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Whither NASA?

Here's a name to add to the NASA Administrator-to-be Rumor Mill: Rep. Bart Gordon, head of a House science committee that oversees NASA. I asked him the other day if he was going to be administrator, and he said he already has the best job in the world and isn't going to trade it in for another. But I'd still keep his name on the list. He didn't outright deny that he might be the next boss on the ninth floor at NASA headquarters.

Here's my story from Sunday on the NASA sweepstakes.

More names floated at NASA Watch.

Of course, many people will say: Who cares about NASA? Fair question. I ask it often myself. But check out this interesting comment posted by "SeaTigr" in the comment thread on my NASA story:

hey jelly, I've got a few things NASA has done which have enriched the average citizen, as you say.

To name a few:

A lot of pioneering research on the aerodynamics of tractor trailer rigs was done at Dryden Flight Research Center during the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. The result? Trucks which have less drag, and thus use less fuel - reducing costs and pollution.

Wireless fluid measurement systems - developed by NASA for aircraft, used on boats now.

Fire retardant fabrics now used by firefighters, the military, race car drivers, etc., was initially developed for space applications.

NASA contributed engineering expertise to a company developing lithium ion batteries for use in electric vehicles.

Technology used to create space suits is being used to create dive suits to protect divers engaged in hazardous operations like cleaning up chemical spills and at extreme depths (and thus very high pressures).

NASA helped design the new Speedo racing swimsuit - which 94 percent of all gold medalists in swimming wore during the recent summer Olympics.

Aerogels, used to provide cryogenic insulation of liquid fuels for NASA, will be used as insulation in buildings. It's highly efficient and very thin. Instead of 6+ inches of that pink fiberglass stuff, try 1/4" of the new stuff.

Over 90% of the infant formulas sold in the United States, and other formulas sold in 65 foreign countries, contain an algae based food supplement. NASA designed the method of manufacture.

A lubricant designed for the massive machine which moves the shuttle to the launch pad now has several derivatives on the market for various mechanical objects.

NASA expertise was useful in solving a problem involved in improving the clarity of plasma displays.

NASA developed a product, used on aircraft and cars, which helps prevent ice from forming on surfaces. This is particularly useful on aircraft as ice on the wings can cause the aircraft to become a smoking hole in the ground.

Plantronics, long used by NASA to supply headsets, has shipped over 1,000,000 headset with the XBox.

Pilots, boaters, and anybody else, can have their life saved by a personal locator beacon. When triggered, it emits a signal to a constellation of orbiting satellites, which relay the position of the beacon to a monitoring center, which alerts search and rescue personnel. NASA aided in the development of one of the new ones.

2nd generation CMOS chips for digital cameras? Developed by NASAs jet propulsion laboratory.

These are just a few of the many, many, practical uses of NASA developed, or sponsored, technology.


Oh yeah: And NASA takes pretty pictures.


From the press release: "The halo -- the ghostly region of diffuse light surrounding the galaxy -- is composed of myriads of individual stars and provides a luminous background to the remarkable swirling ring of dust lanes surrounding NGC 7049's core."

By Joel Achenbach  |  April 7, 2009; 8:46 AM ET
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Next: Commuting by PUMA


First? (Oh, it's been soooooooooooo long!)

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 7, 2009 9:40 AM | Report abuse

Congratulations, 'Mudge.

Posted by: Yoki | April 7, 2009 9:42 AM | Report abuse

Thank you, Yoki. It is a responsibility that I do not carry lightly.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 7, 2009 9:55 AM | Report abuse

I'm always a little leery of making the argument from utility for NASA. It seems to me that it could be successfully argued that these spin-offs could have been developed independently at much less cost.

Further, the cost savings, one could argue, of canning space exploration could be used to create even greater pragmatic advances in technology.

To me, the best argument for NASA is the same as for most advanced scientific endeavors. (I know I gave a similar spiel with regards to particle physics.)

The exploration and investigation of the murky ether is something worthwhile because it adds texture and meaning to human existence. It doesn't need to be linked to a quantifiable increase in our standard of living to be valuable. For, to me, the simple existence of NASA creates a higher standard of living.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 7, 2009 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Hey, Obama's in (or heading to) Iraq!

