I didn’t expect the book to be available for purchase at Amazon for another couple weeks. This is the first thing in this project that happened ahead of schedule.
Working on e-versions now.
JFK just wasn’t that into you.
My space-related thoughts on the anniversary of the assassination, over at USA Today.
I’m seeing on my Twitter timeline that he has died. If so, John Glenn is the only Mercury 7 astronaut left.
Per Jerry Pournelle (who unfortunately couldn’t attend this past weekend, for reasons he explains).
Note: “Dr. Gould from North American” was my boss at the time.
As you can see from the sidebar on the left, this weekend is the twentieth anniversary of the first DC-X flight. I was there at the time, so it will be like old home week. I’ll be on the road most of the day (flying to Tucson, and then driving to Truth or Consequences) so blogging will be light if at all (via phone), until this afternoon or evening.
Both Bill Gaubatz and Henry Vanderbilt remind me via email of this upcoming event in a week and a half. Look like a lot of interesting speakers and discussion.
This looks like a pretty clear-cut claim of sovereignty to me, and thus in violation of the Outer Space Treaty. Protecting the Apollo sites is a problem, but I don’t think that this is the solution. Unless, of course, we want to withdraw, which I certainly wouldn’t complain about.
Anyone know if there was a back-up for Galileo, and if it’s still in existence?
Did she really get a letter saying “no girls allowed”?
There’s no evidence of it, other than her repetition of the story (which doesn’t hold much weight with me, considering the source). As Jim Oberg points out, she certainly could have been part of the first class in 1978 that admitted women, had she applied herself. But her degrees were in political science and law, which certainly weren’t indicative of someone who desired a career in spaceflight. I wouldn’t be shocked to learn that she couldn’t handle technical subjects, or math.
Ed Driscoll has what looks like an interesting post on the space colonization movement, but unfortunately, I don’t seem to be able to link to it. The URL looks fine, but it redirects back to http://pjmedia.com/eddriscoll/. Is it just me? Can anyone else see it?
[Update a while later]
OK, just got a new URL from Ed, that works. I haven’t actually read the whole thing yet, because I couldn’t see the second page, but I may have more commentary after I do.
Amy Shira Teitel writes that Apollo 8 was not done for the purpose of inspiration, though that was a huge side effect.
Here’s what I wrote in the book:
…despite all of the precautions, NASA did demonstrate its willingness to risk the lives of its astronauts, when in a daring mission, it won the space race in December of 1968 with the Apollo 8 mission around the moon. What was daring about it?
The previous April, there had been a partial disaster during an early test of the new Saturn V rocket, whose express purpose was to send astronauts to the moon. It suffered from the same “pogo” problems that had earlier afflicted the Titan, almost shaking the vehicle apart during ascent, with some structural failure in the first stage. Two of the second-stage’s five engines failed, and the single third-stage engine failed to reignite in orbit. Von Braun’s team went to work to sort out the problems, and a few months later, after some ground tests, declared it ready to fly again. NASA was under some pressure because there were rumors that the Soviets were going to send some cosmonauts to circumnavigate the moon with the Zond spacecraft by the end of the year (they had already sent some animals on such a trip).
While it wouldn’t have been a loss of the space race, the goal of which was to land on the moon, and not just fly around it, being beaten to that next first would have been another blow to the national psyche after Sputnik and Gagarin, and the first space walk. The lunar module wasn’t ready yet, and not expected to be until the spring of 1969, so NASA decided to scrap their plan of doing an earth-orbit rehearsal, and instead decided to go for the moon on the very next flight of the Saturn V, and without another unmanned test flight despite the problems on the previous flight. They were willing to throw the dice, and the astronauts (Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and Bill Anders) were willing to risk their lives, because it was important. The whole purpose of the program was to demonstrate that our system was superior to the Soviets, and to be afraid to fly would have rendered it pointless. It is hard to imagine today’s NASA taking such a risk with its astronauts’ lives, because nothing NASA is doing today is perceived as being sufficiently important.
