Category Archives: Space Education

Making Space Relevant To The American People

In a discussion at NASA Watch about the president’s…interesting…statements on space policy, Andrew Tubbiolo has some ideas:

Launch Vehicle Extreme Makeover:
A team of crack yet touchy feely Engineers arrive on a bus, send the NASA team to Disney World, tear everything apart, and employ John Carmak and XCOR Aerospace to rebuild everything…..It’ll all look nice, but doesn’t really need to work. Employ the typical attendees of the Space Access Conference as the mindless mob cheering the action on.

Big Brother, Space Station Edition:
Pick the hottest babes from an international set of scientists, one grumpy Russian, a cut party animal fighter jock from the US Navy and lock them in an orbital space station for one month of intense competition. Make them execute complex, obscure, yet useless tasks that employ almost none of the skills they developed thus far in their lives. Every week someone is voted out the airlock.

The Gong Panel:
A panel of three PI’s from past obscure space missions completed at least a decade ago decide the fate of proposed programs as they are presented live on stage. The proposed project with the highest score wins funding. At any time during the presentation panel members are allowed to reject the proposal by banging a gong.

I think this would go a long way towards making space more relevant to the general public. Heck, it would make me pay more attention to it.

Don’t give PAO any ideas.

[Late morning update]

Here is the full story on the president’s remarks.

He said nothing about whether he wants to continue the Bush administration’s Constellation program, intended to send astronauts to the moon by 2020. The program’s Ares I rocket is behind schedule and over budget, leading to speculation that it will miss its targeted 2015 launch date and further reduce the skilled work force at KSC.

He was also silent about the fate of the $100billion international space station. Once the shuttle is retired, NASA will depend on Russian Soyuz spacecraft for access to the station.

I’ve been trying, ever since the inauguration, to figure out if the plan is to come up with a new direction for the agency, and then find an administrator to implement it, or to find a good administrator, and direct him (or her) to come up with the plan. Or, given a lot of the other Charlie Foxtrot that’s been going on in general, if there is no plan.

Happy Anniversary

It’s been a year since Henry Cate kicked off the Carnival of Space. He’s asking for entries for the anniversary edition:

Fraser Cain, the current organizer of the Carnival of Space, has graciously asked me to host the anniversary edition of the Carnival
of Space.

Could you:

1) Consider sending in an entry to the carnival? Send the link to a post about space to: It is helpful if you include a brief summary of your post.

2) Encourage your readers to also send in an entry?

You could direct them here.

Remembering Challenger

This weekend, I met a young woman, now attending law school in Ann Arbor, who was in diapers when it happened. To her, it’s ancient unremembered history, just as the Eisenhower administration is to me (though I at least study it, unlike most of my age cohorts). It made me feel old. We have a generation, though, about ten years older than her, now in their thirties, for whom it was probably the most traumatic event of their young lives. The comments are closed on my post from six years ago, but anyone who wants to post remembrances can do it here, with the caveat that I still haven’t completely recovered from my recent MT upgrade (still hoping that someone who knows it will volunteer to help), so you can use them, but they will time out. Don’t expect to get a response after submitting the comment. Just back up after a while, and refresh the page to see it.

I’m particularly interested in how the event changed your perception of the Shuttle, and the space program in general, if at all, per my previous thoughts.

Space Journalism Prize Revised

Space Journalism Prize submissions have been light this year. It has been revamped as follows.

  • Deadline has been extended to May 31
  • 3rd party submissions now allowed
  • Author permission no longer required
  • Clark Lindsey is replacing me as judge

Note that the judging criteria are the same as last year except that there is only nine months worth of material to compete against. If you entered last year, do it again this year. Winner will be announced at Space Frontier meeting.

Space Heritage

The editorial page letter below (Florida Today) affirms my view that there is much work to be done in the area of space site and artifact preservation. The fine effort to save the Apollo LUT, while both brave and bold, lacked adequate momentum and money to succeed.

Find ways to preserve more of space history

I applaud a recent letter wake-up call to save our Space Coast heritage before it is all gone with the wind. As the writer said, many launch sites are already dismantled.

Since then, a March 24 FLORIDA TODAY photo on page 1B showed the Apollo launch umbilical tower being disposed.

On the plus side, the letter also mentioned several facilities such as the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center and the Space and Missile Museum at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station that are actively preserving what they can. However, they need help.

Neither the Air Force nor NASA use taxpayer dollars expressly to preserve historical sites and facilities. The Air Force Space and Missile Museum Foundation Inc., a private nonprofit corporation, is authorized to raise money for the Museum. Perhaps their charter could be expanded to include the following launch complexes:

LC-13, the last remaining ICBM service gantry; LC-14, where Mercury Atlas astronauts flew into space; LC- 19, where Gemini-Titan missions were launched; and LC-34, where we lost three astronauts in the Apollo 1 fire.

Anyone wishing to learn more should call the Air Force Space and Missile Museum at 853-9171.

M.J. Martin
Merritt Island ————

Apparently, at least one writer of school history books doesn’t think that space exploration was a notable event of the Cold War era. My 12 year-old son’s 6th-grade US history/civics text does not mention Sputnik/Explorer I or space exploration in the Cold War chapter. The Civil Rights movement of that era receives well-deserved ink in that book, but it is apparent that the author does not feel that James Webb, Alan Shepard, Wernher von Braun, or Neil Armstrong deserve as much mention as say, Rosa Parks. Shameful!

An End To High-Power Model Rocketry?

I don’t know, but the news isn’t good. Tripoli just lost its suit against ATFE, and the agency will be allowed to classify ammonium perchlorate compound propellant as an explosive, which will be a significant damper on the hobby, since hobbyists will now have to get a federal Low Explosives Users Permit (LEUP).

This kind of bureaucratic stupidity is the reason that I’m not thrilled with the Bush administration, but there’s no reason to think that a Kerry administration would be any better.

The only way this can be fixed now is with legislation, but that’s unlikely to happen in an election year.

[Thanks to emailer Bruce Brazaitis for the heads up.]

Lunar Resources

Time to use some of your frequent flyer miles:

Free Public Lecture By Dr. Harrison Scmitt, Apollo 17 astronaut, geologist

Topic: Lunar Resources (e.g. Helium-3)

Location: UAB Alys Stevens Center at 8:00 PM on April 1, 2004

Harrison Schmitt Bio

The Alys Stephens Center is located on the campus of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, which is in the Southside area of Birmingham, Alabama. The street address is:
1200 10th Avenue South
Birmingham, AL 35294-1280

The ASC is easily accessible from two major thoroughfares.

I-65 Northbound
Exit onto 8th Avenue South (University Boulevard). Turn right on 13th Street, then right again on 10th Avenue South. The Alys Stephens Center will be on your right.

I-65 Southbound
Exit onto 4th Avenue South. Turn right on 13th Street, continue to 10th Avenue South and turn right. The Alys Stephens Center will be on your right.

Highway 280 (Red Mountain Expressway)
Exit onto 8th Avenue South (University Boulevard) and turn right. Travel to 13th Street South and turn left. Turn right on 10th Avenue South, and the Alys Stephens Center will be on your right.

Off street parking is located directly across the street from the ASC. Street parking is also available. There is an upper and lower circular driveway that can be used to drop off disabled patrons. Allow extra time for parking during weekday performances.

– Jim McDade