Okay, scientist, strap in.
I'n'I am just now starting Season 2 of For All Mankind, which bloody hell is a series I wish I'd thought of. Basic premise: The Soviets beat us to the Moon by a few weeks, thereby changing the dynamics of the space race and therefore the Cold War immeasurably. I'm really pretty lukewarm on alternate history in general but the prehistory of Kubrick's 2001? I'm there.
The point nobody wants to make, but which For All Mankind makes with every major plot point, is that space exploration of any kind is proxy warfare. It's Great Game power competition through and through and the reason the US gave up on space is principally because the Soviets couldn't afford to lose over and over and over again to a nation that was willing to spend a gajillion dollars on a symbolic victory.
Werner Von Braun famously thought a single mono shortwave audio communication would be plenty for any space mission because "the science" wasn't about glitz. Werner Von Braun also famously used slave labor from concentration camps to build his terror weapons because what else was he supposed to do, right? In his favor, Hitler spent more on the V-program than we spent on the Manhattan Project but fuckin' hell we spent more on the B-29 than the Manhattan Project, too because you know what? It's about the next war, which is a continuation of politics by other means. You seen the terror weapons Putin's pumping out? Despite the fact that Russia is considered an "emerging market" by economists?
So look, mutherfucker. Mars2020 is prolly gonna end up costing about $3b. That's effectively $10 for every man, woman and child in these here United States. My family's buy-in on that rover? $30. And yer damn skippy I watched it, and yer damn skippy I made my kid watch, and as I said to a friend, the best phrase NASA has coined in several dozen years is "seven minutes of terror" because if you're going to spend three billion dollars throwing a robot at a rock a gajillion miles away You
Have to get
MY FUCKING BUY IN.
Why. Why do I give a shit about space. Why does my wife give a shit about space. Why the fuck should ANYONE give a fuck about space? Because we should eat our fucking vegetables? FUCK YOU. Because there's some unresolved who-the-fuck-knows question that may or may not tie back to string theory or some shit? FUCK YOU. You know when the public started giving a shit about a fucking satellite?
'member a few weeks back when you had to get a parrot to explain why we should give a shit about Arecibo for more reasons other than it was cool and was in Goldeneye and Contact? NOT THE POINT. The point is it was in Goldeneye and it WAS in Contact and it was fucking cool and everyone was sad and the fact that something that big and expensive and cantankerous was originally created for science? It's totally fucking fine.
I grew up with scientists. Big ones. Nobel ones. Household name ones. And you know what FUCKING SUCKS about scientists? Their insistence on the purity of fucking science. No. Fuck you. If you wanna take thirty fucking dollars from my family, you don't get to decide it's going to be used on something too pure for me to enjoy. I want fucking technicolor. I want to be invested. I want a narrative for that goddamn rover to be every bit as decent as David Attenborough bemoaning the goddamn icebergs. Fucking SELL ME.
"Painful thing." Get over yourself. You can't wanna ride on billion dollar flown projects without giving me a reason to pay for it. What was the fucking point of Magellan's mission? Spanish Fucking Prestige. What did it accomplish? Spanish Fucking Prestige.
I know how much your nerdly heart wants to pretend that science is done for science's sake but get the fuck over yourself. It's a goddamn rap battle between institutions and world powers that pushes back against the dark as a side effect. Every fucking scientist worth their salt will insist that manned space flight is a waste of time, and every fucking scientist will studiously ignore any triumph of human endeavor because fundamentally? They don't get invited to the parties and they're salty.
Millions of people thought they watched Sputnik flash through the sky. They didn't; they watched the black-striped booster stage spinning behind Sputnik because goddamn Khrushchev knew the point wasn't the science, the point was the spectacle. And he was right. And the Soviets would have won if they could have just spent their way to the moon instead of going up in a hypergolic catastrophe.
Stop hating on spectacle. It's the only reason you have a job.