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I miss the Soviet Union

Back in the old days the US had a worthy competitor. Launching Sputnik. Establishing puppet states. The whole evil empire thing was good for the world in a way. Now, who do we compete with? If the Soviets had a space program and were building ships to go to Mars, we'd also be building ships to go to Mars, rather than talk about a 2050 trip maybe, and messing around with robot expeditions. I think we'd also have nuclear power and fuel cells nationwide and global warming wouldn't be any concern at all because of it.
Permalink Practical Economist 
July 5th, 2007 11:37am
That's ok.  China has a man-rated rocket now, and is shooting down their own satellites with an Anti-Sat weapon.  They're going to be competitors for us in a big way, in about 5 years.

That, or they're going to eat our lunch.  It just depends on how long it takes for the US to wake up.  The Soviets did it with Sputnik.  China may be more clever.
Permalink SaveTheHubble 
July 5th, 2007 11:56am
Both the Russians and the Chinese are smart enough to compete. I think the Russians are more creative though. THe Chinese are OK at copying, but can they innovate? What translations are there of modern Chinese literature that pushes the boundaries? Or other modern art? Maybe there is some I don't hear about, but the Russians there is a lot.
Permalink Practical Economist 
July 5th, 2007 12:01pm
"shooting down their own satellites with an Anti-Sat weapon"

A good example of not being creative. They are smart enough to blow up a satellite but they can not IMAGINE what happens when you hit a cloud of 200,000 bullet sized fragments in orbit while traveling at 14,000 mph.
Permalink Practical Economist 
July 5th, 2007 12:07pm
>  Establishing puppet states. The whole evil empire thing was good for the world in a way.

Can you clarify. Was that intended as a description of the USSR or the USA?
Permalink  
July 5th, 2007 12:27pm
recall that with sexual selection the area of competition is not as important as the mere competing. symbols are good enough, as even the Ancient Greeks knew. and symbols (like planting the American flag on the moon) have intrinsic value independent from any extrinsic one (there was no economic or scientific rationale for putting golf balls on the moon).

when the US competed (the USSR had chosen the field of play and got a running start) in the space arena, it eventually won out (with some luck).

what arena of competition are we in now? spirituality? can the US out-spirit the competition?
Permalink Send private email strawdog soubriquet 
July 5th, 2007 12:36pm
Energy.  Resources.  Financial.  Human Capital.

As the world competes for access to resources, and the energy to live and manufacture, their ability to produce and sell products and compete financially in the global marketplace becomes key.  And developing their human capital through education and automation to improve productivity is a key method for achieving that.

In the Space Race, creating affordable, effective, and powerful launch platforms for sending atomic weapons onto your opponent was the key issue.  That raised the fear level to a point where American Government made huge (for the time) investements into R&D and technology.

Now, we need cheap and reliable and non-polluting and non-global-warming energy sources.  But what is the fear that will drive the American Government into doing this?  What is the risk of something bad happening, and from where?

"Enlightened self-interest" would drive the investement in energy sources, and our people, and automation of production to increase productivity.  Sadly, we aren't that enlightened, we require FEAR to motivate our leaders and the electorate.

Right now, the "big fear" is Terrorism and Terrorists.  That's not nearly as motivating for R&D as the "big fear" of those Russian Commies dropping nukes on our head.
Permalink SaveTheHubble 
July 5th, 2007 12:46pm
The race to put a man on the moon didn't have anything to do with "Energy.  Resources.  Financial.  Human Capital."

It was, in fact, a waste of energy, resources, financial.  human capital.

It was however frigging awesome and awe-inspiring. So chalk up the awe column to make up for a loss in the other ones.

As the awe has subsided, and there's no economic benefits to going to the moon, this is why no one does it.
Permalink Send private email strawdog soubriquet 
July 5th, 2007 12:51pm
That was then, this is now.  "Energy" is the need, now.  "Being able to nuke Russia" was the need, then.
Permalink SaveTheHubble 
July 5th, 2007 12:55pm
goign to the moon is superfluous to ICBMs. it was all for show. a good show, but still.

Hence: the reason going to the moon after 1973 (?) didn't seem worth it.

i think it was 1973. I guess there are two types of people .. those who were alive last time a human was on the moon, and the other 2/3 of the world who weren't.

so what's the next show? curing cancer is too pedestrian. maybe transgenetic humans. something freaky and awesome/awful.
Permalink Send private email strawdog soubriquet 
July 5th, 2007 1:20pm
No, actually, Kennedy needed a way to hide the cost of development of ICBM's, but at the same time have a public display of our power.

