(1) RUSSIAN SF PODCAST. [Item by Nickpheas.] Mark Galeotti is a British expert on Russian affairs, with a podcast series “In Moscow’s Shadows”. He’s also an SF fan and roleplayer, having written for RuneQuest and self published a Mythic Russia game, all sadly out of print as far as I can tell.
One of his latest podcasts has a segment on themes in Russian SF and how they shed light on the thinking of the Putin regime. In Moscow’s Shadows 91: “Russian Fantasies – Putin’s address to the nation and the lessons from Russian science fiction”.
The SF bit starts about two thirds of the way in. There is obviously much to say about Kremlin infighting and the war in Ukraine first.
(2) GRIM AND BEAR IT. “Margaret Atwood on Loss and Storytelling” – an interview at Vanity Fair to promote her new story collection, Old Babes in the Wood.
Vanity Fair: While reading the collection, I was reminded of how many funny moments you weave into your writing, regardless of how grim the circumstances.
Margaret Atwood: In Nova Scotia, there’s a tradition of deadpan lying—so, to see if you can get people to believe you—but they have that kind of humor. I think it’s kind of Scottish. It’s not very puritan New England, particularly, although a bunch of the family came from there. Some of them came from Scotland, and some of them came from Wales, and some of them came from France because they were Huguenots who got kicked out of France in the 18th century. We used to laugh a lot as kids at inappropriate things, and maybe it comes from that. But I think a lot of people are actually like that. Things are grim, but they’re not completely hopeless.
Some of the grimmest circumstances can have an absurd bent to them, maybe.
Without a doubt. There’s a very thin line between the absolutely horrific and the slapstick comedy. Pie in the face. There used to be a form of theater called Grand Guignol, which was horror theater, but it was funny too. It’s funny if it’s not happening to you—or anybody you love. But I don’t know, there’s something about rich men in fur coats slipping on a banana peel that’s just funny. Of course, it’s different if it’s a poor person slipping on a banana peel. I think things that violate expectations—or, as somebody said to me long ago, in the English-seaside-postcard tradition, the wife hitting the husband over the head with the rolling pin is funny, but the husband hitting the wife over the head with the rolling pin, that’s a different thing.
(3) SHAPERS OF WORLDS KICKSTARTER COMING MARCH 14. Edward Willett, Saskatchewan-based award-winning author of more than sixty books of science fiction, fantasy, and non-fiction for readers of all ages, is launching a Kickstarter campaign on March 14, 2023, to fundthe fourth annual anthology featuring some of the top writers of science fiction and fantasy working today, all of whom were guests on his Aurora Award-winning podcast, The Worldshapers (www.theworldshapers.com). The Kickstarter campaign can be found here: “Shapers of Worlds Volume IV by Edward Willett”.
Shapers of Worlds Volume IV will feature new fiction from David Boop, Michaelbrent Collings, Roy M. Griffis, Sarah A. Hoyt, Sherrilyn Kenyon, Noah Lemelson, Mark Leslie Lefebvre, Edward M. Lerner, David Liss, Gail Z. Martin, Joshua Palmatier, Richard Paolinelli, Jean-Louis Trudel, James van Pelt, Garon Whited, and Edward Willett, plus reprints by James Kennedy, R.S. Mellette, and Lavie Tidhar. Among those authors are several international bestsellers, as well as winners and nominees for every major science fiction and fantasy literary award.
All of the authors were guests during the fourth year of The Worldshapers, where Willett interviews other science fiction and fantasy authors about their creative process.
Backers’ rewards offered by the authors include numerous e-books, signed paperback and hardcover books, Tuckerizations (a backer’s name used as a character name), commissioned artwork, one-on-one writing/publishing consultations, audiobooks, opportunities for online chats with authors, short-story critiques, and more.
The Kickstarter campaign goal is $12,000 CDN. Most of those funds will go to pay the authors, with the rest going to reward fulfillment, primarily the editing, layout, and printing of the book, which will be published this fall in both ebook and trade paperback formats by Willett’s publishing company, Shadowpaw Press (www.shadowpawpress.com). This year, there’s a special stretch goal: once the campaign reaches $17,000, $5,000 over the goal, the anthology will be illustrated, with a new black-and-white drawing for each story from Calgary, Alberta artist Wendi Nordell, who has illustrated numerous books for regional publishers including Edward Willett’s science-fiction and fantasy poetry collection, I Tumble Through the Diamond Dust. [Based on a press release.]
