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I love to hear someone say "If we can put a man on the moon, why can't we ..." It used to be a more popular complaint, but at some point it became unfashionable, seen as a weak or irrelevant argument. Technical people especially seemed to roll their eyes when that expression came up.

But I've always liked it, because it gave me a chance to explain that we put a man on the moon through knowledge and research, and especially because we had a clear goal, good engineering and used a structured problem-solving approach - all things that happen too rarely when we're faced with problems. As an engineer, I'd like to see us tackle social and economic problems in the same way we attacked the problem of a manned lunar mission. But when the problem we're trying to solve crosses over into the scientific or engineering domain, there's no excuse for not taking an 'Apollo program' approach to developing a solution.

And we're faced with just that kind of problem now - climate change.

The Apollo program, which landed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon on July 20th, 1969, was iniitally announced by President Kennedy on May 25th, 1961 when he said:

First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him back safely to the earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.

In the phrase I've emphasized, JFK didn't shrink from the challenge or talk about incrementalism. He stated clearly and plainly that that the challenge he was issuing was both difficult and costly to achieve.

In fact Kennedy noted in a later speech:

We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

It's especially appropriate at this moment to look at the challenge of dealing with climate change from this perspective, because Monday night is Yuri's Night. On April 12th, 1961, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin was the first man to go into outer space and orbit the earth (a later April 12th is also the anniversary of the first Space Shuttle launch). Cmdr Alan Shepard was the first American in space less than a month later. About three weeks after Shepard's flight, Kennedy set our national goal.

And what were we able to accomplish? Less than 3000 days after JFK set the goal, we landed astronauts at Tranquility Base and returned them safely to earth - not many more than 3000 days after the first man entered space, and not many more than 4000 days after the Russians launched the first artificial satellite - Sputnik - and we launched our first satellite, Explorer; less than 4000 days after we even had a manned spaceflight program (Project Mercury), we landed our astronauts on the moon.

In less than 3000 days, we put together an expensive and complex program that ultimately involved over 20,000 companies and 400,000 employees - from engineers and scientists to aerospace workers and machinists, many unionized. The amount of technology spinoff from the program was also phenomenal - you're soaking in it - as was the impact on education from the Sputnik launch forward.

Kennedy also did one other thing in his announcement that needs to be done with respect to climate change. He set a clear and measurable goal: "... before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him back safely to the earth". He included a difficult to meet time-frame and an unequivocal definition of success.

If you want to solve a complex problem with a good probability of success, you need to start with a clear and quantitative goal, or you have nothing to measure either possible solutions or achievement against. Even if you want incrementalism, you have know the destination you're traveling to step by step. Somebody, preferably someone with authority, needs to set a goal that "by the end of the decade, the concentration of CO2 in our atmosphere will be less than 390ppm" or whatever time-frame and target we agree will be tolerable.

Although the timing may be flexible, it can't be something 50 or 100 years out - we can't reduce atmospheric CO2 in the same way that so many wait for that other April date - April 15th - before filing their tax return. We need to withhold carbon every year, and we need a short time-frame for scientific reasons, to recognize the urgency of our need to fix this and to hold ourselves accountable for our progress or lack of progress. We need to have a number that says "this is what's tolerable, this is what success will mean", and it needs to be a number that scientifically is tolerable and indicates success.

Solving the climate problem won't be easy, but it isn't rocket science either. We know what causes the problem and we already know the criteria to use to measure possible solutions.

Another thing we didn't do with the Apollo program is allow Congress to determine that we would use a Saturn V booster, lunar and command modules, pick landing sites, or extend the Hyde Amendment to the moon. We tasked a technical and scientific agency - NASA - with handling the technical and scientific details.

We already have an environmental analog of NASA:

The EPA employs 17,000 people in headquarters program offices, 10 regional offices, and 27 laboratories across the country. More than half of its staff are engineers, scientists, and environmental protection specialists; other groups include legal, public affairs, financial, and computer specialists.

The agency conducts environmental assessment, research, and education. It has the primary responsibility for setting and enforcing national standards under a variety of environmental laws, in consultation with state, tribal, and local governments. It delegates some permitting, monitoring, and enforcement responsibility to U.S. states and Native American tribes. EPA enforcement powers include fines, sanctions, and other measures.

