Yet More Anniversary Thoughts

Robert Zimmerman has a post, with which I mostly agree. But since I seem to be unable to comment there, I would add a couple corrections.

Gagarin’s launch vehicle had reached escape velocity and orbited the earth.

No, it reached orbital velocity. If it had reached escape velocity, it would never have come back. Escape velocity is about 1.4 (root of two, to be exact) times local circular velocity.

Another point (besides the fact that the two Bushes aren’t Junior and Senior).

In all these declarations, it was assumed that the space vehicles and rockets to get into space would be designed and operated by the federal government.

That actually was not the case for the Vision for Space Exploration. If you go back and read the Aldridge report, it recommends commercial (and international) participation, and doesn’t require or expect NASA to develop any launch systems. It only directs it to build a “Crew Exploration Vehicle” (what eventually became Orion). All of the contractors for the Concept Exploration & Refinement trade studies considered existing commercial launchers, or larger versions of them, for the lunar architecture. No one considered anything resembling what became Ares, because it was universally recognized that a Shuttle-derived system would be unaffordable (not to mention that it was always a nutty idea). It was only when Mike Griffin replaced Sean O’Keefe and fired Craig Steidle that a Marshall-developed rocket became the baseline. In fact, other than eliminating the goal of moon first, the new NASA plans (or, at least, the 2011 budget submission) resemble the original VSE much more than Mike Griffin’s Constellation did.

8 thoughts on “Yet More Anniversary Thoughts”

  1. The Senior/Junior objection is nitpicking.. If a father and son have the same name they are senior and junior, whether they self-select to call themselves such or not. Yes, the elder has an extra middle name, so what? Outside of geeky circles, “same” is defined as “close enough”. Get over it.

  2. In fact, I’ll go one step further than that. If we were talking about your father and you we might say “Simberg Sr and Simberg Jr” and no-one would bat an eyelid.. in fact, few people would even assume you have the same first name.

  3. If a father and son have the same name they are senior and junior, whether they self-select to call themselves such or not.

    But they don’t.

    As to self-selecting, I’m of the rather quaint opinion that people ought to be called what they wish to be called. If George H.W. Bush and his wife had wanted their eldest son to be “Junior” they would have given him both middle names. Had George W. Bush wished to be called “Junior” he would have adopted that nickname himself. Instead he got “W,” which he embraced. Did you think that was bestowed on him by his political enemies, Trent?

    On the other hand, I once had a friend who did have the exact same name as his father, but his parents chose instead to style him as “(Father’s Name) II.” But like W., my friend was content with it, and as far as I know still signs it on his checks and his tax returns.

  4. To change the subject back to the SLS, I saw one thing that might make this BFR not completely useless. Bigelow has released specifics on its proposed BA 2100. It would weigh about 70 metric tonnes with some of its necessary water on board. Check out the slides at

    This one module can hold 16 people and has twice the habitable volume of the ISS. I can think of all kinds of applications, and since it is pre-fabricated, it would cost much, much less than ISS. If it cost 1 billion, and the lanuch costs 1 billion, you are looking at 2 billion for a station twice as big as ISS. I don’t remember how much has been spent on ISS, but I am sure it is much more than this. NASA could afford to have its own space station without breaking the bank. Bigelow could have some sort of contract with NASA to launch their BA 2100s. I could see this actually providing a market for a heavy lift. Maybe SpaceX will design a rocket capable of carrying it and beat NASA to the punch

  5. Exactly. Trent, you just don’t know what you’re talking about. Junior, II, III, etc., are suffixes borne by people with the same name. Since you don’t seem to be clear, as McGehee alludes, II normally is not the same as Junior, because the latter is the son of the senior, and II isn’t.

    Words have meanings, unless you’re a nihilist. I’m a Junior. My son, who shares my middle name but not my first, isn’t a III. Based on your idiotic rules, it would be as valid to call him a III as it would have been to call GWB Junior–and, in fact, it is precisely as valid to do so–which is to say, not at all.

  6. NASA could afford to have its own space station without breaking the bank.

    How is spending billions to develop a launch vehicle that will only launch once a good idea? This idea might make sense if NASA had a need to launch scores of such stations, which it obviously doesn’t.

  7. Trent,

    the efforts of misinformed, deliberately or otherwise, people to change the meaning of words just because they don’t care to find out what the meanings are, or to honor them when they have those meanings given to them notwithstanding, words still mean things. Your refusal to use the proper meaning for the words in question doesn’t alter their meaning.

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