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Lost in space

Survival depends on reaching the mother ship; and the critical items must be chosen for the trip. Your assignment is to rank in order of importance the intact equipment before embarking to find the mother ship with your crew.

The following items were not damaged during the landing: 1) Box of matches. 2) Food concentrate. 3) 50 feet of nylon rope. 4) Parachute silk. 5) Portable heating unit. 6) Two 45 caliber pistols. 7) One case of dehydrated Pet milk. 8) Two 100-pound tanks of oxygen. 9) A stellar map of the moon’s constellations. 10) Magnetic compass. 11) 5 gallons of water. 12) Life raft. 13) First aid kit containing injection needles. 14) Signal flares. 15) Solar-powered FM receiver-transmitter.

If you want to try this exercise, there are no tricks. However, you may find that consulting with a friend will bring surprisingly different results. Finally, explain your reasoning for each choice, but also remember that there are no right or wrong answers because no one has ever been stranded on the moon – everything is hypothetical. However, NASA asked five astronauts to come to a consensus on the priority of the items and those answers are listed at the end of the commentary.

Before I take this fanciful adventure further, I need to tell you that this commentary is not about a hypothetical space crew searching for a hypothetical mother ship. It’s about the disturbing comments that two of our congressional leaders made the last week.

Similar to being stranded on the moon, fighting a war against transnational terrorists is new to civilization, and measuring our progress is a thorny proposition. Yet two prominent members of the Congress waited until after the mid-term elections to criticize the administration for not protecting the American people and advising us that we are not winning.

What qualified these “leaders” to make that call? Where did they gain such knowledge about fighting transnational terrorists? Who did they consult with that gave them the incremental “terror fighting” benchmarks that we should look for?

Dissent is essential in our society, but I wish someone would tell me how it “promotes the general welfare” to make such inappropriate comments. These two senators, whose names begin with Tom and Hillary, have rather interesting histories regarding defense. Tom’s voting record on defense cuts and restricting the CIA are public record. Hillary is married to a man who was offered Osama bin Laden on three separate occasions from the Sudanese government but refused to have him extradited to the United States.

It’s obvious that these two senators know as much about benchmarking the war on terror as they do about surviving on the moon, and since neither has ever been attempted, their unseemly criticisms are in reality little more than hypothetical conjecture.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest I want to lighten things up, so for those of you who want to take a shot at matching your prioritizing skills with those of the astronauts, follow these steps:

1. Prioritize the 15 undamaged items listed.

2. Compare your No. 1 with the astronauts’ No. 1, then compare your No. 2 with the astronauts’ No. 2, and so on until you’ve compared all 15 choices.

3. Determine a number value of the differences between your choices vis-a-vis the astronauts. For example, if your No.1 is the life raft and the astronauts rated it No. 9, your difference is 8.

4. Once you’ve ascertained your number value for all 15 items, total your score.

Obviously a perfect score is zero, i.e., no deviation from the astronauts. The following are the consensus answers from the five American astronauts who participated:

1. The two 100-pound tanks of oxygen – no question about it.

2. The 5 gallons of water for obvious reasons.

3. The stellar map (with the moon’s constellations) because it will be needed for navigation.

4. Food concentrate – sooner or later you’re going to need some food.

5. The solar-powered FM receiver-transmitter – for communication.

6. The nylon rope for travel over rough terrain.

7. The first aid kit – the kit itself may be needed, but the needles are useless.

8. The parachute silk – could be needed for carrying things.

9. The life raft because it would have some value for shelter or carrying.

10. Signal flares would be useful, but only when close to the mother ship.

11. Two 45 caliber pistols – they may have some use in propulsion.

12. The case of Pet dehydrated milk – dehydrated milk needs water to work.

13. The portable heating unit has limited value because the lighted side of the moon is hot.

14. The magnetic compass isn’t much use because the moon’s magnetic field is different from the Earth’s.

15. The box of matches – no oxygen on the moon, so why would they need matches?

How did you do? If you had a high score, don’t worry about it. After all, you’re here on earth.

It’s those two senators who are really lost in space!

Butch Mazzuca of Singletree writes a weekly column for the Daily. He can be reached at bmazz@centurytel.net


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