[Cross posted at Safe Is Not An Option]
I have a book teaser over at the Safe Is Not An Option blog.
That’s how long ago was the beginning of the end for the Shuttle, not even five years after it first flew. Eleven years ago, I recalled the event:
I was sitting in a meeting at the Rockwell Space Transportation Systems Division in Downey, California. It was a status review meeting for a contract on which I was working, called the Space Transportation Architecture Study. It was a joint NASA/USAF contract, and its ostensible purpose was to determine what kind of new launch systems should replace or complement the Space Shuttle. Its real purpose was to try to get the Air Force and NASA Marshall to learn how to play together nicely and stop squabbling over turf and vehicle designs (it failed).
It was a large meeting, with many people in attendance from El Segundo and Colorado Springs (Air Force) and Houston, Huntsville and the Cape (NASA) as well as many Rockwell attendees.
As I sat there, waiting for the meeting to begin, one of my colleagues came running into the room, his face white as a freshly-bleached bedsheet. He leaned over and told me and others, in an insistent sotto voce, “I just saw the Challenger blow up.”
We stared at him in momentary disbelief.
“I’m serious. I just came from the mission control center. It just exploded about a minute after launch.”
One could actually see the news travel across the large meeting room as expressions of early-morning torpor transformed into incredulity and shock. More than most people, even with no more information than the above, we understood the implications. While there was speculation in the media all morning that the crew might be saved, we knew instantly that they were lost. We knew also that we had lost a quarter of the Shuttle fleet, with a replacement cost of a couple billion dollars and several years, and that there would be no flights for a long time, until we understood what had happened.
The ironic purpose of our meeting became at once more significant and utterly meaningless. Most of the NASA people immediately made arrangements to fly back to Houston, Huntsville and the Cape, and we held the session without them, in a perfunctory manner.
This was one of those events, like the more recent one in September, that is indelibly etched into memory–where you were, what you were doing, what you were feeling. I’m curious about any inputs from others, either in comments here or email.
Oh, and I should note that it’s an easy date to remember for me–it was (and remains still) the anniversary of my date of birth…
So today, I start another trip around the sun, and space policy remains a mess.
And it’s not just today. The Apollo 1 fire happened the day before my twelfth birthday. And Columbia was lost four days after my forty eighth. I have no trouble remembering any of these anniversaries.
Ed White, Roger Chafee and Gus Grissom died on the launch pad, an event that resulted in the formation of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, and a complete overhaul of the design and management of Apollo. It was the first of the late-January tragedies that make this time of year a sad one for NASA. Tomorrow will be the twenty-s
ixeventh anniversary of the loss of Challenger, and Friday will be the tenth anniversary of the loss of Columbia.
The moment of truth for Wayne Hale:
Much later, while the debris recovery effort was going on in East Texas, the trajectory analysts put together an estimated plot of where the Columbia pieces would have come down for a 1 rev late deorbit. The toe of the ellipse – where the heaviest pieces would come down – cut across the southwestern suburbs of Houston. My home – my wife – would have been in the target zone where the 2 ton steel main engine combustion chambers would have hit the ground at supersonic speeds. JSC would have been at ground zero for the debris; the MCC would likely have been struck. That is a scenario that is just too implausible for words.
Knowing what we now know, it might have seemed, in some sense, ironic, poetic justice.
Paul Spudis explains why it should keep its name. “Armstrong” should be reserved for a lunar base, if the government ever builds one (I suspect that there will be a private one first).
The German rocket scientist who was born too young to be part of von Braun’s team has died. Is anyone from von Braun’s team left?
Former flight controller (and Shuttle program manager) Wayne Hale has been writing a series of blog posts about his recollections of the events leading up to the disaster. This week, he recalls the harbinger of the previous flight, that should have warned NASA about the problem, but didn’t.