Updates for Monday, August 8th [2005]

The Trail of Bread Crumbs


Dear Friends,

My last letter to you was on the 28th of July last. You my friends seem willing to accept of the crumbs of science on which we are subsisting here, it is with pleasure I continue to hand them on to you, in proportion as they are dealt out. The space walking mission you have no doubt heard of, where a man in the orbit of the Earth is to repair his space-ship of some minor difficulties before it re-enters the atmosphere. The wildness of these theories would have brought upon my sincere doubt, had I not been able to witness them today on the news networks.

As it was best I understood it, protrusions of material from the hull of the craft caused it's re-entrance to the Earth a great hazard, heat generated as an abrasion of the atmosphere, as it does to luminous comets, could cause a friction problem that endangered the ship. I saw pictures on the television stations, of the craft floating in space, and I could hardly believe the clarity by which such a transmission could be broadcast, of a round blue sphere in light of a sea of black. I discussed this matter with Daniel the other day.

Me: What a fascinating vision of the outer atmosphere. Have you ever seen something so grand?

Daniel: Yeah, a damn bajillion times before on the Discovery channel, dude. Boring!

Me: I was reading in the history books I acquired from the library that there had also been a voyage to the moon in the past. Were there volcanoes as William Herschel described?

Daniel: Volcanoes? Where do you get these crazy ideas? There is absolutely jack shit on the moon. It's just a big grey rock. That's it.

Me: There is nothing there? No moon peoples, just craters of grey rock? Surely, the study of the materials that fabricate the moon could help us discover its origin, or purpose.

Daniel: They already pretty much know all that stuff.

Me: Well, such research continued is amongst the many human pursuits worth exploring.

Daniel: If you say so, I'm kinda tired of my tax money being spent on million dollar trips to shave caulk from the side of a space ship so they can land the damn thing.

Me: How much tax money is invested in these pursuits? They are not carried out by scholars and the independently wealthy?

Daniel: Well, there was one trip I heard about, I think it was called "Space Ship 1", something stupid like that. Doesn't seem like it's very worthwhile for regular people. No money in it. It really seems like a big waste of time.

Me: I cannot understand how it is a waste of time. So I expect that this is a project of the military?

Daniel: Well, they need the space shuttles to go work on that new international space station dealio... that's a good question though. Doesn't seem like its really military research, but you never know. It's the government after all, they don't have to tell us.

Me: Certainly being informed is important. I have to come to a decision on this matter... it is worthy of insight. Is this really a waste of taxpayer funds, or is it necessary? To be honest, I really don't know.

Daniel: Well, don't look at me. It wasn't MY idea.

As usual, while Daniel offered a bit of perspective, he provided with it very little insight. So I had to divulge myself into this quandary, perhaps to explore whether or not space walking missions are worth the time & effort expended on their pursuit.

Ludwig: Welcome, herr Thomas, how are you this evening?

Me: I do fine, how goes your work?

Ludwig: An associate from Princeton helped me acquire a bit of private funding to begin rebuilding the temporal cascade reactor, this time I am working on a new power source, perhaps it can be shielded a bit better from the electromagnetic pulse the reaction inevitably causes. I feel a new machine might be necessary should Julius indeed be right about his theory of quantum time crisis. It was something he speculated before his disappearance, and when he brought it up again in that letter he left us... well, I still worry about him. I don't understand his clues he left, and for all we know he's dead right now. For whatever reason we must be safe, the FBI must not know much, or must not care. Or maybe they have our wires bugged... and are waiting to strike. I have tried to sweep what I can of the house to detect bugs, but I am not sure. Perhaps I am just being paranoid, and perhaps Julius is safe and preoccupied with something else.

Me: We will do what we can... until then, I have a quandary on my hands. Tell me of the United States space program.

Ludwig: Well, Thomas, I was only employed briefly at NASA, studying particle physics. Why?