(4) HELP WANTED. Karl Kotas hopes you can remember a book title for him.
I am trying to recall a science fiction first contact novel, possibly by a woman writer, which I read some decades ago. Normally, I have had luck searching online via sites like substack and AskMetafilter but so far I have failed.
So, let me cut to the chase and tell you what I remember:
The book began with a scene in Iceland or Finland — a man meets some children who claim to have found an elf, a very Nordic elf. The man meets this so-called elf and realizes he is not human.
As it turns out, this elf came from a ship in orbit with a strange matriarchal system system with an extreme sexual dimorphism where the females are giant and the males are tiny..
What came to my mind then are those deep sea angler fish where the females are enormous with tiny tadpolish males permanently joined to them at the cloaca.
Fairly fast, these matriarchs took a look at the ecological damage being done to the earth via overpopulation and relentless development and broadcast an ultimatum to the entire human race to shape up or else.
One of the results of this broadcast is no children were conceived or born thereafter for years. This was done via the broadcast or some sort of unexplained handwavium.
Later on the man is aboard the ship and observes the results. Cars and trucks have disappeared to be replaced by railroads and North America was rewilded back to the 17th century level with large herds of bison roaming the vast open plains.
Does this ring a bell to anyone here?
(6) MEMORY LANE.
2013 – [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
So let’s talk about Charles de Lint’s The Cats of Tanglewood Forest which is the sequel to children’s children’s book he did with Charles Vess, A Circle of Cats. Without giving away anything, the themes are the same, just expanded to a novel length work.
I love everything that de Lint has done and this is no exception, though is is quite different from the urban fantasy work of his that you’re likely to be familiar with. This is based is the Appalachian myths that I assume he and Vess talked about. He sort of first used them in Someplace to Be Flying, but they were moved to Newford which was deliberately located nowhere. This story, and related stories are located in the Appalachian region.
Needless to say it too is illustrated by Vess. Oh is it. Illustrations beyond counting. Of Lillian, of cats, of other creatures, of the Forest. You get the idea.
It’s warm, comfortable story with believable characters, human and otherwise. That’s all I’ll say. I is available from the usual suspects but I recommend you buy the hardcover edition instead as it’s a truly remarkable book, one that you’ll cherish.
Now here’s its Beginning…
Once there was a forest of hickory and beech, sprucy-pine, birch and oak. It was called the Tanglewood Forest. Starting at the edge of a farmer’s pasture, it seemed to go on forever, uphill and down. There were a few abandoned homesteads to be found in its reaches, overgrown and uninhabitable now, and deep in a hidden clearing there was a beech tree so old that only the hills themselves remembered the days when it was a sapling.
Above that grandfather tree, the forest marched up to the hilltops in ever-denser thickets of rhododendrons and brush until nothing stood between the trees and stars. Below it, a creek ran along the bottom of a dark narrow valley, no more than a trickle in some places, wider in others. Occasionally the water tumbled down rough staircases of stone and rounded rocks.
On a quiet day, when the wind was still, the creek could be heard all the way up to where the old beech stood. Under its branches cats would come to dream and be dreamed. Black cats and calicos, white cats and marmalade ones, too. Sometimes they exchanged gossip or told stories about L’il Pater, the trickster cat. More often they lay in a drowsy circle around the fat trunk of the ancient beech that spread its boughs above them. Then one of them might tell a story of the old and powerful Father of Cats, and though the sun might still be high and the day warm, they would shiver and groom themselves with nervous tongues.
But they hadn’t yet gathered the day the orphan girl fell asleep among the beech’s roots, nestling in the weeds and long grass like the gangly, tousle-haired girl she was.
Her name was Lillian Kindred.
(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
- Born March 7, 1934 — Gray Morrow. He was an illustrator of comics and paperback books. He is co-creator of the Marvel Comics’ Man-Thing with writers Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway, and co-creator of DC Comics’ El Diablo with writer Robert Kanigher. If you can find a copy, The Illustrated Roger Zelazny he did in collaboration with Zelazny is most excellent. ISFDB notes that he and James Lawrence did a novel called Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. No idea if it was tied into the series which came out the next year. (Died 2001.)
