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Opinion: On Baumgartner's Opinion of NASA

Austrian daredevil Felix Baumgartner. Photo Credit: REX

I woke up Saturday morning to coffee and Felix Baumgartner’s first interview since his 120,000 foot jump in the Telegraph. I was curious to read what he had to say. He’s become rather famous in the last two weeks, and with comments across Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ calling him the Neil Armstrong for the next generation, his words would likely resonate with a large, young, and impressionable audience. I was a little more than mildly disappointed, and slightly annoyed.

Baumgartner’s jump was a feat of science, engineering, and human determination. It was exciting and certainly got people interested in space. As Doug Messier points out at Parabolic Arc, “space enthusiasts made the quick leap of imagination to a whole new sport of space diving, with daredevils jumping to Earth from suborbital space and, ultimately, orbit.” With that background, I expected Baumgartner to emerge in the press as a champion for science, engineering, and the power of human spirit. Instead, he came out swinging at NASA and Richard Branson.

Even though the technology that enabled his high altitude jump was derived at least in part from NASA, Baumgartner thinks the agency is a waste of money. Specifically, the search for life on Mars. It seems Baumgartner fell to Earth with a similar realization Apollo astronauts had returning from the Moon: that the Earth is small and fragile, and we ought to take care of it. In Baumgartner’s case, saving the planet trumps learning about it by studying other worlds.

The Mars Science Laboratory rover Curiosity. Photo Credit: NASA

Where the red planet is concerned, Baumgartner made the comment that plans to send men to Mars are senseless. We know our Earth, we should work on taking care of it. What could we possibly learn from studying Mars? “I think we should perhaps spend all the money [which is] going to Mars to learn about Earth,” he said. “I mean, you cannot send people there because it is just too far away. That little knowledge we get from Mars I don’t think it does make sense.”

The main problem with this statement is that it isn’t really true. Mars isn’t too far away to send a manned mission. Wernher von Braun knew how to get men to Mars; he published a brilliantly detailed book about the mission in 1947. In the mid 1960s, NASA knew how to get men to Mars in a repurposed Apollo spacecraft. Distance isn’t the technical hurdle on a manned mission to Mars, landing something big and heavy like a manned spacecraft is. But that’s another story.

But it’s not just manned missions to Mars Baumgartner has a problem with, it’s any missions to Mars. He, like so many others, cited the cost Curiosity as an example of NASA’s senseless spending. Of the $2.5 billion price tag, Baumgartner said: “That is tax money. People should decide ‘are you willing to spend all this money to go to Mars?’” This is the classic argument that doesn’t take into account how money was spent on the Mars Science Laboratory mission. The $2.5 billion created over 4,000 jobs over nine years, and in total cost every tax paying American just $8 over nine years.

And he continued: “I think the average person on the ground would never spend that amount of money – they have to spend it on something that makes sense and this is definitely saving our planet.” NASA is in the planetary business, not just the space business. The agency has been studying our planet since its inception and continues to monitor the environmental factors like the ozone layer and ice caps that threaten the Earth’s stability.

NASA wasn’t Baumgartner’s only target. The daredevil didn’t react well when Sir Richard Branson wrote on his blog that he might sponsor a jump from 400,000 feet, perhaps out of one of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwos. “[I] haven’t had a challenge myself for a while,” Branson said. “Could be fun for Virgin to give Red Bull a run for their money.

As artist’s concept of Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo. Image Credit: Virgin Galactic

Baumgartner dismissed Branson’s comment and called it a joke. “It looks like he wants to use our positive momentum and gain publicity on his side and that is kind of lame,” he said, adding that the idea of jumping from 400,000 feet is completely insane. It’s a hard accusation to swallow from someone who jumped from the stratosphere in a pressure suit made of RedBull logos. Not to mention Branson is the king of publicity stunts. I would personally love to see Branson and Virgin Galactic take on Baumgartner and RedBull. If nothing else it would be a fun contest to watch.

But this is all my opinion, and everything Baumgartner said is his opinion. And he is, of course, free to say whatever he wants. But he’s become a celebrity.  As he told the Telegraph, “when I landed in JFK, New York City, a lot of people were waiting outside… It’s kind of scary[;] it’s kind of cool if you think about it. I have no privacy anymore. People waiting outside at 4 in the morning; it’s unbelievable.” Like it or not, his words weigh heavier now than they did before his jump, and that means he’s influencing a largely young audience.

It is, in my opinion, unfortunate that the man who expertly captured the world’s attention with a jump based on technology from a near-space altitude is a poor spokesman for the value of exploring space to better understand our planet and the important role NASA has long played in studying the Earth.

62 comments to Opinion: On Baumgartner’s Opinion of NASA

  • [...] This article originally appeared in AmericaSpace supplied by Amy [...]

  • Karol

    Amy, thank you so very much for your excellent “opinion” with which I wholeheartedly agree. As to bumgardeners opinion, I have heard more intelligent noises coming from my neighbor’s cat while it hacked up a fur-ball. I sincerely appreciate your manners, deportment, and restraint in not pouring your morning coffee over his pointy little head as he ruined what otherwise should have been a pleasant Saturday morning. I admire your honest and intellectual, yet withering, demolition of his unfounded, unsupported, ludicrous NASA bashing. I only hope that the restaurant provided sufficient napkins to mop up his drool. Your skillful rebuttal of the attack on our MSL was exceptionally well done. The 2.5 billion dollars was spent HERE, not on Mars, not only creating jobs, but giving America a much-needed something to cheer about. Please excuse me if I steal your “8 dollars over 9 years for every tax paying American” for the MSL, because I believe that most taxpayers would be willing to spend less than the cost of one can of soda pop per year on the exploration of Mars. Hey, I’d even be willing to throw in a bag of Doritos per year for a Europa lander! Just who does Bummer think has been at the forefront of research regarding Earth? What we have learned from the Solar Dynamics Observatory alone makes the entire NASA earth science budget worthwhile. The 0.47 cent of a penny NASA receives from the federal budget would fund the Department of Health and Human Services for 6 days. Duh, if we eliminate wasteful ol’ NASA we can end poverty with the additional 6 days . . . right. I, on the other hand, do not possess nearly your degree of civility to, tolerance of, anti-NASA howler monkeys (thanks Jim!). I would have said that in my “opinion”, the report that there was no brain damage due to lack of oxygen at very high altitude was incorrect. I would also say something uncalled for such as I would like to have Branson beat his record, and do so in a vehicle sporting a large loud and proud NASA logo. Unlike your measured and intellectual response Amy, I would also say that it is may opinion that “the Neil Armstrong for the next generation” is not fit to lick the ground where our beloved Neil Armstrong spat. Neil Armstrong, a true hero for the ages whose name will be spoken with respect and admiration a thousand years from now, loved NASA, what it accomplished, and what it promised for the future of space exploration. Neil Armstrong was NEVER a petty, small-minded, egotistical showboat, but was ALWAYS the epitome of the best and brightest that humanity could produce. Finally Amy, unlike your highly commendable restraint resulting from the disciple of an obviously logical, analytical thought process, I would say it is my opinion that were I to find myself in a situation of extreme thirst and given the choice to drink from a can of Red Bull or from the bucket used to mop the floor of a public restroom, I would not drink the Red Bull. But then, that’s just my opinion.

