Friday, December 5, 2014

NASA's gonna party like it's 1969!

Look out everybody, the future of the past is here today and it looks a lot like the tomorrow of yesterday! This morning NASA launched the first test flight of Orion, a spacecraft designed to eventually carry astronauts to Mars. And by spacecraft, I mean rocketship. Sigh.
After the launch, NASA scientists enjoyed the smooth,
smokey flavor of Winston, the official cigarette of NASA.
Winston: Tastes good-like a cigarette should!™
"Honey, I don't want to rush you but the
universe closes at 5. So could we like,
boldly get going sometime today?"
Here's Mike Curie, NASA's public relation's guy:

"...and lift off at dawn, the dawn of Orion and a new era of American space exploration!"
-Mike Curie, wordsmith

Yikes. I know this is just a test flight and all, but that's his one small step? And is this really the dawn of a something? I mean, it's 2014. A more accurate analogy might be 'this is the late afternoon of American space exploration we're still sitting in the driveway, impatiently waiting to get on with it.'

Goddamnit Florida, this is
why no one likes you.
In addition to its uninspiring send-off, the Orion program has already faced some setbacks. It was supposed to launch yesterday, but gusty winds and a boat sailing too close to the launch area forced the space agency to hold off a day. Yup. Wind and a boat. To be clear, this is a vehicle that's supposed to carry 4 astronauts the tens of millions of kilometers to Mars through cosmic radiation, micrometeoroid collisions and frell knows what else and it was held up by wind and some assholes on a booze cruise. Holy shit. 

NASA estimates that the 20 square feet of
living space inside the Orion would go for
 $4200/mo in San Francisco. Plus utilities.
Oh, and let's get back to the tens of millions of kilometers. The trip to Mars is probably going to take something like 200 days there and 200 days back. Add to that however long our intrepid explorers want to spend running experiments and disproving internet rumors of Martian Bigfoot and we're talking like a year and a half to two years in a confined space with three other people floating through the airless, radiation-bathed final frontier. The plan is to add a slightly roomier living module, but the cast of Real World is ready to kill each other after an hour and a half and they get a pool.  

If he's so great, how come
we don't have warp drive?
I don't mean to beat up on NASA. It's not like the embarrassingly slow crawl towards space exploration is their fault. The space agency's budget is something like $17 billion this year. To put that in perspective, the kid that owns Facebook is worth $33 billion. We, as a species, value a forum for sharing links to lists of 'The X (where X is a number) Most/Least/Best/Worst Y (where Y is a thing) Ever' over advancing the cause of scientific discovery. I'm not saying we should feel bad about that, lists are awesome, I'm just suggesting that maybe we should make Mark Zuckerberg and other unreasonably rich people finance our space program. $33 billion is way too much money for one person to spend, so I say let's help him out while at the same time helping his money. It's win/win.

Look, we're supposed to be living in the future, we should have moon bases and starships, not space capsules and non-hover cars. What's a couple of shakedowns compared to expanding the boundaries of human knowledge?
Oh, and this guy. NASA should rob the shit out of this guy.

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