- Born March 7, 1942 — Paul Preuss, 81. I know I’ve read all of the Venus Prime series written by him off the Clarke stories. I am fairly sure I read all of them when I was in Sri Lanka where they were popular. I don’t think I’ve read anything else by him.
- Born March 7, 1944 — Stanley Schmidt, 79. Between 1978 and 2012 he served as editor of Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine, an amazing feat by any standard! He was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Professional Editor every year from 1980 through 2006 (its final year), and for the Hugo Award for Best Editor Short Form every year from 2007 (its first year) through 2013 with him winning in 2013. He’s also an accomplished author with more than a dozen to his name. I know I’ve read him but I can’t recall which novels in specific right now.
- Born March 7, 1945 — Elizabeth Moon, 78. I’ll let JJ have the say on her: “I’ve got all of the Serrano books waiting for when I’m ready to read them. But I have read all of the Kylara Vatta books — the first quintology which are Vatta’s War, and the two that have been published so far in Vatta’s Peace. I absolutely loved them — enough that I might be willing to break my ‘no re-reads’ rule to do the first 5 again at some point. Vatta is a competent but flawed character, with smarts and courage and integrity, and Moon has built a large, complex universe to hold her adventures. The stories also feature a secondary character who is an older woman; age-wise she is ‘elderly,’ but in terms of intelligence and capability, she is extremely smart and competent — and such characters are pretty rare in science fiction, and much to be appreciated.”
- Born March 7, 1955 — Michael Jan Friedman, 68. Author of nearly sixty books of genre fiction, mostly media tie-ins. He’s written nearly forty Trek novels alone covering DS9, Starfleet Academy, Next Gen, Original Series and Enterprise. He’s also done work with Star Wars, Aliens, Predators, Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman, Batman and Robin and many others. He’s also done quite a bit of writing for DC, mostly media-ins but not all as I see Superman, Flash and Justice League among his credits.
- Born March 7, 1967 — Ari Berk, 56. Folklorist, artist, writer and scholar of literature and comparative myth. Damn great person as well. I doubt you’ve heard of The Runes of Elfland he did with Brian Froud so I’ve linked to the Green Man review of it here. He also had a review column in the now defunct Realms of Fantasy that had such articles as “Back Over the Wall – Charles Vess Revisits the World of Stardust”.
(8) HOBBLING THE HUBBLE. The New York Times reports “Hubble Telescope Faces Threat From SpaceX and Other Companies’ Satellites”.
Private companies are launching thousands of satellites that are photobombing the telescope — producing long bright streaks and curves of light that can be impossible to remove. And the problem is only getting worse.
A study, published Thursday in the journal Nature Astronomy, reveals an increase in the percentage of images recorded by the Hubble that are spoiled by passing satellites. And the data goes only through 2021. Thousands more satellites have been launched since then by SpaceX and other companies, and many more are expected to go to orbit in the years ahead, affecting the Hubble and potentially other telescopes in space.
“We’re going to be living with this problem. And astronomy will be impacted,” said Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who was not involved in the study. “There will be science that can’t be done. There will be science that’s significantly more expensive to do. There will be things that we miss.”…
(9) SOME GOOD NEWS ABOUT AI. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] An article on the Nature website explains how an artificial-intelligence model trialled in Chile’s Atacama Desert could one day detect signs of life on other planets. “Astrobiologists train an AI to find life on Mars”.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning could revolutionize the search for life on other planets. But before these tools can tackle distant locales such as Mars, they need to be tested here on Earth.
A team of researchers have successfully trained an AI to map biosignatures — any feature which provides evidence of past or present life — in a three-square-kilometre area of Chile’s Atacama Desert. The AI substantially reduced the area the team needed to search and boosted the likelihood of finding living organisms in one of the driest places on the planet. The results were reported on 6 March in Nature Astronomy…
….Ultimately, Warren-Rhodes says she would like to see a comprehensive database of different Mars analogues that could feed valuable information to mission scientists planning their next sampling run. Her team’s advance, she adds, might appear “deceptively simple” to anyone who grew up watching Star Trek explorers scanning alien worlds with a tricorder. But, it represents an important advance in extraterrestrial research, in which biology has often lagged behind chemistry and geology. Imagine, for instance, virtual-reality headsets that feed mission scientists real-time data as they scan a surface, using a rover’s ‘eyes’ to direct their activities. “To have our team make one of these first steps towards reliably detecting biosignatures using AI is exciting,” she says. “It’s really a momentous time.”
Primary research paper abstract here here.
[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Chris Barkley, Karl Kotas, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (not Werdna).]
8). I think we need strict regulations on the deployment of satellites because it’s ruining terrestrial astronomy too. I suggest we test our anti-satellite program by taking down Starlink.
(8) What we really need is a number of actual working space stations. Rather than put up a satellite for each and every thing, put up a docking bay, a living bay, and long extensions and fasten the payloads to that. Let it do the stationkeeping… and the payloads will be cheaper, and can focus on their mission. This would, of course, include three at geosync….
I inhaled The Fated Sky this evening. It’s just as good as the first one.
4) The Ragged World by Judith Moffett?
(8) The satellite company execs keep saying it won’t be a problem, even though the were told from the start that it would be. Their idea for fixing it: less-shiny satellites. Which doesn’t help when they’re still brighter than the background.
(1) Mark Galeotti has another RPG which is in print – Gran Meccanismo from Osprey. An alternate history clockpunk game set in Renaissance Italy.
Sounds like The Ragged World to me, too. A fixup novel, told as a series of smaller more personal stories over the time of the alien intervention
(7) I like Preuss’ Core which may have been the loose inspiration for a similarly named movie.
Thanks for the Title credit
I received the Hugo nomination email from Chengdu early this morning going directly into my inbox like it’s supposed to.
(6) I enjoyed The Cats of Tanglewood Forest. And it is also visually lovely.
(8) We need laws and an international treaty. And taking down some Starlink satellites to get the double hit of removing some of the problem, and giving a small smackdown to one of Putin’s more annoying fans. N.B.: We must remove them as the space junk they currently are, not shoot them apart and make more space junk.
8) Alternatively, let’s push the telescopes further out in orbit where there aren’t any satellites.
Particularly since Starlink is a useful component in the ongoing Ukrainian defense against the Russian invaders.
The Africans know I’m not an African. I’m an American. – Whoopi Goldberg
The Hugo nomination email from Chengdu arrived this morning, a week or more after the first people got it.
But at least it’s proof-of-life for the Worldcon Committee, so that’s something.
The Ragged World by Judy Moffet is it! 5hank you so much @Roger and @Sophie Joyce! For some reason that book has resonated with me of late. And even better, I am delighted to see there is more of that world in other works by her, so that is an extra delight.
@Cassy B–Got mine today too.
Except, SpaceX is limiting Uktraine’s use of Starlink for military purposes.
SpaceX curbed Ukraine’s use of Starlink internet for drones -company president
@ Lis Carey
My understanding is that the limitation was based on preventing the use of Starlink as an integrated part of weapon targeting systems so that they couldn’t be accused of directly providing military assistance. That sort of thing can be a little dicey for a private citizen/corporation to do.
Starlink is still quite useful for exchanging information between units which is very valuable. They would be having a much harder time against the Russians without Starlink’s support.
I know some who are constantly drunk on books as other men are drunk on whiskey. – H.L. Mencken
Yeah, Dann, we know companies hate being defense contractors, right?
Some of us remember when Musk was going to cut off Starlink support altogether, unless they got paid Musk’s chosen rate. And the Pentagon said, that’s fine, and started the process of getting quotes from other potential contractors for the service.
Oops, that wasn’t what Musk wanted. He wanted Starlink to get all the credit for “helping” Ukraine, and to get monopoly pricing on it.
Also, his proposed “peace plan” is that Ukraine gives Russia most of what it wants–including promising not to join NATO, and just believe Russia’s latest round of promises to “respect Ukraine’s borders,” after they’ve broken all their previous promises, and while Putin is still blathering about “Greater Russia.” Which, as I hope you remember, but who knows if you do, includes the US state of Alaska.
The Ukrainians would have to be batshit crazy to agree to that malicious idiocy.
Musk is not a genius, not a good guy, and if he’s that great a businessman, how did he wind up buying Twitter for so much over its market value at the time of purchase? (That’s a rhetorical question; we all saw him make that blunder in the harsh daylight of the stock market.)
