Space is the Biggest Disappointment in History

An unfortunate conclusion

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Yesterday I spent the entire day at the Louvre. It was a wonderful time. The place is beautiful, the sculptures and paintings were beautiful. I perused artifacts from 6 thousand years ago to today. I was immersed in beauty, history and human nature. There was a pulling sensation, like I was drawn to to it. Think of how when you desire something it doesn’t take effort, you just go. You just do it. Like falling in love. You just do things. It doesn’t matter. There is desire. You happily go along. It almost grabs you and takes you a long for a ride.

Then think about discipline, the “push”. How you feel like you are under siege. How you hate it but do it anyways. It gives you a bad taste in your mouth. You begin to resent it. Then your humanity starts slipping away if you’re in that discipline mode too long. Think of doing exercise you hate (jogging) vs an exercise you enjoy doing, like playing a sport or dancing.

Talking about Space?

Did you talk about Space today with anyone? I bet you did not mention it once. Did you talk about it yesterday? Did you even think about Space this month or last month? Why not? We should be talking about space all the time. It's literally the universe and we can see it and yet, it may as well not exist. We may as well not know whats above us.

Space is the biggest disappointment in history. For thousands of years man has looked up at the sky and wondered whats up there. Turns out, nothing that is interesting enough to grab our attention without government funding.

We are probably the 2nd or 3rd generation ever on earth to ever see everything in space. All the planets, all the solar systems, all the asteroids, all of the stars. We have it all. This is it. We are surrounded by screens now, this generation, we can spend all day scrolling pictures and videos of space and talk about it with our friends and families. We don’t. None of us talk about it outside of niche circles. And these days, there is a niche for everything.

Space doesn’t “grab” the human like other things grab the human. I can’t tell you why. Maybe it’s because there is nothing out there. But that isn’t what this newsletter is about. I’m just sharing you something visceral and obvious that no one wants to talk about. Space fascination is held up by the government, 20th century hack Sci-fi culture and media tricks. It’s not on the level. It can’t hold up on its own without help. The human doesn’t feel drawn to it. There is no “pull”.

Moon Landing

It’s no secret that the space race was motivated by a rivalry between two superpowers in the 20th century. It culminated in the the Moon landing. Do you know when it happened? I don’t. Sometimes in the 60s probably. There’s no holiday for it. There’s no bottom-up sentimental feelings for it. It’s basically talked about in the same way someone climbing Mt. Everest is talked about. A novel accomplishment that at the end of the day isn’t interesting and is seen as a curiosity.

Media Propaganda

When you do see stories about Space in the media they focus on two events:

1) Human extinction

2) Habitable planets

I’ve been seeing these two narratives play out in the context of Space my entire life. It’s 2020, I don’t see habitable planets nor do I see human extinction. And yet, these are the two narratives the media, academia and government pushes on people to grab their interest. Why? Probably for funding and clicks. In the 20th century we saw the fascination with Aliens and UFOs but that has mostly died down.

Every month you’ll see a story on one of these two topics.

I remember growing up hearing about the Moon Titan as a possible habitable planet. Ever read about Titan? It’s not going to happen.

Star Gazing is not “Space”

Star gazing is star gazing isn't Space. It's star gazing and it’s great. Humans have been doing star gazing forever. If you’ve ever been in the city for years and then go out to the country and see the stars in the sky. That’s a beautiful thing. We know that. It’s Lindy. But the activity of star gazing is more like the activity of bird watching. It’s not “Space”.

Space comprises planets, pictures, videos, stars and an entire culture.

Space Celebrities

There has been two media celebrities that have been synonymous with communicating “Space” to the general public. Carl Sagan in the 20th century and Dyson in the 21st century. Both of these people dominate the arena of space communication and are given TV shows, radio shows, voiceovers and interviewed on countless Media Monoculture outlets. They are considered “charismatic” and good at communicating “Space”.

Why does Space need this?

Who are the equivalent celebs for Dinosaurs, Oceans, Forests, Neanderthals and ancient human history? There are none. Those topics are inherently interesting and do not need some top down media manufactured “superstar” that gets pushed onto the general public by the monoculture. Those topics just exist. And a revolving door of experts and amateurs discusses them.

Ask yourself why Space needs this. But other topics do not.

The Economics of Space

Humans aren’t going to colonize Mars. Or anywhere off Earth. Not for many decades, centuries or milleniums. Why? MUCH too costly and dangerous. Who would raise kids there? Antarctica is orders of magnitude easier — yet ppl show no interest.

One of the things the International Space Station highlights is our lack of desire to do what's already been done. The most logical commercialization of space would be an orbital hotel where people pay millions to spend weeks circling the Earth in zero G.

There is a vast yachting industry that charges people $200,000+ per week just to float on the water. There are enough millionaires to justify an orbital Hilton. Reusable rockets and modular designs make this affordable and scalable. But neither SpaceX nor Blue Origin have plans.

