I was excited this morning to discover NASA’s online tracking site for the Artemis moonshot. I’ll be able to sit at the old laptop in my living room and watch all the exciting moments of the (already outdated) robotic rocket’s flight to the moon. It’s as exciting as when I got my Jet Jackson Secret Squadron decoder kit in the mail when I was eight. It’s as exciting as every thrilling, asteroid-hopping episode of “Tom Corbett, Space Cadet” as he battled space smugglers and asteroid belt pirates.
I wonder why NASA doesn’t want to use SpaceX rockets for these things? It’s Elon Musk, isn’t it? They’re waiting for him to sell SpaceX to another company so they won’t have to deal with Musk, right? That would be understandable.
I still like Elon Musk, even though he has ruined Twitter.
Remember when Twitter was just starting out and people considered it a communications joke? Until a guy had acute appendicitis in a remote Antarctic research station, and a distant surgeon guided the researcher through a self-appendectomy, one tweet at a time? That’s the modern miracle of communication that Elon Musk is destroying. He should buy Apple next and dismantle that.
Still, I like him because he wants to colonize Mars. It’s not that it’s a good idea. It’s a terrible idea. But I love that someone is trying to do it. That takes a lot of get-up and go.
“Hey, I know what I can do! I’ll build my own rocket ship company and design my own rockets! I’ll talk people into letting me fire them to Mars, where they’ll live out the rest of their lives surrounded by red dirt! They’ll have to live in caves because there won’t be any UV protection! It’ll be fun!”
I am, myself, past the age where I would ever consider being fired at Mars. I think I was pretty much done with the idea during the Gerald Ford administration. It was about the same time I quit my fallback career option — become a fighter pilot and get shot down by a Russian. Under Eisenhower, though, there was a time after I got my Jet Jackson Secret Squadron decoder kit when I spent hours a day in the backyard apricot tree looking up and imagining Mars was overhead. I dreamt of flying the tree there.
Of course, we’d never sent Mars probes there back then, so Mars still had canals and little green men, and it promised a far better tourist experience than what’s going to await Musk’s volunteers. They should ask for a better deal than he’s offering. Nicer apartments, more frequent supplies, extra bacon, apricots. I hope he’s planning to send pets along and a decent library. And everybody gets free high-speed Wi-Fi. And weed. There must be weed.
While I’m still on about space-related things, am I the only one who thinks naming the Artemis rocket after Apollo’s sister was too geeky for public consumption? Does NASA actually pay people just to sit around and come up with this kind of stuff? Or is it a side gig for bored rocket scientists to keep their minds occupied between launches?
Who here even knows what rocket science entails? It’s not just figuring out the right trajectory plan to get the rocket to its destination. That’s one of the easiest bits. The hard bits are the chemistry of the rocket propellants and the design of the engines. Bad engine designs blow up on the launch pad or a few hundred feet above it. That’s another reason to like Elon Musk. The rockets he has helped to design have not tended to blow up often.
In other news, we had an election. The Democrats didn’t win the House, but they did way better than anyone imagined a week ago.
Of course Warnock could still bring the Democratic Senate total to a much more comfortable 51 to 49.
A week ago in the House midterms, it was 211 GOP to 191 Dems. Right now — last Friday to you — it’s 218 GOP to 212 Dems as new race results came in. It looks to me like the final tally might be 220 to 215 or 221 to 214. Which of those happens could depend on what happens in Rep. Lauren Boebert’s race in Colorado, which is headed to a recount.
Mentioning Boebert’s race is the last thing I’m going to say about outer space in this week’s column.
Read more of the Nov. 23-29, 2022 issue.