Fifty-Five Years Of Space Age

I’d almost forgotten that today is the anniversary of Sputnik.

Here’s a post from the fiftieth anniversary, with links galore, and here’s what I wrote last year.

Note that today is also the eighth anniversary of the winning of the X-Prize. If Virgin Galactic hadn’t made so many bad decisions in the aftermath of that event, they’d probably be flying passengers by now.

24 thoughts on “Fifty-Five Years Of Space Age

  1. Larry J

    While I didn’t hear any mention of the anniversary, there was a nice launch this morning of GPS II-F-3 on a Delta IV. The good thing is that launches are so routine that they get little attention other than among space fanboys.

    1. rickl

      Drat, I missed it. I haven’t been checking NSF.com regularly lately.

      Although I do know that Falcon 9/Dragon is scheduled for launch on Sunday night at 8:35 pm EDT. I’ll definitely be watching that!

    2. Edward Wright

      Space launches are less common than bareback camel races. I would hardly call them “routine.”

      The reason that launch got little attention is because GPS satellites are boring. I’m sure people would pay more attention if Sarah Brightman was the payload.

      1. Titus

        Get her to sing “Time to Say Goodbye” during liftoff, and you could charge admission/Pay-Per-View.

    1. Edward Wright

      What a terrible world we live in, where people like Paul Allen and Burt Rutan are allowed to spend their money on what they want, rather than what Tom Matula wants.

      I’m surprised a “libertarian” like Tom can stand it.

      1. Thomas Matula

        Ah, the troll appears….

        The point is that without the X-Prize steering folks into a detour we would probably be much closer to a sub-orbital tourist industry. As I stated before, the only ones the X-Prize benefited was the X-Prize Foundation.

        BTW there is a great article in the The Space Review speculating if anyone will win the Lunar X-Prize that Google got talked into funding…

          1. Trent Waddington

            If it is a detour, it’s of his own creation.

            I continue to ask and fail to get an acceptable answer: why didn’t they just fly tourists on an SS1 sized vehicle?

            Don’t give me the standard reply of “the customers said they wanted something bigger”. Some customers may well have, so what?

          2. Thomas Matula

            Trent,

            Consider, every powered flight of SpaceshipOne had an “anomaly”.

            Or as they say in poker, Burt Rutan and Paul Allen knew when to fold them, collect their winnings and walk away. After all they had the prize, what more was to be gained by flying it, or clones of it any more? And more importantly what was there to lose?

            Which of course was another drawback of the X-Prize model. Like the race to the Moon, once a prize was won what was there to gain by flying more flights? By contrast what was there to lose if you kept taking the risk of flying?

            So is it any surprise we see the same result as with Project Apollo? A handful of flights with a lot of hype. Flights made possible by taking risks, shortcuts and gambling on the odds. Then a huge gap before the next step, which turns out to be much more expensive and difficult to do because of the strategy used for the first step to win the race/prize.

        1. Edward Wright

          And why should you care, Tom? Didn’t you just tell us the other day that the Moon should be the first step?

          Of course, now you’ll deny saying that. And tomorrow, you’ll deny the denial.

          If I hadn’t met you in person, I would think you were a rogue script.

          1. Thomas Matula

            Edward,

            Ah, the endless troll.

            Its important to understand if a strategy actually succeeded or failed. And why. Its call learning from experience. If folks believe the X-Prize was a success, when it wasn’t, they will draw the wrong lessons from it and repeat the mistake.

            Which is the case with the Google X-Prize. Imagine if instead of throwing that 30 million away on a prize Google had simply used it to help sponsor a team. With Google as an anchor sponsor that team would probably have a rover on the Moon now, instead we just have the same load of hype that the original X-Prize produced.

          2. Thomas Matula

            Leland,

            Edward is actually nice in person, its only when he gets a keyboard in his hands that he goes troll :-)

      2. Brock

        There’s no rule that says libertarians can’t point out mistakes when they think they see them. Perhaps you’re thinking of totalitarianism?

  2. rickl

    Getting back to the original topic, we have to raise a glass to Sergei Korolev for developing the R-7 rocket and its descendants. It was the world’s first ICBM, the world’s first satellite launcher, and ultimately the world’s first manned launcher.

    I used to call the Atlas the DC-3 of the space age, but in truth it is really the R-7/Vostok/Voskhod/Soyuz family of boosters. And in terms of longevity, it’s comparable to the B-52.

    1. mmeijeri

      Now that we’re talking space history and longevity, can anyone confirm or deny that the RS-27A used on Delta II has heritage that goes back to the V2 as Wikipedia seems to suggest?

      V2 engine -> … -> Redstone engine –> Jupiter S3 engine–> Saturn I H1 engine -> RS-27 -> RS-27A

    2. Larry J

      There are still DC-3s out there earning their keep, hauling freight and some passengers in outfits like Buffalo Air (Canada). Not bad for a design that’s over 70 years old. And then, there are the upgraded models by companies such as Basler that feature turboprop engines and stretched fuselages.

      1. Thomas Matula

        Larry,

        Yes, its a simple, rugged practical design. They will probably be DC-3s flying and working when the first Starship leaves for Alpha Centauri.

  3. ken anthony

    55 years is a long time for so little accomplishment. Especially when it only took about ten to reach the surface of the moon. Why did the entire world fear capitalism so much? …and still do?

    1. Thomas Matula

      Ken,

      Yes, the focus on NASA “lowering” costs with the Shuttle, instead of pushing to the far frontier beyond the Moon, was clearly the key mistake. Lowering costs is the job of private industry, not government.

      1. Godzilla

        Governments can reduce costs to a degree. One example is early work on uranium separation which has decreased costs by several orders of magnitude since its inception. Having some form of internal competition, like the Russians did with their space and missile programs, helps reduce costs further. However once a manageable cost is reached there is little incentive to reduce it further. You can find examples of this with any monopoly and the state is but one extreme version of a monopoly.

        1. Thomas Matula

          Godzilla,

          Especially since NASA has little need for reducing costs and increasing accessibility which is why taking control of RLVs from DoD and giving it to NASA was a huge mistake in the 1990′s.

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