45 years ago today, Neil Armstrong stepped out of the lunar module Eagle and into forever.

It cost approximately $355,000,000 to make that happen, and that was just for Apollo 11. In today’s dollars, that would be approximately $5,850,000,000. That’s 5.85 billion with the “B.” And again, that’s just for Apollo 11. You have to figure in the total cost of all previous Apollo missions, the Gemini missions, the Mercury missions, all the satellite, dog, monkey missions, all the way back to the formation of NASA. Put simply, that’s not cheap.

Was it worth it? Absolutely. Should we do more of it? Unquestionably.

I admit to a certain pro-space bias. I grew up close to where Gus Grissom grew up. Star Trek was on my TV screen from a very young age. I suspect I am not alone here – we’ve all seen the majesty of the “Earthrise” picture and felt the power of the image of the Pale Blue Dot. And everyone knows how much I loved both versions of “Cosmos.” We need to go back to the Moon, and then we need to go beyond. We have a Rover on Mars right now – why not go walk alongside it for a spell?

Back to Apollo 11. We went to the Moon with less computing power than what is in a late-model Honda Accord. Think of how far beyond that we are today. Just, for a moment, consider the possibilities. We have the technology. Why not the will? We lost the will somewhere, and we all suffer for it. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is wrong on just about every single topic, but he is absolutely correct when he says we need to go back into space.

Had we kept up with the pace of transformative change and discovery maintained during the Apollo era, I propose that we would have colonists on the Moon right now and be looking at Mars colonies within the next decade, if not already. What wonders would we have in our everyday lives with that kind of technological, scientific, and humanistic brainpower pumping away?

For that matter, why not the will for further scientific exploration here at home? Why not the will for investigations of the human spirit in art, music, literature, history? What are we afraid of? Why do we fear knowledge and learning so much?

Every last one of you reading this comes from a species that has always looked somewhere – up, over, down, inward – and wondered “Why?” We need that wonder back.

We need it in our science. We can tackle the problems of climate change today. We can find new, renewable, clean sources of energy today. We can stop the pillaging of places like Alberta and Appalachia for coal, oil, and gas today. We can cure disease and end famine today.

We need it in our education. We can educate people to think critically today. We can uncover new ways of looking at our culture today. We can create powerful new works of art, music, theatre, literature today.

We need it in our diplomacy. We can put a stop to the petty striving that tears nations, cities, and families apart today.

We can do all this, and we can do all this today – if we have the will.

Do we?


Here’s an interesting story about credential inflation, and I believe it highlights a disturbing (but sadly not new) trend from the Socialism For Corporations, A Hobbesian Dystopia For The Rest Of Us brigades.

Back in the proverbial day, when we had tax rates on the highest earners even I think were too high but somehow had unprecedented economic growth, companies used to hire people right out of high school and then train them in the ways of the company. Sometimes, they would seek out graduates of vo-tech programs, then give them a few months training themselves – with pay – and put them out on the line.

Of course, that’s not the case now. Why? Easier to outsource to higher education, looks better to the big shareholders (bigger dividend, don’tcha know). Meanwhile, as a college professor, I deal with kids who are not prepared for college-level work (none recently, for the record) but who feel compelled to go because jobs that shouldn’t require the BA/BS now do.

Because the article featured the field of dental hygiene, I sent the link to a dear friend who is a dentist. Here is a quote from his reply:

As you are no doubt aware, in response to the rapid rise in healthcare costs, there is considerable shift from the physician or dentist down to lesser trained individuals, such as the nurse practitioner, etc.

I believe this goes right to the heart of the matter. Someone – and it certainly isn’t the faculty, I can tell you – is making money on this, and thus has a vested interest in keeping it this way. Until you solve that particular issue, I fear this will not change.

On an ancillary topic, I sure wish that aforementioned dentist would blog. His interests are wide-ranging and fascinating.


So we got some snow. 10 inches by my calculation.

Bigger than that, it got bitterly cold thereafter – the low last night was -15 Fahrenheit, and the current temperature as of 5:52pm CT, is -2. So all that snow isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Glad I shoveled yesterday before the bottom fell out.


Don’t know if you’ve heard (of course you’ve heard), but last night the human race (led by NASA and JPL) did something remarkable.

Not only that, but they timed it out to get a picture of it from an orbiting Mars satellite.

Chew on that for a second – they lobbed a marble from Chicago to, say, a very specific parking spot in Manhattan, and set a moving camera up to be exactly right there when it happened. To impress you even more, they did this having never been to Manhattan personally, and setting the timing on the camera sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas of the previous year. If that weren’t enough, they did it with less-advanced technology than, say, an iPhone 3G.

The human race is capable of some terrible, terrible things (we were reminded of that yesterday as well), but when we channel our energies and resources, we can transcend our limitations in astounding and awe-inspiring ways.


OK, it’s a flippant title for a disturbing post.

Via a friend, I see that Capitalism Über Alles is infecting dentistry now.

This is why we need universal single-payer health care. I want doctors, nurses and other health care professionals to make a good living, one that recognizes their talents, training/education and hard work. What I do not want is parasitic health insurance companies and private equity firms (like Mitt R-money’s Bain Capital) cannibalizing health care.

Since Towel Day is approaching (one week!), a Douglas Adams quote seems appropriate.

“You know they’ve reintroduced the death penalty for insurance company directors?”
“Really?” said Arthur. “No I didn’t. For what offence?”
Trillian frowned.
“What do you mean, offence?”
“I see.”


Following the suggestion of my friend Neil Laferty, I purchased Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier.


The book is a collection of speeches, interviews, essays, etc. on various aspects of space exploration: why we did it, why we should keep doing it, what problems we have doing it, and the like. It reads well – Tyson never uses science jargon as a way of keeping the hoi polloi at the gates, and even a non-scientist like me could understand the concepts. He looks at all the arguments with a sympathetic eye, while simultaneously maintaining a healthy scientific skepticism. This is no mean feat, and he nails it.

Make sure you read the appendices, which include the legislation creating NASA and other bits of space-related legislation as well as budget comparisons and data for space exploration.