He’s an inflated ego on two legs, who grew up in apartheid South Africa, and inherited an emerald mine. And that’s all he is.
Emerald mine. He inherited an emerald mine, and there’s no edit link, so I can’t fix it even though I didn’t even have to look to see I typed the wrong word.
This is for Karl Kotas: Fascinating to see how memory had reworked the idea of my 1991 novel THE RAGGED WORLD! That title is Vol 1 of my HOLY GROUND TRILOGY. Vol. 2 is TIME, LIKE AN EVER-ROLLING STREAM, and Vol. 3 is THE BIRD SHAMAN. All three are available as ebooks. TIME can be found in paper on Amazon, but a print version of BIRD is hard to come by. Should you want one for some reason, contact me through my website https://judithmoffett.com and I can send you one; but I imagine the ebooks will suffice. This mention was forwarded to me by a friend. I was so pleased to read it. I hope the reality lives up to the ghost of a story that you had remembered for thirty years!
Lis Carey: I changed it to emerald for you
Mike, Thank you!
At this point, I’m guessing that Starlink is more like a defense contractor. I’m not inclined to dig too deeply into the details. But at the beginning when the services were being donated they were more like a direct supporter in a way that could make them a legal accessory to actions that Russia could try to describe as “terrorism”.
Whatever one thinks of Musk’s motivations and other activities, Starlink has been a benefit to Ukraine in its defense against Russia’s invading army.
Starlink is also a huge benefit to many in my community that cannot readily access the Internet otherwise. Telephone lines are stuck at dial-up speeds and cable/fiber doesn’t make it out to them. Starlink satellites aren’t space debris. They are a highly effective way of providing Internet access to people around the world that cannot access it otherwise.
TANSTAAFL/TINSTAAFL/TNSTAAFL – Truth no matter how you slice it.
7) Re: Elizabeth Moon, the Serrano and Vatta books are great, and I’ve read all of them more than once, but her real masterwork is The Legend of Paksennarion particularly the last five Kings of the North volumes. True fantasy on an epic scale, with all the details of things like how do we deal with the horses, and what’s it like to be in a medieval mercenary company handled with perfection.
And you’ve just admitted that you know your argument for why it’s necessary for Musk denying Ukraine use of Starlink for military drones is bullcrap.
For the other point–Starlink satellites are causing problems for real research. Along with the plethora of other purely commercial satellites, of course. But Musk has spent at least the last year making it ever more plain what he’ll say if he’s asked to inconvenience himself in the slightest in the public interest. Everything is about him, and what he thinks polishes the image he wants to have. It isn’t even just, or even mostly, about money, or he wouldn’t have bid so unrealistically high for Twitter, and wouldn’t be spending so much time making it less and less attractive to advertisers.
Basic science is where the knowledge comes from for applied science to work. It’s short-sighted at best to just shrug off the screwing up what the space telescopes are doing.
Ukraine and its supporters paid retail for those Starlink services. Musk is charging them more now than he charges others.
P J Evans says Ukraine and its supporters paid retail for those Starlink services. Musk is charging them more now than he charges others.
Maybe. Recent news stories in the trade say that they’ve actually dropped their prices.
They’re not charging for the replacement of destroyed terminals which is running so far at over fifty percent of the over twenty thousand five sent there.
Starling claims each terminal costs over twenty thousand, a figure disputed by the Pentagon.
@ Lis Carey
But I haven’t.
Neither of us knows the exact contractual details surrounding the provision of Starlink services to Ukraine. Where other defense contractors might be shielded by providing goods/services to the US government that are transferred to Ukraine, Starlink’s contract might be more direct.
The fact that Ukraine might use the terminals that were donated directly to Ukraine to use their paid access to Starlink could be enough to cause concern.
I note that no one is concerned about Boeing, Lockheed, or any of a myriad of other contractors that are also charging FLEET [Full List Each and Every Time] prices for support of Ukraine. Nor do I see much interest in auditing where the money Ukraine is receiving is going. If others are going to make money off of this war, then there isn’t anything wrong with Elon doing so as well.
I get it. Elon bought Twitter and that irritated some folks.
