So, space is cool and all, and we should engineer things for it, and go there and explore, and bring back souvenirs… but we forget to ask ourselves THE fundamental questions.
Does space exploration actually exist? Did we land on the moon, or was that a sound studio? Were the Beatles within spitting distance of Neil Armstrong on that fateful day in ‘69? Why don’t satellites melt in the thermosphere?
According to Gallup polling, about 6% of Americans believed that the moon landings were faked by NASA to win the Space Race. That number is much higher in Russia, in fact, just a few months ago, money was raised by space enthusiast Vitaly Egorov to develop a microsatellite to go to the moon, just to verify that Americans had actually been there.
But can he do even that?
Enthusiast organization and Totally Credible Source, the ‘Flat Earth Society,’ claims that not only that NASA didn’t land on the moon, but that the earth is actually a flat disk accelerating upwards at 9.8 m/s/s. All that DirectTV that’s supposedly being beamed to you from space? Yeah, it’s all bogus, satellites can’t exist, because there’s no such thing as an ‘orbit.’ Take that AERO347!
These people claim that the sun isn’t some round ball, but some kind of ‘spotlight’ that illuminates only a portion of the flat disk. Take this excerpt from the ‘Flat Earth Wikia,’ if you can get through all of it.
“Throughout the years it has become a duty of each Flat Earth Society member, to meet the common Round Earther in the open, avowed, and unyielding rebellion; to declare that his reign of error and confusion is over; and that henceforth, like a falling dynasty, he must shrink and disappear, leaving the throne and the kingdom of science and philosophy to those awakening intellects whose numbers are constantly increasing, and whose march is rapid and irresistible.
The soldiers of truth and reason of the Flat Earth Society have drawn the sword, and ere another generation has been educated and grown to maturity, will have forced the usurpers to abdicate. Like the decayed and crumbling trees of an ancient forest, rent and shattered by wind and storm, the hypothetical philosophies, which have hitherto cumbered the civilized world, are unable to resist the elements of experimental and logical criticism; and sooner or later must succumb to their assaults.
The axe is uplifted for a final stroke – it is about to fall upon the primitive sphere of the earth, and the blow will surely ‘cut the cumberer down!'”
What passion. You know what the writer might be good at? Space engineering.
The wiki page goes on to demonstrate experimental evidence for the Earth’s flatness, including a link to an unorthodox study by a professor from Southwest Texas University who demonstrated that the average Kansas was flatter than the average pancake. The caption by the Flat-Earther (or FE as they call themselves) states, “Professor Mark Fonstad of Southwest Texas University mathematically demonstrates the earth’s flatness here.”
Well, I guess that’s technically true.
These sorts of fringe organizations ought not to come up on our radars, but inevitably, they do. And what scares me about these people is that they’re a lot like us. They believe, with a passion, that what they’re doing is right, and if anyone disagrees with them, before debate even begins, they are summarily dismissed. Who can say that we aren’t guilty of the same with space?
I saw Rick Tumlinson speak at SpaceVision, and no one would argue that he hasn’t done a lot for the development of NewSpace and creating the environment where public interest in space can flourish. However, he had this sort of “Give me Liberty or Give me Death” tone, and implied that the moral imperative of being in space supersedes the engineer’s obligation to the people. I think the similarities sort of stuck out in that moment.
What do you think? Am I overreacting about Rick? Know anyone whose devotion to their craft overrides any higher level thinking?
– By Arun Nagpal, Publications Co-Chair, SEDS@UM