NPF: HORN OF PLENTY, SPRING 2015 EDITION

It must be at least eight months since the last time I've done Link Salad, which I generally consider to be a dereliction of blogging duties. Nonetheless, I have a critical mass of things that can't fill an entire post on their own. Since it's Friday and nobody wants to work anyway, I am honored to try to alleviate some portion of your boredom.

1. The Guardian has a video and story about people who have volunteered in earnest for a one way suicide mission to Mars. I'm sure some of the thousands of volunteers would qualify as Nuts by the vulgar definition and others are merely attracted to the idea of a spectacular, documented suicide. At least some of them, however, appear to be eccentric but generally Regular People who are willing to make a sacrifice for Science (and an inimitable experience). Maybe it says a lot about how dull most of our lives are here on Terra Firma that so many people would leap at the chance to die on Mars.

2. I was obsessed with Richard Scarry books as a child, so there were many levels on which I could enjoy this Tom the Dancing Bug comic of the author's "Busy Town" in the 21st Century.

3. I love a good photo series and I love some old Eastern Bloc cultural relics, so imagine my delight when I learned that a photographer named David Hylynski is publishing a series of 800 35mm photos he took wandering the streets of Warsaw, Moscow, and other cities in the dying days of the USSR. He made a particular effort to photograph shop windows; it's weird how much we as Americans conceptualize other societies by their habits as consumers. Behind the Curtain, though, they lacked the brand names we prefer to use as stand-ins for an actual understanding of other cultures.

4. For those of you who like aviation as much as I do, you may be interested to hear that Elvis's private jets are being auctioned as part of a makeover of Graceland. His plane "Lisa Marie" is the last remaining airworthy Convair 880 in existence. The airliner was a staggering commercial failure – only 65 were sold and Convair lost an unfathomable $175 million on the project – but it is an elegant design, emblematic of the first generation of passenger jets. While "Lisa Marie" will no doubt end up on display and not in the sky, kudos to the King and Graceland for preserving the aircraft.

26 thoughts on “NPF: HORN OF PLENTY, SPRING 2015 EDITION”

  • Here's another article with a deeper investigation into Mars One. It points out a couple of significant things:

    First, not surprising at all, the organization is not an actual space agency and doesn't currently have the resources to build a Mars spacecraft. It's just an umbrella organization that hopes to bring together the various technology providers if and when they spontaneously appear. So the odds of their accomplishing their mission by 2025 are, shall we say, underwhelming.

    Second, assuming that we do get people to Mars to establish a colony, life there would be really, really harsh. Most people seem to assume that a Mars colony would be like 21st-century suburbia under a dome, or at worst, like the early New England colonies minus the Indians. But Mars is not Earth. It's amazing what you take for granted when the biosphere comes for free.

    https://medium.com/matter/all-dressed-up-for-mars-and-nowhere-to-go-7e76df527ca0

  • I'd go to Mars in a heartbeat if they'd take me. A product, no doubt, of voraciously reading all the SF in the local public library. I probably read all the Heinlein Juveniles 6 times each and "Red Planet" 40 or 50 times since it was the only book I had that I actually owned.

  • All this talk about "suicide mission" and people "signing up to go die on Mars" is a combination of yellow journalism and stupidity. They're looking for people to live on Mars. It's not like they're going to kill you when you get there. Since they won't be coming back, they will die there. Dying is what you do when you finish living. Personally, I think you have to be either very brave or very stupid to do it. Living conditions can be very harsh. And when you're confined with the same people for extended periods of time, things can, shall we say, get out of hand. People come to blows over reclining a seat on an airplane on a two hour flight. Imagine facing the prospect of spending the rest of your life confined with someone whose "quirks" start driving you crazy after the first three weeks. Kind of like marriage without possibility of parole.

  • The problem with getting to Mars is schlepping the fuel to Mars needed to get back off Mars if you insist on returning. Apollo had it easy with the moon at 1/6th Earth gravity. Mars is closer to to 40% Earth gravity and that increase is very significant. For a typical rocket 90% of the weight is fuel. So now 90% of the 10% remaining weight is fuel to get you off Mars. So crew, food, shelter when you get there is approaching 1% of the total weight. Eliminate the return fuel and the mission is _much_ easier. We all have to die. Any reason not to die on Mars?

