Dare All The Things!

My home air conditioner died last week (and Texas has decided to be even more of a giant demon-asshole than usual with temps WELL over 100 for the last few weeks) and it’s $5400 to replace. To that end, there are 50 more custom Fancy Sketches available and all donations in August will go straight to the AC fund. Your help and support in this time of RIDICULOUS SWELTERING BULLSHIT is much appreciated. Read more HERE and see some of the recent Fancy Sketches HERE.

So how’s about that triumph of the human spirit and what not last night? Pretty impressive indeed. And what about those hairdos in the control room? There was “Fancy Blond Pompadour” and “Original Gangster NASA Hippie Beard” and WHO COULD FORGET “Emo Brohawk Star Head”? I mean, sure we sent a nuclear space truck 160 million miles through the vacuum of space, landed it safely on another planet and received pictures back from it moments later, but HOW DID HE GET THOSE TINY YELLOW STARS ON HIS HEAD?! Science: how does it work, amirite?

Joking and silly haircuts aside, GOD DAMN was that ever an impressive feat of human ingenuity! Why is it again that we don’t just let the nerds run everything and solve all the world’s problems? How exactly are the popular, rich, jock assholes still in charge? Can’t we just make a giant space robot and all get inside it and be like, “Hey assholes! Cut it out with the only caring about your own personal wealth and power and stop catering to the most ignorant and fearful by by limiting the civil rights of certain people or we’ll blast you with our massive laser arm cannon!”

My only regret is that NASA didn’t refer to this mission as “Operation Get Ya Ass Ta Mars.” What a wasted opportunity. Still, it warms my heart to see a bunch of nerds science a thing into space just so humanity as whole can be smarter. It’s nice to see millions of dollars being spent on an endeavor that won’t earn anyone millions of dollars. The wealth we’ll gain from this mission is intangible and immeasurable. I can’t wait to see the photo of the first human on Mars standing next to the broken down hull of the Curiosity. That is, assuming we don’t stop space exploration all together before then or just completely blow ourselves up.

COMMENTERS: Did you watch the Mars Curiosity landing? What are your feelings on the current state of and potential future of space exploration? Did you see that one professional science doer with the mohawk and the head stars? What was up with that?

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  1. "I just got sports" omg such a great line!

    I was totally watching Curiosity last night, it was amazing. The most amazing part was probably when they mentioned that it basically cost each American the price of a single movie ticket. Then I went and did some maths, if all of us cough up the price of a Collectors Edition video game (about $80) Nasa could have that $25 BILLION they need to put boots on mars. (Okay so they actually want $30B but they're used to having smaller budgets than they ask for :P)

  2. Estimated cost of this mission was 4-7 dollars per American. Hell, I'd give 'em another 10 spot. People ranting about the (relatively) paltry budget of the space program in light of the current economy, while complete ignoring the trillion dollar offence budget… they boggle my mind. & that's ignoring the tangible, measurable benefits we've all reaped from the space program, from simple water filtration to current communication technology to advanced medical imaging.

    • Some additional ammo on that one, the U.S. military budget is THREE TIMES the next largest spender. China is number two on the spending list and their standing army is the size of our entire military. Aka they have a soldier for every soldier, cook, mechanic, communications operator, nurse, doctor, researcher, pilot, etc… of ours. We still for some gods aweful reason spend three times the Chinese military budget. Even just shrinking our budget down to simply EQUAL the next highest budget would solve the deficit in a decade.

        • Well China makes knock offs of most American equipment why not just buy it cheap from there as well! I mean they found that some of the military contractors had subcontracted the actual making of components for a wide range of things to China so why not just cut out the middle man.

          I've always thought it would make sense for us to all just pool our space money and expertise together, imagine how much money could be saved by just not duplicating effort or pointless posturing. 30 billion (american billions I assume) USD would be like 4.2 and a bit USD each, obviously richer nations should pay a higher burden then poorer ones, which I think would be doable.

          I know I'd personally be willing to give up the cost of bus fare to send a manned mission to mars!

          • We spend more to counteract their edge in manpower with superior technology (Even though at this point terrorists are more of a threat to security than sovereign nations)

  3. It was so refreshing to wake up to actual good news today. Something that puts a smile on my face Monday morning is a great thing indeed!

  4. You are now experiencing the delusion, common among geeks newly exposed to martial-style communal accomplishment, that "anything is possible if we just treat it as the moral equivalent of war". Accomplishing great things in groups – barn-raisings, parades, open-field battle, putting a man on the moon (or a robot on Mars) – all of these are exciting and really pump the endorphins. It makes you think you could do *anything* if you could just keep that state-of-mind. It is especially powerful and long-lasting among those who don't actually encounter the horrors at the point of the spear – where all that euphoria of communal accomplishment is converted into friction – bloody, wasteful, horrible slaughterous friction.

