Here is a personal anecdote, of something that happened three years ago, during the days of the referendum for the peace agreement in Colombia. It was the summer of 2016, and I was one of the millions of Colombians who were sure about the benefits of the deal that the government had reached with FARC for its demobilisation. I suppose that I will offend half of my readers when I admit that two years before I had already voted for the re-election of Juan Manuel Santos, precisely because at that time it seemed to me that it was best to let the process move forward. Calling the people to endorse the agreement was an absolute stupidity (something that I already wrote about in this blog before), but to me, voting in line with what the government had been working for four years was the most coherent thing to do. There was some light at the end of the tunnel.
The clock is ticking in a countdown for America to go back to the Moon. Back in March, Mr Pence announced that the current administration wanted to see humans again in our satellite by 2024. This announcement took everybody by surprise, as the most optimistic deadline for accomplishing this feat was 2028. Is this plan realistic? I personally don’t think it is, and I seriously doubt that NASA will be able to fulfil the promises of the Artemis program, the cleverly named project that will attempt to send a woman to the Moon for the first time.
It is entirely possible that other players get there in the 2020s, perhaps in the form of a private partnership, like the ones that have been suggested by some prominent billionaires, but it is improbable that it will be accomplished in the way envisioned by the Trump administration. To give a bit of context, I wrote in my previous entry the case of the failed Constellation program, which was born during the presidency of George W. Bush. In this entry, I want to draw some lessons from the most successful space program ever, the Apollo program, before going into the reasons behind my pessimism about Artemis.
The first of my Ten Predictions for Space Exploration in the 21st Century that I wrote last January was “All predictions will miss their deadlines”. My observation then was that a recurrent theme of space missions over the previous decades had been that of missing their objectives by years or even decades – the only noticeable exception being the Apollo program – and that one should be cautious about deadlines when thinking about space exploration. Now that the most ambitious deadline in 50 years has been set to the American space program, I am ready to doubling-down on my prediction: NASA won’t land humans in the Moon by 2024, as the agency recently promised.
When I wrote my previous entry, I thought that the criticisms to rationality that I heard in a Philosophy conference a few weeks ago were just some extreme views by some professors operating on the fringes of academia. But I was wrong. After spending some time learning more about this topic and discussing it with other people, I realized that such views are moving now to the mainstream, while the case in favor of rationality is being pushed to the side, falling out of fashion.
The title of the debate was more provocative than controversial, but the summary in the event’s brochure certainly made me raise my eyebrows:
The Right Way to Think
(Mary-Jane Rubenstein, Paul Boghossian, Alister McGrath)
Reason was traditionally seen as the Enlightenment’s greatest legacy and as the origin of our success. Yet reason is increasingly derided as just the rhetorical bluster of an educated elite, typically, powerful and male. Is rationality merely the prejudiced claim of those who are sure they are right? Were we mistaken to think that reason drives progress? Or is it an unassailable and essential tool for social harmony and future flourishing?
Reason, a rhetorical bluster? Of an educated elite? Merely a prejudiced claim? Was this some kind of a joke?
Last week, before the flames were extinguished in Notre Dame, the two opposing sides that usually arise around this type of news were marching through the world (real and virtual): those who lamented what happened, and those who lamented the ones who lamented what happened. I could not say exactly how big these two groups were, but from my remote corner of the internet, it would seem that for every two moaners, dismayed to see the Gothic icon now turned into a pyre, there was one critic of them, unease with the sudden outbreak of solidarity.
I don’t have hard numbers for backing the following statement, but definitely, I have enough anecdotal evidence for bringing it forward: Women travel more than men. For me, this was not a sudden realization but rather a gradual process of awakening over the years, after learning the stories of many women in my life that have decided to make traveling a serious purpose in their lives. First, it was a cousin, then a couple of friends, then a colleague, and then a girlfriend. One by one I would hear about their big and small adventures, either crossing the channel or crossing the world.