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Nov 13, 2012

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum: No Lifeboats Please

Posted by in categories: defense, education, engineering, existential risks, finance, military, space

It was on a long-haul flight many months ago that I recalled a visit to the National Air and Space Museum [1] to a fellow passenger whom I struck up conversation with. Asking if I could recommend somewhere to visit in Washington DC, I recounted how I had spent an entire day amazing at the collection of historic aircraft and spacecraft on my only visit to that city fifteen years or so previous as a young adult — and as always a kid at heart.

Seeing the sheer scale of the F-1 engine for the Saturn 5 rocket first hand, stepping inside an Apollo command module identical to those used during the Apollo program, not to mention seeing full life-size replicas of the Lunar Roving Vehicle, an Apollo Lunar Module and for some reason what seemed most surreal to me… the Viking 1 Lander. This was enchantment.

However, for all the amazement that such a museum can provide, it is also a saddening reminder that what once was the forefront of human ambition and endeavor has now been largely resigned to history. NASA budgets are cut annually [2] whilst military expenditure takes ever more precedence. A planned six percent budget decrease in 2013 is the equivalent savings to three hours of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. Instead of reaching to explore outer-space we are encouraged to get excited about the equivalent billions [3] invested on science exploring the subatomic inner-space world. Meanwhile, we tend to forget that the ambitions of space exploration are not just to satisfy some wide-eyed childhood yearning to explore, but the serious and sobering prospect of needing to ensure that we as a species can eventually colonize to other worlds and ensure we are not counting down the days to our extinction on an ever-more-precarious planetary solitude.

In the face of such indifference, such concepts of lifeboats have become marginalized to what is perceived to be a realm solely for loons and dreamers, or ‘space cadets’ as we used to call them back in the days of school. The trillion dollar question really is what it takes to redirect all that military investment into science & exploration instead. It is down to credibility. Governments shy away from investing public funds when there is a lack of credibility.

It was an easy sell to the public to invest in the military after the tragic events of 9/11 and terrorist threats which were presented largely by propaganda/disinformation to the public as an existential risk to the free world. The purse strings opened and an unforgivable amount of expenditure was invested on the military in the subsequent years. Let us hope that it does not take unprecedented natural disasters [4] to awaken the world to the fact that it is nature which poses much greater existential risks to the survival of our society in the long-term.

[1] http://airandspace.si.edu/
[2] http://www.care2.com/causes/2013-nasa-budget-gutted.html
[3] http://www.ibtimes.com/forbes-finding-higgs-boson-cost-1325-billion-721503
[4] http://rt.com/news/paint-asteroid-earth-nasa-767/

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Comments — comments are now closed.

  • Hiago on November 21, 2012 11:13 pm

    that in the future there sulhod be “votes for women and boats for men.” Some also opined that persons with disabilities, kids, elderly, etc., sulhod, regardless of gender, have precedence over able persons of either gender.So gents. Rest assured. Nobody’s going to ask guys on a cruise to give up anything more than a deck chair for the ladies anymore–and that only if she’s really old. The Titanic happened to be an extremely famous and dramatic instance where they did. There were disasters where this did not occur and women & children first was by no means a given. Did men help the ladies during catastrophes? Of course, many did. But when it comes to the wildness of a catastrophe, such as the 1906 Chicago theatre fire that killed hundreds in half an hour, nobody can count on people behaving well. It’s every man (or woman) for himself. In the past, ship captains feared female hysteria and that was a major reason for clearing them off fast, or keeping them in their cabins. Men were hard enough to control without worrying about women who were often worrying about their kids and pets. There has not been a “women&children first” rule in most of society as regards saving their skins in cases of natural or man-made disaster; nor warfare, after a harrowing read about the French Revolution (atheists slaughtering Catholics, btw) in the Vendee region made extraordinarly clear. It sulhod be manifestly plain to anyone with any knowledge of other cultures, or even the earlier history of our own, that there is little concept of woman as more valuable than man. More often, quite the contrary. Most non-Western people could not imagine saving children over adults or women over men and when massacres happen, the ones that get killed are the ones that can’t run as fast. The death stats veer towards little kids and their mothers, believe it or not. But saving an adult, self or other, was more important, obviously. Especially an adult male, because he could DO things. Makes sense. The luxury of regarding the weaker as more valuable is an outgrowth of Christianity in my opinion. An outgrowth very long away from its source.I personally have often paid tribute to those heros of the Titanic (we happen to know about it because its so publicized), as I have acknowledged heros that may have acted in many disasters where heroes could be sighted. And that is where we stand now. I know because I went through a pretty gripping evacuation and it was taken for granted that kids and frail or disabled people would be helped first, which came naturally to me anyway–I automatically become protective when a small child is near me. So don’t worry guys. I don’t think you’ll ever be asked to do such a thing. Very, very few of you ever were, you know.

  • Narumi on February 9, 2013 12:50 pm

    “E.g., the throwaway death. When Yeoman Johnson takes a wryawad phaser blast and buys the farm, notice how often he’s a he. This is in an era when 50% of the butt-kickers are babes, mind you.“My favorite part: that in action movies the men are ripped — because you need muscle to do the job of a solider, if you’re a man — while the aion-hero women look like they came out of a Victoria’s Secret catalog.“Equal rights means equal responsibilities, and I see no point in chivalry in the modern age.“If you are chivalrous, you’re the pussy and not the bad boy they’re looking for.“A white woman traveling first class had the best odds for survival.“For the 8 Chinese travelling (all men) the odds were 75%. Not bad. Better than all all classes of men, and better than 3rd class women & children.“The remarkable thing about passenger ship and aircraft evacuations is how rare panic or rioting still is. As a rule, passengers behave well.“In the First World, anyhow. Probably because it’s been awhile since we’ve a major disaster along those lines. Everyone assumes they’ll be safe. Don’t get caught in the stampede on a sinking Third World ferry, however.I’m sorry, the “abysmal” term should have been reserved for the lower class members of the crew (between 0–22% as opposed to 57% for the officers)The three highest ranking officers all perished. The fourth ranking officer, Second Officer Charles Lightoller, survived due only to luck. Also, there were 8 officers, so the survival rate was 50%.