To the Moon
It's rocket science.
My Mom would let me stay home from school to watch Alan Shepards suborbital flight and later John Glenn's 3 orbits of the earth.
I was completely fascinated by "outer space". I wanted to be an 'astronautical engineer" - the term sounded more pompous than 'astronaut' (hey - I was 12 :-)
I had a spacesuit fantasy - a life supporting system that made you independent of the environment that even had little jets to fly around with.
Heinlein's story 'Have Spacesuit, Will Travel' played a lot into that fantasy. Imagine getting a spacesuit by collecting enough box tops :-)
A few years later I gave up on that. Even then I didn't like the military and that was the only way to get to space then. Also - I didn't think a Canadian could qualify. Turns out I was wrong about that as Roberta Bondar and Mark Garneau showed. Chris Hadfield became a celebrity.
But I always wanted to go.
One of the things I most wanted to experience was weightlessness. I loved swimming underwater - a weightless experience - though different. I wanted to play with water in a weightless environment.
At the time, a space station was a big orbiting wheel that spun to give artificial gravity. That would have been ideal. You could go to the hub for weightlessness and come back to gravity to have a shower.
10 years later Americans landed on the moon.
The most memorable thing then were the pictures of footprints in the lunar dust. Since there was no wind they didn't erode and remained as crisp and sharp. I wonder if they are still there.
And then there was a hiatus in space travel.
Looking back I think the hiatus was caused by the fact that it just took a long time to build the Space Shuttle and its supporting infrastructure. Like they adapted a 747 to carry the thing around - stupendous stuff.
And the present space station has been a model of international co-operation for 25 years now.
And now we have Artemis I getting ready for its first flight .
This project is enormous. Vehicles the size of skyscrapers carry it around.
It will be a while before people walk on the moon again - but it's within years now rather than decades.
There may be a permanent settlement on the moon within my lifetime. Wow - I'm thrilled at the idea.
And yet, and yet - this stuff is very very expensive and there are lots of things here on Earth that we need to deal with too. Poverty is a huge global issue. Should we be sending rockets to the moon when billions of people go to bed hungry each night?
Should we go to the moon when populations on all the world's coasts have to move up and away from the rising oceans?
The assumption with questions like that is that the space program competes with other projects for limited resources. I don't think it actually does.
The normal thing is to think of this in terms of money and the supposed need for societies to balance their budgets.
We are all familiar with the need to keep our own expenditures within our resources. If I earn $1000 a month but spend $2000 a month then eventually I won't have money to spend. That is a bad situation.
Common sense says that this applies to society at large too.
I am pretty convinced that that is not true.
Paul Krugman is plain about that - a society is not like a household and basically cannot run out of money. In a society every expenditure is somebody's income and if you cut expenditures then you reduce income.
All my life Canada and the USA have had budget deficits - people have been yelling to the sky that that will lead to financial collapse.
It does not happen in a country that has its own sovereign currency. It can be a severe problem for a country (like say Greece) that doesn't.
And what actually happens is political games that play with the government finances for pretty blatant partisan advantage - this is not economics.
The source of wealth of a society is the productive capacity of its people. Basically, an economy has to provide food and shelter and education to people so they can do productive things. Money certainly has a role to play in that but it is a product of people's productivity and not its source.
The capitalist thinks that money is the source of wealth and it may be for him. He has money and spends it to hire people to produce for him. He takes the stance that he's the source of wealth that he can dole out as he pleases. The actual situation is that the people he employs are the source of his wealth.
And capitalists are at pains - via the media - to hide that simple fact.
Modern Monetary theory talks about that. It presents and almost complete inversion of the 'common sense' that the capitalist talks about to defend his social position.
The starting point is that a sovereign state creates money by just spending to enable people to be productive. And the wealth of the society is what the people produce - not the money that government creates
The purpose of taxation is to destroy surplus money so that the economy remains balanced.
Money should be seen as an accounting mechanism - not as wealth.
Back to Artemis I. It certainly is expensive in terms of money but it's worth it because of the actual wealth it produces. Thousands and thousands of people get paid to build it and all those people support families and spend the money on everything from groceries to cars and computers.
And a part of the wealth is stuff like computers that didn't exist without that investment.
And that's why the space program does not compete economically with other priorities. Money spent on those priorities - to enable people to do the work - increases the society's wealth too.
What do you think?
I open the floor.