Hey, keep yer head down, dude!

(Hope he's not carrying more than three ounces of shampoo when he goes through customs.)

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 7, 2009 9:57 AM | Report abuse

I just love pictures like that (or unlike that) depicting outer space stuff ("stuff" of course being a technical term of art).

Outside of a little residual coughing, I appear to be mostly well. And, so, I am sending healing karma to seasea and frosti (for that last bit, you know) and to Ivansfamily (all of them -- including any overflow which can be held in reserve).

Time to head out to take care of some errands before spending the rest of the day on (let us hope) client matters.

Windy, my heart goes out to ya. Keep your chin up and keep looking. In my *ahem* younger days, I kept getting laid off (a term which somehow disturbs me now), and I learned that as soon as the rumor mill started I got on the phone to set up interviews for as soon as the ax fell. I got pretty good at it, too. But the whole thing was quite stressful anyway and in the late 60s-early 70s, it was incredibly easy for employers to state right up front that a man needed a job more than a woman did, because, after all, he had a family to take care of. If I had an inflated nickel for every time I heard that . . . .

Martooni, we are all exceptionally curious, but we shall respect your privacy (although we are, as you can imagine, even more curious after your cryptic post (*muttering among one another as to what could be going on*)).

Toodley Boodley for awhile.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | April 7, 2009 10:12 AM | Report abuse

I wonder what spin-offs would have been generated had the resouces spent exploring space had been dedicated to investigating the oceans.
Fewer leaks in general I suspect.

Posted by: Boko999 | April 7, 2009 10:22 AM | Report abuse

Boko, if we'd spent that money on oceanic exploration, I suspect we'd have had a different kind of tang. Or Tang.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 7, 2009 10:26 AM | Report abuse

So, under "News Columns and Blogs" I click "Latest Posts" and the drop down is covered by that stupid annoying Ford Flash Ad. Anyone else have this problem?

Firefox 3, Win XP.

Posted by: wiredog | April 7, 2009 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, that Crocker person you referred to at the tail end of the previous boodle has an op-ed about the internet birthday today.

He makes the point that if they all went patent crazy back then there would be no internet today. Good or bad?

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | April 7, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse

I have that all the time, wiredog, at home on my Linux system, both Firefox and Opera. Makes me crazy.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 7, 2009 11:07 AM | Report abuse

On balance, shriek, I think we could have done just fine without the Internet. Just as we would have somehow muddled along without MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Tweeter, Twonker, IM, texting, YouTube, and a host of related diversions.

I mean, we'd probably still be playing Frogger and Pong, but I'm OK with that.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 7, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Methinks the Boodle has a bad case of malaise today. Or as Joel might say, Whither the Boodle?

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 7, 2009 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Busy today, Mudge.

You'll have to roust the lurkers out of their beds and give them that St. Crispin's Day Speech from Henry V about holding their manhoods cheap and so forth.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | April 7, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse

Sorry, I'm in the middle of writing an important report and everybody knows how hard it is to think these things through. Good thing I'm not getting paid, because the group I'm doing it for wouldn't be able to afford me.

Posted by: slyness | April 7, 2009 11:39 AM | Report abuse

The very idea of being without internet gives me the horrors. 80% of my work is dependent on it. A lot of my social life, too. Ack!

Posted by: Yoki | April 7, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse

GM... just re-invented the auto-rickshaw?

I hope those pollute less than the ones in India, those run on two-cylinder lawnmower engines, I was told.

Now, I'd like to read bc on driving PUMAs-- imagine, a vehicle that you drive with body weight shifts alone.

I wonder how it drives in snow.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | April 7, 2009 11:45 AM | Report abuse

It's not that I'm opposed to NASA as an idea. I just think the priorities there are all off. Most of the new data on space we get comes from probes and orbiting telescopes, yet the agency wants to go back to the Moon...why?

There's a reason we stopped going back, there's nothing there beyond what we already found except national pride. Unless you really are intent on turning the moon into a launch pad for a manned mission to Mars. And come on, show me a poll that has people saying that a man on Mars is one of their top 10 priorities for the country. Save that for the year 2080.

