Monday, February 03, 2003

The Dream of Space ... And Poor Analogies

Kevin Drum:
THE DREAM OF SPACE....William Burrows has an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times today in which he talks about our destiny in space:
If anything good is to come out of the cause for which the Columbia astronauts died, it should be a resolve that it is humanity's destiny to inhabit Earth orbit, the moon and beyond.
But turn that around and see how this sounds instead:
If anything good is to come out of the cause for which the Titanic passengers died, it should be a resolve that it is humanity's destiny to inhabit the ocean's depths, its sea floor, and beyond.
This is a poor analogy. The Titanic was never meant to go to "the ocean's depths" while the Columbia was most certainly designed to go to "Earth orbit". Also, Titanic was not an exploratory/experimental vessel. A closer analogy for Columbia would be to one of the ships used by Magellan, Columbus, and others. Not all of them returned either, but that doesn't mean we should have stopped the exploration. I'm sure there were advisers in 1492 who thought financing Columbus' expedition was a boondoggle of the worst sort.

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