The agency also works with industries and all levels of government in a wide variety of voluntary pollution prevention programs and energy conservation efforts.

We can augment the EPA staff with more scientists and engineers, with lawyers and economists, with people who can educate the public, and whatever else the agency needs to get the job done. Or a strong executive could force inter-agency co-operation with agencies that have technical expertise or regulatory authority that EPA lacks.

In fact we don't even need a climate bill for EPA to do the job. The Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that EPA not only has the authority to regulate CO2 under the Clean Air Act - it actually has the duty to do it (Massachusetts v. EPA). Of course corporate interests are already hard at work trying to end this authority, and seem to be getting their way in the developing Senate climate bill. There's no need to blame Congress for inaction on this issue - the Executive Branch already has the authority it needs. You'd need 60 votes to take that authority away.

The Clean Air Act mechanisms have a proven track record of repairing the atmosphere and regulating industry. The act has been incrementally improved since the initial legislation was passed. It allows for state and regional flexibility, especially with respect to important contingencies like economics, but within a framework of scientifically derived standards and national oversight. Before you criticize it, you can read the law, beginning here.

As the situation stands right now, our approach to the urgent problems presented by climate change isn't anything like Project Apollo - it's just Project Appalling.

If we can put a man on the moon, we can solve the problems of climate change, but it requires leadership, clear goals, good engineering, and the will to get it done. It also requires us to do it while it's still possible.

Originally posted to badger on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 11:30 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  We have got to get it together - now (20+ / 0-)

    We are here as on a darkling plain Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,

    by badger on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 11:14:38 AM PDT

  •  In honor of my late friend, Roz K. (5+ / 0-)

    I recall the sign on her office wall

    If we can put a man on the moon, why not all of them?

    If you think you're too small to be effective, you've never been in the dark with a mosquito.

    by marykk on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 11:33:58 AM PDT

  •  Because (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    badger, blueoasis, JeffW, happymisanthropy

    Apollo was a defense demo.

    If you want to do climate change it must be a defense issue

    George Bush is Living proof of the axiom "Never send a boy to do a man's job" E -2.25 S -4.10

    by nathguy on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 11:36:00 AM PDT

  •  My line is: (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    badger, Gooserock, JeffW

    If we can put a man on the moon, why can't we put a man on the moon?

  •  If solving global warming was just an engineering (4+ / 0-)

    problem we might have a shot at it. But it is a political and social problem. Yes, there are technologies that have to be put in place. But more of the problem is going to be tackling overpopulation, limiting wasteful habits, and that means social changes. That isn't going to happen in a lab.

    Has anyone noticed the "Invisible Hand of the Free Market" is still giving us the bird?

    by ontheleftcoast on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 11:39:47 AM PDT

    •  Apollo didn't happen in a lab either (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      JeffW, ontheleftcoast

      And for all of the political and social window-dressing, it is an engineering issue. There's no possibility of filibustering thermodynamics.

      Perhaps the point I should have made more clearly, which is the attitude that permeated the Apollo program, is that we need to alter our attitudes and postures to recognize this is a science and engineering problem.

      We are here as on a darkling plain Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,

      by badger on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 11:46:10 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  In my opinion (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    badger, Gooserock, JeffW

    many of us have lost or forgotten just how great a role the politics of the Cold War played in getting us to the moon.

    The kind of profound bad faith we see in the Global Climate Change debate can't be framed as being 'soft on' Climate Change the way being accused of being soft on the Soviet Union was.

    There is no mechanism in the Global Climate change debate that functions as the Soviet Union to keep everyone with radically diverging views on ideology on the same page. Military men who admired Curtis LeMay and scientists and politicians who admired the great pacifists and creators all had a horse in the race, and there was no incentive to derailing getting to the Moon for purely partisan hackery.

    You would think the massive death and destruction that will come about would, but as long as that is something that will go down as a hypothetical horror at a future date, Conservatives can lie and distort and muddy the debate. A bad guy in a black hat like the big bad Commies made shaming and navel gazing reactionaries and obstructionists a viable threat to somebody so inclined as to fuck with getting to the Moon and meeting JFK's challenge.

    We don't have a way of claiming an obstructionist conservative or "reasonable centrist" was being the modern equal to being framed as 'soft on Communism'.