    • Ferris Valyn

      Why would Virgin put a NASA logo on their vehicle for such a stunt?

      • Karol

        If Virgin’s “stunt” would trump Baumgartner’s “stunt” it might be just to piss off Baumgartner who obviously holds NASA in such disdain as a “waste of money”. P.T. Barnum would love it!

  • G.L. Harris

    Baumgartner’s jump has already been done by Joe Kittinger way back in 1961. Joe, a US Air Force officer and ballooning expert, did it for science and engineering reasons: they had to know if a pilot, or astronaut could bail out at extremem altitudes. In contrast, Baumgartners jump was just a stunt, the equivalent of shooting a lady out of a circus cannon. What I find disheartening about Baumgartner’s generation is they do not understand that a brave man takes chances because he has to, but a fool just takes chances.

  • Jonathan M

    A wise man knows when to keep his mouth shut, an idiot knows how to open it and prove to everybody just how ignorant he really is. lol

  • Stuart Hurst

    I find it deeply ironic that the only conceivable engineering reason for Felix’s stunt (since it was clearly only for publicity) is that it might help future NASA astronauts in emergency situations.
    I suggest he donates all the money he spent on his waste-of-time stunt on saving the Earth, if he is so concerned.
    Otherwise I suggest he keeps his mouth shut, so that he is less likely to put his foot in it.

    St hart Hurst

  • Max Jones

    I was taken in by all the trappings. I watched his jump. I didn’t call it lame because it’d been done before… before he was born.

    Now, I am completely deflated by his truly uneducated remarks.

  • [...] got really irritated before 7 o’clock in the morning (far too early), then calmed down. My measured response to Baumgartner’s interview is over at AmericaSpace. Share this: This entry was posted in Manned Spaceflight, Planetary Science and tagged [...]

  • Mark

    -”Baumgartner thinks the agency is a waste of money”-

    If you read the article in The Telegraph, Baumgartner at no point says he thinks that NASA is a waste of money, only that spending Tax dollars exploring Mars is a waste of money.

    That’s an important distinction. He may have a lot of respect for all that NASA does in Earth orbit but not Mars.

    It is very wrong (morally and legally) to paraphrase a quote and put a very different meaning to somebody elses words and then criticise them about your inaccurate assumptions.

  • It’s fair to point out that if government, or NASA, decided to spend $2.5 billion on a different technological project, that would also create jobs, spin-offs etc.

  • Mark

    - “…he said. “I mean, you cannot send people there because it is just too far away. That little knowledge we get from Mars I don’t think it does make sense.”
    The main problem with this statement is that it isn’t really true. Mars isn’t too far away to send a manned mission.” -

    Felix is an Austrian therefore English isn’t is first language. Perhaps he meant that Mars is too far away to be ‘fiscally practical’ too send a Mars mission??

    We don’t know for sure because the Telegraph article is too brief and they don’t ask him to qualify his meaning.

    I believe the Telegraph article is more sensationalist than factual and just too brief to base a carefully considered opinion on.

    Perhaps you should try to interview him?

  • Paul Winkler

    You don’t need to know the exact words to understand the point of Baumgartner’s rant. “NO dollars to Mars, including Curiosity” And you don’t need a program to understand Teitel’s reply: “All space exploration is dollars invested on Earth, in Earth science, and Mars study is worthwhile for what we learn about planets, including Earth”
    Teitel’s right. Baumgartner’s wrong.
    Baumgartner is also stupid. He was the jumper, nothing more. He did what Kittinger told him. Anyone could have done it.
    Hopefully, a REAL man will beat the record next time: Branson or one of his employees.

  • Leonidas

    Seems like Baumgartner lost some brain cells on the way down…

    What a moron!

  • Wernher v. B.

    Boys, PLEASE stop bashing Baumgartner and try to understand: It makes no sense to explore Mars and simultaneously spoiling Earth.

    THAT’s what he wants to say and I agree!

    Let’s explore Mars, put men on it in the next 25 years – BUT: If you don’t start caring better for your home planet RIGHT NOW exploring space will be totally futile.

    Kind regards,

    Wernher ;-)

    • Leonidas

      Wernher,

      I wholeheartedly agree with your view. Exploring space and preserving Earth at the same time, is the only way to go. Our commitment to the preservation of Earth must be steadfast, all the while we’re exploring space!

      The whole ‘waste of dollars’ argument against space exploration is silly anyway. Stop space exploration for the shake of the Earth? It’s a false dichotomy! Why can’t we have both?

      The only thing is, Baumgartner didn’t say that. He was rather clear: no money for planetary exploration.

      So the bashing is widely justified! He should have known better.

      • Wernher v. B.

        Dear Leonidas, dear friends,

        the point is: Baumgartner himself IS a planetary explorer, he explored and experienced Earth’s stratosphere in a way never done by a human before, he broke the barrier of sound – not flying a plane or riding on a rocket, but just using his body, protected by some thin layers of material. He used no drogue chute for spin stabilization (Kittinger, a brave ”Stratonaut” too, used a drogue).

        Being very high, he felt very tiny looking down to Earth – then he jumped to ‘come home’ (his words).

        And: The environment from were he jumped back to earth was similar to the martian atmosphere – very thin, very cold, ‘very hostile’ (his words again). Minutes later he was back home on earth were no spacesuit was needed to survive. QUITE an experience…

        I really would feel very tiny, if I would bash a man who jumped “from Mars to Earth” just because he’s not sharing my opinion about Marsexploration, yes I surely would.

        Remember what astronauts say about Earth? Take a look at ‘Home Planet’, an epic illustrated book published by the Association of Space Explorers (ASE) with images of Earth taken from space and remarkable astronaut quotations.

        No astronaut will ever bash Baumgartner, not even one of them…

        Kind regards,

        Wernher

        • Leonidas

          Dear Wernher,

          I wasn’t critical towards Baumgartner’s magnificent feat. Of course he displayed death-defying courage and determination and he deserves nothing less than respect for what he did. I don’t consider myself an arrogant and petty person as to piss on what he accomplished.

