Over on Jeff’s SpacePolitics site, there is a discussion going on right now about a recent poll on the relevance of space. While much of the discussion was interesting as usual, I particularly liked the point made by a fellow 20-something by the name of James:
Those who support the current lunar program often forget the opportunity costs. There are better ways to spend the same money on developing space. I’m 24 – with the current Constellation program plan, I’ll be in my mid 30s by the time we get back to the moon. If we operate the system for a decade or two after that, as is likely, all I can expect in my career is to see 4 people land on the moon twice a year. That is not exciting – nor is it worth the money. Maybe by the time I retire we’ll be looking at another “next generation system”.
What’s the point of any of this for someone my age?
Two of the replies to his question more or less missed what I saw as the key point, and instead mostly fixated on the question at the end–taking it as a sign of greed, self-centeredness, shortsightedness, etc. Personally, I don’t think for a second that James was being whiny or impatient or ADD (as our generation is often accused of). I think he’s asking a very valid and timely question.
While I know it’s somewhat vain to quote oneself, I think the point I made there bears repeating:
If our current approach to space development was actually putting in place the technology and infrastructure needed to make our civilization a spacefaring one, I’d be a lot more willing to support it. Wise investments in the future are a good thing, but NASA’s current approach is not a wise investment in the future. It’s aging hipsters trying to relive the glory days of their youth at my generation’s expense.
Patience is only a virtue when you’re headed in the right direction and doing the right thing. If Constellation was truly (as Marburger put it) making future operations cheaper, safer, and more capable, then I’d be all for patiently seeing it out.
While Constellation might possibly put some people on the moon, it won’t actually put us any closer to routine, affordable, and sustainable exploration and development. I have no problem with a long hard road, just so long as its the right one.
As I discussed in my previous post on John Marburger’s speech, I discussed this important point. It’s not good enough for NASA to just be doing stuff in space. Sending people to the Moon in a way that doesn’t “reduce the cost or risk of future operations” isn’t a very responsible way of spending tax dollars that are going to be paid in large part by James and my generation.