Sunday, August 7, 2011

Astronauts: still cool

I'm not one of those people who gets all weak in the knees about human space flight.

Look, I get why it happens. I too wanted to be an astronaut when I was a kid. I grew up reading science fiction and owned a telescope so I could look at Mars and Saturn. The Right Stuff is still one of my very favorite books, and I carried a Space Shuttle Columbia trading card in my wallet until I was about 24. The romance of space travel isn't lost on me.

But it's also undeniable that the most implacable foe of human space exploration is cost-benefit analysis. The things we need done in space, robots can do just as well as us. Instead, we've spent many years paying a premium of billions upon billions of dollars so that we could have a select few men and women perform those same tasks with their own two hands. Towards what end? Collective pride, I guess. And it's just not worth it. That money could help thousands -- even millions -- of genuinely suffering people. In the meantime, science will survive.

Still, sometimes I see things like this, and I get sad that things have to be that way.

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