Thursday, October 15, 2015

I'm tired of the fanboys...

I haven't written on any particular topic lately...not for lack of ideas; rather, I've been a bit busy. Life always seems to get in the way of the fun stuff...but so it goes if one is a responsible adult.

If you've been adventurous and read my first post, you know that I've been a fan of spaceflight for as long as I can remember. However, though that fandom has been long-serving, I'm embarrassed to admit that it hasn't always been at the forefront of my thoughts and actions. In fact, I only cursorily followed the Space Shuttle program as it wound to a close. Sure, I knew it was ending, and I was quite irritated about that (still am, to a degree)...but I didn't really know why, and I had no idea what was to come next...and my inner space nerd went into hibernation.

New Space...and the demise of NASA?
Occasionally, 'Space Nerd Curt' would awaken from his apathy-induced stupor when a particularly compelling space-related article would be posted online, or show up in my Twitter feed (you do follow me on Twitter, right? RIGHT?!? If not, go ahead and give me a follow - it won't hurt a bit: @Crow_T_Robot).

Periodically, something would pop up about some company called 'SpaceX'...the brainchild of a tech billionaire...and how they were going to change the face of spaceflight. Me: "Oh, look - some guy with a ton of money (and an ego to match) and time to kill is going to do something that only well-funded nation-states can accomplish. Yeah...right. Not. Gonna. Happen." Nevertheless, curiosity was piqued.

Then I would see a story discussing, with the Shuttle retired, NASA was basically dead. And I believed it. No, I didn't think NASA had closed its doors, but I truly felt it was an agency without a mission...a ship without a rudder...a "shining" example of a nation in decline. Some may argue that's exactly the case.

Re-awakening the Space Nerd
Much like the story of a bear waking from a long winter's slumber, 'Space Nerd Curt' began to stretch and yawn...and was looking for his fill of spaceflight info.

After letting my Twitter account languish over the years, and using my Facebook account for the inane fluff that most of us use it for, I started actively seeking out stories and articles about the current state of spaceflight. To that end, there was no shortage of sites purporting to have all of the space info one may need/want.

NASA was being directed to build a Saturn V-class (or bigger) launch vehicle, while several 'New Space' companies were beginning to make some headway in their respective fields. Was 'space' dead? Sure didn't seem like it. From all appearances, exciting times lay ahead.

Frenemies and the Decline of Space Journalism
Hey, you know what? SpaceX was actually able to put together a pretty decent launcher. Sure...they did it by leaning heavily on NASA's expertise...and didn't have to lay out a ton of their own capital for a ground-up R&D program...but no one can deny that they (eventually) made a good-ish rocket. It's amazing what one can do when they stand on the shoulders of a giant...and while SpaceX no doubt understands where they'd be without NASA's help, don't expect them to like it or often speak about it.

Though the grumblings were there prior to the first successful Falcon 9 flight, there was a growing choir of fanboys singing the praises - both real and fanciful - of SpaceX after that launch in . "NASA is old news!"..."SpaceX is the future of spaceflight - NASA is dead!"..."SpaceX will get people to Mars FIRST!"...et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. To the SpaceX partisans, it was only a matter of time before the first boots on Mars were delivered by a Falcon rocket.

Me, too, Jared...me, too.

Additionally, a disturbing trend seemed to be emerging - many people writing space news stories were no longer traditional journalists. They were industry pundits...op/ed writers...famous personalities...and even bloggers. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with those people writing their opinions - hell, I write about this stuff and I don't have 1/10th the inside info that these people have - but I'm just an opinionated bozo writing about something that interests me. However, these people/outlets are being presented as space journalists/journalism. It isn't, and they aren't. Journalists are supposed to write a story - presenting the facts - not take a side. Sadly, that no longer appears to the be case. They'll bash NASA all day long, but treat SpaceX with kid gloves.


This...this is the goal. OK, so it's track from a rover
on Mars, but you get the point.
What gives? Is there a quid pro quo? "Say something nice about us...or derogatory about NASA...and we'll *really* appreciate it." ::wink, wink:: Do I have proof? No, but I'm not a journalist...just a guy throwing out a supposition for consideration. I have no real 'dog' in this fight. If SpaceX succeeds where others have failed (or have yet to succeed), then great! More power to them. If NASA does the same, that's awesome! Blue Origin? Boeing? ULA? Ditto, ditto, ditto. If your goal is to get people off this planet and into space, quit your griping about the other guy. Does that mean you shouldn't care about budgetary issues on one side...or undelivered promises on the other? No...but the partisanship being shown by many space fans would make an SEC football fan feel at home. Sad.

What do you think?