Over the weekend, I discussed the pros and cons of a recent article written by Mars Society President Robert Zubrin. In his discussion for a Washington D.C. political website, he outlined his thoughts on how to enrich the US economy. One of the points raised was the argument that a manned mission to Mars would have a huge economic impact on the USA; creating jobs, invigorating science education and boosting national well being. This is a worthy argument that, in principal, holds a lot of merit. After all, the Apollo Program in the 1960’s had a lasting effect on the US, creating jobs in the aerospace industry, bolstering the economy and creating a generation of highly skilled scientists and engineers.
So why not do Apollo 2.0? Send man to Mars as a measure to recreate the economic benefits generated by the Space Race against the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, no modern government would sensibly invest in such a plan. There is no political incentive to do so (well, no acute incentive that requires the US to “beat” a competing superpower in the race to strategically dominate space).
But what if the recent economic $800+ billion stimulus package could be used to stimulate another, burgeoning sector of space flight, that has both political and financial merit?
When times get tough, the world needs visionaries.
Visionaries find solutions, they invent systems and invoke change. One such figure in current events with a weight of 300 million people on his shoulders, is the new US President Barack Obama. His entire political campaign is based on bringing change to the USA (and the world), making him the most prominent political figure out there. Is he a visionary? Some would argue that he is, others would say that history will decide that point. I’m on the fence as to whether Obama will find historic solutions to these seemingly insurmountable global crises. But the thing I admire about the new US President is that he is a strong leader, and sometimes, that is all a country needs to pull itself from the precipice and back to prosperity.
So, the Obama-backed $800+ billion economic stimulus package is currently pumping through the system to eventually be divvied up and sent to areas of the economy that need to be reinvigorated. In principal, it’s a good idea. But what if it fails? Unfortunately there’s an awful lot more riding on Obama’s shoulders than 300 million hopes; $800 billion of their taxes will be keeping the new President awake until the early hours. If this all goes right, Barack Obama will go down as one of history’s visionaries; if it all goes wrong… well, let’s just not go there for the time being…
I’ve just worked out why my research proposal to the National Science Foundation (NSF) failed to get funded last year.
I thought it was the returned critique: “inadequate consideration of outreach activities” that was the main reason for the failure (isn’t saying: “that’s the Sun,” whilst pointing to the sky, enough “outreach”?), or perhaps it was my criticism of research councils for not funding enough solar missions (fair point)… I’m not sure.
But it might have been a crap proposal that skimmed the desks of the NSF and filed under “LOL”, or “FAIL”.
After a year of getting used to the idea that I might not get back into solar research again, today I’ve seen what must have happened. My proposal landed on the NSF proposals desk during the 20% of the time the NSF staff member was taking an unauthorized break (i.e. surfing for porn).