  • Sock or Muffin? says:

    Thanks for the reminder Major Kong, I'm a fan. Haven't checked yours out in a while.

    Also as huge space travel fan in general, it sounds like the biggest problem is not being on Mars, it's getting there with EVERYTHING you might need to stay alive for more than the few days that the Apollo missions had. It takes at least 5 months or more to get there with today's technology. Maybe by 2030 they'll have been able to shorten that by a month or two. Here's hoping. The book 'The Martian' by Andy Weir is an interesting take on such a journey. But again, in the book they use a huge ship to get there and have figured out how to reach orbit from Mars for a rendezvous. Finally, there's no way in this political environment that any government(s) would commit the amount of money needed to fund such a trip. I'm glad the Mars One people are taking steps on the habitat side of the mission. I'm not optimistic for SLS to lift off anytime soon but if Spacex gets the Falcon Heavy operating, there may be a chance for them.

  • "Any reason not to die on Mars?"

    I'd turn this around to "any reason to LIVE on Mars"?

    There's a reason we mostly settled the temperate, fertile regions of this planet and not Antarctica, which is positively luxurious compared to Mars.

  • @MajorK:

    Sure. But living on Mars would in many ways be easier than living on the space station. Some people have the wandering gene and some don't. Some people just want to see what's on the other side of that hill. Given that you have flown for much of your adult life you don't seem immune to that gene.

    OT: great review of the Convair 880. Tracking down all those period pix must have been a challenge, but really evoked the era. I flew into Madison back in the mid-70's on a prop plane that might even have been Mohawk airlines.

  • If memory serves, wasn't Howard Hughes connected with the Convair 880? Also remember that it was a fuel-guzzler, even compared to other jets.

  • I would guess those Mars First people are probably unlikely to even make it to Mars whole. 5 months in a cramped space with people you barely know? Yeah, that'll end well.

    And I love those Eastern Bloc shop window photos. Particularly love the flowers in the vase with the shoes. Nice. Very nice.

  • Freecookies says:

    We all die. It's just a question of how and where. Who am I to say, how and where you should die. If you want to die on Mars due to lack of food or oxygen or warmth, it's your choice.

    Now if it was a choice between immortality and dying on Mars, I could see all the panties in a twist over it.

  • Sheesh. Some of you seriously want to tell me you wouldn't go where no one has gone before? I would. In a heartbeat.

    But it would be nice to have us lunatics passed under review by those NASA shrinks who seem to be rather good at picking mentally stable and compatible crews. I mean, if someone started playing opera it would definitely be time for the airlock without the benefit of a spacesuit.

  • you wouldn't go where no one has gone before?

    That depends. No one has gone into the Sun that I know of and I don't think I'd want to be the first.

    Yeah, we're all going to die someday, but would you rather spend the rest of your life at Club Med or Guantanamo Bay Cell Block 4? Quality of life does matter.

  • Hi Ed. Been reading your articles for a while now, but have only now been inspired to post on your awesomely-named blog.

    A week ago, a family emergency forced me to travel from Pasadena, California to Sedalia, Missourah. (I like to pronounce it that way; munch on a bowl of my nuts if you dislike it.) A cursory glance at the locations, or the names for that matter, of these two cities should tell you how stark the difference is between them. I went from the northern outskirts of a bustling multicultural city to the eastern outskirts of white-trash-godforsaken central. The people here seem pretty nice, but that's because I'm a friendly white guy with a real idiosyncratic folksy cadence, I'll tell you that right now. The scenery, by contrast, is, well, depressing.

    Maybe it's because of the problems you've mentioned that plague and cripple small-town America (at least Peoria has bordering cities!), maybe it's just the fact that I'm not used to the lack of plant life. But then, the surface of Mars is devoid of life, and I would much rather live there than Sedalia, Missourah.

  • Skepticalist says:

    What deal.

    I'd sign on. I've been around for 68 years. As the geezer in our rather non-prolific family, I might even die on the way.

    Being dead is not a problem. This would make the process of getting there a little more interesting.

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