Posted by: Booyah5000 | April 7, 2009 11:56 AM | Report abuse

Many thanks for the boodle's words of encouragement. I'll be fine. It's just a royal PITA...if you know what I mean.

NASA is important as Joel points out. We have to continue moving forward. And what you said, RD, too: "The exploration and investigation of the murky ether is something worthwhile because it adds texture and meaning to human existence."

Well, back to my new work world: job searching. Plus more studying to take another 4 hour exam (don't ask--let's just say I am going to get some face time with experts who really know how to take the stupid exam. I thought I did great.)

Posted by: Windy3 | April 7, 2009 12:00 PM | Report abuse

No internet? Oh, lordy. I must lay down now and find my smelling salts.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | April 7, 2009 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Well, one thing to consider in discussing the notion of life without the Internet is to remember that, even if there had been no Internet, there would still be ubiquitous desktop and laptop computers all over the place, and all those applications like PhotoShop and Quark, and whatnot--all the software would msot likely still exist. And there would still be e-mail. And I suspect that an expanded e-mail system might have grown and morphed into something larger, but still basically text-based rather than image-based. And we'd still be shipping JPEGS and stuff back and forth, and probably PDFs, and whatnot. Kind of like the Internet, but simply without images, and without quite so much connectivity.

For one thing, the pace of life with this current sense of instantaneousness, this breakneck speed, I find is way too fast. People seem to feel that because we can now do things virtually instantaneously, that is is a good thing-- or rather, a "necessary" thing. But it really isn't all that "necessary" as we think. While there may be a few things that are handy to have instantaneously, there are darn few of them, much fewer than we think, IMHO.

Letting the pace of life accelerate as well as slip out of our grasp were, in the long run, not good things, IMHO. I believe we are "paying" for it in ways we don't always recognize. From Day One, I've always felt that the FedEx slogan, "When it absolutely has to be there overnight..." reflected a somewhat twisted mentality. If something "has to be there overnight," I'm inclined to think you've already screwed up: you failed to plain, you failed to prepare something in a timely manner, you've set up some kind of false deadline, or whatever. If the deadline for a project is 10 a.m. on Oct. 23, then waiting until 4 p.m. on Oct. 22 to finish it and ship it is just poor planning and poor execution, in my view. A system like that leaves you zero time for corrections, zero time for "slack" and mishaps, weather, acts of nature, etc. It doesn't even allow time for reflection, second thoughts, etc. (The big problem with sending e-mails and posting on Boodles is that one often ought to 'sleep" on an idea or comment, rather than posting immediately as the thought creeps into one's head.)

Yes, there are some "emergency" situations where instantaneous communication is good/necessary, but we didn't create all this mess to handle those few emergencies. One "true" emergency situation does not justify ten gazillion posts that are not emergencies.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 7, 2009 12:21 PM | Report abuse

Keeping people healthy and happy in low earth orbit is surprisingly difficult. Doing so on the moon is feasible and probably worthwhile, but there's all that dust. Mars is probably best left to robots, especially if there's life on the planet.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | April 7, 2009 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Hi, everybody--best wishes to all our convalescents and cheers to Windy--I trust this little speedbump in your road of life will not be a bad thing in the long run.

I'm feeling very random and disconnected today--after a few days of very hot weather, all of a sudden it's downright chilly today--I should be appreciating it but it's just so unexpected; I had been braced for the sweaty months to begin, was working on my sunscreen resolutions (every day, every day -- dermatologist's orders).

I have no comment on NASA leadership--I have a bad attitude about the space agency because I believe it to be a thinly disguised branch of the military industrial complex--don't mind me, that's just my hippie roots showing. (Hi, Martooni--hang in there, buddy)

I missed the latest newspaper discussion but I re-watched All the President's Men this week and have these observations:

The Post Newsroom is recognizable but had more colorful filing cabinets back in the 70s.

If you wanted to make a phone call, you had to be at your desk or at a pay phone. And you had to *dial* the number.

Manual typewriters.

Cigaret smoking *in the office* and in people's homes without asking permission!

Looking up names and addresses in telephone *books*!

My time's up here--gotta get on with my day. Happy boodling, all.

Posted by: kbertocci | April 7, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Neat link on the covered segway, Wilbrod.