    You could frame pouring billions into the space program to fit your ideology in a way that can't happen with global climate change because there is no BugBear that even a Teabagger can understand in a way that can't be muddied or twisted around.

    It united conservatives and moderates and liberals to spend government money in a way that just doesn't exist right now.

    Even the most rightwing conservative acted in good faith on the space program for fear of being painted as wanting the Soviets to beat us to the moon.

    Conservatives were able to be regressive and obstructionist in areas, but they were not free to act in the bad faith way then that they are now.

    •  Excellent points (0+ / 0-)

      I'd point out though that with Senate leadership and Administration support, we were able to initiate Earth Day and pass most of the environmental legislation we still operate under during LBJ's second term and even into Nixon's term, with a slight reprise (that probably inspired me more) during the Carter years due to gas lines.

      If we need enemies to succeed at this, we could create them - Blankenship, oil companies, oil producing countries, or others. It'd require some effort.

      But basically you're correct that we'll never have the kind of unanimity that Red-baiting was able to achieve, and Republican and Democratic Presidents used it very effectively at times.

      The other response I'd have is that the obstructionism and cronyism we suffer from now could be countered effectively if the Administration would enable and support the EPA on climate issues. They have the authority and mandate from the SC decision, so that allocating budget dollars would be the most important thing Congress could do, and that, obviously, can be done via reconciliation. Opposition, like stripping EPA of its authority or even over-riding it would take 60 votes, so if the Administration could keep 41 Senators in line, EPA would be able to do the job.

      With some agency creativity, maybe even an equivalent (administratively) to cap and trade could be implemented if we decided that was the way to go. Regardless of how it's done, EPA doesn't have the authority to dictate technology but only to set limits and grant exemptions, so there's still a market component to choosing technologies, and nothing to prevent (since it's a budget issue again) tax incentives or subsidies directed to the best alternatives.

      We are here as on a darkling plain Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,

      by badger on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 12:28:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  If we can put a man of the moon... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    badger, JeffW, happymisanthropy

    Why is Glenn Beck still on earth?

    [Sorry badger, I just couldn't resist]

    Four out five sock puppets agree

    by se portland on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 12:06:21 PM PDT

  •  I wish the president would challenge the nation.. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    badger, JeffW that.

    I think it's ready, if the benefits could be sold the right way.

    Jesus was a Socialist.

    by Bush Bites on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 12:30:39 PM PDT

  •  Moon Program Was a Weapons Debugging Program (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blueoasis, JeffW, huntergeo, thethinveil

    which is why it could be so big and move forward so fast. Every launch vehicle of Mecury and Gemini was a weapon, and aerospace weapons contractors built much the special purpose Apollo hardware.

    The entire mission of getting into space and up to the moon was to ensure that the Soviets, who were doing the same thing, would not have an unchecked platform.

    The only prayer for a dramatic climate change project is for government to re-task the existing MIC onto the issue to do the work. The MIC has not had a credible enemy for a generation, and to keep expanding its funding it's hyping nonsensical security issues like guys with vest bombs into existential threats against civilization.

    Well climate change IS an existential threat against civilization. We need to stop the generals from "war gaming" climate change scenarios, and get their contractors deployed accelerating smart grid and solar-based renewable energy both distributed and from big-facility produced.

    The MIC is too powerful for us to rightsize them to the actual military threats we face, we need the MIC's ability to sell a threat that is their line of business, so let's put them in the renewable energy business.

    Sure they don't know squat about it. They can hire.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 12:44:28 PM PDT

  •  Actually we cant put a man on the moon now either (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    badger, Bronx59, JeffW

    Those were the days when 'our' former Nazi's were better than 'their' former Nazis.
    We are however very good at VIAGRA mimics.
    Is that worth something?

    •  There's a little bit more to a moon landing (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      than pointing a rocket and pushing a big red button, and a lot more to hitting a target 250,000 miles away precisely and returning astronauts to earth alive than dumping a load of explosives somewhere within a 50 mile radius of London from across the channel.