          But I am critical towards his blatant narrow-mindedness and that doesn’t make me feel small.

          Still, his feat doesn’t make him a planetary explorer, nor did he jump ‘from Mars to Earth’. If we are to say that, we’re just substituting for the real thing.

          Sure the atmospheric conditions in the stratosphere are analogous to the atmosphere on the Martian surface. The same way Antartica’s bone-chilling temperatures are analogous to the temperatures on Mars. But that doesn’t make the Antartica scientists living there, planetary explorers or astronauts, the way an astronaut on Mars would really be, and I don’t think they consider themselves as such.

          And I don’t think any astronaut past or present, would ever consider the exploration of Mars or space in general, ‘a waste of money’.

          But if Baumgartner considers himself an explorer, then why is he critical of planetary exploration? Why did he make his jump in the first place? How many lives could have been saved for the money he wasted on his feat? How did his stratospheric jump value life on Earth and the planet? Following his line of reasoning, his accomplishement must have been such a waste!

          But if we view exploration as such, then there should be a very long list with the names of real explorers on it, past and present (the ones that really pushed the boundaries and explored, from Columbus to Magellan, to James Cook, to Shackleton, to Neil Armstrong), and the headline of that list should read ‘Wastes’.

          With kind regards,

          Leonidas

          • Wernher v. B.

            Dear Leonidas,

            just to answer your questions above:

            take a weather balloon, launch it, record the data – explore the atmosphere and you are – surprise – an explorer. Agree?

            Or:

            Go up in the stratosphere, than jump and try to break the sonic barrier staying alive, record and feel the forces of the supersonic air currents. You’re now a human atmospheric probe AND explorer – fascinating, isn’t it?

            You might not agree, but it reflects my humble opinion about Baumgartner’s jump.

            I know, some people are claiming that Kittinger’s jump was of scientific value but Baumgartner’s was not. But such claims have no basis in fact.

            Before Baumgartner we didn’t know what happens to a human body going supersonic. Now we know. And that”s not the only scientific result of this project, which fascinated the world. Astronauts called the experiment a scientific valuable success that opens a new view on high altitude emergency scenarios and even NASA congratulated on the successfull outcome.

            What happened? A parachuter and aeronaut performied outstandingly well. Isn’t that enough to call him and his team winners??

            Are winners only ‘real’ winners when they are interessted in Marsexploration?
            There a many people who are not interessted in space sciences at all, even academics, politicians, billionaires. Do you bash them because they have other opinions (if any at all..) on planetary exploration than you and I? No?

            Intolerance is the first step to violence and some of the comments on this page are fed by pure hate and enviousness. It’s a shame!

            Kind regards,

            Wernher

            • Leonidas

              Dear Wernher,

              I have to agree with many of the things you’re saying, but I think you missed the point.

              I never said that Baumgartner’s jump wasn’t scientific valuable. He was the first man to break the sound barrier with his own body after all. Of course this is scientifically and technically invaluable. His accomplishment has my sincere admiration. I was so thrilled and excited for all the reasons that you mention (until I read the article above…)

              And aviators and aeronauts ARE explorers in their respective fields when they’re breaking new grounds.

              Yet past a certain point, labels and definitions become tiresome and counterproductive.

              My only grudge with all this, is Baumgartner’s comments about planetary exploration, which I find them (at least) ill-advised and uneducated. Comments like these on the long run, help influence public opinions and policies on the subject.

              And forgive me for not having such big a patience with that. But I won’t get violent. I may get irritated and vocally disagree, but I won’t shot him.

              I don’t go around twisting other people’s arms if they don’t agree with me, and not everyone is excpected to be an advocate of planetary exploration or any other thing of interest. I’m perfectly fine with that. And certainly winners aren’t only the ones who jump on the Mars Express badwagon.

              Yet Baumgartner’s comments suggest that planetary exploration and all the brilliant people who spend their lives to conduct it and performing outstandingly well at that, aren’t part of the ‘winning team’. What happened? Are winners only ‘real’ winners when they jump from the stratosphere?

              See my point?

              With kind regards,

              Leonidas

              • Wernher v. B.

                Dear Leonidas,

                thank you for explaining your view in detail. Yes, I see your point.

                Let’s take a closer look at what Baumgartner said. He said that *perhaps* it might be better to use the money spent for exploring Mars for projects that expand our knowledge of Earth and which can help to protect our planet. *Perhaps* means, that he’s not quite sure about that, but he feels urgent need to put Earth in the focus of our scientic and financial efforts – because a big clock is ticking and we have to act NOW to protect Earth: Hundreds of millions of poor and hungry people, climate change, water scarcity, overpopulation, growing social disparity.. it’s a very explosive mixture of global problems.

                When Baumgartner thinks that studying Mars will not help us much to solve global problems, he probably is right. Why? Because scientist and astronauts already told us what we need to know to save Earth! The message is: There’s only one planet in our solar system, which is able to support human live: Earth.

                Of cause we can learn a lot about Mars, planets in general and the solar system by sending probes and rovers to other worlds. But will this help us to solve our world’s problems?

                What we need is a new kind of global politics – we won’t find that on Mars. Curiosity is a wonderful machine and I admire the engineers who built it and the scientist who use it to explore the red planet. Yes, they ARE winners and I assume Baumgartner would not disagree.

                But: Changing global politics fast enough to save Earth and us is MUCH more complicated than sending a rover to Mars.

                Baumgartner does not want to be an advocat of Mars exploration, he obviously thinks that Earth requires advocats more urgently.

                Yes, Mars is calling, but Earth is screaming in pain and there’s not much time left to act. Baumgartner’s spectacular jump was payed by a company. I think it was worth the money because now there’s a famous man who did something extraordinary and perhaps even can encourage young people not to surrender and to fight for their planet.

                Going to Mars only makes sense when we don’t loose Earth out of sight. But sending humans to the red planet isn’t as easy as A. Teitel tries to tell her readers The technological and physiological problems are tremendous. We can not rule out, that after the first and hopefully successfull mission there will be no second one in this century because of growing global problems.

                Baumgartner is right when he reminds space enthusiasts that Mars is very far away, perhaps even to far for a mankind that’s unable to solve it’s problems on earth.

                Best wishes for a good future and kind regards,

                Wernher

                • Leonidas

                  Dear Wernher,

                  I understand all these and the pressing urgency of taking care of Earth, and I’m 100% behind that!

