Thursday, July 25, 2013

Forget the Budget Deficit – NASA is Spending Money to See if the Star Trek Warp Drive is Possible

Your Tax Dollars at Work

For reasons totally beyond the understanding of this Forum or anyone else, NASA seems to lead a golden life.  The agency is apparently free to do with its money whatever it wants, regardless of whether or not the expenditure benefits anyone.  Now they are trying to prove that faster than light travel is possible, not practical, just possible.

NASA - Now wasting money at the speed of light and
trying to figure out how to waste money at greater than the speed of light.
Harold G. White, a physicist and advanced propulsion engineer at NASA, beckoned toward a table full of equipment there on a recent afternoon: a laser, a camera, some small mirrors, a ring made of ceramic capacitors and a few other objects.

He and other NASA engineers have been designing and redesigning these instruments, with the goal of using them to slightly warp the trajectory of a photon, changing the distance it travels in a certain area, and then observing the change with a device called an interferometer. So sensitive is their measuring equipment that it was picking up myriad earthly vibrations, including people walking nearby. So they recently moved into this lab, which floats atop a system of underground pneumatic piers, freeing it from seismic disturbances.

The team is trying to determine whether faster-than-light travel — warp drive — might someday be possible.

Warp drive. Like on “Star Trek.”

Now of course NASA will say that they are spending very little money here.

For NASA, Dr. White’s warp speed experiments represent a rounding error in its budget, with about $50,000 spent on equipment in an agency that spends nearly $18 billion annually. 

But hold on, there is also this.

But it has made internal resources available for the project and freed up other engineers to assist Dr. White. It has also restored the pneumatic system in the laboratory Dr. White is using, to allow it to float. The lab was once used to test equipment for Apollo missions and has control panels underneath it that look like they belong in a fallout shelter that time forgot.

So altogether probably a million or two is being spent wasted here.  But why? And how does NASA get away with it?  The answer to the second question, NASA is based in Texas and the conservatives who would normally try to strike down wasteful spending like this control Texas.  So an attack on NASA is an attack on conservatives.  As to the answer to the first question, like space itself the answer is unknown. 

As for NASA, we didn't ask them but if we had we think their justificatin would have been something like this.

"If the United States does not develop Warp speed engines than we will lose the battle for the galaxy to the Klingons, and the entire American way of life will be threatened.  Our civilization depends upon us beating the Klignons and other outer space species.  Although there is no evidence to support it, we think the entire advanced civilization on Mars perished because they didn't advance towards faster than light travel.  Do we really want to be like the Martians?"

Yep, that's probably what they would say.

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