“To err is human”. In this world, nothing is perfectly safe. Right from the cars to airplanes that we see around us, there is a possibility
of accidents to occur.
They sacrificed their lives to make space travel safer. They will be remembered as long as this endeavor for space exploration continues. But one
thing must be noted here. Every day we come across news about many accidents, but even after two and half decades you still remember it. Why? Because
they made space travel a lot safer.
With all due respect to my colleague, and without delving too far into my personal psychology, I must insist that this is not why I remember the
disastrous launch of the space shuttle Challenger. I remember it for proving to the nation that NASA is willing to put public relations before
personal safety, and I remember it for the backlash against spending on the space program that followed. Until this debate, I had never heard of
“rotational pitch maneuver”.
The Challenger liftoff was supposed to represent an exciting milestone for the space program – the symbolism of sending a civilian (a woman no
less!) for a ride and research opportunity in the space shuttle was that it promised a future of public participation in space exploration.
The reality crushed that dream to the extent that every civilian in space since Christa McAuliffe (who didn’t make it there) has had to finance his
trip by himself. Forget about public access to space – NASA’s premature mission, and focus on meeting the expectations they had raised, killed
that dream. And with NASA’s premature action we saw a definitive shift in the financing of space programs into the private sector. In short, as the
dream of public access to space died, the reality of elite-controlled dominance of space travel was realized.
A quick, rather unimportant clarification: my opponent’s response included an apparent correction to a point I made in my opening. He wrote
“And space shuttles were not grounded for 15 years.” I would like to make it clear that I never stated that space shuttles were grounded for 15
years, or that manned space travel stopped following the Challenger disaster, but that no civilian was included in a mission until 2001.
SQ2: Do you anticipate that the agency responsible for the financial backing of such an undertaking would do so disinterestedly, or in
the interest of establishing its own power base in space?
Two possible situations can arise of this.
Situation 1- The Government funds the mission entirely-
Situation 2- A Public-Private undertaking-
In fact, there are other possibilities: a purely private undertaking, a purely military “black budget” undertaking, an undertaking by a research
institute. All have their drawbacks. My opponent suggests that in any case, undertaking a manned mission to Titan in the current economic situation
would stimulate the economy by providing jobs. He has, however, offered no evidence that such a mission would create more jobs than undertaking an
unmanned mission to Titan would, or than undertaking another space project altogether.
I will rephrase my previous Socratic Question and pose it as my first for this reply:
: If a private company took a major role in financing a manned mission to Titan, do you think they would do so only for the benefit of
humankind, or because they believed that they would obtain some benefit related to control of or access to future development there?
In my opinion, I would say that the nation’s government should authorize the respective space agency and allow collaboration with other
nation’s space agencies for a joint mission. And this will not only help in this space exploration, but will also pave the way for a good
relationship between nations.
I am often accused of being naïve with regard to human nature, of having too much faith in the fundamental goodness of mankind. But my opponent
obviously has me beat in that area.
Since I live in the United States of America, and my opponent lives in India, I will assume that those are the nations he is discussing.
But those are not the only nations with space programs, and as we have seen private enterprise may also play a role.
As an example of supposed harmony between adversaries that can be brought about through collaborative space projects, my opponent describes the
“handshake in space” of 1975. There are several problems with this. The first is that this handshake occurred after, and owed much of its symbolic
weight to, years of promotion of the “space race” between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. as the major frontier of the cold war.
There is no similar condition now. Perhaps my opponent will correct me, but it is my understanding that the U.S. and European Union collaborative
space efforts have far outstripped any other nations’ achievements in the last decade at least. Détente falls flat if there has been no real fight
The second problem I see with this vision is that the current geopolitical landscape is far more convoluted and complex than it was at the height of
the Cold War. It is no longer the Communists versus the Democrats; alliances are shiftier, depending on access to resources, religious and cultural
developments, and economic dependencies.
I think the most realistic candidate to join the already-cooperating U.S./E.U./private coalition – it’s likely “opponent” to be reconciled
through joint space ventures – would be China.
Yet China is currently also the largest holder of U.S. securities – they own more of our debt than anyone else. I am no economics expert, but it
seems likely to me that a major expenditure such as a manned mission to Titan would be financed at least in part by issuing further debt.
So would we borrow money from China in order to have a joint space venture with China? Exactly how vulnerable would that make us?
These are only a couple of issues that come to mind regarding the politics of manned space exploration, but I will leave the topic for now with
another Socratic Question:
: Do you agree that global political alliances are less well-defined and more complex than they were in the late 1960s and early 1970s?
Ill refer to the Russian made Progress Vehicle here. It is a one time use vehicle of the Russian Space agency, without a re-entry shield, and
all the trash of the ISS burns up in the atmosphere and all trash is burned up without a trace over the Pacific. And I can see that it can be easily
I have to admit that this sounded very good when I first read it. Imagine, we could just send all our trash into a low, unstable orbit and let it
“burn up without a trace” on reentry into Earth’s atmosphere.
Then I realized: nothing burns without a trace. There may be no, or very little, solid
remaining, but surely all that matter goes somewhere?
And that somewhere, is probably into a gaseous state to join our atmosphere, right?
In other words, instead of burning our trash on Earth so that the toxic fumes can make their way up through the layers of atmosphere, we’ll just let
it burn out there where it can join and react with the protective bubble the Earth requires to sustain life more directly.
Now, I’m sure that the trash produced by the inhabitants of the ISS is quite minimal, and adds almost no pollution to the atmosphere. But that was
true of the first coal-burning factory also. It does not seem to me like a means of getting rid of waste that we want to rely on too heavily.
We cut down trees, we pollute waters, we pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. And lots more that come under a different topic of climate
change. So, I would say that our record is poor.
Indeed. It is very hard to argue that point. We make a mess wherever we go.
There is hope though, I would argue, in the fact that we have started to become aware of this, that we have started to admit that our wasteful ways
are unsustainable and that we must not continue to pursue technology and comfort at the cost of the environment. Already the ban on
chlorofluorocarbons has begun to take effect, and the hole in the ozone over the Antarctic has begun to heal.
Perhaps even in the next fifty years, we will make great strides in caring for the space we inhabit.
: Do you have hope that we as a species will improve our environmental impact in the near future?
That is why we should send a man to Titan and set the foundation for future human settlement. We have almost crossed the point of no return
to save the earth. (my emphasis)
And that is why we must not act too soon and risk bringing to Titan the problems that may drive us from Earth.
Thus far, this response has been concerned with rebutting and clarifying earlier points.
Before I turn it over to my opponent, I will share one fact about Titan that I have only recently come to appreciate.
On its brutal and inhospitable surface are lakes of liquid hydrocarbons, mainly ethane and methane. Fuel.
An artist’s rendition of the view of Saturn from above the cloud cover of Titan.
Copyright Mark A. Garlick and available at the Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations