It is so official: Pluto is not a planet. Take that, you pluto-loving sons of bitches.
Funnily enough, in that op-ed Tom Kreider admits: “Even I was a little abashed last week when the International Astronomical Union tried to protect Plutoâ€™s status by proposing an absurdly broad definition of planethood that encompasses moons, asteroids and trans-Neptunian objects â€” in other words, pretty much any half-formed hunk of frozen crud that can pull itself together into a ball long enough to get photographed by the Hubble.” The defender of Pluto says it more eloquently than I how that other proposed definition, scientifically and aesthetically, isn’t worth a Vice President (which itself isn’t worth a warm bucket of spit).
And I’ll quote the op-ed again to illustrate why Pluto shouldn’t be a planet: “Pluto is idiosyncratic â€” neither a dull, domestic terrestrial planet nor a surly, vainglorious gas giant. Itâ€™s mostly ice. Itâ€™s smaller than our own Moon, and has an orbit so eccentric that it spends 20 years of its 248-year revolutionary period inside Neptuneâ€™s orbit. Itâ€™s tilted at a crazy 17-degree angle to the ecliptic, and its satellite, Charon, is so disproportionately large that itâ€™s been called a double planet.”
The anthropomorphization in the article was starting to piss me off, though. Come on! Pluto is a fucking chunk of ice in space! It doesn’t have feelings! It doesn’t care if we humans categorize it as a planet or not.
Here’s the new definition of planet for the more scientifically minded: “a celestial body that is in orbit around the sun, has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a … nearly round shape, and has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit.” Pluto will now be categorized as a “dwarf planet.”
Ooh yeah, I am gloating now. For a long time (compared to my relatively short life so far), I have said Pluto is not a planet. Vindication at last!
In case you haven’t heard, astronomers got together and decided to redefine planet. Basically, it’s now anything round that orbits a star. (You need enough mass/gravity to get to the point where the body is spherical.) This adds several new planets to the solar system. Pluto and Charon are now planets. Charon is not actually Pluto’s moon, despite what you’ve heard, since they both orbit a centerpoint. I’ve been more inclined to think that Pluto-Charon is a double-asteroid, not a planet. I mean, c’mon, its orbit is way titled compared to the other 8 planets. With this new definition, even Ceres is considered a planet.
It’s not that bad a definition, but I can’t help thinking that we would have 8 planets if people weren’t so wedded to Pluto. Wah-wah you have to shorten your mnemonic device because that stupid thing isn’t a planet. Now look what you’ve done. Pandora’s box is opened. We will have lots more planets to come and now you’ll never memorize all of them.
In fact, screw science. Planets should be more like continents. Our definition of continent doesn’t match the geologist’s definition. Why can’t a planet be something more attuned to the layman?
I’m liking this new possible commercial presence in space. It’s very… American. So, China sent a man into space, but this, this is even better. An American sent up, non-fully-government-funded. Maybe NASA won’t win the next space race, but someone else will.
However, the weaponization of space still possibly looms. Could a private company develop weapons in space, effectively holding the world hostage, challenging US supremacy? That would certainly be a scary scenario. It’s a long shot, but it could happen.
Also, earlier, I mentioned the space elevator. The space elevator would send up things into space for less of a price per payload than rockets. Whoever builds it first, will rule space. That could still be China. Even so, that doesn’t rule out a commercial presence in space: Once you get stuff up into space, you still need to transport it elsewhere.
It’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out. I’m predicting space tourism first.
Go to SaveTheHubble.org and sign the petition.
This New York Times article makes a case for a one-way mission to Mars (registration required). It’s a brilliant way to cut the costs of an initial Mars mission. Despite that they’d never see Earth again, there would still be no shortage of volunteers for such a mission. The article also makes the point that they wouldn’t die right away. So, you drop them off. Eventually, you’ll drop off more, and you’ll have a colony built piece by piece. Making one-way trips is the most practical option for human Mars exploration and colonization.
From Yahoo! News, here’s a report on how the Hubble Space Telescope will meet an early death.
This is the part I consider the worst: “A Hubble mission would have required launching one shuttle and having a second on standby, ready to launch if a rescue was needed, said NASA spokesman Al Feinberg. ‘Tying up two shuttles that way wouldn’t work with the construction schedule for the international space station,’ he said.” So, I ask: What has the International Space Station done so far, compared to the Hubble Space Telescope? Let’s compare the ratios of money to actual scientific output. I’m not saying the ISS is a money-sucking waste, but I just don’t know what it has done for us, so far.
… I need to find more details about the next telescope.
How does everyone feel? Someone please comment. Myself, I’m scared. Very scared. With this act, I truly see the US as a nation in decline, and China as a nation on the rise. Where man goes, weapons soon follow. It’s true that the US and USSR did not fight a war with space weaponry, but I cannot help but wonder about the future of the control over space.
Tomorrow: Not about control in space, but just about control
We (the US) can be veritably fucked over if China starts to build weapons in space. Without all our satellites and stuff, it becomes infinitely easier to defeat the US in battle.
Yet, a high profile building of arms in space will undoubtably cause China to build weapons for their defense. Such is the problem of being number one and dealing with those who aren’t.
Perhaps we could build weapons secretly. Thus, if the US were to be attacked, an instant counter-attack could be mounted. This would completely surprise the enemy and result in… for lack of better words… total ownage. Maybe… But then what do we do afterwards?
Not too long ago, I mentioned how it looked like the US would lose the next space race. Maybe, there’s still a chance. NASA sure looks bad, but maybe the military doesn’t. I found this news article on GlobalSecurity.org.
My opinion is that we should aggressively pursue weaponizing space because if the US doesn’t, somebody else will. And if somebody else does, the US is… well, fucked. So, I see a few different possible futures. One: Chinese exploration of space, but US capability to blast it to smithereens. Two: Complete Chinese dominance of space, and hence, on land. Three: Both the US and China with weapons in space, but probably the US with an advantage. There are other possibilities, but none of them very likely.
I’ll be going back to commenting on TV tomorrow.
I know I said I was going to talk about TV, but I’ve got a different subject for today.
Unless something drastic happens, we (Americans, I mean) have already lost the next space race. No huge technological leaps have happened. There have been no trips to the moon in years. No human has ever set foot on Mars. The ISS is just sucking up money. The space shuttle is grounded. Like it or not, NASA is not flourishing right now.
Yet, I said there would be a space race; who is supposed to be our competition? Well, before you know it, the Chinese will have sent manned flights into space. While our program is stagnating, theirs is just beginning.
Don’t believe me? You wait: Years from now, it’ll make headlines. With the short attention span the American public has, it’ll die down quickly and no huge changes will be made in NASA. Call me a cynic, but just wait and see.
Since we won’t kick into gear as we did against the Soviets, eventually, the Chinese will surpass our capabilities in space. They will have colonies on the moon, set foot on Mars.
I wish it could be the USA, but I don’t see it happening. I just don’t.