Tuesday, July 6, 2021


Author Sim Kern is far more notable than I or this blog will ever be, and doesn't need my amplification, but I still wish to save a recent brilliant Twitter thread (rated PG-13) they wrote for posterity.1 The author of 2020's Depart, Depart! wrote about the billionaires jostling to get themselves into space, and why that aspect of the "space race," particularly in this precarious moment for Earth, is so very wrong:
"If any of you are under the impression that our billionaires might succeed in 'escaping' to space, while the world burns, let me put those fears to rest with what I know from being the spouse of a NASA flight controller. For a half-dozen people to exist up on the ISS, it takes a ground team of thousands of people, constantly problem-solving how to keep them alive. Their quality of life is bouncing around in a narrow tube with the same 5 people who can't really bathe for months. Every minute of their day is micromanaged so they can survive. They follow strict exercise regimens to keep their bones from turning to goo. They spend a ton of time studying systems and conducting repairs on equipment that's continually breaking because SPACE WANTS TO KILL YOU

"Their sleeping situation is akin to a floating coffin. Their pooping situation is a 20-something-step process in a port-o-potty where everything FLOATS and the door is a plastic curtain. The wifi cuts out at regular intervals. The food is NOT michelin starred, to say the least. The only reason they're alive up there at all is because multiple countries have thousands of brilliant, highly-trained engineers and doctors and astrophysicists and computer experts whose full-time job is keeping the astronauts alive and the ISS functioning. When something breaks, as it continually does, these teams SCRAMBLE to devise fixes and solutions. And these fixes, lemme tell ya, they are tedious. This year, working from home, I have seen the schematics and overheard bits of meetings, and oh my GOD is it tedious. And the spacewalks where they go out to repair these broken things? It takes dozens of hours of study to do each one. And then it's maybe four, six hours in a suit, with stiff, bulky gloves, all 'Drive bolt 7A into dock 31X' until their fingers are shaking with exhaustion. 

"So there's no future where Bezos and Branson are sipping champagne next to their space-pool on Low-Earth Maralago, ok? There's no way life in space could be remotely comfortable or preferable to life on earth in their lifetimes, or for many generations to come, or probably ever. The longest anyone's lived in space was Scott Kelly, who spent a year in space, got home, and immediately retired.2 He'd spent all his life preparing and training to be in space, and found it extremely physically and psychologically grueling to up there for just one year. So this billionaire 'space race' is nothing more than a dick-measuring contest between Musk, Bezos, and Branson. They are not investing billions to forward science or the bounds of human possibility. They are doing it to be the first rich guy to bounce around uselessly up there.

"And it's utterly despicable when you understand that they're funding it with the hoarded wealth of workers who are struggling just to exist. With ill-gotten money made from supply chains that enslave people and are destroying the future possibility of life on earth. But if it troubles you that they might SUCCEED, that those three assholes might ever spend more than a week in space and ENJOY it, let me put your mind at ease. Not in this lifetime. With all their billions, they have no power to make space a better place to be than earth. I don't know if they realize the futility, if they're AWARE that this whole space race is just a pissing contest to see who can get to zero-G fastest? Or if being a billionaire makes you so delusional that they really think they can buy a Mars colony in their lifetimes. IDK

"Join me in enjoying the fact that they won't find anything up there but a lot of time to sit with the gaping void inside them, which space certainly won't fill, while forcibly holding their asscheeks to a suctioning toilet seat, bc they're constipated as hell from astronaut food. The world is burning3, and our billionaires are the people MOST responsible, but at least there's no escape for them. They will live and die (alone, like all of us) on this beautiful, precious, one-in-a-gazillion planet. We should take our wealth back from them and use it better."


1. Kern's Twitter profile (on 7/6/2021): "Climate fiction writer, enviro journalist w/ @onebreathHOU lefty, Jewish, #FreePalestine, trans, they/them. Rep’d @litagentmariah Links: http://linktr.ee/SimKern"
2. For clarity, it should be noted that Scott Kelly has only lived in space the longest of any American on a single spaceflight (340.4 days). That ties him with Russia's Mikhail Kornienko for fourth on the list of the longest human spaceflights, as of this year. Three Russian or Soviet Union astronauts are ahead of Kelly and Kornienko on the list. Furthermore, Kelly is only 22nd on the list of the most cumulative time spent in space; Americans Peggy Whitson and Jeffrey Williams are ahead of him on that list.
3. I can confirm this. I live within sight of the smoke from the Telegraph Fire. And yesterday we drove past the harrowing Tiger Fire.

1 comment:

  1. As well as schadenfreude at their discomfort, the other pleasure to be derived from the Great Macho Competition is knowing they aren't spending money on things even more pointless and damaging for the rest of us.