Saturday, July 23, 2011

Goodbye Space Shuttle

By James Curcio
I know this may already be an issue past its sell-by date, as the shelf-life for ideas seems to be decreasing on a daily basis. But I think it is an important point to make, so I'm going to make it.

Many of you know by now that the US space program, though not ended in its entirety, has been demonstrably downgraded, and now faces an uncertain privatized future. This isn't new, the dismantling of the shuttle program is just the external proof of something that has long been in the works: the continued ideology of privitization at work.

I was saddened by this news, but not so much because of the mothballing of a program that is admittedly mired in many ways in an abandoned past. No. It further shows that our government either doesn't understand the nature of the scientific endeavor, or more likely, simply doesn't care. Short term profit has completely overtaken American mythology in the past few decades, and it is leading us into a death spiral from which there may be no escape until we reach the other side of the vortex.

I'll admit my bias in this upfront: I have a lot of shall we say misgivings about the idea that everything does better when privatized. Certain systems become inherently unhealthy for the people within them when privatized, while other systems perform better based on a profit motive. For instance, medicine and prisons should never, ever, be purely profit based. It's insane. We are seeing the results of that. Fuck the cost benefit ratio, if a patient's leg is going to fall off, you save the patient. Doctors took an oath, didn't they? We should make the pharmeceutical industry take the same oath, and hold them to it. And it should never be a financial incentive to anyone to lock more people up.

It's a tougher issue with something like the space program. I can see ways that there will be improvements from privatizing the program, actually. NASA has ostensibly long languishes as a result of government bureaucracy.

But in terms of pure science, it seems likely that it'll be a long term loss. Discovery doesn't occur as a result of the question "how is this going to make money?" Discovery occurs as a result of people following their curiosity.

It is after that point that people - often other people - go back and say, "now we know that xx element behaves yy way in zz environment - hey, I think I know how we can make better engines as a result of this!"

I have dedicated thousands of hours of my life to this site because issues relating to mythology are interesting to me. That should be the only reason we need. Practical benefit does factor into the equation, but we never know where from. There need to be methods of supporting and sustaining this kind of inquiry, because beginning the inquiry with the question "how is this profitable?" never leads to the best results.

Let's put faith in ingenuity. And let's support it, both in our thoughts and beliefs, as well as with our pocketbooks. I have faith that if you put a hundred passionate scientists into an environment that supports that passionate curiosity, they will wind up discovering incredibly beneficial things. It may take a long time. That isn't the point.

And if you don't know how this short post relates to mythology, you need to be paying better attention.

[Where is the fucking counterculture? Mythos Media.]


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