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Couple of notes

A couple of items from this week’s issue of The Space Review:

  • Reporting on the just-completed Mars Society Conference in Colorado, Tom Hill notes that NASA’s Chris Shank had little new to say about the upcoming exploration architecture. The Mars Society is planning to hold next year’s conference in the Washington, DC area featuring a one-day “Congressional Blitz” on Capitol Hill.
  • Taylor Dinerman critiques a recent essay in Le Monde that featured an “International Aeronautics and Space Administration” carrying out the first human mission to Mars. He is skeptical that such an international space agency is a good idea. He also touches upon the Iran Nonproliferation Act in his article, wondering if any attempt to amend the legislation to aid NASA will be done in broad public view or tucked away as a provision of a much larger, unrelated bill.

9 comments to Couple of notes

  • The article by Michel Alberganti is a calculated dig at American nationalism, and Taylor Dinerman took the bait in about three seconds. Alberganti allocated one each to China and India, which between them have 40% of the world’s population. Then he gave one to the United States because it is the most powerful country and the most successful in space. And he gave the US the additional fillip of an astronaut from its closest military ally. In selecting an astronaut from Europe, an Englishman could be taken as a compromise. Alberganti left his own country out of it to sharpen his point, and never mind Russia either in case Cold Warriors object to them. Finally Alberganti picked Brazil, which is not particularly pro-American or anti-American, to represent the Southern Hemisphere.

    Nonetheless Alberganti could expect a lot of Americans to be annoyed by his hypothetical compromise mission, because the mission wouldn’t be five Americans. Because many American nationalists think that America owns not just Earth but the whole solar system. Not all Americans are like this by any means, but the ones who currently control Washington largely are.

    Which should make you wonder whether there could possibly be a human Mars mission in our lifetimes anyway. Most good ideas internationalize well; most bad ideas internationalize badly, or not at all.

    For example, the modern personal computer is every bit as international as Alberganti’s scenario. You could call it a great example of American-led international cooperation. (Wright-minded space advocates should also consider what country built the best airplanes in 1912.) At the other end, the occupation of Iraq is an expensive fiasco that’s lurching toward Iranian-allied Shiite theocracy, and it’s only slightly more international than the World Series.

  • Dwayne A. Day

    The Dinerman piece has some problems, in my opinion.

    For starters, using an article in Le Monde that is apparently not on the web (I checked) and not in English is essentially a strawman. For those of us who failed French in high school (and consider that one of our finest achievements), how are we going to know _what_ that article says? If someone is going to deconstruct an article, they should at least pick an article that others can read.

    But in this case, the article was merely a jumping-off point to take a swipe at international cooperation in space.

    I also think that the TSR article wanders around in search of a point. Is international cooperation inherently bad? Does this mean that the United States should not have cooperated with Great Britain in World War II? Would it have been easier and cheaper to simply go it alone?

    And the comment that Great Britain sold jet engines to the USSR in 1946 “which led to the deaths of hundreds of American flyers a few years later in Korea” is a gratuitous cheap shot. Two could easily play at that game. When Argentina attacked and sunk British ships in the Falklands War, they did it using A-4 Skyhawks. Who built them? The United States did. So does that make us even?

  • The article is here. Google provides a rickety (but useful) translation here.

  • Paul Dietz

    Most good ideas internationalize well; most bad ideas internationalize badly, or not at all.

    Why is this reminding me of ITER?

  • David Davenport

    [ Because many American nationalists think that America owns not just Earth but the whole solar system. ]

    We do, if we can get there first.

    [ And the comment that Great Britain sold jet engines to the USSR in 1946 "which led to the deaths of hundreds of American flyers a few years later in Korea" is a gratuitous cheap shot. Two could easily play at that game. When Argentina attacked and sunk British ships in the Falklands War, they did it using A-4 Skyhawks. Who built them? The United States did. So does that make us even?]

    No, that is not even. No moral equvalence there, Mr. America Hater.

    Almost no one before the year 1982 anticpated Argentina going to war with Britain.

    On the other hand, lots of people in 1946 thought that selling jet engines to Stalin’s regime was a bad idea.

    “… In 1945, the Soviets approached the British Ministry of Supply wanting to buy Rolls-Royce Derwent and Nene jet engines. Air Commodore F.R. Banks, who was then Director of Aero Engine Research and Development, was strongly against the sale, stating, “If we let the Russians have these engines we would be selling our birthright and they, buying time, would be saving themselves five years of hard development.”

    Unfortunately, Sir Stafford Cripps, then Minister of Trade, put pressure on Prime Minister Clement Atlee to approve the sale, and Atlee did, over the objections of virtually the entire UK technical establishment. … ”

    http://www.tgplanes.com/Public/snitz/post.asp?method=ReplyQuote&REPLY_ID=1494&TOPIC_ID=200&FORUM_ID=1

  • Paul: Other people have also seen parallels between ITER and ISS.

  • ken murphy

    “If someone is going to deconstruct an article, they should at least pick an article that others can read.”

    I can read it. I generally got the impression that it was a rehash of Mars Direct with an international crew. The choices of nationality didn’t really stand out for me, but then again my classmates at Int’l Space University were from England and China and Brazil, amongst over a dozen additional nationalities (including Israel, Libya, Nigeria and even some crafty Canucks).

    I don’t know what y’all are getting so worked up about.

  • Dwayne A. Day

    Having now read the Le Monde article, I am mystified why this would lead to an anti-international cooperation article. This speculative piece simply refers to an international crew, nothing more. That makes it no different than a million other speculative pieces about human Mars exploration. I thought the only notable part was the fact that the crew did not include a Frenchman…

  • I stand by my explanation at the top: Because it looks like international expropriation of American destiny. Not only is the Martian crew in the story not five Americans, nor even close, but they were also sent by the stolen space agency, the “IASA”.

    Alberganti obviously hinted that human spaceflight belongs to humanity as a whole, not just to specific countries. All the more so if he didn’t mention his own France.