    It's an entrancing state of mind. It is also a category error of the first water. Life is not war, it is not a football game, it is not baseball, and it is most certainly not the space-race. Everything cannot be done according to command, according to communal effort, by regimentation along scientific lines. This is the corporatist delusion, the fascist fallacy. When you pit "selflessness" against "selfishness" in daily economic and petty political affairs, you have already set foot on the downward path.

    This is dukkha, this is delusion, this is the devil's lure: that you can make heaven on earth by treating all men as brothers, or brothers-in-arms, or as a fellowship of engineers upon a great project, or the great laboratory of Truth. Even though Ayn Rand was a jackass, A *is* A, because the confusion which makes you think "a company is an army" or "the market is a church" or "a country is the family writ large" are all deadly category errors. Analogy is not allegory, and accomplishments in one context are not absolutely translatable to problems in another context.

    No, the fact that we can put a man on the moon does not carry meaning in your completely unrelated conundrum or controversy or perceived failure of society/government/the market.

      • I believe the accomplishment (especially a group accomplishment) brings about the "state of mind", not the other way around. In other words, you don't need to maintain some regimented "moral equivalent of war" to get things done, although it sure helps if your objectives are destructive by design. In the realm of pioneering, exploration, and research, what's necessary is the natural curiosity of the human spirit along with the inclination and aptitude (a purely individual effort) to put in the study time and "do the math". If such people are geeks, then power to them. If they band together for a common cause, more's the better. It's when a mutual objective is achieved that a group (any group) gets a post-objective sense of "team". It is powerful… enough to reach out and impact even the casual observer. Given a simple choice, I would fund space exploration over the war machine any day. Imagine the religion-based conflict that could be deflated if, heaven forbid (and pun intended), we were ever to bump into a "referee" out there.

    • You're the kind of person who considers that your succes is only due to your own efforts while conveniently ignoring the fact that it is the infrastructure of the country you live in (wich is the result of communal efforts) is the very thing that allowed you to reach those lofty heights. I was going to make an anology to a cancerous cell, but i guess you are already back to watching your stock grow or whatever the hell it is.

      • Indeed. The smartest, most ambitious, most disciplined person on earth, if they're born into abject poverty in Haiti or Somalia, is almost certainly never going to end up as successful as a lazy dolt born into wealth in the United States.

      • I'm with Joel, here.

        I was going to comment on something, but I was so flabbergasted, I lost what I was going to say.

        Powerful stuff – but, not as powerful as a sky crane's ROCKETS!!

  5. Good news: We're on Mars with a much fancier tool!
    Bad news: We don't have much in the NASA budget for future trips to Mars (let alone other projects)!
    Good news: New Horizons in a couple of years!
    Bad news: It can't stop at Pluto!

    To sum up: The good is good but the bad is REALLY bad.

  6. They still can't send humans to Mars due to #1 the astronauts are human and don't want to leave their families for such a long time, so basically, being human is holding back the human race #2 the bone and muscle degradation that happens in the 6 months it would take to get to Mars would basically mean when they came back to Earth, it would be unsure if they could recover.

    So no, the future of space exploration will just be done by robots, because as I said, humans are too human to send their own out into space.

    • Except that in regards to #1, you might be astonished at the number of astronauts who would leap at this. After all, it's only about twice as long as Army units were being deployed to Iraq during the Bush misadministration – and the chances of getting blown up on a Mars mission are almost infinitely less than the odds of being blown up on the road to FOB Whitehorse.

      As for #2, bone and muscle loss can be compensated for through exercise – crews on the ISS routinely stay for longer than 6 months at a time. (Also, your figures are inaccurate – using the classic Hohmann coasting orbit, it could take a year or more to get to Mars. Or, if the output of the current-technology VASIMR coupled-charge plasma thruster can be increased by a factor of about 10, you could use electric rockets to get there in about a month, at a constant thrust of .01g…)

      • Yep, flyin' there Avatar style. Constant thrust 1/2 way there, constant reverse thrust the rest of the way.
        If we could make an engine that gives us 9.8m/s^2 (1G) acceleration, we could get to Mars in about a week. Trips to the moon would take around 4 hours.

      • It is legit, they've been working on it for a couple years now and have plenty of backing. There's also such a rush of people desiring a one way ticket to Mars that they'll probably take the better part of a year just choosing which 20 applicants get hired. Not going to stop me from tossing my name in the hat though. 😛

    • What if we sent Emo kids who don't care about family, life and would prefer soft bones to cut through with their faux razor blades?

