Monday, November 26, 2018

Old School NASA vs. New Woke NASA

The contrast is giving me whiplash.  Nausea.

This afternoon, I watched the live feed of the Insight probe landing on Mars.  It was classic JPL - on one of their great days.  Every milestone clicking off on schedule, everything going right.  Every minor milestone caused the controllers at their terminals to applaud for a few seconds.  Finally the call that landing was verified, and there was quite a bit more celebration.

That was followed a few minutes later by the first photo from the lander. When the live video coverage shut down, everything had happened on schedule and it looked great.  NASA has successfully soft-landed a vehicle on the Red Planet eight times.  It has always been difficult, but JPL makes it look like they know what they're doing - because they do.  Even though they've done it more than any other group, JPL has lost craft on the way to Mars and a landing.

The contrast, though, comes from a set of articles linked by the Blaze this morning.  It seems the New Woke NASA scientists think ‘exploration’ is ‘problematic’ and oppose Mars missions like this one:
Adler astronomer Lucianne Walkowicz is the Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology, not to mention a guest star (as herself) on National Geographic’s Mars TV series. Cosmologist Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein is with Department of Physics at the University of Washington, and fellow at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. And together they are, counter-intuitively, not so keen on the exploration or colonization of Mars.

In fact, the very word “exploration” is inherently “problematic”, they would have us believe, as detailed in a panel discussion published at Gizmodo last week. It was highlighted Sunday by Powerline, with the observation that “if these folks had been with NASA in the 1960s, we’d have never made it to the moon.” That may seem like a snarky insult on the part of Powerline, but in fact it’s precisely the point that the scientists made.
It seems that they feel we have no right to explore Mars, and any such thoughts should focus on social justice for Martian inhabitants.  Inhabitants?  What inhabitants?  Personally, I think that missions from the first Viking landers in 1976 through the most recent missions show that Mars is a sterile planet; or perhaps we could say the probability that microbes exist on the planet is vanishingly small (1 in 10^-10 to PFA a number). 

(Astronomer Lucianne Walkowicz of National Geographic's 'Mars' at The Beacon Theater on November 14, 2018 in New York City. - Photo by Andrew Toth/Getty Images for National Geographic)

The two were also featured in Gizmodo in a piece called "Decolonizing Mars" (is the publicity the two are getting what it's all about?)   I find the phrase puzzling: there are no colonies on Mars to "decolonize".  There are several probes, thoroughly sterilized before launch, on the surface, but no colonies to "decolonize" and bring the settlers home from.  Still the rhetoric we get from these two talks about indigenous peoples rights and other things that just don't seem to fit the situation at all.
Walkowicz: In my work, I’ve been thinking about issues around how we talk about going to Mars, and plans that people make for what they want to do when they get there—whether it’s living on Mars, doing scientific research and trying to figure out its history, or corporate interest in mining or resource extraction of any kind.

There are a variety of scientific reasons why human presence might make certain investigations easier on Mars. But I’m disturbed by the way people talk about going to Mars as if the planet is ours... When we talk about terraforming, that’s a planetary-scale strip mining operation. If you transform a planetary environment, even if you think you know how to do it, that represents a total alteration of the chemistry and physics of the planet, which means you may erase the history of life that might be there.
I can’t give you an example of what a decolonized Mars looks like, but it starts by having multidisciplinary conversations about the things that happen here on Earth. I often give examples of Standing Rock as an Earth-based example of interests colliding, where you have indigenous people opposing a large-scale project that, much like space exploration, features cooperation between private industry and the government...

Prescod-Weinstein: I’m trying to think carefully about what our relationship to Mars should be, and whether we can avoid reproducing deeply entrenched colonial behaviors as we seek to better understand our Solar System. This includes thinking about why our language for developing understandings of environments that are new to us tends to still be colonial: “colonizing Mars” and “exploring” and “developing,” for example. These are deeply fraught terms that have traditionally referred to problematic behaviors by imperialists with those that we would call “indigenous” and “people of color” often on the receiving end of violent activities.
When I first read that piece in the Blaze this morning, my reaction was to say we need to just shut down NASA entirely.  If that's what became of the agency that was so good in the 1960s, they've outlived their usefulness.  Shut them down and sell the assets to the highest bidders.  DOD or private industry.  Other countries - if there's no security risk.  Then I watched the landing and it brought back memories of the good old days.  They do know what they're doing!  They're not all about Muslim outreach!  Now I don't know what to do.  Does NASA stay or get zeroed out? 