Me: Nothing, this is a matter of personal inquiry. I am trying to discern its value to society, and its nature in government. Something so fantastic, sending a man to the moon... is that not like the Lewis & Clark expedition?

Ludwig: It is a much different scale, Thomas. Imagine if you will billions of dollars - not merely millions - more than is spent on most other human projects, being spent on one risky adventure. Then again, I was never for want of being a cosmonaut.

Me: It will have to do for some thinking. Well, I will report should I discover something, but my trips to the library are essentially fruitless.

Ludwig: I understand Thomas, you are a good friend for seeking to help.

Even after the discussion I still hadn't answered any of my questions.

Natalie: You know, I taught some middle school science for a few semesters, although I always preferred history. Covered space exploration... fascinating subject.

Me: The reason I bring up the subject is that I am trying to discern whether or not is a worthwhile pursuit.

Natalie: I honestly don't know. I mean, it's nice to go to space... but who owns space? If we sent someone to the moon to live there, or Mars... would they own it? What is the incentive besides research? I'm tired of hearing news about space. I want to see something happen with it, or have people come down to Earth and fix our problems here.

Me: Hmm. Who does own it? I think you've given me an idea. I will be sure to jot this down in my notes, perhaps it will prove useful. You see, I am writing a letter to Congress, so they may consider some of my ideas for reform.

Natalie: Oh Thomas, you're so silly.

Me: Don't people write letters to their Congressmen anymore?

From my note card for that evening...

On the subject of space travel,

Space travel is an interesting and new venture for the human mind, and presents a myriad of interesting possibilities. What of life in space, what would be best for space travel, where can we go? These are important questions. Currently the federal government operates a space program for non-military purposes in conjunction with an international coalition of researchers. To the best of my knowledge, this has not been included in any Constitutional provision or amendment. It is possible that if the government did not provide this money, that such a research station would not be so readily built.

How is such research best funded, and for what goals? Ultimately, I do not know. What I do know is that government officials are not elected on their competencies in space travel, and that those same politicians dictate the funding for the sciences. With purchase of the Louisiana territories and the exploration thereof of the Lewis & Clark expedition, I hoped the government could pave the way for the citizens to explore, and by a simple map, it did so. It provided for the expedition westward. To encourage people to explore, but for what ends? Do we now face this same situation with space?

I look back to a fellow of great significance, John Locke, who suggested that a person by manner of labor could possess what was a common item, including land, sealing some of the provisions by which unchartered land might be colonized. Perhaps I suggest, this passes also into the open quarters of space. Should someone possess and use areas of outer space, so long as those claims can be identifiably defined and not bound to arbitrary gimmicks, that the person might own that part of space, and thus be able to derive good works from it. Perhaps then, we provide incentive for the common man to go to space. To live on the moon maybe, or cultivate life on Mars. This is an interesting idea and I will be sure to expound this concept of "home-steading" principle at a later time.

Your most obed't. & most humble serv't.

- TH. Jefferson

Editor's Notes:

The introduction to this letter was adapted from a letter to James Madison in July of 1788. The space shuttle Discovery, the first space mission since the explosion of the Columbia in 2003, is now "0 days to Landing" according to the billboard at Kennedy Space Center, despite the landing being scrubbed. The mission is full of delays and minute problems, but moreso, it's a fairly bland mission... which is part of the problem. NASA's vision and scope for objectives for the future are more into fine-tuning safety procedure, doing varieties of uninteresting research in space, and helping build the new international space station... a space station which has no real purpose besides additional research.

If I had a few billion dollars of some government's money to sit around in space, I'd find it a pleasurable and interesting experience, but when is it productive or just a waste of time? There are also millionaires interested in spending money for trips to space themselves... but researches insist it's for "professionals only". Why? Is this useful time and energy spent or is it wasted? This is a good question to look at when every mission abort, delay and minute problem consists of millions of wasted tax dollars.

We need some good answers to these questions before we should continue to spend time and energy on these kinds of projects.

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