      Also, black absorbs heat. Less equipment required to keep the temperature comfy! 😀

  7. I watched the whole thing. Thankfully we have a half holiday up here in Ontario today. I was 9 when Apollo 11 went to the Moon. I couldn't stay up for the landing, but they rolled a TV into each classroom so we could watch the first step. I created a scrapbook of all the newspaper articles around the time.

    This landing brought back a bit of the excitement from that time. The first launch of the shuttle (and the Canadarm) was another big one, and now that Curiosity (and the APXS-Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer) are safely down, I'm a bit giddy.

    I do wish the "show" direction had been better, but budget probably prevented that. We had new pictures and we're looking at another minute of random hugging and backslapping INSTEAD of the bloody picture. Even the EDL lead tried to get people to look at the screen and was ignored. And the interview timing was frustrating. However, this isn't NASA's forte.

    While everyone was focused on Hippie dude and Mohawk dude, I was much more focused on the two cubbies back in Systems and Propulsion. They didn't get near enough screen time.

  8. Well, news media in Argentina are all about talking crap about the government or crap about news media, depending on who you are reading. Oh! That and dancing "reality" shows. So I just found out today about the landing. Would have been nice to know before hand. I don't even know if it was broadcasted live over here.

  9. I got up at 0500h so I could cycle over to my friends house to watch the landing (I'm working on GMT here). It's utterly insane that we landed something on another planet using such a novel landing mechanism (was anyone else reminded of Thunderbird 2?) but it's only a scondary headline on the BBC news website. We landed the most sophisticated suite of scientific instruments ever deployed on mars – I don't care that the UK almost has as many gold medals as it did in 2008.

  10. Quote "Did you see that one professional science doer with the mohawk and the head stars? What was up with that?"

    I saw the morning press conference. That was his good luck charm. Many of the personnel had their own rituals, or 'lucky rabbit's feet' and his was to style his hair wild for every mission. It was also something different every mission. They staff voted that for Curiosity it should be a Mohawk with stars and stripes.

    (I hope you were really curious if not just waxing rhetorical.)

  11. Wait a minute, what if this is all a ruse by a power artificial intelligence to set up a base on Mars from which they can build a machine civilization?

  12. as a jock (and nerd) i can say without any doubt that the jocks are in charge because we're not afraid of failing on national television, and we're totally willing to be massive assholes and lie about the reasons behind our failure, usually by blaming nerds, that said


    also, all i thought when i saw that brohawk was, hey isn't that the kid from hook? when did he get into nasa?

  13. My husband said, "I was up late watching Curiosity land."
    I heard: "I was up late watching Curiosityland." Ooh… new show? Is it fun?
    "Curiosity. Landed. On Mars."
    "Oh… you watched Curiosity……land."

    This happened twice at the same lunch.

  14. "How exactly are the popular, rich, jock assholes still in charge?"

    They constantly threaten to give us wedgies, steal our lunch money, and stuff us in our lockers if we ever get too uppity.

    There was a brief time after the 40's with the success of the Manhattan Project where the nerds looked like they might take over, but the rich jock assholes took a page from the nerd playbook and invented the atomic wedgie.

  15. The landing was spectacular, Mohawk guy, and Brent Spiner in independence day, guy kept grabbing my attention. Also while they were waiting for the signal to establish, the guy who cheered prematurely made me laugh.

  16. What makes this landing different from other Mars landings? We have put other probes on Mars in the past. Is the terrain for this landing rougher than other landing areas. I will be impressed when we put a probe on Mars have it gather some samples and bring it home again.

    • it's not so much the fact that we sent another probe to mars, it's more that fact that we sent another probe to mars IN THE MOST SCI-FI-ish kinda way you can possibly send a probe to mars, i mean it had a rocket powered parachute dude.

      plus, dude we sent another probe to mars, if that doesn't impress you, than there's something wrong with you

  17. I regretably did NOT watch the Mars landings, on TV (don't know which channel; where were you watching it?) or nasa.gov, but I'm looking to catch up on all the action, with help from io9. I was distracted this weekend by the Olympics (U! S! A! U!S! A!) and an Arts and Wine Festival in my old hometown, where I poured beer with a German dude who owns a local microbrewery.

    • As far as I know there was no channel to watch it on. Everyone was watching online or perhaps on NASA TV if your cable provider has that. No major news outlets were carrying it which is entirely sad. I was watching it on my iPad and streaming to my TV.

  18. I was just looking at the Fancy Sketch Drive pics and nearly spit coffee all over my monitor at Josh as Sailor Moon!! That's fantastic! I can't wait to see mine when it gets here!! 😀

  19. One word: HOVERCRANE! Frakking Hovercrane people! OMFG! Yeah, I get all excited when I see any of the images (SO clear) and yeah, the endeavour in itself is fantastic. But seriously, HOVERCRANE!!11!!1

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