A Simplistic And Misleading Comparison Of Commercial Space And Mountaineering

To Understand Low-Earth Orbit, Look to Mt. Everest

"Getting to low-Earth orbit is a lot like climbing Mt. Everest. It's not impossible, but it's difficult, expensive and risky. As experience grows, the difficulty of reaching the destination drops steadily, and the risk becomes more manageable."

"...the commercial era of Everest expedition rises with the ability of the general public to pay commercial outfitters to climb Everest at a fraction of the cost it took to climb in the 1920s."

"Ordinary people can pay commercial outfitters ot climb, making Mt. Everest more acceptable and less expensive to summit."

Keith's note: What a mess. For starters anyone who spent even a bare minimum amount of time researching this article and talking to actual climbers such as NASA astronaut Scott Parazynski, or read regular news from the Everest region might learn something than what was written.

In a nutshell they'd learn that the risk to climbers has increased as access has expanded due to crowding on the mountain; an increased number of under-skilled people putting themsleves and others at risk by trying to climb a mountain they are not capable of climbing; increased pollution at base camp and on the mountain which affects climbers and residents; and continued economic stresses on the residents of Nepal who are grossly underpaid for the risks that they take. Oh yes "ordinary people" cannot - and should not ever - be climbing a mountain like this - regardless of cost or affordability. But they do - in greater numbers - thus negating whatever point about risk reduction that the author is trying to make.

It is also rather weird that NASA would put an article online about Everest up and not mention the fact that a NASA astronaut scaled it, another NASA astronaut died trying to climb it, and that a piece of the summit of Everest has been on board the International Space Station for more than a decade.

FYI I spent a month living at Everest Base camp in 2009 supporting a person who summitted and witnessed injuries and deadly avalanches with my own eyes.

And also, FWIW I have spoken to a number of astronaut mountaineers and they will tell you that the risks involved in climbing a mountain like this are vastly more complex to deal with and the effort itself is equally more physically arduous than sitting in a rocket while it does all the work of taking you to and from space. If you are going to compare these things you need to actually compare them for what they are.

But this sort of sloppy writing seems to pass as acceptable at NASA PAO these days. If this article reflects the way NASA is actually planning its Moon and Mars exploration then there are going to be some big problems for the people who go there. To put badly written things like this online is deceptive, superficial, and not in the best interest of informing the public.

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on October 14, 2021 8:42 PM.

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