      Like anything in science or engineering, the knowledge to accomplish it developed globally. You can start with the Greeks or Galileo and IsaacNewton (or the discovery of how to use fire if you want to go back far enough). Or you can note that virtually all of the electronics on a spacecraft, without which it wouldn't function at all, was almost 100% the result of American discovery and invention: Edwin Armstrong, Claude Shannon, Eckert and Mauchly, Shockley and Brattain (1 Nobel each) and Bardeen (2 Nobels in Physics), Jack Kilby (another Nobel), Farnsworth, and on and on.

      To pick one narrow field and one country's contribution is to miss the scope of the science and technology needed to accomplish something like a moon landing.

      Even if we hadn't contributed any of the technology, our ability to do engineering and manufacturing management in a market system without slave labor is pretty notable in itself.

      And nearly 41 years later, no other nation - not Germany, not Russia, not Japan - has matched the feat.

      While I don't generally go for American exceptionalism, that doesn't mean we haven't been exceptional in some positive ways.

      We are here as on a darkling plain Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,

      by badger on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 01:15:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I was about to post exactly what you said (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      blueoasis, JeffW, ozsea1

      The U.S. no longer has the capability to put a man on the moon, and probably could not afford a 20-25 year program to redevelop that capability.

      Yes, I know it took less than a decade the first time.

      In the DKos debate of a center-left vs. center right country, my vote is for "profoundly conservative".

      by Bronx59 on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 01:39:04 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I don't see what would prevent it (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Eternal Hope, JeffW

        We just launched a space shuttle in the last few days - that basically encompasses everything we need to get us off the planet and in transit to the moon (in fact the Apollo module was considerably smaller and lighter than a space shuttle).

        So to say we couldn't do it in less than 20-25 years would imply we're grossly deficient in what? Navigation technology - that's pretty basic. Communications - we're operating rovers on Mars. Life support - shuttle again, space station. Separating from a command module, putting the lander on the moon, launching and docking with command module and leaving lunar orbit - we still use some of that technology in hooking up to the ISS, and compared to everything else, it doesn't seem that difficult or insurmountable. Re-entry - the space shuttle does that too.

        It took 8 years and 2 months the first time, and if it were set as a goal today, it's possible a private entity could accomplish it in less time, much less NASA.

        We are here as on a darkling plain Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,

        by badger on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 02:03:13 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  If we'd had a bigger fleet of Shuttles... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          badger, Eternal Hope

          ...and merely developed a lander/transport that could operate from the ISS, we'd probably be back already. But that never happened in real life, being the scenario envisioned by Willy Ley.

          Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

          by JeffW on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 02:14:25 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  The same thing I was thinking (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Bronx59, JeffW

            although I have no idea of the capabilities of the current shuttle design in terms of range or payload. And I don't know if the current shuttle has favorable economics, but it seems the basic idea of a re-usable vehicle for near-earth and tasks like a lunar landing is a good concept, even if for doing things like satellite or telescope placement, refueling and repair.

            We are here as on a darkling plain Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,

            by badger on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 02:29:35 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  The idea would be that the Shuttle... (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              badger, Bronx59

              ...only docks with the ISS, and the lunar transport would be assembled there and boost out of Earth orbit after undocking. The Shuttle would operate entirely within its normal flight regime, but could bring parts and consumables up to the Space Station for the lunar transport. We lose that capability in the near-future.

              I've often wondered what it would take to have a commercial Shuttle fleet, even considering the age of the design. Consider how the Boeing B-52 soldiers on, long after its Cold War role had been eclipsed. I think too many people dismiss the Shuttle in its role as a NASA-run program, with too-small numbers to take the wear and tear of the missions, yet has a unique large-capacity capability that no other currently-available launch system can match without a lot of hacking. That's why I've personally felt it was a bad decision to take it out of service without any functional replacement being immediately available.

              But what do I know? I'm just a dumb old civil engineer in the traffic engineering business...

              Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

              by JeffW on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 03:40:21 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  We've let the ability to build new shuttles go (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          badger, JeffW

          ...and canceled the modest replacement program, without any assurance that the private-sector replacement programs will be funded.  

          The last engineers who've designed one of these things walks into retirement, and we're back in the Sputnik era in terms of space technology.  Only poorer.

          In the DKos debate of a center-left vs. center right country, my vote is for "profoundly conservative".

          by Bronx59 on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 04:51:36 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Re (0+ / 0-)

            without any assurance that the private-sector replacement programs will be funded.  

