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Submission + - Gas Stations in Space? (

ATKeiper writes: "With the help of yet another committee in a long line of committees studying space, the Obama administration is reconsidering NASA's future in light of new budgetary realities and in the wake of a series of technical problems for the Constellation architecture that the space agency developed as part of the post-Columbia Vision for Space Exploration. In a new essay, aerospace engineer and blogger Rand Simberg reviews NASA's history and argues that the agency should scrap Constellation and instead work toward a space infrastructure — featuring propellant depots in orbit and elsewhere. 'It isn't NASA's job to put humans on Mars,' he writes. 'It's NASA's job to make it possible for the National Geographic Society, or an offshoot of the Latter-Day Saints, or an adventure tourism company, to put humans on Mars.'"

Comment 'Progress' is in the eye of the beholder (Score 1) 442

Mr. Masnick's techdirt post is a welcome call for calm and even optimism. It is a reminder of the importance of perspective, the sort of wisdom encapsulated in the expression "This, too, shall pass" -- that is, just as most joy and glory is transient, so will the troubles and woes of today eventually vanish.

That said, his post is revealingly presumptuous. He writes about people trying to "hold back progress" and describes his frustration at not being able to convince them "of just what opportunities moving forward provides." But perhaps the reason he is so frustrated is that he misses a basic truth: that the people he describes aren't actually seeking to "hold back progress" -- they just have a different understanding of what is progress and what isn't, of what counts as "moving forward" and what doesn't. People do not agree on what is in the public interest; they do not agree about what is best for society, for the state, for the family.

Persuading those who disagree with you is not always a matter of marshalling facts or, as Mr. Masnick puts it, "clearly paint[ing] a picture." Often the people who disagree with you already understand the facts full well and already see the picture clearly -- they just disagree about whether what you call progress is indeed progress. This disagreement might well be rooted in a vision of the future that is fundamentally in conflict with your own. (See, for example, Thomas Sowell's A Conflict of Visions and Yuval Levin's Imagining the Future .)

This, incidentally, is why the book that Mr. Masnick approvingly cites, Robert Friedel's excellent A Culture of Improvement, deliberately eschews the term "progress". You might think human cloning or nuclear weapons or Windows Vista are all examples of unambiguous progress; your neighbor might well disagree.

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