Tag: The Martian

Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. The Martian, or, What is a Life Worth?

 

bring-more-money.cb.sI haven’t seen The Martian, but I’m listening to the audio version of the book on which it was based. If you haven’t seen the movie or read the book, please be advised: There are minor spoilers in this post. Steer clear if you don’t want to see them. But they’re minor. If you’ve seen the movie, or read the book, please don’t give anything away that I don’t mention below! [There are some spoilers in the comments, too, but they’re clearly marked as such. Caution advised. — Eds.]

The basic premise, which you must understand to participate in this discussion, is that in the not-too-distant future, NASA is in the midst of a manned, multi-mission Mars exploration program called Ares. A few days after landing on Mars, a terrible dust storm on the planet’s surface forces the team to abort the third mission. To leave, they have to walk in space suits from their habitat to the vehicle that will take them to the ship that will in turn take them back to Earth. In the chaos of the violent storm, Mark Watney, the team’s botanist and mechanical engineer, is struck by a part of the communications antenna, which pierces his suit and his body. The team presumes him dead, and leaves Mars without him.

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Government Funding of Basic Science? Knock It Off.

 

The-MartianFor decades now, even free-market economists have argued that the government should fund basic scientific research. I myself have always felt suspicious of the argument — this is one reason I remain skeptical of NASA, despite the ridicule of my comrades Rob Long and James Lileks, who can barely contain their pleasure at the thought of spending untold sums to send someone to Mars — but I confess that I’ve never possessed the analytical skills to investigate the argument, let alone refute it.

Along comes Matt Ridley in this weekend’s edition of the Wall Street Journal, where he has published a brilliant essay called “The Myth of Basic Science.” Excerpts:

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Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Mars Is Safe from NASA

 

The-MartianOver at USA Today, I have a column on the recent hit movie The Martian and contrast the attitudes in it to today’s real-life space agency:

Going back decades, one of the favorite, albeit mindless, phrases in policy on human spaceflight is “safety is the highest priority.” Then-NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin invoked it in 1996, on the 10th anniversary of the loss of the space shuttle Challenger. It has continued into the present, with recent repetition from current Administrator Charles Bolden and space committee leadership on Capitol Hill, including Reps. Chaka Fattah, D-Penn., and Donna Edwards, D-Md. It can be found in NASA training documents and was recently cited in the NASA authorization act.

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. The Martian

 

The-MartianThe Martian is a good movie. Not great, but very enjoyable. I won’t spoil the plot by revealing too much, but I was pleasantly surprised that the film avoids some of the cliches that are so tiresome from Hollywood. At the start, I was expecting, for example, that the chief of NASA, (played by Jeff Daniels) would be the villain. You know, the white guy in a suit, symbol of the U.S. government, is usually a murderer or at least corrupt and evil. But the movie goes in a different direction. Not saying he’s a hero, but they don’t go for the cheap caricatures.

Also, the film is nostalgic, in a way, for American derring do. We don’t have a space program to speak of at the moment. And here’s Ridley Scott imagining a time in the not too distant future when we’re sending astronauts to Mars and engaging the whole world’s imagination. (The scenes of crowds following the tense situation on Mars, while not exactly realistic in some senses, were in other respects reminiscent of actual events, like Apollo 13.) The mood of the film is essentially positive about America and about taking risks. Not sure why Scott included a huge valentine to China (maybe a bid for box office receipts), nevertheless, I found the movie to be very good entertainment and politically refreshing.

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Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Member Post

 

Mark Watney was part of the six person crew of Ares 3 which landed on Mars to carry out an exploration mission in the vicinity of its landing site in Acidalia Planitia. The crew made a precision landing at the target where “presupply” cargo flights had already landed their habitation module, supplies for their stay […]

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