            Sorry, but that is wrong, IMHO.  We have assurance that they'll be funded, because companies are only going to get paid if they actually develop them.  

            •  Reality is nothing bigger than a chip plant... (0+ / 0-)

              (about $5 billion) ever gets developed or built in the U.S. without Government funding.  Sucks, but true.

              Private profit and socialized risk is the American Way.

              That's why the private sector isn't going to build nuclear power plants unless Congress comes up with teh money.

              In the DKos debate of a center-left vs. center right country, my vote is for "profoundly conservative".

              by Bronx59 on Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 05:31:25 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  You didn't read what I said (0+ / 0-)

                I said "companies are only going to get paid if they actually develop them"

                That means someone is paying them - who?  The federal government.  The issue is that the federal government ISN'T paying for all of it, nor is it the only customer.  

                And there is no reason that space has to be as expensive as it is currently practiced.  The vehicles being discussed are under a billion dollars each.  

                Space doesn't need to be expensive

                •  Private Markets will meet Satellite Launch Need (0+ / 0-)

                  They will also meet the new market for suborbital, possibly short orbital, flights for the very wealthy.

                  Are they going to do true exploration, as in to Mars, or to land unmanned probes onto extrasolar planets?  I can't imagine it.  

                  Just the idea of a decades-long lag from launch to landing (for an extrasolar prob) eliminates the possibility of private capital.  

                  In the DKos debate of a center-left vs. center right country, my vote is for "profoundly conservative".

                  by Bronx59 on Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 12:40:12 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Its not a question of either/or (0+ / 0-)

                    for example, lets take your example of flying probes to planets - right now, the launch of those satellites is on a private rocket.  

                    I fully grant they won't do anything and everything related to science exploration.  But we have to keep in mind there are places where commercialization makes sense, and where traditional government directed model makes sense.  You yourself pointed out - private markets are great for satellite launch.

                    For pure science stuff, that is likely & should remain in the realm of purely in the government.  But where there is potential for a private market (like taking people to orbit) why not let the private market provide to NASA.  

                    With regard to going to Mars - I fully agree, at this point, private industry isn't going to do it.  OTOH, why not have a NASA spacecraft, built in orbit, that utilizes a private industry taxi to deliver the astronauts to the craft (which is also utilized for taking wealthy tourists or private industry astronauts to orbit)?  

              •  Congress has to put some skin in the game (0+ / 0-)

                for nuclear power plants, or the builders will have no idea what kind of legislative dabbling they will face. That's what I always see as the main benefit of loan guarantees; that and the fact that any long-term infrastructure development should actually get some interest breaks to oppose the desperate short-termism that afflicts the financial sector at present.

                This is not a sig-line.

                by Joffan on Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 07:55:46 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

  •  They hate the environment b/c we like it (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    badger, huntergeo

    They fight the green economy because we push for it.
    They want dead coal miners and floods of toxic slag because we don't.
    They threw themselves behind the space program to beat the Soviets.

    Conservatism is the politics of spite.

    I'm hungry for some "giant vampire squid" sushi.

    by Visceral on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 01:29:39 PM PDT

  •  The problem is, today we couldn't put a man (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    on the moon.

    •  Not this instant (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Eternal Hope

      Otherwise, what would stop us if it were set as a goal and sufficiently funded?

      (Not that I think we should be doing it, but we continue to use and improve the same technologies developed in the Apollo program)

      We are here as on a darkling plain Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,

      by badger on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 02:04:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Heres one reason (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        badger, Eternal Hope, JeffW
        Obama cancels Moon return project
        "President Barack Obama has cancelled the American project designed to take humans back to the Moon.

        The Constellation programme envisaged new rockets and a new crewship called Orion to put astronauts on the lunar surface by 2020.

        But in his 2011 budget request issued on Monday, Mr Obama said the project was too costly, "behind schedule, and lacking in innovation".

        US space agency Nasa has already spent $9bn (£5.6bn) on the programme. "

        •  If we choose not to (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          it isn't going to happen, and if it doesn't get an Apollo-like focus, it'll take a longer time, but there isn't a fundamental technological reason why we couldn't do it again in a reasonable time period.

