Friday, July 17, 2009
Even as I write this, the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite is getting itself aligned in a lunar polar orbit. Its job is to look into deep lunar craters for any sign of the
frozen water that some are certain is hidden in the shadows. It would be very expensive water. I told NASA that I would be happy to leave my garden hose out and they could come by
and take all the water they want. They werent interested. They wanted
water on the Moon, where they could use it to refuel rockets. "Is water
rocket fuel," I asked? "Hydrogen is a component of rocket fuel," I was told. "You have to split the water." "Doesn't that take energy," I asked? "Excuse me," he said, "my cell phone is
While most of the media must have been at the tedious Sotomayor confirmation, Andrew Lawler of Science was covering the smooth Senate confirmation of Maj. Gen. Charles Bolden as NASA
Administrator. "We will go on to the Moon," Bolden declared. He is a former astronaut who piloted the Shuttle that took Hubble into orbit, for which we must thank him. Six months ago,
president Obama also talked about returning to the Moon. But when the budget came out, there was no money for the Moon, nor should there be until the report of the Augustine panel is out
in Audust. Besides, plans change: Apollo 18, 19 and 20 were abruptly canceled to make money
available for the Vietnam War. A return to the Moon could be canceled to
make money available for the Energy War.
This is the 21st century. Telerobots have been invented. Our two Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, are merely robust extensions of our fragile human bodies. They don't break for
lunch or complain about the cold nights, and they live on sunshine. They do suffer the afflictions of age.
Their teeth are worn down from scraping rocks, and one has an arthritic foot that he drags behind him. But their brains are still sharp since they are the brains of their PhD handlers.
No need to bring them home when they are no longer able to explore, they will just be turned off. Bolden also said he wants to go to Mars. How incredibly old-fashioned! We are on Mars
now. This is the 21st century. We have discovered robotics. More than that, we have telerobots. Spirit and Opportunity are merely robust extensions of our fragile human bodies. They
don't break for lunch, or complain about the cold nights, and they live on sunshine. We have been on Mars for more than five years, looking for evidence of water and life. A human on
Mars would be locked in a spacesuit with only the sense of sight.
Our rovers have better eyes than any human, and we don't have to take their word it; everyone can see what they see. How wonderfully democratic!
Moreover, they have the IQ of their PhD operators back on Earth.
A family health physician from Alabama, she became famous for her public efforts to rebuild her rural health clinic after it was devastated by hurricane Katrina. She is expected to play a
key role in preparing for a surge of the H1N1 flu this fall.