value). Astronauts must be at least #b5651d? How else can they comply with this (obviously unconstitutional but who cares about that) law?
I really don't get the dramatic civil rights moment that would be produced by a woman of color going to the moon. She didn't build the rocket, she'll be far from the first person on the moon, and don't astronauts just kind of sit there and turn some knobs? Maybe it's a lot harder than it looks. But at some point we need to stop making everything minorities do a huge civil rights thing. Like being the first transgendered person to eat a new flavor of Pop Tart. Sure it's technically a first, but why do we care?
For a very different reason, I feel the same way about the first Black woman on the Supreme Court. If she had earned the position through her brilliant legal career, that would indeed be an accomplishment. But if the President says he's going to appoint a Black woman, well that sort of takes the excitement and prestige out of it. All she did is beat other Black women for the job, which really isn't a civil rights moment. If anything, the honor redounds to Biden for getting a Black woman on the court and thereby takes it away from her.
Agreed on the corporate welfare aspects here. We should award contracts to the lowest responsible bidder and move on, feelings be damned.
But I disagree heartily with your rejection of NASA's privatization of much of its work to develop rockets. Contractors did all the work for the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, as well as Space Lab and the Shuttle. Look at the old videos of crews being loaded onto the rockets - technicians are wearing garb adorned with their companies' logos. Our private contractors allowed us to go to the Moon, while the Soviet Union never made it.
What's different is that NASA is setting goals and asking industry to come up with proposals to bid, just as defense contractors do. Competition results in better products for NASA. Prime example: SpaceX is running circles around Boeing with its Dragon crew capsule, which just delivered the first all-commercial crew to ISS, while Boeing's Starliner is still mired in technical difficulties and definitely not anywhere near ready for launch. What's the difference? I think it's because SpaceX has a fixed rate contract, while Boeing is paid cost-plus - no incentive for Boeing to control costs and just get it done!
Competition and private industry are essential to progress in space. Don't poo-poo them; harness them and get rid of crony capitalism.
There is NO reason to return to the moon. What a waste. Perhaps we should re-stage Columbus’s trip across the Atlantic? A “Lewis and Clark” RV trip to the coast? And highlighting the useful trip with woke histrionics!!
I nominate Stacy Abrams to go up on Bezos' rocket. Matt wrote: "It was unclear if the budget language was describing one person, or two, or more... Still... the space agency’s next big goal is to put a black woman on the moon." There's not a single aspect of the budget language or the space agency's next big goal that Stacey Abrams does not fulfill. Plus, she gave a riveting cameo performance on Star Trek Discovery, which further cements her celestial bona fides. Of course she would accept such a nomination. Finally, may I suggest that she have the honor of becoming the first permanent resident on the moon? Perhaps she could be installed by President Biden as its governor.
That Matt Taibbi was able to make that “Bezos/Seminal” reference without additional remark or comment is why I read the man. He trusts us.
And let’s not forget how much the public space dollars will inflate Bezos’ imagined intellectual prowess. NYT comments routinely describe him as a “genius”, and a “towering intellect”.
I imagine Einstein looking down from heaven muttering “Damn that Bezos!! If I’d only been able to figure out ‘Free Shipping!!’”
"We demand more diverse oppressors!"
Response: "Why do we need to have oppressors in the first place?"
Counter: "Why do you hate diversity?"
Bezos deserves to be pilloried and Musk has an ego the size of his new rocket. But Elon has also revolutionized heavy lift. Cost per kilo lifted to LEO has never been cheaper than what Falcon 9 can do it for. His contracts with NASA are for performance, not cost plus like all aerospace contracts have been since before Apollo. Contrast Falcon 9, and now Starship, with the cost plus NASA SLS program. 10s of billions spent for a rocket that is years behind schedule and still throws away all of its component parts as it flies as if the reusability revolution hadn't come to pass years ago.
There is a reason why Musk's entrant for a moon landing system was chosen. He has a history of delivering what's promised. It's because of Musk we can tell the Russians to go fuck themselves and stop buying rides on Soyuz to the ISS.
To make this fully perfect, the first black woman on the moon should be bi-sexual, left-handed, and a single mother or the whole thing isn't worth it.
I’m so done with all these “firsts” and want no “ seconds.” This is all so ridiculously absurd, I’m risking an inappropriate joke…..I think the first woman on the moon must named Alice, she’s been waiting decades.
Setting aside the fundamental wrongness of (1) billionaires and (2) the rush to privatize and exploit everything that used to give Americans a sense of common cause, Bezos is the biggest jerk in this mess. Elon Musk may be a reprehensible human being, but what he's done for both the auto industry and the space launch industry is pretty good by 21st century standards. GM buried the EV1 to protect entrenched interests; Tesla eventually forced the whole auto industry to face the future. There are a lot of electric cars on the market now. Similarly, Lockheed and Boeing and Northrup Grumman were content to charge NASA and private companies very high fees for single-use launch vehicles for decades, until SpaceX proved it could be done an order of magnitude cheaper. And that is a good thing. Launch is a dominant upfront cost in robotic planetary missions. Right now, cheaper launch means more NASA science -- and that's a win for the public if you think understanding the Earth's climate, the solar system, and the universe is worthwhile.
(Funny side note: When you do rough cost estimates for science flight missions, the scientists usually work first and primarily with a dollar- and mass-cap for the payload and ignore launch costs entirely. The fights that go on about which spectrometer will fly are a real bummer if you actually think about what the rocket costs.)
Anyway: SpaceX won out on the Moon thing because neither NASA nor the private sector competitors can do launch as cheaply or as well. If that decision was upheld, I think the public interest and science would be relatively well served. I can ignore the stupid penis contest aspects of the thing if good rockets are being built and science and exploration are actually happening. This has always been the nature of spaceflight. It's icky and ridiculous, but 12 people walking on the moon was GRAND. Every time pictures of a new planetary surface come back, it is AMAZING. So, yeah. Pick a winner. Pay them out of NASA's feeble budget, and let's get on with things. And don't let Bezos whine and buy his way to a second place win at everyone's expense. That's super gross.
Today is the anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's first manned spaceflight.
Afterward, Gagarin let fame go to his (ahem) head. He was banging a nurse in a resort hotel. When his wife barged into the room he jumped through a window and off a balcony, incurring far worse injuries than he got in spaceflight.
Soon after that he was killed while flying a fighter jet. "Conspiracists" believed another jet sideswiped Gagarin's jet to get rid of the scandalous hero. The usual "investigations" conclusively "proved" it was an "accident".
Taxpayers also foot the bill for Google's "private airfield" run by NASA at the former NAS Moffett Field because the beautiful people didn't want to mingle with the unwashed at San Jose Int'l. Oh and only a few years ago Google was caught paying government prices for fuel.
This fits in nicely with endless funding for losers like the F-35, which while looking bad ass and impressing the crowds at Super Bowl 10 second flyovers, became the problem it was intended to supposedly resolve; an overly expensive, complicated, heavy and high maintenance boondoggle., the military equivalent of a Ferrari meant only for Sunday drives in perfect conditions.
It did, however, keep Muslim flying carpets from devastating The Homeland, though.
"the space version of the NIH" LOL--too true.