Count me among those wishing to downgrade the manned space program, at least for now. I do want some robots on the moon, however. If I were in a peevish mood, I would point out that all the research on weighlessness has proved that it's - wait for it - bad for your health. It seems to me that eliminating further research on this matter, and spending the money on centrifuge - incorporating craft ala 2001 Space Odyssey, would be better.

Joel danced around directly naming GPS as a major NASA benefit. And communications satellites. Google Earth. Yahoo maps.

Posted by: Jumper1 | April 7, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

It's is snowing in Bethesda. How freaky is that?

Posted by: omnigood | April 7, 2009 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Howdy y'all. Ivansdad, having been officially diagnosed with bronchitis, now has a splendid Z-pak and should get better soon. The Boy has been to his doctor and, since he's been sick for so long and Ivansdad is too, also has very nice antibiotics. We try to keep them away from him, but his last course was 2007 so we don't feel too alarmist. I took the day off (thanks to hundreds of hours of unused sick leave) to watch over them.

I'm much better except for the back pain, caused by throwing out my back from so much lying down. Today I bought those menthol pain patches. I don't know whether NASA technology was involved but I wouldn't be surprised. This is a great invention and I'll be glad to give NASA the credit.

Posted by: Ivansmom | April 7, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Is there anything from the grand NASA story that can help us keep the Metro escalators working?

Posted by: russianthistle | April 7, 2009 12:50 PM | Report abuse

omni,SD, snow in April is majorly freaky - it's not right! Lovely day here, so maybe it will reach you all soon. My brush with illness turns out to be very mild, I hope. Just a bit "iffy" feeling - sleeping lots to combat it. I have no doubt it is stress related, with maybe a bit of the credit going to the abrupt, albeit welcome, change in weather.

omni, how's your job search going? I'm off to a job fair today - hope it's not too much of a zoo (ha ha, one of the employers is the local zoo!).

Saw this about the House episode last night - pretty interesting story behind it:

Posted by: seasea1 | April 7, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Good afternoon, all.

It's lunchtime, and I'm up for air.
And probably to no good.

Don't know if I want to get into the "what good is NASA" question. One alternative as I see it would have been that over the past 50 years, space capabilities and related technologies/uses would probably have been military and/or defense-related in nature. Perhaps we wouldn't have an International Space Station so much as Fort vonBraun orbiting the Earth as a military/intel platform, bristling with cameras, antennae, and missiles...

The space race may have ended up more overtly a space arms race, with countries scrambling for Space Superiority in the High Ground.

I beleive that things we take for granted today - GPS, the Internet, satellite data and TV transmission, meteorology, etc. - would all have looked very different if NASA weren't around as a civilian agency developing and promoting peaceful uses of space and space sciences as well as being in the forefront of aeronautical sciences and related technical developments.

Plus, space is cool.
Science is cool.
Finding out about the universe, and our place in it - wonderful bordering on mystical.
Even spiritual to me, personally.

As far as going to the Moon and and or Mars or anywhere else, one could make arguments that explorers and adventurers such as Mudge mentions in his previous Boodling would have been better off commanding fishing boats or building latrines rather than seeking new lands and peoples to - er, trade with (hey, I didn't say *exploit*) - for their countries' economic and political expansions.

Has it occurred to anyone that if there were nations in orbital communities or on other planets (be they human or not), that a: Earth's economy could continue to grow as those exo-planetary economies grew, and b: that humanity could be less exposed to Global catastrophe? [Granted, it would probably take a long time or some significant technological breakthroughs before such were self-sustaining, like living in Alaska or Greenland 1,000 years ago]

Having said all that - yeah, I'd want that job. Go ahead and put my name in the hat, too.

I'm pretty handy with machinery, tools, computers, and complete fabrications.


Posted by: -bc- | April 7, 2009 1:09 PM | Report abuse

kbertocci and Windy - my best to ya.

Wilbrod, I didn't read that piece yet, but I'm pretty good with vehicles that require control through body movement and weight shifts.

Bicycles, motorcycles, surfboards, skateboards, skates, skis, and even Segways - I've ridden them all with varying levels of competence, and they're fun [My kids pretend to hate it when their grey-haired Dad hops on a skateboard at every possible opportunity.]