But it doesn’t change the fact that the orbital space in question has many valuable uses. Free markets are the most effective method for identifying the most valuable use of a resource. Starlink is running a profit by providing Internet access to people that would not otherwise have it because it is too expensive to run fiber to every location on the planet.
Only a command economy would ignore that dire need and expect that some government bureaucrat’s decision to take precedence.
Push the telescope to a higher orbit where it would not experience interference from other satellites. It is the most efficient and effective solution on the table.
This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force. – Dorothy Parker
@Karl Kotas, @sophiejane, and especially the author @Judith Moffett:
Thanks for bringing A Ragged World and its sequels to my attention. I’m delighted to add them to Mt. Tsundoku, sigh. The 1990’s & Aughts were years when I was completely ignoring written SF, so it’s fun when an organic discussion like this surfaces something I would like from that generation.
Also thanks to Gollancz in the UK for the e-book editions!!! I wish more of their electronic reprints were licensed for the USA market. I haven’t found a reliable way to browse only the US-available titles.
Which would make Starlink a defense contractor to Ukraine. Which, since Ukraine is not an enemy or rival of the US, certainly isn’t illegal.
Russia, of course, could easily call it an act of war. Like they have called any and all aid going to Ukraine, and sanctions against Russia, and sometimes even mere criticism of Russia’s invasion of a country whose borders it previously pledged to respect, “acts of war.”
Russia can get stuffed. And so can Putin’s toady, Musk.
No one is criticizing Musk for making money on support for Ukraine.
He’s being criticized for pretending to provide that support at no charge, while in fact charging full market price or even more for it. Boeing and other contractors don’t pretend they’re doing it for free; that’s the difference.
Wrong again. Musk buying Twitter would quickly lost what buzz it got from offering well over market price for it, and then trying to back out when it was too late and he realized what stupid move that had been,, if he had just settled down and run it competently. Or it could have gotten more and different buzz, if it had turned out he really did have a brilliant plan to make Twitter profitale enough to pay off that ridiculous price and make him even richer.
Instead, he’s invited back all the trolls, white nationalists, Neo-Nazis, and other hate groups, unbanned people who, after far too much patience from old Twitter, finally got banned for truly atrocious behavior that had risked damaging the value of the platform.
He fired much of the cybersecurity staff, the moderator staff, the people who served the actual customers, i.e., the major companies using Twitter as an advertising platform (and where did Musk think Twitter’s revenue was coming from?), and banned a representative from one of those companies for just asking a questions about what steps were being taken to keep Twitter a safe place for companies to advertise without risking their corporate reputations by doing so.
In doing so, he’s made Twitter more unpleasant and less attractive for the real product it’s selling, i.e., the eyeballs of the vast numbers of regular users, access to which Musk apparently hadn’t figured was the product Twitter is really selling.
Just for instance, I haven’t deleted my Twitter account yet, but I spend a lot less time there, and except for still posting links to my reviews there (though I now post them on other platforms, too, and spend more time on them because I’m not spending the time on Twitter), I mostly go there following a link to a particular thread involving people/subjects I’m specifically interested in. Not just browsing to see what’s happening anymore; Musk has made it very much less fun to do that on Twitter.
Twitter’s numbers are declining. The bot numbers are exploding. Musk’s views were declining to a point where he was very unhappy, and the remaining staff was instructed to fiddle with the algorithm to make sure he gets more views. So now his tweets are getting pushed in the timelines of people who do not want to see his tweets.
These are not the actions of a brilliant businessman. Not even the actions of a competent businessman. They’re the actions of a businessman being willfully stupid, and indulging his ego at the cost the company that more people interact with daily than any other of his companies.
That’s why people are annoyed at Elmo, Dann.
And despite your efforts to pretend otherwise, there’s nothing hypocritical about criticizing someone going out of his way to be an annoying, egotistical AH, and wrecking a company whose product those people used to enjoy using.
Free markets are the best at generating the most profitable short-term use of a resource. They have no way to measure the longer-term benefits, including profits, of basic research.
But, that inconvenient reality aside, there’s another inconvenient reality: Monopolies aren’t free markets. They’re monopolies, and they trend inevitably toward shutting down whatever competition crops up as quickly as they can–unless that there Evil Government Regulation steps in to prevent them from doing so. We need regulation, if we’re going to have free markets.
