April 01, 2013

Barenaked Ladies in space


The International Space Station is the best waste of money any bunch of governments (the U.S., Russia, Japan, Canada and the European Space Agency) has ever come up with. And perhaps the most harmless accomplishment of international diplomacy in history.

Though the challenge of safely deorbiting all 500 tons of the ISS when it reaches its end-of-mission may put that achievement in jeopardy.

In the meantime, the ISS keeps armies of bureaucrats busy not bothering the rest of us. Now, you could argue that our best and brightest should be focusing their attention on more pressing problems than circling the globe 250 miles above the Earth every 90 minutes.

Except that when it comes to politics, as William F. Buckley famously observed about whom he'd actually prefer to be governed by, putting the best and brightest in charge tends to just makes things worse in more ingenious and complicated ways.

Paradoxically, the utter uselessness of the ISS turns out to be its greatest strength. Government agencies around the world continue to pump gobs of money into the thing with barely the glimmer of a political agenda in sight. It's the biggest vanity project in history.

Well, except for not allowing China into the clubhouse (dumb). And Russia's very successful agenda is siphoning off gobs of money from the U.S. Treasury in exchange for ferrying human beings up there.

But the true (and mostly hidden) cost of the ISS is all the real science NASA has cannibalized for decades to keep this roadshow going. Now and then, though, the ISS folks dream up a new and interesting way to extravagantly waste money that just make you say, "Awww."

So, yeah, I know. This is going to sound like a joke. But it's not! It not only sounds pretty good but is quite real: ISS Commander Chris Hadfield does a duet-from-outer-space with Canadian alternative rock band Barenaked Ladies.

Hadfield is one of those Jacks-of-all-trades who's a master of all of them. Good grief, he just doesn't sing, he sings well. He plays in a band when he's not doing the astronaut thing. He's great on TV. And his Twitter feed is definitely worth following. Thanks, Canada!

I do have to wonder how they overcame the half-second latency in the relay to the TDRS satellites in geosynchronous orbit and down to the terrestrial links. My theory is that Hafield played to a local recording, which was then used as the beat track in the studio.

Then they remixed the whole thing in post. At any rate, as I said, it's a nice song. And it only cost $150 billion dollars to make!

Labels: , , ,

Comments: