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I worked for an airline in the s, and I can tell you this is total baloney which is apparently American for bilge. Remind me, for example, who built the Comet, the first jet airliner. Which American company? Oh, no, it was British.
Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier [ebook] Neil deGrasse Tyson (epub/mobi)
Of course Boeing was the biggest player in the period he describes, but there were plenty of others. There were even a couple of other US manufacturers. Remember Lockheed? Could I just point out also who made the only supersonic airliner flying back then.
And come to think of it, the only one to fly ever since. The UK and France. And what did the US contribute to this amazing advance? They tied it up with red tape and objections so it was almost impossible to fly it. This really made me angry, I'm afraid.
In another article, Tyson tells off a judge for inaccuracy because he referred to 1, milligrams rather than 1. Okay, it wasn't a particularly sensible convention, but at least it wasn't wrong. Saying 'all planes were US Boeings' is just factual inaccuracy to put across your political position.
A book on space travel must cover politics, but once it is so hugely politically biased towards one country, however significant it may have been to the aerospace business, it loses credibility. This isn't a book about space science, it's a rallying cry for Americans.
That's something that has its place. I'm not knocking America, and it's good that Tyson is proud of his country. Was it any more costly than what Kennedy asked for, and got? It was less. The opposite outcomes of these two speeches had nothing do with political will, public sentiment, persuasiveness of arguments, or even cost. President Kennedy was at war with the Soviet Union, whereas President Bush wasn't at war with anybody.
When you're at war, money flows like a tapped keg, rendering irrelevant the existence or absence of other variables, charisma included. Meanwhile, space zealots who do not properly factor the role of war into the spending landscape are delusionally certain that all we need today are risk-taking visionaries like JFK.
Couple that with the right dose of political will, they contend, and we surely would have been on Mars long ago, with hundreds if not thousands of people living and working in space colonies.
Princeton space visionary Gerard K. O'Neill, among others, imagined all this in place by the year The opposite of space zealots-space curmudgeons-are those who are certain that NASA is a waste of taxpayer money and that funds allocated via NASA centers are the equivalent of pork barrel spending.
Genuine pork, of course, is money procured by individual members of Congress for the exclusive benefit of their own districts, with no tangible gain to any other.
The nation and the world thrive on NASA's regional innovations, which have transformed how we live. Here' s an experiment worth conducting. Sneak into the home of a NASA skeptic in the dead of night and remove all technologies from the home and environs that were directly or indirectly infuenced by space innovations: microelectronics, GPS, scratch-resistant lenses, cordless power tools, memoryfoam mattresses and head cushions, ear thermometers, household water filters, shoe insoles, long-distance telecommunication devices, adjustable smoke detectors, and safety grooving of pavement, to name a few.
Upon waking, the skeptic embarks on a newly barren existence in a state of untenable technological poverty, with bad eyesight to boot, while getting rained on without an umbrella because of not knowing the satellite-informed weather forecast for that day.
The largest portion of NASA's budget ever spent on these activities briefly hit 40 percent, in During the Apollo era, the annual percentage hovered in the mid-teens. Averaged over NASA's half century of existence, the annual percentage of spending on science sits in the low twenties.
As a result, even though geopolitical forces drive spending on space exploration, exploring sp:ce in the n:me of scienc pl:ys hettef in pllhlic discourse.
This mismatch of truth and perceived truth leads to two outcomes. In speeches and testimonies, lawmakers fnd themselves overstating the actual scientific return on manned NASA missions and programs.
Meanwhile, in the academic community, pedigreed scientists heavily criticize NASA whenever money is spent on exploration with marginal or no scientifc return.
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Among others of that sentiment, the particle physicist and Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg is notably blunt in his views, expressed, for example, in to a Space. No important science has come out of it. I could almost say no science has come out of it. NASA's budget is increasing. Only those who believe deep down that NASA is or should be the exclusive private funding agency of scientists could make such a statement.
Here' s another: an excerpt from the resignation letter of Donald U. Wise, NASA's chief lunar scientist. Though less acerbic than Weinberg' s statement, it shares a kindred spirit: I watched a number of basic management decisions being made, shifting priorities. Until such time as [NASA[ determines that science is a major function of manned space fight and is to be supported with adequate manpower and funds, any other scientist in my vacated position would also be likely t expend his time futilely.
