The Sunday Index - 7.21.19

Shoot for the next furthest thing from us

That video is pretty bonkers. Not only that it exists, but that it’s real. I’m still unable to wrap my head around how NASA is planning a mission to the moon by 2024, with an aim toward then heading to Mars. They want to put a thing called Gateway orbiting the moon, a sort of pit stop which can switch between that orbit and Earth’s. After using it to get more and more astronauts (and surely architects and engineers) to the moon’s surface, they’ll start building structures, then eventually head out to Mars.

You probably know this year is the 50th anniversary of the Apollo missions to the moon. It’s being talked about everywhere basically. The New York Times Book Review podcast had Jill Lepore on a month ago to go into what the missions meant then, and what they mean now. There are a LOT of books about it all, some of them even cover how prior to the landing the whole thing was kind of, ya’ know, fucking hated.

It cost a lot of money to get there and that wasn’t popular, to say the least. I suggest giving the podcast a listen because Lepore is a gifted historian and can sum it up better than I can here.

One thing I love thinking about is all of the benefits we’ve ended up gaining due to - or arguably influenced by - the science NASA engaged in to make the moon missions happen. NPR covers a lot of it here.

An important question though: What would happen if we dedicated $276 billion to trying to get out in front of climate change? What about poverty? Or ^insert massive/global problem here^? Those are important questions. I certainly can’t fully celebrate the space travel currently being financed by tech billionaires. It’s worse than NASA receiving funding from our government when you consider the socioeconomic implications of the richest people on the planet deciding who gets to go into space. There’s already talk of opening up the International Space Station (ISS) to space tourism, which on the one hand excites the shit out of me, and on the other showcases how all the poor suckers get to stay down in the rapidly heating dirt.

And I’m a big fan of watching SpaceX launches, of following their innovations, successes and failures, and just the excitement of space travel in general. I love the splendor of the space launch, of the video I can watch live as a rocket exits our planet’s atmosphere, and all the footage that comes back. But I don’t love the idea of rich egomaniacs being the deciding factor in whether science gets done.

If you look around you can already see a marketing push for NASA taking place. The Gap has shirts, Old Navy has shirts, Lego models, stickers and pins - I’m not against any of that, at all. In fact I love it. Bought a NASA shirt yesterday. But the politics of it all is harder for me to ignore now.

Just some stuff I’ve been thinking about.

Into the great wide open…