Stunning Russian Election Shocker!

With everything so stacked against him, who could have possibly predicted this? Putin wins!


In the meantime, I struggle to think what to say about the mess of a phony election in Iran, except it’s good(?) that the illegitimately “elected” President Ahmabignutjob is getting spanked by the Ayatollahs. Um, yay? I guess?

You know, if I had a few billion dollars to play with, here’s what I’d do:

Put about third of it toward trying to quietly undermine despotic regimes like these, another third toward building a private moon colony, and about another third toward trying to find ways to help individual entrepreneurs and innovators escape the clutches of Big Education, Big Business, and Big Government (the troika of power in this country). Anyone got a few billion lying around for me to play with? It’s not a very big agenda…

  • jaymaster

    Modern reality is going to catch up to him sooner or later.

    I’m leaning toward sooner, rather than later.

  • The Rich Wasp

    Moon colony? I think that’s an unwise choice for your hypothetical funds. A Mars colony would make more sense. Read Bob Zubrin’s The Case For Mars to find out the details of why. Here’s the short version, Mars has an atmosphere, and the Martian day is close to an earth day. Distance wise it’s farther, but as someone (Heinlein?) pointed out, once you’re in earth orbit, you’re halfway to anywhere.

    FYI: I know it’s not a breathable atmosphere, but it still serves as a useful radiation barrier and could be used as an atmosphere for greenhouses. Put plants in these greenhouses and they turn carbon dioxide into oxygen.

  • Dean Esmay

    Haven’t read “The Case For Mars” although Mars isn’t a tough sell for me. Personally I’d rather live in the moon’s gravity well and within fast communications of home (“home” being Earth for the next century or two) but tell ya what, give me the money and here’s what I do:

    If you want sustainable space exploration and development you have to treat large government and large corporate entities as an afterthought, accepting moderate help at most from them. Relying on politicians or your corporate management types to get the right vision is pointless, these people are generally constitutionally incapable of it. You need entrepreneurs and adventurers of the old National Geographic spirit, and pioneers of the rugged individualist type. If some government agencies and corporate groups want to provide backup or sponsorship support, fine, but you mostly need to shoestring it and not-rely on those people, and avoid at all costs allowing them to take the thing over or they’ll frack it up.

    Thus you need to start with the most easily-reachable point for initial self-sustaining development. So you start at one of the locations where you know there’s a lot of water and other resources within an easily-escapable gravity well. So build your first lunar base mostly by digging down at a known high-water point. Planned right, you should be self-sustaining within a few years. You’ll likely lose a few people–nature of the work. But from there you can start operations to build something at one of the Lagrange points–I’m thinking L1 for the first one–for manufacturing further exploratory equipment. Escaping the moon’s gravity well with raw materials you need for further vehicles and equipment is way cheaper and easier than escaping Earth’s, so we can let you start building your Mars team at L1 or L2. Separate operations to start exploring the asteroid belt can start at the same time or shortly thereafter; plans for doing interesting things at the other LaGrange points (especially L5) or other solar system locations can also start to become realistic for any groups who want to strike out in those directions. But luna and lunar orbit are the logical launching point for most of it.

    The point is you should be able to extract all the ice and other raw materials you need from lunar sources, where it’s a whole heck of a lot easier to slingshot out from there toward wherever else you want to go.

    I have a friend who thinks we’re overlooking Venus, but I haven’t really dug in with him as to why he thinks so; he appears to think that you can create a cheap orbital shield to cool it down. I do think terraforming Mars to the point where you can walk around on it unprotected is a pretty daunting task, so you might as well get the toughest stuff done on Luna first. The debate as to where to go from there can then mostly be left to whoever decides whichever way they want to go from there, because going in virtually any direction from there is easy once you’ve firmly established a self-sustaining colony, mining, and manufacturing operation on Luna. There’s nothing stopping multiple groups from striking off in multiple directions.

