Boston Globe Op/ Ed Article

From: Stephen Bolton (
Date: Tue Feb 04 2003 - 21:41:21 EST

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    Dale Ireland wrote:
    Today's Boston Globe, editorial, 2/4/03 Ellen Goodman
    "Columbia was it really worth it."
    Please send the Globe some e-mail about this
    She says "do we want to risk lives for perfume and ants"
    It gets worse. She ties to make up for it in the last paragraph just to
    quiet her potential critics.
    You can read the whole thing at
    Dale Ireland
    I think this lady is right on!
    There are ONLY 2 valid reasons for a human presence in space right now -
    they are adventure (the enrichment of the human spirit) and research.
    Reject attempts to add cargo hauling - it is done far more cheaply without
    manned rated rockets.
    Reject arguments that we need the make work projects for the aerospace
    industry. The ISS and the shuttle are BUILT - and nothing is on the horizon
    to stimulate this industry.
    She focuses on both of the valid reasons for going to space. She contrasts
    the spirit of the early space program - we went to the MOON!
    Where IS the adventure of LEO? Yes - you and I knew the shuttle was up
    there - but I will confess that all I knew of the crew was there was an
    Israeli on board, and I knew NOTHING of its research mission.
    Which brings us to reason number two. She is not being unfairly critical
    with the perfume and ants line - it was perfume and ants!
    There has been a LONG line of distinguished and knowledgeable scientists who
    have repeatedly warned that manned space research is not worth the economic
    cost - let aside the human. Why do you suppose they did that? I have read
    those arguments in detail, and have never seen them effectively countered.
    Now comes the ISS, with a final contribution of 1/2 a person's worth of
    research in space at a cost of $ 100 billion.
    Shit did I really type that - is it really the truth? You bet it is. If the
    ISS is up there for 10 years that 1/2 a person (5 hours/ day - 6 days a
    week) of "research" costs $ 6.4 million per hour! That's a fair bit of coin
    to watch ants f-around in micro-gravity. One DAY without the zero-g ant farm
    could mean $ 25,000 college scholarships for 1300 students! A little more
    arithmetic shows that instead of the ISS the US could put almost 5 million
    students through university over the next 10 years. Does anyone want to
    argue which might be better for the US and the world?
    Is everyone blind to the fact that the ISS is the justification for the
    shuttle and the shuttle is needed only for the ISS and neither contributes
    their cost in adventure or scientific return.
    What is keeping us from confronting these issues head on? Is it the "go"
    mentality in NASA, where critical thinking about return on investment is
    You might think her article is ill timed, but what better time to confront
    the issues than while we are reminded of how the cost can really be.
    You see accepting the conclusion that the game is not presently worth the
    candle takes away nothing from those brave souls who died.
    Look upon them as soldiers who may have been fighting in a less than
    distinguished or logical war (and there have been a few of those) but who
    served their country when asked and gave their lives in that service.
    Steve Bolton
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