                  But from my point of view, this is a false dichotomy: a viewpoint that says either this or that, either Earth or space. That’s a flawed line of reasoning IMHO. But this line of reasoning can be applied to Baumgartner’s achievement and any other achievement for that matter:

                  What possible good did his achievement do to solve all the serious social, environmental and economic problems the Earth faces? To feed and cloth the poor. To help solve climate change problems, water scarcity, overpopulation, growing social disparity? Why didn’t Baumgartner go after trying to solve these problems as best as he could and invested his time, effort and resources to sky-jumping from the stratosphere instead? To make his jump and then go around saying that other areas of space research are irrelevant to the problems Earth faces and *maybe* we shouldn’t persue them, besides being hypocritical, is also highly uneducated.

                  This type of thinking implies that space and planetary exploration is to blame for not solving these problems. That can’t be more further from the truth, and hides the REAL problems! Planetary exploration isn’t about neglecting Earth in the process.

                  I wrote a post on this thread earlier, concerning the ‘waste of resources’ argument against space exploration. I will re-post it here for your convenience just to point out why I find Baumgartner’s comments so wrong:

                  “The whole ‘waste-of-resources’ argument is so silly and hypocritical that it aches my mind.

                  1)The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan cost the US over $1 trillion for the past 10 years.

                  http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0933935.html

                  2)Only the costs for the military’s air-conditioning in Afghanistan are more than the average annual NASA budget.

                  http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.gr/2011/06/air-conditioning-afghanistan-troops.html

                  3)The IRS itself wastes countless of billions of dollars every year.

                  http://www.articlesbase.com/economics-articles/how-the-irs-wastes-billions-of-taxpayer-dollars-every-year-6161417.html

                  4)Americans themselves waste $165 billion(!) per year, on food being thrown away.

                  http://www.businessinsider.com/americans-waste-165-billion-in-food-per-year-ndrc-2012-8

                  5)Americans also spend countless of bilions on a variety of other things.

                  http://finance.yahoo.com/news/13-ways-americans-throw-away-money.html

                  Can anyone study all these numbers and then really claim that the money spent on space exploration is the reason behind poverty not being elliminated and the environment not getting fixed?”

                  That was my original post on the subject.

                  And how can Baumgartner’s jump can really help inspire young people not to surrender and to fight for their planet? Why didn’t he go to offer himself voluntarily to WWF or Doctors Without Borders in Africa (or any other place of need), who are the ones that really address these things?

                  In the end of the day, it all comes down to

                  a) how much do we actually spend ‘up there’ (0.47% of the total US federal spanding actually) and

                  b)do we think it’s worth it? If we say ‘No’, the same answer can be given just as easily to Baumgartner’s sky-jump and to any other pioneer and explorer who tries to achieve anything.

                  In 1492, Spain (and Europe in general), was riddled with similar problems. It didn’t face global warming, but it sure faced poverty and people not having something to feed their bellies and warm their bodys. Epidemics, wars, hunger and poverty were the norm back in the day. For all Columbus’s contemporaries knew, there were dragons at the edge of the world and his ship would slip over to oblivion if he tried to cross the Atlantic, the same way today’s ‘dragons’ in space exploration are radiation, long distances, and physiological problems (I don’t mean they’re fictional, but they aren’t that much of a show-stopper as we’de like to believe).

                  But all this didn’t stop Columbus from opening up new frontiers in the New World. If we say that Columbus should have stayed at home, then we should say that people today don’t deserve to enjoy the results and riches earned by Columbus’s trip and demand that everyone abandond the American continent and go live in the Sahara desert.

                  In my view, you can’t have focus on Earth and neglect space, the same way you can’t have focus on space and neglect Earth. Both are recipes for disaster. The key is having equal focus on both. And this focus isn’t the cause of all pain, as I tried to explain above.

                  With sincere regards,

                  Leonidas

                  • Wernher v. B.

                    Dear Leonidas,

                    Baumgartner didn’t blame planetary exploration for not solving the global problems. And of cause he knows that the US war machinery is much more expensive than what NASA spends for its space projects.

                    Yes, I agree with you that *it’s possible* to save our planet AND explore other planets to the same tiime.

                    But: What we are able to do is not exactly what we’re *actually* doing…

                    And that’s what Baumgartner wants to tell us. He doesn’t say, that stopping space exploration will save earth.

                    We are sending probes to Mars for many decades – and simultaneously the global problems piled up more and more. Not because of the probes, but because of bad global politics.

                    And therefore Baumgartner says: Ok, I needed this space suit for jumping from the stratosphere and now you think my next goal might be to be the first on Mars. No, my friends, I’m not very much interessted in the red planet. But if you want to hear my opinion about planets, here it is: What really counts is, wether we solve the problems we have on our home planet or not, but not how many probes we send to other planets.

                    It’s easy to say: Well, lets go to Mars and lets save our planet, especially if you’re the fastest ‘stratonaut’ of all times.

                    But it needs courage to point to the fact that obviously many of us are more interested in terraforming Mars than preserving Earth as a habitable planet.

                    I’ m a long time space exploration advocate – but Baumgartner is damned right!

                    With sincere regards,

                    Wernher v. B.

                    p. s. I don’t agree with you in some points but highly appreciate your dedicated argumentation.

                    • Leonidas

                      Dear Wernher,

                      I have to agree that global politics is the root cause of nearly all the problems being faced today. Wether you’re trying to fix things here on Earth, or embarking on planetary exploration, politics will come in the way and screw things up, as has always been the case.

                      Yet for global poltics to change, people must change. Politicians don’t get beamed onto precidencys and congresses out of thin air. Someone votes for them. And that someone is we, the people. If we want things to change for the better, then we must have an electorate that is informed, educated, able of critical thinking, dedicated and responsible. If things don’t change, it may be because people tend to cling onto the same old, worn out choices and views that don’t work anymore.

                      So, in essence, the politicians that get elected everytime, are just a reflection of people’s attitudes and opinions. If we want better global politics, that change must first come fom within. No president will save us because ‘he’s supposed to’. People will save themselves through their choices.

                      But all this is a complex and long issue, and we could be talking about it for weeks, and I would’t want to dwell into that.

                      I have to respectfully disagree with your views towards Baumgartner, yet I also appreciate your difference of opinion.

                      Well, it seems we’ve covered the whole thing ;)

                      As the saying goes: Live long and prospect! ;)

                      With kind regards,

                      Leonidas

  • It doesn’t matter how many “jobs” the $2.5B spent on Curiosity made. If anything, those jobs are a net loss to society. Those men and women could have been doing something productive with their time. Instead, some people had their money taken from them by force and used to produce something they don’t want. That’s worth remembering every time you demand government money for something which is important to you: people who disagree with you are being forced to pay for it.

    • About 50 solar systems is around 17 lightyears away. Surely some of them would have a habitable Earth-like planet.

      At this time in future, at this “free” planet, you could migrate to it and you would be able to test your political theory. To build a new society based on “you are not being forced to pay for something you don’t want”.