    I was probably one of the only ones who didn’t laugh at Newt Gingrich’s proposal that we build a moon base, but on balance I don’t trust any government or large-corporate bureaucrats to get any of this done right. It’s got to be done by people who want to make a self-sustaining life out there, and not from sheer mercantalism or government-glory.

    I am fairly well convinced that most people who strike out in that direction need to be planning not to come back. Coming back to Earth once you’ve lived a few years in low- or microgravity is going to be tough. Maybe nearly impossible, once you’ve been born out there.

    In terms of places to explore and colonize in the Solar System, the most intriguing of all for me looks to be the asteroid belt. But it still appears to me that Luna’s the logical starting point for all of it. You just have to give up the romance of relying on things like NASA.

  • The Rich Wasp

    I think there are several advantages to Mars that warrant its consideration. However the sad fact is that neither a Martian or Lunar colony will be built. I agree it would have to be a private venture. Can you imagine the howls of outrage if one of the really big names on the Forbes Richest 400 announced he was donating his entire fortune to a charitable organization with the sole purpose of creating a Lunar or Martian colony? I think that kind of effort is what would be necessary to give it a good start.

  • Dean Esmay

    I’m thinking if I have that kind of money, I don’t care. But not too many people seem mad at Richard Branson for helping fund Burt Rutan’s ventures, or others who have put money into private space travel.

    A pretty good discussion of why NASA sucks, why the moon is the place to start, and how to actually get it done here. The short of it is that the moon helps us learn everything we need to know before we send someone as far away as Mars–how to live off the land in space, basically. It’s also easier and faster to get to the moon and back (although “getting back” is sub-optimal and should be minimized) and maintain regular communications with home.

    The ideal launching place for any deeper space ventures is pretty much any of the Lagrange points. But the logical starting place to get most of the tonnage you need TO any of the Lagrange points to begin building your deep-space missions is Luna, because it’s got a sixth the gravity the Earth and no one (yet) to fight or negotiate much with over real estate, mineral rights, or even safety (“oh what happens if your rocket crashes into Los Angeles?” being a much bigger question than “what if it crashes into the Sea of Tranquility?”).

    I think on any of this you really do have to abandon all hope that NASA can be anything except a semi-useful appendage to the whole thing. Possibly, maybe, you can get the military to do it, since the military is very very good when you give them very very narrowly defined mission (“Put a base there and keep them alive for at least three years” being narrow enough for the average military mind to comprehend I think).

    The ideal would be to do it more like a DARPA challenge: “first one to establish a working moon base gets $20 billion!” and wait for it. Good luck finding the political vision to do that–Gingrich probably had it but he isn’t going to be President it doesn’t look like.

    As I see it, Mars is a wonderful idea. But the path looks like this:

    Self-sustaining Moon Base -> Manufacturing and launching facilities at one or more of the Lagrange points -> head on out from there anywhere you want, including Mars.

    We could be there or close to it for a pittance of our national wealth and probably in a decade or less (as far as actually having the moon base I mean). The will isn’t there. Someone with deep pockets needs to do it, or form a consortium of investors to do it, said “investors” not so much looking to make a profit as to leave a legacy to mankind.

    But give it to NASA, or the ESA? Expect it to take 50 years and 100 times as much money, and get something of a joke.

    What might get the US to actually do it is to have the Chinese get there first. I think only something like that would create the political will to tear up NASA and start it over from the ground up, which is what something like this will otherwise take.

  • Dishman

    Venus is primarily attractive as a target for Terraforming. It has everything we’d need to Terraform it, and more. Throwing things away is easier than gathering them together.

    Some years ago I priced out an equivalent screen for Earth. If I recall correctly, I came up with either $15T or $45T in place, without any particular economics of scale. I’ve since realized that what I had may have been overkill.

    Locations for building bases comes down to a question of motivations. Like Dean, I’m inclined to think that Luna is a good place to gain experience. ISS and Amundsen-Scott are a good start in that regard, but not really enough.