And with the exception of the skis, they're uniformly bad in snow.


Posted by: -bc- | April 7, 2009 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Even small 4-wheel vehicles don't do that well in snow. Many people leave their for-two in the garage during the snowy months.

Cmdr. Josée Kurtz takes command of HMCS Halifax.
That's about time. Back in the dark ages I had to organize a visit in a vessel of the same class for a small international technical committee. Peeps from the US, UK, Oz and one kiwi were on hand. None of them had women on crews of their Naval Combatants (a.k.a. tin cans) although some of them had women aboard Really Big Ships. And so I picked a ship with a female EO (engineering officer) who would be leading the visit (it was the HMCS Regina, I seem to remember). By sheer chance both the baby EO and the 15-year-old-looking A/SLt leading the salute squad at the gangway were women too. That got a big grin out of me and caused a few double takes in my group.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | April 7, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

bc, this is my idea of the space program if you are thinking about visiting other planets.

Posted by: russianthistle | April 7, 2009 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Good for you Shriek, and glad you posted the link - saw the story earlier but I know so little about the military I wasn't sure how big/significant the event was, or even if there are limitation put on women in our military?

Posted by: dmd2 | April 7, 2009 1:40 PM | Report abuse

To my knowledge, there has been female officers on ships for at least 20 years dmd. Granted, the number of ships is small but it's still amazing that there has been no female CO yet.
I think one of the mitigating factor is that most women officers are engineers, so the top they can reach is EO or CSO (Combat System Engineer). The EO, CSO, baby EO and baby CSO serving at sea are probably the hardest working officers in the Navy as the Hfx class is undermanned (Ah!) by design. So those chicks bust their a's off but can't be CO.
The Ship Drivers (CO) are graduate of English, political science, history and so forth. Funny eh?

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | April 7, 2009 1:51 PM | Report abuse

One CO was, famously, a frigging lawyer as he had a change of heart at one point in his military career. That's what you want leading you in battle, Maître CO esq..
*ducking the spitballs from the numerous boodling lawyers*

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | April 7, 2009 1:56 PM | Report abuse

I remember when a skateboard was a skate and a board?

Posted by: Boko999 | April 7, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse

Weed, I can't view YouTube at work, so I'll take your word for it.

Wilbrod, I like the idea of the PUMA - except for the part about complete submission of freedom of personal movement to the government or some other entity.

I'll stick to a skateboard if I have to, thanks. Americans' travel and communciations are already recorded far too much for my liking.

I believe citizenship to be about repsonsible exercise of personal responsibilty, including acting for the public good, locally, nationally, and globally.

I don't think it means abridging freedoms or rights (?) and submitting to faceless, unanswerable authorities.

But, that's just me.


PS. I'm sure the fully implemented PUMA system is one "green" initiative the Bush Administration and Cheney would support completely.

Posted by: -bc- | April 7, 2009 2:00 PM | Report abuse

I remember when a skate was applied to your shoe and tightened with a skate key, and boards hadn't been invented yet.

Posted by: rickoshea0 | April 7, 2009 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Skates with a key? We were so poor we had to line up two rolls of pebbles and get one of the other kids to start us off with a push...

Posted by: Yoki | April 7, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

SCC: "I believe citizenship to be about exercise of personal responsibilty, including acting for the public good, locally, nationally, and globally."

I'd add here that I'm sure some folks who formerly worked at the White House would have loved it if they could locate you in your car at any time. And if there were some information that came to light via a warrantless wiretap, let's say, they could stop your car and lock you in it until Appropriate Authorities could arrive, all at the click of a mouse, that'd make them even happier.

I am kinda glad that GWB didn't get to build an expanded space station or a Moonbase during his Administration. Having Gitmo on Cuba is one thing, having it in orbit or offworld on Ft. Luna would be another. A scarier thing, I think.

[Trying not to think about what the folks who gave us waterboarding could do with airlocks... in space, and undersea in international waters, now that I think about it. Sheesh, I'm scaring myself here.]


Posted by: -bc- | April 7, 2009 2:17 PM | Report abuse

C'mon, you know you want to say it.