And space is available as a resource only because governments have spent money doing the original work on making it available. Now that it is available, we have SpaceX and Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic, and any Boomer (at least) sf fan who says their heart doesn’t flutter at the sight of SpaceX rockets landing, is lying. And if there aren’t other companies in the field that I’m not aware of yet, there will be.
These guys didn’t do it themselves. They didn’t create the opportunities; governments did. And while I think there’s likely to be privately owned real estate on the Moon and Mars eventually, space itself can’t be–for the same reason that air travel is regulated by governments, even though it’s almost entirely conducted by private companies. We don’t want planes crashing into each other, or onto places people are living or working or playing, because FREE MARKETS ARE THE BEST. No, we regulate them for safety and the protection of everyone–including those same profit-making companies.
Same with space. If we don’t regulate where the satellites go, we’re going to lose the ISS, and other space stations, and yes, those satellites providing communications and GPS services.
And that basic research being done with the space telescopes, whose value we can’t know yet–just like in the 1950s and 1960s, no serious person other than sf fans, granting sf fans to be serious people, which no one except sf fans would have done then, envisioned companies competing for the ability to make private, for-profit space flights a key part of their business strategy.
Even the companies sending up the satellites will suffer if we don’t start regulating in a sensible way, so that we don’t lose everything that depends on those satellites.
Only fanatic nutjobs would think you can leave spaceflight unregulated and get the profits without the disaster a cascade of collisions, more space debris, more collisions, would cause. We need regulation to preserve, not crush, the companies’ ability to do business in space. And no, rational regulation–such as airlines have benefited from for decades, and which makes our roads and highways relatively safe despite the speeds we’re going at that heavy machinery we’re operating at those speeds–isn’t the “command economy” of your fevered dreams.
Do you know if that is actually a practical, workable solution? Something they can do with Kepler, successfully, and without reduction of its usefulness? I don’t. I bet you don’t either.
If it is workable, it’s a good idea, but it won’t solve the problem of too many satellites without any control at all over where they’re allowed to be.
And Elmo can stuff it because he isn’t responsible for any of the stuff he claims. He’s not an engineer, he BOUGHT Tesla and Twitter, and at SpaceX (which he doesn’t run), there are people who keep him away from the engineers.
(Note also that at Tesla and Twitter, the first things he did included firing the PR departments. So there’s no one but him who is permitted to speak for them.)
It’s working for the James Webb telescope, even though that’s not the primary reason for its distant orbit. Hubble is unusual for a space telescope in that its orbit is so low; most space telescopes are much higher, and above Musk’s internet satellites.
Kepler ran out of fuel and was retired in 2018.
@bill–Forgive me. Hubble.
Turns out NASA and my favorite of Elmo’s companies, SpaceX, are looking at plans to potentially boost Hubble’s orbit–although they’re also asking for proposals from other companies.
NASA And SpaceX Consider Daring Plan To ‘Reboost’ The Hubble Space Telescope
Success is not guaranteed. It’s not just boosting it that’s required. It also needs some serious servicing. And even if successful, it doesn’t mean we can keep launch unlimited numbers of satellites with no plan for what orbits where, or removing satellites that have outlived their usefulness. Those who read the article I linked to will see that the ultimate plan for Hubble, when it’s no longer useful or upgradable back into usefulness, is to deorbit it safely.
@Lis: Turns out NASA and my favorite of Elmo’s companies, SpaceX, are looking at plans to potentially boost Hubble’s orbit
Which is rather ironic, since the whole reason that the Hubble is in such a low orbit is because NASA forcibly tied it to the space shuttle.
Proposed satellite regulation law in House committee:
@PhilRM–Having it accessible to the shuttle enabled several rounds of maintenance and repair, including that first repair that was essential to having it be anything but an unforgettable failure. The problem was not requiring Hubble to be accessible to the shuttle, but nickel & diming the design and construction of the shuttle–which was Nixon’s doing.
@bill–Hopefully, that’s a positive.
