About this space travel thing…

October 14, 2021

Or: My complicated feelings about space. Not social distancing space… outer space.

I love space, I love astronauts, I love rockets. One of the coolest things I ever watched was a nighttime space shuttle launch when I was visiting with my Dad in Florida.

Space Shuttle Discovery's fiery trail across the night sky, March 2009
STS-119, Discovery, March 15, 2009.

For the last few years I’ve been watching SpaceX launch and land their rockets. Each landing (and explosion) was one step closer toward re-energizing our sluggish space exploration.

But this weird space tourism detour has really left a bad taste in my mouth. Do we really need to do this?

There was a point in time where I would have been super jazzed up about William Shatner going into space but today I’m … meh. I’m glad he had a good time and I’m glad he didn’t die. But it’s so stunty and I’m kind of repulsed by it.

Even my favorite astronaut, Chris Hadfield, is in on it. He sits on Virgin Galactic’s Space Advisory Board and — ugh! Dude, you studied and worked so hard to become an astronaut and accomplish all you have and now you’re promoting this?

It’s not that it’s not NASA. I don’t care that it’s not NASA. Even thought I think Musk is a twerp and Bezos is a d-list Bond villain, they (more Musk than Bezos) have really pushed space travel much more forward than we ever could with government funding in a country where people are willingly taking horse dewormer.

And if nobody in the capsule is flipping switches, isn’t it just a glorified ten-minute amusement park ride?

Am I being unreasonable and a stick in the mud? Convince me this is not just a weird bro-flex.

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  • Rebecca Jo Vincent October 14, 2021 at 11:44 am

    I think you got in my head & wrote every bit of this!
    Its a hobby for the rich… tearing up the environment – wasting money that can be used for so much more. I just see them ruining Earth &then hopping on another rocket to enjoy their rich life while we’re all gasping for clean oxygen that is polluted with rocket debris.
    It really is just a ride. I’m pretty sure Its a Small World lasts longer.

  • Johnny W October 15, 2021 at 11:47 am

    I get you about space tourism. A lot of it for me is the people involved, Musk and Bezos in particular. When Richard Branson looks good by comparison, you know you’re in the Major Dick Club.

  • SMD October 15, 2021 at 12:02 pm

    I have the same feelings. This feels like, what…a quick burst above earth? It’s super fucking self indulgent.

    Let’s address climate change here and use space for breakthroughs

  • scrivener October 15, 2021 at 6:56 pm

    It is just a weird bro-flex, but it’s also more. I feel every bit of what you’re feeling, but private funding for advancing science and knowledge is huge. And while these may just be amusement park rides, they are also steps. When you learned HTML, did you design a pleasing UI tied to a database for some noble task, or did you make a Debbie Gibson fan page?

    And before that, if you’re like me, most of what you learned about computers had something to do with problem-solving your setup because your games weren’t playing correctly. But all that goofing around with games made you good at tech, and all this goofing around with 10-minute thrill rides is making people better at space. If it leads only to glorified space tourism, I’ll consider it something of a waste. But if it leads to (insert some idea I’m not smart enough to brainstorm) without costing the government anything, something amazing will have emerged from it.

    I say okay. Let the big boys have their toys, and let the rest of us have the benefits of the knowledge they pick up.