Going to the moon achieved both these purposes.  Note that Russia beat us at every turn -- first satellite, first man in space, first man to orbit.  It was only with the moon landing that we actually "did something first".
Permalink SaveTheHubble 
July 5th, 2007 1:58pm
yes, but that demonstrates my point no? that going to the moon was unnecessary for anything than inspiring awe (which is a good thing).

even sending a man into space is not needed for ICMBs. the Soviets did that for show.
Permalink Send private email strawdog soubriquet 
July 5th, 2007 2:03pm
Fair enough.  I don't know what "the War On Terrorism" will achieve, though.
Permalink SaveTheHubble 
July 5th, 2007 2:06pm
>>  Establishing puppet states. The whole evil empire thing was good for the world in a way.

> Can you clarify. Was that intended as a description of the USSR or the USA?

The USSR was innovative and forward thinking in established puppet states that were ruled with an iron fist. The US then responded by doing the same. Times were good. The Romans have brought us the aqueduct and modern living my friends!

Nowadays things have gone to shit. If we had just taken over Iraq and REPLACED Saddam with our own front man who ruled by decree, we could have straightened that place out. But instead we are fucking around, screwing things up because we won't fully commit.
Permalink Practical Economist 
July 5th, 2007 2:20pm
"he area of competition is not as important as the mere competing. symbols are good enough, as even the Ancient Greeks knew. and symbols (like planting the American flag on the moon) have intrinsic value independent from any extrinsic one (there was no economic or scientific rationale for putting golf balls on the moon).

when the US competed (the USSR had chosen the field of play and got a running start) in the space arena, it eventually won out (with some luck)."

Yes, thank you, that's it exactly! You play better golf when you have someone to play against! Golf on the moon, now who can beat that?
Permalink Practical Economist 
July 5th, 2007 2:21pm
Now see, PE, I completely agree with that.  The "old" model was, invade a country, install a puppet government that agrees with you in all things, make the trains run on time, and pull out.

Why the Bushites wanted to screw with that formula, I don't know.  Even in Japan after WW-II, America GAVE them their Constitution (basically a copy of the American one, with an additional Article that Japan COULD NOT have a military).
Permalink SaveTheHubble 
July 5th, 2007 2:23pm
"In the Space Race, creating affordable, effective, and powerful launch platforms for sending atomic weapons onto your opponent was the key issue."

I disagree with this. After the first one, which proved that we were willing and able, the US has never had any interest in actually launching nukes. Our interest is in making sure everyone knows that we can land on the moon and they can't. This makes them think that in any nuclear confrontation, they would lose. Therefore, they do not start it. Without landing on the moon, there would have been plenty of nations ruled by crazed dictators and committees lobbing nukes at the US. But having landed on the moon, we proved we have better technology, accuracy, and reliability than they do and therefore it's not worth it to Tread on US.
Permalink Practical Economist 
July 5th, 2007 2:27pm
> Even in Japan after WW-II, America GAVE them their Constitution

I'm guessing the photocopier in Baghdad jammed. It's always the little things that bring done a people.
Permalink Send private email strawdog soubriquet 
July 5th, 2007 2:29pm
"invade a country, install a puppet government that agrees with you in all things, make the trains run on time, and pull out"

YES. Democracy doesn't suddenly appear from dictatorship by coming over and making an announcement in a vacuum. Lots of stuff will get sucked into that vacuum created. Better to control what is sucked in than let fate decide it for you.

"Why the Bushites wanted to screw with that formula, I don't know.  Even in Japan after WW-II, America GAVE them their Constitution (basically a copy of the American one, with an additional Article that Japan COULD NOT have a military)."

Yes.

If we followed this model, we'd go in and control their press and run propaganda articles about how great democracy was working for them. Get everybody hyped up about it. Build nice schools, get the oil running, rebuild the infrastructure and THEN turn over the government to them after they already have been shadowing it for many years so they know the pattern. That has proven to work successfully. Instead, a bunch of people were like 'this needs to be a quick war, turn over the government to untrained iraqis who have lived their lives in a dictatorship right a way' and we did and they didn't know what the fuck to do, and when they tried to do stuff like squash insurgents, then we interfered 'no no, you can't squash the opposition, you have to have a tea part with them and work things out by happy diplomacy'. THat doesn't work.
Permalink Practical Economist 
July 5th, 2007 2:32pm
"It was, in fact, a waste of energy, resources, financial.  human capital."

Absolutely NOT. If we had not had the space race, the development of rocketry would still have happened since we use satellites for commercial and research things. Without a space race, it would have cost 100 times more and taken 20 times as long. The race allowed us to act dangerously, to move things WAY faster than the naysayers and poo-pooers wanted.