      B.T.W I think that the only way “I’am not being forced to pay for something I don’t want”, is to live alone, to be the only human at the new world.

  • Daniel L

    Waddington, no matter how much I twist, squeeze and contort my mental state, I just cannot get my mind around your utterly weird literary mini-production. It’s doubtful anyone other than yourself – even among Libertarian Newspacers – would regard the work done on MSL as being “unproductive” and “unwanted”. Of course, you, being an utterly ridiculous over-the-edge ideological extremist, clearly regard all taxation as “money taken by force”. Be off with you back to Rand’s website – although it seems even there you’ve been raising a few eyebrows as well, lately.

  • Daniel L

    Mr. Baumgartner is to Neil Armstrong and NASA, as Lady Gaga is to Mozart and Beethoven. Enough said.

    • Wernher v. B.

      Daniel,

      I think Neil wouldn’t agree with your opinion and he wouldn’t put men like Baumgartner and Kittinger on a level with Lady Gaga…

      Kind regards,

      Wernher

      • Daniel L

        If it’s true that Neil would not agree (although I’m not sure about that) – maybe that’s because he was modest and kind, and would probably look for the best in everything and everyone. By the way, I did not mention Kittinger – as Amy Teitel has previously explained, his jump had genuine scientific and historical significance.

        • Wernher v. B.

          Daniel,

          here’s what Amy Teitel, the author of the article above, really says about Baumgartner:

          “Baumgartner’s jump was a feat of science, engineering, and human determination.”

          That’s the weak point in your argumentation:
          Both jumps, Baumgartner’s and Kittinger’s, had historical significance. But just because you don’t like some of Baumgartner’s opinions you’re bashing him!? If you aren’t sure about Neil’s opinion on bashing heroes just ask Joe Kittinger…

          Kind regards,

          Wernher

          • Daniel L

            Oh so you now wish to argue about who wrote what, and when? In that case:
            http://amyshirateitel.com/2012/10/28/felix-baumgartner-unwitting-role-model/ “Two weeks ago, Austrian daredevil and skydiver Felix Baumgartner jumped 120,000 feet from a balloon. It was neat, but that’s about it. It was a stunt funded by RedBull.”
            and
            http://amyshirateitel.com/2012/10/16/redbulls-stratos-stunt/ “According to YouTube, eight million people watched Felix Baumgartner’s high altitude jump on Sunday morning. It was exciting and death-defying, but at the end of the day it was a just an elaborate publicity stunt that will likely see RedBull sales skyrocket this month.”
            By contrast, in an connection with Kittinger: http://news.discovery.com/space/thin-air-big-mystery-skydive-120925.html “Early research into pilot ejection at high altitudes was done under the US Air Force’s Project High Dive. Dropping human dummies from high altitudes showed scientists that a body tended to fall in a prone position but rolled around its vertical axis up to 465 times a minute — from the pilot’s point of view it would be like rolling really fast down a hill but without the hill. The kinds of g-forced the pilot would experience would almost certainly kill him, so the US Air Force needed to find a way of stabilizing a pilot’s fall from a high altitude bailout.”
            So much for the “weak point” in my argument – of course, I had already read these articles before posting previously.

            Finally, people are not “bashing” (your word) Baumgartner for simply having an opinion; they are only “bashing” him for using his celebrity status to promote and publicize his own opinion, which then unnecessarily damages the reputation of the Space program in the eyes of people who admire him. Please notice and understand the difference, and please let’s not debate quotes anymore. Thanks, and if you don’t mind I’d rather not continue this discussion with you.

            • Wernher v. B.

              Daniel,

              no problem, we can close the discussion, if you aren’t interessted in it any more.

              Thank you for citing from other articles written by A.Teitel. It’s obvious that she is a big fan of Kittinger.

              But it’s interessting that she contradicts herself openly when writing about Baumgartner (in the article above):

              “Baumgartner’s jump was a feat of science, engineering, and human determination”

              and in another article (cited in your reply) she writes:

              “It was neat, but that’s about it. It was a stunt funded by RedBull.”
              http://amyshirateitel.com/2012/10/28/felix-baumgartner-unwitting-role-model/

              There are some more remarkable claims in the Baumgartner articles written by A. Teitel which turn out to be doubtful or untrue and she even doesn’t mention, that Baumgartner was the first parachuter who broke the barrier of sound.

              She claims a lot of things just to belittle Baumgartner’s jump and cast a negative light on him. She argues that executable plans existed as early as 1947 how to make manned missions to Mars (simply untrue, these early proposals wouldn’t have done the job in reality and even today we are far from having spaceships that could do it), she argues that millions of people now think that space begins from where Baumgartner jumped (I know no one who didn’t know that he started in the upper atmosphere, not in space..) etc., etc.

              It’s quite a foul play using a mixture of facts, half-truths and false claims. But every well informed reader easily can see, what’s going on.

              Kind regards and best wishes,

              Wernher

  • Ben Evans

    If Mr Baumgartner believes that spending $2.5 billion on a mission to Mars is too expensive and pointless, what are his thoughts about the United States happily spending $115 billion per year on an ongoing mission in Afghanistan? To me, the latter is MORE pointless.

    • Leonidas

      Ben,

      The whole ‘waste-of-resources’ argument is so silly and hypocritical that it aches my mind.

      1)The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan cost the US over $1 trillion for the past 10 years.

      http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0933935.html

      2)Only the costs for the military’s air-conditioning in Afghanistan are more than the average annual NASA budget.

      http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.gr/2011/06/air-conditioning-afghanistan-troops.html

      3)The IRS itself wastes countless of billions of dollars every year.

      http://www.articlesbase.com/economics-articles/how-the-irs-wastes-billions-of-taxpayer-dollars-every-year-6161417.html

      4)Americans themselves waste $165 billion(!) per year, on food being thrown away.

      http://www.businessinsider.com/americans-waste-165-billion-in-food-per-year-ndrc-2012-8

      5)Americans also spend countless of bilions on a variety of other things.

      http://finance.yahoo.com/news/13-ways-americans-throw-away-money.html

      Can anyone study all these numbers and then really claim that the money spent on space exploration is the reason behind poverty not being elliminated and the environment not getting fixed?

      But, wait, I get it, the problem is all the money we’re wasting ‘up there’…

      • Karol

        WOW LEONIDES!! TERRIFIC REPLY! America would be very fortunate if we could entice you to immigrate from Greece and Ben Evans to immigrate from England! It never ceases to amaze me how such very intelligent individuals are far more dedicated to the American space program than are many “NASA is boring, what is Kim Kardashian doing” Americans. I am not ashamed to admit that I am an avid advocate for NASA, and I am sincerely grateful to those who have replied in support of a strong, vital, NASA with a clear vision and mission for exploration. Thank you Jason and AmericaSpace.org for providing this unique forum, and go get ‘em Amy!

