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A Better Spacecraft


Excerpt from UPI: WASHINGTON, April 1 (UPI) — “NASA may borrow a development approach from the U.S. Air Force and seek to build multiple prototypes of its proposed new moon landing craft, and then test competing designs against one another in a celestial version of an airplane designers’ fly-off.”

This is potentially very exciting news. It will be to NASA’s advantage– budget-wise and politically — to adopt such a competitive bid/prototype process. – Jim McDade

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!

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

Kerry: NASA Friend or Enemy

An examination of John Kerry’s official campaign documents reveals some clues as to his general attitude towards the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the US space exploration agenda. Kerry categorically places NASA under his, “AGENDA FOR URBAN AMERICA” on the official Kerry campaign web site. That particular categorization might be a clue that points to the candidate’s view of the role of NASA in his presidential plans. NASA is bunched there in the same “urban” priority category as the National Science Foundation (NSF). NSF is primarily in the lucrative and politically interesting business of handing out money to university based researchers. In other words, Kerry may view NASA primarily as a distributor of monetary grants for university based lab research. That is a politically sensible approach in view of the fact that academia is a an important and influential part of the Democrat party base in Kerry’s home region, the Atlantic Seaboard.

Most people have never worked in a major university research environment and may not understand the underlying significance of the interplay between the federal government’s rich and powerful grant giving machinery and the university recipients. It is politically convenient to label liberal college deans and professors as “elitist phonies” The actual relationship between universities and the Democrat party is a far more practical arrangement than the perceived “elitist” conspiracy that heartland Republicans routinely rally against. The people working in academia realize that probably the quickest way to become ostracized by your colleagues is to shift over to the right of the political spectrum and start questioning the status quo of the government-university cash cow. Grants pay for campus buildings, labs, and facilities. Most significantly, research grants pay the salaries of faculty and staff. A good grant writer is a cherished university employee.

Federal research grants are essentially the academic equivalent of “pork-barrel” spending. President John F. Kennedy used the “grant carrot” to win over the support of university president’s when the late-President proposed the Apollo program. The traditional grant recipients— such as those people who count how many worms of some obscure subspecies still exist in some muddy creek in lower Kentucky– made loud noises in university president’s offices when they feared that Apollo spending would mean the end of their grant funds as Apollo ramped up and gobbled up federal grant dollars. JFK locked up the support of university leaders by promising millions of dollars to build new engineering schools, labs, and even enough funding to justify the creation of entire new universities, e.g. the University of Alabama at Huntsville.

The NSF, NASA, as well as the National Institutes for Health fit well into the urban agenda of a politician who seeks support from academics, university presidents and city politicians from those major urban areas where the bulk of research dollars wind up. Kerry states that NASA’s “technological advances (are) transferable to people with disabilities, and could enhance their capacity to work.” That position is admirable and those transfers should and must be made, but where is Kerry’s vision for NASA beyond converting existing space technology for practical use?

Kerry does not even mention human spaceflight or any program of space “exploration” to occur outside of the 1G environments of university labs. He apparently views NASA as a useful grant-generating machine. PhD researchers, school deans, school presidents, and a few thousand-lab technicians will be the primary direct beneficiaries of this aspect of NASA funding. The big losers will be the NASA centers that focus on sending “researchers” into microgravity (KSC, MSFC, and JSC) if Kerry’s space vision is limited to restoring “the government’s commitment to scientific achievement through increases in research funding for the Department of Energy, NASA, and the National Science Foundation”, through his stated urban strategy.

Kerry lists 28 priority issues on his web site. Space exploration is not in that list., Kerry claims that, “More than 425,000 technology jobs have been lost on President Bush