Because living in space and making money are not the real goals of these companies. Doing something "new" is. This isn’t Columbus setting sail for the New Land. This is something like designing a new board game.

If Bezos and Musk succeed we will probably get a desolate moon base and a ghost town of a Mars colony as a result. The masses don't want to go. It'll be the same dudes flying wingsuits and working on oil rigs.

To date, the most human moments in space have come about from governments’ quest for national prestige. That was true of Yuri Gagarin’s first flight to space, and it’s why the United States sent the Apollo astronauts to moon – the last of them, the late Eugene Cernan, in 1972.

Enter the Billionaires

Over recent years the US government, devoting a falling share of its own budget to space, has encouraged the efforts of the private space firms. The biggest of them are led by magnates: SpaceX’s Elon Musk, who has made fortunes out of PayPal and Tesla; Blue Origin’s Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon; and Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson, whose media brand branched into air travel and might finish with space travel.

As Space Barons demonstrates, the colonising hasn’t yet begun. Instead, each of these space entrepreneurs is aiming right now to earn their dollars just a few thousand kilometres above the Earth. Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin both hope to commercialise “space tourism”, with travellers paying around US$250,000 to visit for a few minutes the edge of space, about 100 kilometres up. SpaceX and Blue Origin are working on commercial satellite launches; SpaceX has US government contracts to resupply the International Space Station.

But here’s the problem there’s as yet no payoff for journeying beyond the satellite zone.

For a start, space travel is expensive and dangerous.

NASA lost 14 people in a US$209 billion Space Shuttle program that mostly ran costly deliveries to the International Space Station, orbiting just 400 kilometres above the Earth. (As even NASA hands admit, the Shuttle was built to fly to the ISS, and the ISS was built to give the Shuttle somewhere to go.)

The next, and perhaps biggest, problem is that space is empty. Huge and empty.

Even allowing for huge advances in technology, space remains orders of magnitude more challenging than any terrestrial ocean. After the Moon, there are no major bodies until Mars, tens of millions of kilometres away at its closest. If space is an ocean, then it covers everything but this small island Earth and a few tiny rocks barely large enough to stand on.

And then when you get to the rocks, they’ll try to kill you.

Both the moon and Mars are terrible places for people to live: oxygen-free deserts with nothing like Earth’s Van Allen belt to protect against radiation of all sorts. Their mass creates deep gravity wells that make it hard to get to anywhere else. Night brings a cold unknown on Earth. Mars, Musk’s favoured target, at least has an “atmosphere”, but it’s unbreathable and a mere hundredth of our planet’s, with corrosive dust as fine as cigarette smoke.

Floating space colonies face the same sustainability challenge. O’Neill had beautiful visions, but with no understanding of their cost. In a 1975 interview, he suggested the cost of a trip from the Earth’s surface to a space colony could be “about $3,000 per person for a round trip”. More than four decades later, the true cost of a trip just to Earth orbit remains in the millions of dollars; it’s hard even to find a good estimate.

Asteroid miners?

The greatest commercial hope of current would-be space explorers is the mining of asteroids, comets and other space objects, either to manufacture items in space or to return the materials to Earth. The likely metals to return to Earth include platinum, gold and a few others like ruthenium. Water and oxygen from such space objects could sustain space-goers, and hydrogen, ammonia and oxygen could be used for rocket fuel.

A few start-ups hope to pioneer such activity. The best-known among them, Planetary Resources Inc., takes its lead from a 2013 NASA paper, Affordable, Rapid Bootstrapping of the Space Industry and Solar System Civilization, which mapped out a way for future space companies to use 3D printing and other technologies to “bootstrap” their way into harvesting space resources in a self-sustaining, space-based resources industry. Planetary Resources has its own magnates: Google’s Larry Page and Eric Schmidt are investors.

Even space exploration enthusiasts such as physicist Vidvuds Beldavs and political economist Jeffrey Sommers, writing in late 2017 about the embryonic field of space economics, described the situation in gloomy terms:

“There are no plausible scenarios for widespread sale of space resources to existing markets on Earth. The very high cost of acquisition and transport to Earth and the time required for transportation would make sale of all but extremely valuable materials to Earth markets unviable. However, even in the case of highly valuable materials, such as platinum group metals and diamonds, the sale of large quantities of highly valuable materials would drive down their price.”

Space Culture fused with New Age Religion

Part of the space propaganda is using it as some new age therapy for someone who has real problems:

1) "you're only made of star dust"

2) "the universe is indifferent to your existence"

3) "Our earth is just one grain of sand"

People in despair/feeling totally alone. And the prescription for that is a philosophy that tells you you're right. These are really just pseudo-spiritual nonsense. An alternative to the thousands of years of real religious and spiritual development that has been filtered by human existence and is useful.

Tycho Brahe was Right

The disappointment of Space ultimately justifies geocentrism and Tycho Brahe along with his predecessors. The Sun revolves around the Earth.

Ask yourself when the last time you talked about, thought about or were inspired by Space?