        • Leonidas

          Dear Karol,

          Thank you very much for all your kind words. I really appreciate it! And I have to return the compliment, cause I’m in good company here!

          Time and again, If I was given a good chance to go to the US, I’d take it. But I don’t think it will come anytime soon.

          I try not to see things from a nationalistic viewpoint, but from a humanistic one (it’ not easy!) You know, the US has done many things in the past that I do not support, and others that find me fully opposed. But all countries have their pros and cons, that’s why I try no to get caught in the widespread (justified up to a certain point) ‘anti-americanism’. The ‘bad americans/good rest of the world’ view is as bad as any black & white viewpoint, and it’s a myopic one.

          As Neil de Grasse Tyson himself once said: “The space program is the jewel in the American crown”. The US has done wonderful things that transcend national boundaries and embrace all humanity, and I support that! Of all the countries on Earth, the US has the cultural qualities and potential to really excel in this field (if only Americans themseves realised it though).

          Anyway, I don’t want to get carried away. Thanks again!

          With kind regards,

          Leonidas

          • Leonidas

            P.S: Who is Kim Kardashian? (A serious question).

            • Karol

              Dear Leonidas, “Who is Kim Kardashian?” A very good question my friend, one which I will probably have very mixed success answering. “The Kardashians” are a unique creation of American pop culture. Like schistosomiasis which can only flourish in areas having freshwater snails, Kardashians can only survive in specific environments. Kardashians are pop culture icons who are zealously followed by the media because they seem to entertain, although they are not entertainers. They do not sing, dance, act, play music, tell jokes, write books, create works of art, or excel at athletics. They are not high fashion models, and they wouldn’t be considered beautiful. In essence, they are famous for . . . being famous. I know Leonidas, for someone from the wonderful country of Greece with its beautiful people, the proud and respected nation where the heart of the modern science that we hold so dear first started to beat in the chests of geniuses such as Archimedes, Aristarchus, Aristotle, Pythagoras, Ptolemy and Hipparchus, this must seem perplexing. Believe me Leonidas, it is. We contributors to AmericaSpace.org are blissfully steeped in orbital mechanics, hypergolic propellants, ablative materials, etc. We feel comfortable in the knowledge that ” x = ____ “. Exactly who, what, or why the Kardashians are may not be susceptible to a solution based on logic and reason. I would only hope that no one at NASA headquarters thinks that it might make for great publicity and “boost ratings” if we were to send them to the International Space Station. Such a pop culture pandering stunt could only serve to trivialize the serious work being done by NASA. Who would be next? Paris Hilton? Lindsay Lohan? Charlie Sheen? Best wishes always Leonidas, and thank you for your great posts!

              • Leonidas

                Dear Karol,

                To tell you the truth, when I heard of Kim Kardashian’s name I though ‘Kardashian like in Star Trek?’ Lol.

                I don’t want to seem like I’m copying your posts, but it never ceases to amaze me that the best respect and recognition towards ancient Greece comes from people outside of Greece.

                I was much saddened and angered to read the latest AmericaSpace article, about the Intrepid museum not giving proper respet and care to the Enterpise shuttle. Do you know what my first thoughts were? It reminded me back in 2007, when huge fires errupted near Olympia here in Greece, the place where the ancient Olympic games were held. This place is full of ancient classical shrines and places of the uttermost cultural and historical importance, surrounded by many arces of forests. When the fires errupted, they came a breath away from destroying the whole archeological site (not to mention the destruction of the forest that did take place). And the attitude seemed to be like ‘Oh, well, nevermind’.

                Not to mention examples of other archeological sites (like in ancient Korinth) that not only aren’t taken care of, but have become huge waste dumps for garbage.

                Ask the average person here, and they might not be able to tell you about the contributions of the ancient scientists and philosophers that you mention (but almost everyone would know about Julia, a top model-turned porn actress here).

                It’s really touching to find people outside of Greece, such as yourself, who can value such things!

                And yes, I dont know what to think about celebrities going to space. Celebrities have the potential of bringing spaceflight into the spotlight, but there’s always the danger of trivialising things in the process (which would really upset me). That reminds me of an article I read sometime ago, about the way that big Hollywod stars back in the day (like Merilyn Monroe), helped to boost commercial airline industry with their own airplane trips.

                Yet, I’m really excited with Sarah Brightman going to the ISS (and I like her music too!).

                My best regards to you also (and it’s always a pleasure to read your posts as well)!

                Leonidas

      • Daniel L

        Great links – thanks Leonidas

    • Karol

      Ben, I was going to mention the “air-conditioning in Afghanistan” point, but Leonides beat me to it! He’s a very articulate, intelligent AmericaSpace.org participant. Since I am here, I would like to say that I am THOROUGHLY ENJOYING your book, “Escaping the Bonds of Earth: The Fifties and the Sixties,” and am looking forward to reading the others in your series. I already have your Challenger and Columbia books, and will be “savoring” them soon. What a tidal wave of fascinating detail and facts presented in such an engrossing style. Your exceptionally well-written chronicle of space exploration of our era will no doubt be the “Bible” for space historians of the present as well as those who will be born hundreds of years from now. What an incredible gift to humanity Ben. You have my most sincere respect and highest esteem.

  • ronald stepp

    To people like trent waddington, you should stop using the internet completely and lobby to have it shut down. After all, it really serves no useful purpose and is taking away literally hundreds of thousands, if not millions of jobs from the newspaper industry, the post office, and god knows what other industries. Look at all the jobs it has moved to other countries. Stop the internet now and save allthe taxpayers money being wasted because taxes are NOT being collected from online commerce.

    /Sarcasm -off

  • Ronald Stepp

    It’s equally interesting to me that Baumgartner had no problem wasting the money that went into the jump. He should have followed his own advice and put that money toward something constructive instead of wasting it “up there.”

  • Borecrawler

    The problem I had with Baumgartner’s comments is based on the simple fact that he is clueless about what NASA has accomplished and what they do every day. I was impressed with his feat (as anyone should be) and thought of it as an interesting “Guiness Book of World Records” type of accomplishment-cool, but not really useful. Based on some of the posts here, I think that perhaps his jump has more scientific merit than I realized. This, however, makes his comments all the more misguided. Since NASA has played such a huge role in all of our accomplishments in space to-date, it seems that it would make sense for him to embrace NASA and the culture that made his jump even possible. His attack on NASA and the Mars program is akin to Tiger Woods winning the PGA championship and then turning around and telling everyone that organized golf is silly and should be abolished. Wake up, Baumgartner!