Posted by: -bc- | April 7, 2009 2:19 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: Yoki | April 7, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

bc, if it makes you feel better the other day I was playing basketball with my eight year old (attempting to play that is), she started trash talking me - C'mon Grandma!!

So I took no mercy and whooped her little butt in one on one.

I remember roller skates with keys - completely forgotten about them and smiled just thinking about it.

Posted by: dmd2 | April 7, 2009 2:40 PM | Report abuse

New Scientist has a story on USArray, "a 15-year program to place a dense network of permanent and portable seismographs across the continental United States." The project is important for understanding earthquakes and volcanoes, but this is what impresses me:

"The Flexible Array component of USArray will be an important tool for probing the geological framework of the continental crust and the structural details of sedimentary basins. Subsurface maps, developed from various types of geological investigations and merged with high-resolution seismic images, will be an invaluable resource in collaborative and multidisciplinary research projects related to the assessment and exploitation of groundwater, mineral, and energy resources."

I got an informal introduction to seismological surveys in the early 1980s, when oil industry work was turning up surprises beneath Wyoming's Big Horn Basin, leading to at least one incredibly deep dry hole. The instrumentation and analytic methods should be vastly better today.

USArray is an observatory program of the NSF-supported

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | April 7, 2009 2:50 PM | Report abuse

Pebbles? You had pebbles?

All we had were clumps of dirt.

Posted by: -dbG- | April 7, 2009 3:05 PM | Report abuse

Why, I remember when a skate and a board meant a small fish in the "ray" category, and a board was the plank ya walked off in piratical days.

Of course, we were so poor we didn't have planks, and just had ta jump off the side of the ship without no planks. And then you'd skin your butt on barnacles and stuff as you slid down the side.

And we were darn happy not to have no planks, neither. Arrggg.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 7, 2009 3:06 PM | Report abuse

When men were made of iron,
boards were made of wood
and wheels were made of steel.

Posted by: Jumper1 | April 7, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

You had a ship? You had barnacles? boy, what we would have given for barnacles. We had a bunch of floating seaweed. Let me tell you, it is hard to skate on that stuff. If we'd had barnacles, at least we'd have had seaweed paella.

Posted by: Ivansmom | April 7, 2009 4:03 PM | Report abuse

You had wheels? Why, we didn't have...

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 7, 2009 4:08 PM | Report abuse

You had seaweed? Why, we used to have to cut the grass and take it down to the ocean and...

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 7, 2009 4:10 PM | Report abuse

see weed?

Posted by: russianthistle | April 7, 2009 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Of course we could only have had seaweed paella if we'd had fire.

Posted by: Ivansmom | April 7, 2009 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Hi Weed!

I want to order some Hondo coffee. Which is the best regular, breakfast-daytime type coffee, not too dark?

Posted by: Ivansmom | April 7, 2009 4:21 PM | Report abuse

*laughing and yielding, Ivansmom*

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 7, 2009 4:28 PM | Report abuse

And the pretty snow is still falling.
It's time for some fermented herring between slabs of hard, black, stale bread. With a pint of vodka.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | April 7, 2009 4:31 PM | Report abuse

New Kit!
On PUMA and the two-wheel contraption.

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | April 7, 2009 4:42 PM | Report abuse

...with a side order of freezing rain and a basket of beer-battered despair.

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | April 7, 2009 4:43 PM | Report abuse

I am simply in favor of continuing space exploration, both manned and unmanned, and definitely including the "mission to Earth" stuff (satellites) as part of that science. Space science, as I would call it, is in its infancy and we (meaning the entire human race) are still learning so much. That alone justifies this program. Also, I would hate to give up our American role in space and leave it to the Europeans, Russians, and Chinese. There is an indefinable value to being one of the world's major powers, economically, socially, and politically as well as militarily. Space is part of that.

What I've never quite bought is the list of random though good things invented as unexpected or serendipitous side-effects of NASA's work. That's like saying a given defense contract is of value because of the local jobs it produces, not because of the end product being built. Things shouldn't be justified primarily by their side effects. Those are the extras. The main deal is the actual goal of the program, which as I say, I endorse.

Posted by: fairfaxvoter | April 7, 2009 5:17 PM | Report abuse

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