Thursday, August 24, 2006

Its A Wonder They Can See The Night Sky

Blog Of The Day Awards Winner

NASA, collectively, and with the help of the government over the past 35 years or so, has managed to make some very seriously impossible maneuvers in order to put their heads in a place where the sun doesn't shine. 35 years ago, they owned the world and the fascination of us all. Now... they just don't get it, do they?

The scientists have taken over. Its no longer bucks or Buck Rodgers. Theoretically, NASA could probably get whatever kind of budget they wanted. But they don't seem to care any more. They want more money for more robotic probes or unmanned missions to asteroids. Science is good. No doubt. But where is the wonder? Where is the awe? Where is the humanity in all this space? They don't get it!

When people first looked into space they didn't think to themselves, I wonder what the mathematical equation would be to determine the sub-orbital velocity of an object circumnavigating Jupiter. No, they thought... Pretty! Awesome! That must be where the Gods live! We've been looking into the night sky with wonder and awe ever since. All of us, that is, except NASA and a bunch of scientists around the world. They don't get it.

Every single amazing picture in NASA's arsenal has come about because someone who got it begged and pleaded for a camera to be included on the mission. What does a camera have to do with science? We could use up that weight to carry back more rocks, or to add another photon torpedo detector or whatever. A camera is bad science! They don't get it.

Now comes word that Pluto is no longer a planet. Why? Because it doesn't meet science's narrow definition of a planet. Nevermind the fact that almost everyone on Earth grew up with the idea that Pluto was a planet. Nevermind the fact that we all learned about this planet as school children. Nevermind the fact that nothing has changed about Pluto except the definition from scientists. Our discovery of Pluto was okay, but we absolutely NEED to redefine it as not a planet. Futhermore, Orion's Belt is not really a belt. From now on, we're going to call it a cluster of stars. They don't get it!

The Sea of Tranquility is not really a sea, nor an extinct sea as someone once thought. We know that. We don't need to reclassify it. There are no Martian canals. We know that. But we're not sure if they weren't carved by flowing water anymore. We don't need to reclassify them either. And guess what NASA? More people became interested in Mars when you guys discovered an obvious photographic illusion of a man's face than when you landed the two Viking probes. Why? Because we WONDERED about it. It made us dream of a new world. It made us hope that there might be other life out there, other worlds, other frontiers we could explore someday!

We're going back to the Moon in a few years. NASA is building a new Lunar Explorer. We'll have people bouncing along its surface again. But if we don't get someone in charge of the missions who understands the big picture, and not just the science behind it, then we're never going to do anything more than collect rocks and write college disertations. If our species is going to survive, the people who are exploring the frontier need to have a sense of adventure. It can't just be a job. It can't just be science. It must be something more.



Famous Quotations said...

This post wins you the Blog of the Day Award for today.

Thank you.

Award code is here:

Dan said...

BAM! Nice work Will!

Heather said...

If all of our planet worked like this:

Lewis: "Hey, Clark, do you suppose that's a trail, or is more of a path?"

Clark: "I don't know. I think we should study it for a few years."

John Muir: "Hmm, is Yosemite a valley or more of a sub-plateau. Perhaps I should ponder it before I request the government preserve it."

Mark Twain: "Should I start my novel with the word "the"? What impact will that have on my readership. Let's figure that out first."

I could go on and on and on.

Steve Sinai said...

I think robotic probes and unmanned missions to asteroids are interesting. I also like the old Greek and Roman mythology about the planets. Nobody at NASA is saying people can't refer to Orion's belt as Orion's belt. That's what I still call it. I don't think NASA is trying to destroy the romance of space exploration.

I do think scientists can be faulted for often making the mistake of speaking to the public as if everyone had science PhDs, which turns people off.