If you wanna go to deep space, as NASA does, you gotta have a lot of plutonium, which NASA dern't

Is Plutonium even an element anymore?


We gave women the right to vote in the 20’s and 4 decades later we had Vietnam.


I see what you did there.

@Immutable_Mike My grandfather had his own amusing take on the space program. People would say, “All that money for things we’re sending into space.” He’d reply, “Yes, but we’re spending it down here.”


Why stop at the space program, though? If we ended scientific research altogether, we could possibly solve all of humanity´s problems in one fell swoop.


Is there a reason we can’t take apart some of those nuclear weapons of ours we don’t need?

“Is there a reason we can’t take apart some of those nuclear weapons of ours we don’t need?”

Wrong kind of plutonium. Bombs use Pu239 or Pu241, which do not get very hot. Thermoelectric generators use Pu238, which gets hot but cannot go boom…


The lack of plutonium and the problems associated with it are why ESA’s working on RTG’s made from Americium. It’s a non-proliferation element, you can’t make it into bombs and you don’t need a bomb-making facility to produce it. In fact, we’ve plenty as waste.


Considering this statement

And the crunch got even worse in late 2013, when budget constraints led NASA to cancel a programme to develop a radioisotope power source that would have used one-quarter of the plutonium of conventional designs.

I wouldn’t hold out much hope for NASA being able to research its way out of this problem-- someone who doesn’t care holds the purse strings.


Yes, we haven’t been able to fix problems here on earth, and no, it’s not sensible to draw an equal sign between that and the little slice spent on exploration. That’s like parents who spend all their money on fast cars complaining about how the fee for their child’s tutoring is ruining them.

Edit: I also meant to re-post this. Somehow you rarely hear these kinds of complaints for all the other things people spend their time doing, it’s only understanding the universe that earns such contempt.


The problem with political dysfunction is that we’re just as likely to use that money to buy flying tanks for the Ferguson police as on measures to prevent police violence.


The “space exploration versus solving Earth’s problems” question is a false dichotomy. We absolutely NEED to continue exploring our solar system, if only to lay the groundwork for building permanent colony or two out there as a lifeboat for humanity, just in case we continue fucking up badly enough to kill ourselves off down here.


Plan A won’t work. Plan B is our only hope.


You see what happened there, right? You said a perfectly reasonable thing–no Pu238 = no Jupitor/Saturn/beyond missions–and then followed it up with a non-sequitur, that is to say: a conclusion that has nothing to do with the premise.

By “We” do you mean “all of humanity”? There is no “We”. There are the U.S. China, Russia, India and Europe individual space programs; look at the total amount spent by these political agencies and it’s a very small fraction of their total national budgets. Look at the colossal, combined military budgets and the total suffering caused as a direct result and you might revise your thinking to see space exploration as a productive and encouraging endeavour.


Do we have to use plutonium? Can’t we use something else? I don’t know, thorium, strontium? Anybody know why?

@shaddack has you covered up-thread :smile:

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This Daily Mash piece references the Philae landing rather than NASA’s projects, but it’s still worth QFT:

But Martin Bishop, from Stevenage, said: “It’s all about exploiting
space minerals and making trillions for huge corporations. Meanwhile,
there’s lots of bad things making people sad.”

Professor Brubaker added: “The comet landing is like throwing a
rugby ball across your garden while someone tries to drop a
parachute-wearing frog onto it from a helicopter.

“There is no version of morality in which that is not utterly fucking brilliant.

“Shut up, you dreary man.”


“And so what if all the robot tells us is that the comet is definitely a comet? The components would otherwise have been used to make a satellite to beam yet more television into your gawping face.”

Of course, part of the problem is that we’re not sure what a comet is, so “definitely a comet” in the absence of actual data is a bit like saying atoms contain both negative and positive particles, rather like a raisin pudding, and not elaborating further.


I keep hammering the like button but it will only give you one. I think its broken.

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Can I just check I understand you correctly? It looks like you are saying we have racism in Ferguson because of the Apollo program. Have I got you right?


And here I am at the start of 9 hour cool-down before I can :heart: your post, dangit!