Saturday, May 19, 2018

Elon Musk's Latest Space Fantasy

Friends, I've written before about the American-Canadian-South African tech titan Elon Musk.  He has some great ideas, and he has some not-so-great ideas.  This article is about his "Starlink" project, which aims to provide global satellite-based broadband internet access.  Sounds nifty, right?  Perhaps not so nifty when you consider the technical challenges and expense -- and, I don't know about you, but I already have good internet access.  A few thousand more satellites floating in space won't change that.


  1. Dr. Waddy: Gads how amazing this is for me. I remember the day we heard Sputnik was aloft. That's the perspective perhaps all of my age have. Every dream proposed by the enablers of 1960 was realized; men went to the moon; probes went to the entire solar system; spacebound telescopes discovered extrasolar planets - believe me, a thing beyond fascination for us. Is Musk overreaching? Putting very many more satellites up there to advance a goal perhaps possible to realize with more modest effort is questionable to be sure. It was all relatively simple when it was all in the hands of government. Actually, government refusal to go beyond Earth orbit generated a very productive period of close Earth experience which yielded knowledge invaluable to the deep space missions now again close at hand. I hope Musk will concentrate on those.

  2. Yes, Musk's desire to jump-start our species' exploration and settlement of Mars is laudable. I adore the history of the space race, and it seems to me that today we are not realizing our potential in space, by a long shot. I believe Musk is so smitten with Starlink because he needs the revenue to go to Mars. I fear he will have to find another way.

  3. Dr. Waddy: I share your affection for the history of space exploration in our time. Both Russian and American; it was heroic, from the astronauts to those anonymous thousands who supported them and those promethean engineers (in their case I think hyperbole justified). I think and I say this only to provide some perspective, that those of us over, say 65, are the last people who will remember when the experience of space by man made objects (not to mention humans) was science fiction (well, the V-2s and their post war clones had touched space briefly). Check out the "Tomorrowland" episodes of Disney's weekly TV show in the late '50's. The sense of wonder we felt and we continue to feel at each advance is precious. The thought that in our lifetime communicative man made objects would exit the solar system would have amazed us. Imagine the loneliness of the Voyagers now. The chances of them being retrieved by another civilization are said to be small but what if its technology enables it to detect such objects in its "space". Perhaps Carl Sagan's message will be read. Lets hope that Stephen Hawkings' misgivings in that regard are not realized. Actually I think it possible that humankind itself will someday have the ability to find and retrieve the Voyagers as archaeological treasures. Except for medical progress, I think the Voyagers the premier engineering accomplishment of mankind. Some responsible scientists think it probable that we will receive signals from an alien civilization within the next 20 years. In thinking of the most remarkable things I've seen in my lifetime I'd pick the exploration of space first, medical advances second and the fall of Communism third.