  • Heath

    Hey Felix, wanna skydive the Martian atmosphere? How does base jumping Valles Marineris sound?

  • Jeff Wright

    Understand that the dinos went extinct precisely because they didn’t have industry–because they didn’t have a space program. What good is environmentalism if everything is damned to extinction anyway by flood basalt volcanism or the sun going red giant? We are not going to solve our problems by unabomber thinkspeak or by cutting off our opposable thumbs.

    Nature itself would flunk EPA standards since we are all stellar nuclear waste and breath oxygen that protists polluted their planet with. Felix is just a fool adrenaline junkie, not a futurist

  • sean murphy

    I find it more than a little ironic that a person who posts under the name Wernher v. B. would write a comment that says “even today we don’t have the spaceships to do it” in reference to our ability to get to Mars. Wernher Von Braun was the very man who, among others, proposed such a mission. It’s technically true that we don’t have that capability now because we, the American public, in Lyndon B. Johnson’s words, pissed it away when we allowed our politicians to discontinue production of the Saturn V launch vehicle. But we certainly had it at the time of Apollo. And one thing to note about Curiosity that has been much overlooked in my opinion is the fact that the skycrane worked as designed by soft-landing the heaviest payload yet to the surface of Mars. Does anyone out there get what this means? I’m sure Amy does. With skycrane technology the final hurdle has been crossed. It is now possible not just to send a manned mission to Mars, but it is possible to land a manned vehicle there. So Mr. v. B. whoever you are, you cannot be more wrong in your assessment of our capability.

    Additionally, Mr. Baumgardner’s feat, while outwardly impressive, is not that big a deal. He is definitely no Neil Armstrong. He’s not even a Donn Eisele. I’d bet there are at least a thousand active skydivers out there who could have done what he did as well or better. I personally could name a dozen off the top of my head. In fact, almost any skydiver with more than a thousand jumps could probably have pulled it off. If it sounds like this skydiver is a little jealous, it’s because indeed I am. But that’s not a new feeling for me. One thing I noticed after 9 years in the sport and 1500 skydives is that it doesn’t take an incredible amount of skill to be a really good skydiver, just a decent amount, some motivation, and a lot of money. I am also in complete agreement with Amy S. Teitel in that Mr. Baumgardner’s comments show that he is just a stuntman, and ignorant, as most scientifically illiterate people are of the real benefits of planetary exploration in particular, and the space program in general.

    • Wernher v. B.

      No, sorry dear sean murphy for men it wasn’t possible to make the trip to the surface of Mars and back to Earth at the time of Apollo.

      Yes, the Saturn V was capable of sending a manned ship towards the red planet. But it’s a long journey and very little was known around that time about the effects of micro gravity on human bodies, how to counteract the loss of bone mass, what’s the best food for such a trip, how to protect the crew from radiation, etc.

      There was (and still is…) no reliable hardware for making a safe manned landing on Mars (sky cranes aren’t the right thing for manned missions!) and there was (and still is…) no safe way for leaving Mars’ surface and making the (even longer!) trip back to earth.

      Technically, sending a crew to Mars with a chance to return alive better than 90% will not be possible before 2030 or 2040. In the 1970 or 1980 the probability for a safe return was 0.0.

      Sincere regards,

      Wernher

      • sean murphy

        Wernher, you are correct in your assertion that the capability to make a trip to the surface of Mars was not present during Apollo. There were, however, plans for Mars and Venus flyby missions that were investigated during that time. The Nova booster was on the drawing board in the early 60′s but it’s construction was not pursued, as the direct ascent lunar mission profile was abandoned and the Saturn V was able to handle the requirements of the lunar orbit rendezvous method. But if the Nova were built, we could have sent a huge payload to Mars. The Skylab 4 mission proved that it was possible to deal with the physiological effects of a long term mission. But as the greatest rocket engineer the west ever had, I’m sure you knew all of that. (BTW, there are people who are going around saying you died of cancer in the 70′s)

        Sufficient radiation shielding is still an issue last I checked, so I stand corrected in that regard.

        I must ask, is the skycrane just not ideal for a manned landing or is there an upper limit to it’s weight handling capability? My conclusion (which I’ll admit could be in error) was that when it is perfected, uprated and further refined, it could land a vehicle with the capability to launch to orbit from a planet with 1/3 the gravity and 1/100 the atmospheric density of the Earth. If sky cranes aren’t the right thing, than what would be needed? I know the airbag thing isn’t the way to go. You, like many in the US these days, are only telling me what we can’t do.

  • Daniel L

    Thanks for this post – well said, especially coming from an experienced skydiver. Much appreciated.

  • Mark

    Sean Murphy – Baumgardner wasn’t trying to prove that he is the best skydiver in the world, nor does he think he is better or more important than Neil Armstrong. That is your biased assumption and not based on reality.

    Where does it say that Baumgardner thinks he is the best skydiver or that he thinks he is the new Neil Armstrong? The media has falsely portrayed him in that light and you and many others have fallen for it.

    Baumgardner has proved that he has the strength of conviction and the fortitude to make his dreams happen and that is the real inspiration of his record breaking event. How do you and your skydiver friends measure up in that department? Have you or will you better Baumgardner in that? Often the most important quality of an explorer is to just have the balls to get off his arse and do what others just moan and groan about.

    Some mountain climbers could say that Edmund Hillary wasn’t the best mountain climber in the world but what matters is that he had the balls to get off his arse and be the first to climb Everest, something few others were prepared to do at the time.

    Some Astronauts could just as easily bitch that what Neil Armstrong did was not so special either and that anybody with enough training cold have done it. Or that Armstrong wasn’t a leader in the same way that Baumgardner was. But that kind of belittling is just a smear campaign.

    Sadly you and Amy make the mistake of being duped by the media and putting words in Baumgardner’s mouth that have no basis in reality.

    You, Amy or I, have never met and talked with Baumgardner but Kittenger has and obviously he thought highly enough of him to support his attempt to break his own record. I think that says more about Baumgardner than any of these hollow criticisms.

  • Jason

    I find it amusing to hear a guy who spent multiple years wasting time on an energy drink publicity stunt, and many years before that doing other stunts, going on about wasteful spending. He says the ‘money should be focused here’ which, as Amy and many of the commenters pointed out, a large portion has. What has his stunts over the years contributed to the betterment of the planet? Just another idiot in the spotlight.

  • sean murphy

    Mark, I wasn’t commenting to Mr.Baumgardner, only to those who would compare him to Neil Armstrong. I also wanted to make it clear that his stunt in now way makes him an authority on the worth of planetary exploration or the space program. You make it sound as if he decided one day to get of his ass, buy a pressure suit and a balloon, and go for it. Like I said, all skydiving takes is a decent amount of skill, some motivation, and a lot of money. As one of my old instructors used to say, “skydiving is a matter of performing a few simple tasks in a very unusual environment.”