Wait!  I found an image of an indigenous Martian on a rare trip to Earth!  This must be what the woke NASA scientists were thinking of!  I have to reexamine all my thoughts about this.

Original Chuck Jones artwork from.


  1. We've truly passed "Peak NASA", and they've allowed themselves to be not-so-gracefully degraded by PC.

    Sad to see.....But I'm happy the mission is proceeding as far.

  2. Well, I consider Peak NASA to be the cancellation of the Saturn program developments. Saturn was about innovation and exploration.

    As to the NatGeo show "MARS," the wife and I got tired of all the preachy globull warming/man-made climate change bullscat, the even more tiring 'white people bad' motif (they kill off most of the white males within the first two episodes) and the blatant anti-privatization. Not to mention, pardon my French, the push to elevate the ChiComs to 'Bestest Buds.' Blech.

    Personally, Vice President Pence, as titular head of US Space Ops, ought to fire every slackjawed, unmotivated and anti-American person working for NASA. Or, better, use them as sound-baffling on an engine test stand. Sterilize them, so the rot and infection stops spreading.

  3. I agree with you and the commenters above. Colonizing the Moon and Mars and exploring the Solar System is mankind's "manifest destiny". Those worlds are sterile. Had they been populated, it would have been a more complicated matter.

  4. "Does NASA stay or get zeroed out?"


    Those that can get us off the planet can stay.

    The ones that try to stop us, are in non-essential positions that can be easily eliminated.

  5. So, they've solved that whole m/ft conversion conundrum?
    Happy news.

    1. I assume you know the story about Pierre the Bridge Builder?

      Same concept.

  6. Jerry Pournelle's Iron Law proves true yet again -

    Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people":

    First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization.

    Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers and launch technicians and scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.

    Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.

    The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.

  7. This verbal diarrhea is the predictable result of handing out PhD's in STEM fields as if they were just another "participation trophy". Be interesting to read the
    doctoral theses submitted by these two maroons.....I bet they are both

  8. Self-loathing is a mental problem which has been common in humans for all of recorded history. Religion creates a nondisprovable just-so story which "explains" why these self-loathing feelings are present. We look up into the sky and observe zero signs of intelligent life. Then, we conclude there's a extraterrestrial alien space monster in the sky who is willing to torture us forever. What?? How do the observations support that?

    These humans at NASA that want humans to crawl into a hole and hurry up and go extinct are just expressing their self-loathing feelings. If Frankenstein invents an artificial creature it will run amok, we know this because our liberal feels tell us so. Colonizing Mars is challenging the will of the Flying Spaghetti Monster who put us on Earth, the center of the universe, because he wants us there, etc.

    Don't listen to the self-loathers. But also, they're common and don't be surprised when you find them everywhere.

    1. You WILL bow down to Jesus Christ. Everyone will, voluntarily or, after death, by His power. Do it before you die, sincerely, and He can forgive your blasphemy and other sin.

    2. I agree that fear of a powerful extraterrestrial makes more Darwinian sense than worshiping it. There is no obvious reason 'power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely' has an exception for creators of universes. But which high energy particle physics experiment opened up a window into the universe containing this one, whereupon the scientists saw a big eyeball staring back?

      The argument for any particular specific god is circular reasoning. Some church's employees told you as a child that certain things exist. Now as an adult you repeat their claims. At no time did experimental observations enter into the argument.

  9. I would only note that for eight years, NASA existed to make Muslims feel good about their contributions to science and engineering. And much of current NASA management was put into place during that time.

    It takes time and effort to drain the swamp.

  10. I am praying that the generation after this one realizes that their parents are insane and goes the other direction. Else we are in for the Great Orwellian Dark Ages.

    1. The plots I've seen estimating Technological Singularity show times of growth stagnation, which pop up the trend line. There will be no Dark Age. If big government supporters kill themselves off by hiring too much big government, there will be no liberals remaining to prevent the pro-technology libertarians from being productive.

      If government "crashes" the economy by recognizing government bankruptcy, that doesn't benefit the government. That would dismantle tax collection and ban enforcement far more than it would dismantle energy and food production.

  11. Lucianne Walkowicz: Cute kid. Too bad about the software. I hope for the return of the steely-eyed missile man-err, person.

  12. NASA is converged. It may as well use this as its operating principles:

    Dan Kurt