Friday, November 2, 2018

Space Travel Still Sucks

Even back when "" was all the rage with their irreverent lists, I wasn't always a fan of basic "Internet Top 10" lists. However, once in awhile -- and when my space blog was the hot new thing in the fledgling "Spacetweep" community -- something grabbed me that was worth commentary.

One particular article has remained on my mind through the years, and if you missed it, click graphic to read the:

6 Reasons Space Travel Will Always Suck

They weren't wrong. Space travel sucks. Space travel has always sucked. No matter what Elon Musk tries to spin, space travel will indeed continue to suck. Amazingly, most people still say they want to experience it... but upon speaking to them, it's clear that's because even people who truly support space agencies don't always know what it takes to survive off-Earth, and how sick you can become without the comforting gravity in which you evolved.

The saddest-but-truest statement starts out the article with a big bang: "We love movies about space, but are continually bored by actual space travel."

This is not what space travel will look like. Ever.
Yeah, we wish.

They drive home the point that even for far-off future generations, space travel may not meet our expectations, because...
6. There is No Sex in Space
5. It'll Be More Like a Submarine Than Star Trek
4. Life in Zero-Gravity is Horrible
3. There's Nothing to See
2. Getting Anywhere Interesting Means Never Going Home
1. In Space, On-Star Won't Do Shit For You

I read the entire article, desperately hoping I could disagree with it. Nope. They nailed it on every count.

Space Travel Will Make You Sick
Spacebarf: actually the least of your worries.

There is no way to reproduce, so we aren't going anywhere as a group. Cramped quarters, not a cruise ship. Weightlessness messes with your head, your balance, your blood, your muscles (including your heart) and your bones. I know all this first-hand from my spaceflight simulations, which I performed for Johnson Space Center between 2008-2010. At one point while adjusting to micro-gravity, even the fillings in my teeth hurt.

All that just to travel through 99.99% of blackness – perhaps to reach something that will be the last thing you ever see. That's if you make it at all, considering the massive dangers… because you're dead if even the slightest thing goes wrong.

Guys like Bas Lansdorp, Dennis Tito, Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos, Peter Diamandis, and especially Elon Musk just make me roll my eyes. It's all well and good to be rich and visionary about hardware, but they are selling a fantasy.  

I would give anything if even just one of them repeated my spaceflight simulations so that they actually understood what space flight can do to the human body.

They talk like we are leaving for Mars in a year or ten. We aren't. 

Space Travel Isn't All It's CRACKED Up To Be
Hey, suppose we go to all that trouble... and THIS
is the only thing on the other end of the journey?

Key concept: "Your life depends on your time aboard the starship being skull-crushingly boring."

So apparently, that's the funny part. The unfunny part? Underneath all the hyperbole, the message is clear: We all want the "future" of space travel to get here, but few truly understand the reality of what it takes to get us there. We have to go through many, many downers before we get to the payoff.

Why is all of this on my mind? Once upon a time, I put my body and brain on the line for science. As an astronaut analog, I spent more time in contraptions simulating micro-gravity than most astronauts have spent in actual orbit. The longest any astronauts spent on the Moon was on the Apollo 17 mission, where Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt were on the lunar surface for 4 days. My lunar study hardware put me in 6% gravity for 7 days. 

I have a 10-year bone density DEXA scan coming up. I'll see if there were any lasting effects from my participation in the study of how leaving Earth gravity affects humans long term.