          It was pretty obvious during the campaign that Obama lacked both knowledge and interest in technology. There was a statement to the effect that we didn't have enough scientists and engineers to properly do NASA projects, which in itself is both naive and pretty scary if you think about it. Particularly to someone who grew up in the immediate post-Sputnik era.

          Whether we need to return to the moon or how isn't something I've given a lot of thought to, but in general there's both a lot of utility (communications, defense, resource mapping and other things) to maintaining an active space program and the obvious defense needs - everything from military to protection from near-earth object collisions - as well as just increasing our knowledge about things off the planet, which for centuries has driven knowledge of how to do things on the planet.

          We are here as on a darkling plain Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,

          by badger on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 02:25:16 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Well "we" chose not to. (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            badger, Seldom Seen, JeffW

            Bailing out incompetent and crook financial companies is the new moon mission. Our engineering prowess is going to go the way of our manufacturing if we don' change our focus. Our financial sector, government, and the way that we fund it are sucking the life of the country.

        •  Constellation was dead long before (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Obama canceled the program.  

          We have a much better chance at returning to the moon now

  •  Too bad we can't find a way... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    badger extract exccess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and use it to put a man on the moon. Now that would be something!

    Float like a manhole cover, sting like a sash weight! Clean Coal Is A Clinker!

    by JeffW on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 01:53:30 PM PDT

  •  You've Been Rescued (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    badger, huntergeo

    "What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them"

    by ItsJessMe on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 08:27:30 PM PDT

  •  The problem is (0+ / 0-)

    that more than half of the population of the US would state that there is NO MOON!

  •  To paraphrase Al Gore: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    if there were enough vested interests profiting off the idea of a flat earth, we'd be debating whether a man ever landed on the moon in the same fashion as we debate climate change science.

    Finally broke down, joined the twittering classes: RL_Miller

    by RLMiller on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 08:44:18 PM PDT

  •  Apollo is the wrong model (0+ / 0-)

    Everyone, particularly in the environmental community, cites it as the way to solve climate change.  

    The problem was that, while there is engineering related to both projects, there is A LOT of social engineering related to climate change, and almost none related to putting a person on the moon.  Yes tech had to be developed, but the tech could be any price, since we only had to put 1 person on the moon, to make it work.  Therefore, we didn't have to look at real mass production.  We never built more than 20 Saturn rockets.  Where as, we'll need millions of the required tech to answer climate change.  

    And make no mistake, getting people to change their habits isn't going to be an easy thing.  It'll probably be the hardest.  

    There is another model, though, that we need to be considering for climate change - World War 2.  That was a full National moblization, much MUCH larger than Apollo ever saw - literally everyone was involved in that.  And that is what we'll need to face climate change.  

    •  We'll need the earth to bitch-slap us around (0+ / 0-)

      before everyone's on board.

      It's not a campaign anymore, Mr. Obama.

      by huntergeo on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 09:20:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I think that misses the point (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Public support is necessary and I wouldn't sell Ike, JFK, LBJ or NASA short on what they did to gain public support for the space program in general and Apollo specifically. Some level of public support is required.

      But public support is also mutable. Thermodynamics isn't. If I had wanted to write about climate change and public support, I might have changed the diary title to "If we can put a black man in the White House, why can't we ...", because there's no question that the Obama team, and an entire industry and technology, knows how to develop public support.

      The similarity I see between Apollo and climate change is in the area of problem-solving, heuristics, whatever you want to call good, structured engineering.

      There's a classic 4-step procedure that's familiar to most technical people (I'd hope): Define the problem, develop solutions, select and implement a candidate solution, monitor results and iterate ad infinitum. It doesn't guarantee a solution - it's just the method that makes real solutions more probable. The alternative methods are luck, serendipity, or trial and error, and unfortunately error is fairly serious in this case. Those are the low-probability methodologies, along with doing nothing or not enough, which is where the focus on public support and political pragmatism is presently leading.

      There is no question that climate change is a problem in the scientific domain. Problems in that domain, regardless of politics, culture, behavioral changes or similar things, require rigorous engineered solutions.

      So going back to the first sentence, public support is necessary, but it's not sufficient. All the public support in the world won't remove a molecule of CO2 from the atmosphere. That's the domain of wishful thinking.

      Public support will be, and should be in a democracy, a constraint on possible solutions. But any solution has to first meet the scientific constraints - without that, public support is a waste of energy and political capital.

