Friday, March 03, 2006

Stop the Presses!

Back in January I saw an article in Al Jazeera about Russian plans to mine the moon (link). Russia is planning to have a permanent base on the moon within 10 years, with mining starting five years after that. I wondered how I could have missed such an explosive story (and to be honest, I was a little doubtful of its credibility) so did a google search and found that only one other online newspaper had the story (Pravda), although a couple of science sites had picked it up.

Now a couple of months later it's still not big news. Lots of blogs and science sites have it, but other than Yahoo news and the Washington Times (not my first choice for reliability), North American newspapers haven't picked it up. None of the New York Times, Washington Post or Globe & Mail have covered it.

The space elevator has had slightly better press than moon mining, but the idea has been around for a long time and NASA has really pushed it. One of their web pages is headlined Audacious and Outrageous and someone has even created a wikipedia page. Even so, few people seem to have heard that we may have cheap and easy access to outer space within our lifetimes, without a space shuttle.

I was talking to a science type I know about the mass closure of university chemistry departments in England, and he suggested that if they renamed chemistry "nanotechnology" the discipline would probably be growing, not shrinking.

But surely we can't be saying that moon mining and space elevators sound boring. This is thrilling stuff. Perhaps the deaths of shuttle crews has curbed the public's appetite for news of outer space?

Public understanding matters. If moon mining and space elevators were part of our public discourse, it would be much more likely that commercial opportunities would be identified that would help push these initiatives along. NASA estimates that an initial space elevator would cost about $5 billion. That doesn't sound like much for technology that will provide a platform to launch satellites and space ships that is cheaper, safer, and less harmful to our environment than existing technology.

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2 comments:

Righteous said...

So what's wrong with the Washington Times? It's a very respectable, respected newspaper. It gets quoted in Europe far out of proportion to its circulation. And it provides a point of view that is otherwise completely lacking in the Washington press. The Post is solidly in the Democrat camp. Have you had reason to doubt the Times' veracity?

Yappa said...

You're right... I really shouldn't criticize the Washington Times since I don't read it so I know it only by reputation. I can't agree that the Washington Post is a left wing paper though, although the online version has some columnists that lean more that way.

Here's what the respected Center for Media and Democracy has to say about the WT:
http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Washington_Times

By the way, I apologise for the long delay before I posted your comment. I'm still in a learning curve on this blog stuff.

Thanks for your comment and I look forward to more...
Yappa