@Lis: It would have been far more cost-effective to build four or five clones of the same telescope and launch one every three years, outfitted with a new, updated package of instruments, into a high-altitude orbit that didn’t run the telescope into the South Atlantic Anomaly every orbit. But that didn’t happen because the aerospace industry, to which NASA is completely beholden, hates the idea: no massive development overheads. Tying Hubble to the space shuttle was simply a ploy to make the shuttle appear necessary. As was commonly said in the astronomical community: Why do we need the space shuttle? To go to the space station. Why did we build a space station? To give the space shuttle something to do.
The only reason the first servicing mission was required was the gross incompetence of Perkin-Elmer. They performed two tests of the mirror’s figure, one of which said it was fine, the other of which said (accurately) that it was wrong. They simply chose to ignore the second one because it would have required them to do something about it.
@PhilRM–Congress wasn’t going to fund four or five clones of the Hubble. They bitched enough about the cost of one.
Yes, Perkin-Elmer screwed up due to, at best, inexcusable laziness and irresponsibility. Guess what! It’s something you need to be prepared to deal with, when dealing with human beings in large groups–especially in cases like this, where it’s going to be someone else who has egg on their face if you do. Mistakes will happen. Most of them won’t be like this one, but if you operate on the assumption that they’ll all be trivial, you’re going to get screwed. A backup plan is not optional unless no backup plan is possible.
The ISS had a number of things going for it other than a job for the shuttle–like doing real science in zero g. Skylab and Mir had proved it possible, but Skylab was no more, while Mir was Russian and at the end of its useful life. ISS is also an international project. That has its political advantages, but also, it allows for more input, both ideas and resources from far more sources than anything operated by just one country.
I get it, you hated the shuttle, and it certainly wasn’t what it could have been. I wonder if you also think human space exploration is a waste, and we should stick to the robots. If so, it wouldn’t be a unique viewpoint, but it’s also not universally shared, and no, there isn’t an objectively “right” perspective on this. The support for human exploration is fairly strong.
I wonder if he thinks that money spent on space exploration is being sent into space or used as rocket fuel or something. It seems to be a common belief that it leaves the economy permanently, rather than being used for paychecks and materials and tools and and and.
@Lis: The cost overruns that Congress found so objectionable, which drove the Hubble far over its original price tag, were the direct result of forcing it to be de-scoped and completely redesigned in order to fit into the shuttle bay, which it had never been intended for.
The whole point of making multiple versions of the same telescope is that the unit cost comes down – and having duplicates in case of failure is the back-up plan.
I have no objections to a manned spaceflight program, I just want one that makes sense, and doesn’t pretend that it’s about doing science when it isn’t. (What significant science came out of the ISS other than “the effects of long-duration spaceflight on biology”?) You’re right, I did come to hate the shuttle, though, because it was a disaster that completely failed at both of its design objectives: it was grotesquely expensive to operate, and had a catastrophic failure rate of 1 in 50.
there isn’t an objectively “right” perspective on this. If you’re talking about science, there certainly is: it’s scientific knowledge gained per dollar spent. Robots win hands down.
@ P J Evans: I have no idea what point you think you’re responding to, but it certainly isn’t one that I made.
@P J Evans–Perhaps he does. It seems an all too common point of confusion. I’m thinking, though, that he’s just one of the people who thinks human-crewed space exploration is obviously pointless and wasteful, and that robots are better at everything we could sensibly want to do in space. Those people have a significant presence, too.
@PhilRM–Perkin-Elmer’s screw-up wasn’t the fault of the shuttle, or you’d have a a way to claim that originally.
Maybe it didn’t need to be launched from the shuttle, but launch vehicle constraints greatly affected design of the Webb, too, with the shuttle dead and buried.
Perkin-Elmer’s screw-up would have rendered the Hubble useless, if we hadn’t had a way to get to it and fix it. Hubble got several more repairs and upgrades, extending its usefulness beyond original plans and design specs. Because the shuttle could reach it.
As for ISS producing no science “other than the effects of long-duration space flight on biology”– that is exactly what robots can’t give us. And, take a good hard look around you. You’ll see no dinosaurs except birds.
Telescopes to find Earth-crossing asteroids, and robots to redirect them when necessary, are great, and essential, whatever else we do.
But planting human and enough other terrestrial life on other worlds to be sustainable is essential to long-term survival.
It’s also, of course, who we are as a species–the most invasive species on the planet, and likely in the solar system.
I don’t think we’re going to stop, even if you consider it inherently a waste of money.