Imagine how far medicine would go if it was OK to experiment on homeless people and not have to pay anything if the drugs killed them. There would be tons of effective new drugs, produced very cheaply! The space race was the same thing. Decades or centuries of progress were made in only 10 years.
Permalink Practical Economist 
July 5th, 2007 2:37pm
Also, as a military program it was very cost effective as well. Compare the total cost of the space program to the cost of getting hit with even one nuke in NY or LA.
Permalink Practical Economist 
July 5th, 2007 2:39pm
The space race may have been a worthy cake, I'm saying that "landing a man on the moon" was almost completely nutrionless frosting.
Permalink Send private email strawdog soubriquet 
July 5th, 2007 2:42pm
That's a good point, PE.  At one point in the series of moon preparation shots, they were supposed to orbit the earth and try stuff out.

Since the Russian's were breathing down our neck, the decision was made to go ahead and send the command module out to the moon and back.  This was the mission that took the famous "Earth Rise" picture.

So the Competition aspect DID speed things up at some points.

Note also that the "quicker better faster" approach also resulted in the deaths of the Apollo 1 astronauts 'on the ground', so it's not all a free lunch.
Permalink SaveTheHubble 
July 5th, 2007 2:45pm
> So the Competition aspect DID speed things up at some points.

Which is why I think the whole Red Queen question ... it is good to compete in general. Though the level of anxiety never goes down, one just rebalances at a higher level.

Now the Olympics is letting someone with a prosthetic limb run in the 100-yard dash .. hmm.
Permalink Send private email strawdog soubriquet 
July 5th, 2007 2:52pm
3 deaths in the whole program to get to the moon is pretty fucking awesome. I'd like to see the statistics on other civilizations that landed on the moon, how many people died in their programs. Seriously, do you think there is some possible timeline in which we go from being plow pulling farmers to space cadets without at least 3 casualties?
Permalink Practical Economist 
July 5th, 2007 3:02pm
Last time I was in what-today-isnt-the-Soviet-Union, it was still the Soviet Union.

Heck, last time I was in Prague, it was still Warsaw Pack.
Permalink Send private email strawdog soubriquet 
July 5th, 2007 3:06pm
I compare it to my own experience developing. As a youth, I could write 200 lines of assembly language and have it run bug free the first run.

Now, I struggle to produce 2000 lines of C++ bug free and fail.

Looking at the complexity of the space shuttle, holy fuck! Or the technology used (magnetic core RAM?!) or the number of parts and systems and the STRESS they go under during launch and reentry, my god! Yes, fuck ups with O-rings did happen, but it's a miracle and a testament to fantastic engineering and hard work that the shuttle hasn't blown up during every single launch. It's a fucking nuclear explosion worth of power and you are sitting on top of it riding it to the moon? Are you kidding me? And people think that is going to be safe? But the same people  go to their NASCAR races and hope to see a big smash up.
Permalink Practical Economist 
July 5th, 2007 3:09pm
>>The whole evil empire thing was good for the world in a way. Now, who do we compete with?

that's a good point.  seems like the US has decided on manufacturing evil enemies by focusing on terrorism and gays.

back in the cold war era, "aliens" were used as a symbollic representation of communists. 

why not go with the same idea, but remove the symbolism?  fake an alien crash landing of some kind... heck, how about bio-engineer some alien-ish humanoids to plant in the craft for authenticity?
Permalink Kenny 
July 5th, 2007 5:31pm
"Now, I struggle to produce 2000 lines of C++ bug free and fail."

2K lines is a whole lot. I probably only ever hit about half that when I was trying.

I found that the oppposite, compile-watch-tweak-compile in rapid succession was fastest for me. Now that I have an utter piece of shit for a development machine I think I may just go back to the 'challenging' way.
Permalink Send private email JoC 
July 5th, 2007 6:18pm
>3 deaths in the whole program to get to the moon is pretty fucking awesome.

That's only the US side, of course. The Soviets had about 2 orders of magnitude higher die. Most when one of the huge N1s blew up in July 69 and took out a large number of ground personell (including their "Von Braun"). It took 2 years to rebuild that launch pad after the explosion, putting the Soviets so far behind the US, they could never catch up.

One cool site:
http://www.russianspaceweb.com/spacecraft_manned_lunar.html
http://www.aerospaceweb.org/question/spacecraft/q0196.shtml
Permalink Peter 
July 5th, 2007 6:41pm
Wasn't China planning to send some people to the moon?
Permalink Send private email JoC 
July 6th, 2007 11:39am

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