    You probably don’t know who Cheryl Stearns or Michael Fournier are, do you? They’ve been off their asses for a while, now. They’ve been after that record for years, even had both trained for it, but they didn’t have the backing. Cheryl Stearns has been an accuracy champion in the sport for many years and is also an airline captain. She may still have the record for most number of skydives by a woman. Sorry, but she has more respect from me than Mr. Baumgardner. And he does have my respect. Going drogueless at that altitude does take balls (or ovaries, if Cheryl had had her chance). And I also give him due credit for quickly stopping a 2.5 G spin when he reached an altitude where he was able to gain aerodynamic control. Most lay people can’t appreciate how much it sucks to be in a spin like that when you can’t stop it. But again, I personally know several skydivers who I thoroughly believe could also pull it off. I’ll admit it again, too. I’m jealous. Jealous as hell. I actually had been thinking about that record myself since I took an interest in vintage space exploration and modern sport rocketry. Give me the backing, a pressure suit and a rocket and I’d start training to beat it tomorrow. I might design some reactive hand controls first, though.

  • Mark

    “You probably don’t know who Cheryl Stearns or Michael Fournier are, do you?” – I certainly do know who they are. I also have done skydiving and followed with great interest anything related to Kittingers highest jump when I first read about it in the early 1980’s.

    Sean you said – “You make it sound as if he decided one day to get of his ass, buy a pressure suit and a balloon, and go for it”. Clearly that is a very limited and belittling assumption of what I said.

    Obviously Baumgardner and his team worked very hard over many years to make it happen and that is exactly my point. The triumph is not that Baumgardner is the best skydiver in the world but he had the fortitude and leadership to keep pursuing his goal and despite other people failing, he was able to convince Red Bull to fund it and find his way through all the many obstacles to pull it off. Others would have given up but he kept going.

    Sure there was a certain amount of luck involved, as there is with anything in life. Neil Armstrong had a lot of luck to supplement his skill when he landed on the moon too.

    You said – “I wasn’t commenting to Mr.Baumgardner, only to those who would compare him to Neil Armstrong”. Only the media is comparing him to Armstrong. But I could easily argue that Baumgardner is a better pioneer than Neil Armstrong because Baumgardner specifically chose his destiny and was intimately involved in making that goal happen, whereas Armstrong was just a NASA employee who was chosen by others to be the first to land on the moon. Let me be clear – I don’t argue that! Because it is pointless to compare apples to oranges and it devalues both Baumgardner and Armstrong. Both men are worthy of respect but just because Baumgardner’s comments about Mars exploration are not to everyones tastes, some have become very spiteful and are childishly discrediting everything he has done.

    • sean murphy

      Ah, there you have it. He was able to convince Red Bull to fund it. So I can rest my case in regard to the financial end of skydiving. His was a triumph of promotion. He did a very good job of testing a pressure suit, too.

      I know Felix Baumgardner never said he was the best skydiver in the world. I never said he did. All I am saying is that anyone who thinks he is because of the altitude from which he jumped is mistaken, because many could have done it. You could have done it yourself, if you trained properly. With enough money, a decent amount of skill, and the motivaton, I bet you could do it in two years.

      And again, his newly found celebrity status in no way, NO WAY, makes him an authority on the worth of the space program, whether I agree with his opinion or not. Unfortunately, for many people, it seems to.

      And okay, it’s the media who is comparing Baumgardner to Neil Armstrong. Then that is who my comments are meant to be directed to.

      You could argue that Baumgardner is a better pioneer than Neil Armstrong? Well, I guess better is a highly subjective term. You could argue that the sky is red, too. You’d have about an equal level of difficulty convincing people of that as you would in convincing people that Baumgardner is more of a pioneer than a man who flew the X-15 and made the first successful docking in space. I’ll agree that some luck was involved in his selection as commander of Apollo 11, and that many other astronauts were just as qualified. It’s been widely speculated that if Elliot See and Charlie Bassett hadn’t crashed their T-38 into the McDonnell building in St. Louis, the distinction of being first man to set foot on the moon likely would have fallen on Pete Conrad.

      I also must take issue with your reference to Neil Armstrong as just a NASA employee. You definitely cannot successfully argue that. Have you really read the history of our early space program? You could start by checking out Vintage Space. Every astronaut in the Apollo program was deeply and intimately involved in the design and construction of the CSM and LM spacecraft, or at least their assigned systems in those spacecraft. If not that, than they were involved in pressure suit design, as was the case with Michael Collins. They then were to brief the other astronauts on what they knew. The same is true for the Mercury and Gemini programs. And in the case of Neil Armstrong, he was very involved in the design of several systems on the X-15. Just a NASA employee? Absolute rubbish.

  • Mark

    Sean said – “You could argue that Baumgardner is a better pioneer than Neil Armstrong…”

    Sean you really must read peoples posts more carefully before you reply. I made a point of saying “Let me be clear – I don’t argue that! Because it is pointless…”

    Nobody says Baumgardner is an “authority on the worth of the space program”. Again, the media is just trying to sell stories they probably don’t believe he’s an authority either. Anything controversial will suck people in. If they word it correctly the readers will infer their own bias. The journalist asked Baumgardner a question and he simply answered it. The position of him being an authority or not is something you have made-up.

  • sean murphy

    I read your post. It was and is my opinion that the assertion that you could argue that point is nearly as absurd as the argument itself. Come on, you really didn’t expect to elicit any less visceral a reply, did you?

    You know, Mark, as I look back at our ad nauseum debate, I’m still not sure exactly what your initial point was when you responded to my first post. I never said that I thought Felix felt his record breaking skydive made him the best in the world. He was asked a question about the MSL mission, and responded with a very common answer that many people who know very little about the past and possible future benefits of planetary exploration might give. A lot of people are listening to him because they erroneously think that he went skydiving from space. I disagree with you here. I think many people out there do think he is an authority on the matter. I guess it might look like I just wanted to smear him, but I really wanted to help put his comments into proper context for any who might be interested in reading Amy’s response to them. I also said that as a skydiver I am jealous, but that I do respect him, and in particular how he executed the skydive.

    Many people might hear that Snoop Dogg (or Snoop Lion or whomever he is now) supports Barack Obama and says people should vote for him. I would be motivated to put comments like that from him into proper context, too, if I were in an online forum in which I felt it was relevant. And I’m not jealous of Snoop.

    But, okay, if you want, it’s the media’s fault for asking the questions, and I have been duped into making more of the answers than I should.