      So looking at Apollo, the very first thing JFK did in announcing the program was to set a clear, measurable goal (if you've read Presidential Power by Richard Neustadt, which JFK basically commissioned the writing of, you'll see Neustadt's principals in operation there too). That's step one of any rational problem-solving procedure.

      Then JFK turned the problem solution over to people who knew the other steps and let them do their work of actually solving the problem. In engineering terms, that procedure and adherence to it is the crowning achievement of the space program. Its biggest failures are engineering errors too (Apollo 1 and two space shuttles), but it still accomplished mission objectives on time. That's an incredibly important lesson and goal for dealing with climate.

      Because of the constraints of necessary and sufficient, the bottom line is not getting public support, it's developing the right solutions  and in that process paying attention to and developing procedures forgetting public support.

      We are here as on a darkling plain Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,

      by badger on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 10:16:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I am not talking about public support (0+ / 0-)

        I am talking about deployment of the solutions.  In otherwords, its not a matter of person X saying "I support protecting the planet," and then voting for it - its a matter of person X saying that, and then every moment of every day analyizing how they are living their life, and then making the appropriate changes.  

        When Apollo flew to the moon, not everyone was involved or active.  Compared to the number of people who watched Apollo, vs those actually involved, was a very small percentage.  Because the number of people actively involved in deployment was small, it could largely be addressed in a pure engineering manner.

        The same cannot be said for climate change.  Let me give a more concrete example.  I've seen arguments that if we could get a large segment of the population to be vegetarian, we would significantly reduce the amount of CO2 production.  Thats great.  The problem is that we then have a large segment of our population that no long have jobs - ranchers, fertilizer producers, to name a few.  We have to do something to provide new jobs for these people - and jobs are not quite as interchangeable as we'd like to believe.  

        This is why the Apollo model is wrong.  The deployment largely involved only engineers, so it wasn't a huge issue.  But the deployment of climate change solutions will involve pretty much everyone.  

        And the closest example we have where deployment involved not just engineers, but EVERYONE was World War 2.  

        Thats why the correct model isn't landing a man on the moon - its winning World War 2

        •  Again, the point is that (0+ / 0-)

          it's science and engineering that will solve this, and individual action, while both commendable and significant, won't.

          Coal is the biggest source of GHG. Individual conservation, like CFLs would be a big step, but someone still has to engineer and deploy a cost effective solution to replacing a lot of coal-fired generation.

          The same with automotive. I can drive less, but that won't make a lot of difference, and for nearly everyone there's some irreducible minimum of miles you have to drive. Should we create dense urban areas and abandon suburbs, or should we emphasize more fuel-efficient or non-fossil fuel transportation? Or both, and if both, what mix? Those are quantitative questions that require science and engineering to answer and deploy, and individual action - especially uninformed, which we nearly all are - won't cut it.

          Forest restoration is a lot more than planting trees, and we still need to meet forest resource needs. Where's the optimum?

          So no it's not a program with a single launch vehicle, single lander, a few highly trained astronauts and a bunch of geeks sitting in front of monitors. But that's not the take-away from Apollo. The take-away is that we defined problems, set goals, evaluated alternatives, made corrections and did most of it in science and engineering terms.

          WW II is another good analogy - we need that kind of national consensus and sense of urgency - but even WW II had clear goals and a hell of a lot of good science and engineering went into winning it. The engineering management skills that made Apollo possible - the "meta" of engineering, like QC, testing, scheduling, planning, optimization, decision-making,  etc - all came out of WW II also.

          We are here as on a darkling plain Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,

          by badger on Mon Apr 12, 2010 at 06:06:27 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  News flash! We can't put a man on the moon. n/t (0+ / 0-)

    Moderation in most things. Except Reactors. IFR forever!

    by billmosby on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 09:01:52 PM PDT

  •  Tipped & rec'ed for realistic dreaming. nt. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    It's not a campaign anymore, Mr. Obama.

    by huntergeo on Sun Apr 11, 2010 at 09:20:38 PM PDT

  •  whatta socialist.. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

    He wants to socialize the moon?

  •  Don't need to put a man on the moon (0+ / 0-)

    It can be done better and cheaper with robots and telepresence. There is really no need for a manned space program at all.

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