With these comments submitted as evidence, one might suppose that NASA's interest in science has ebbed since the old days. But Wise's letter is, in fact, from the old days: August 24, , thirty-five days after we first stepped foot on the Moon.
What an ivory-tower luxury it is to lament that NASA is spending too little on science, Unimagined in these complaints is the fact that without geopolitical drivers, there would likely be no NASA science at all, merica' s space program, especially the golden era of Apollo and its influence on the dreams of a nation, makes fertile rhetoric for almost any occasion.
Yet the deepest message therein is often neglected, misapplied, or forgotten altogether. And Just a few years later. President Kennedy boldly declared before a joint session of Congress that the United States would send a man to the moon and return him safely to the earth. The sclentific community rallied behind this goal and set about achieving it.
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And it would not only lead t those frst steps on the moon: it would lead to giant leaps in our understanding here at home. That Apollo program produced technologies that have improved kidney dialysis and water purification systems: sensors to test for hazardous gases: energ-saving building materials: fire resistant fabrics used by firefighters and soldiers.
More broadly. What' s stunning about Obama's message is that the point of his speech was to alert the academy to the proposed Amercan Recovery and Reinvestment Act-legislation that would place the budgets of the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy' s Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology on a path to double over the coming years.
Surely NASA's budget would be doubled too? All NASA got was a directive on how to differently allocate a billion dollars of the money it was already spending. Given that space exploration formed the rhetorical soul of the president' s speech, this move defies rational, political, and even emotional analysis.
For his second State of the Union Address, delivered January 26, 1 , President Obama once again cited the space race as a catalyst for scientific and technological innovation. That original Sputnik moment" -crystallized in Kennedy' s speech to a joint session of Congress-is what got us to the Moon and set the highest of bars for Amerca's vision and leadership in the twentieth century.
As the president rightly recounted, We unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs. He then challenged us by to 1 have a million electric vehicles on the road and 2 deploy the next generation of high-speed wireless to 98 percent of all Americans-and by to 1 derive 80 percent of America's electricity from clean energy and 2 give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail.
Laudable goals. But to think of that list as the future fruits of a contemporary Sputnik moment dispirits the space enthusiast. It reveals a change of vision over the decades, from dreams of tomorrow to dreams of technologies that should already have been with us.
What better time to reassess a program than afer a disaster? Makes you wonder, however, why the Challenger disaster in , which also resulted in the loss of a seven-person crew, did not trigger a similar call for a renewed NASA mission statement.
In , nothing much was happening in the Chinese space community. By contrast, on October 15, , China launched its frst taikonaut into Earth orbit, becoming just the third nation tojoin the spacefarers' club. The time had finally arrived for the United States to leave low Earth orbit again. The vision was a basically sound plan that also called for completion of the International Space Station and retirement of NASA's space shuttle workhorse by decade' s end, with the recovered funds used to create a new launch architecture that would take us back to the Moon and onward to more distant places.
But beginning in February with my appointment by President Bush to the nine-member Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy, whose mandate was to chart an afordable and sustainable course of action , I began to notice a pall of partisanship descending on NASA and on the nation's space policy.
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Strong party allegiances were clouding, distorting, and even blinding people' s space sensibilities across the entire political spectrum. Some Bush-bashing Democrats, predisposed to think politically rather than rationally, were qUick to criticize the plan on the grounds that the nation could not afford it, even though our commission was explicitly charged with keeping costs in check. Other Democrats argued that the space vision offered no details regarding its implementation.
No sitting president had ever done such a thing. By way of comparison, President Kennedy' s May 25, Other disgruntled Democrats, still fulminating about the controversial election in and feeling deep dissatisfaction with Bush's first term in office, commonly qUipped that we should instead send Bush to Mars.
All told, the criticisms were not only underinformed but also betrayed a partisan bias I hadn't previously encountered during my years of exposure to space politics-although I am happy to report that afer all the knee-jerk reactions ran their course, the Vision for Space Exploration secured strong bipartisan support.
Yith Barack Obama in office beginning in , the level of vitriol from extreme Republicans exceeded even that of the extreme Democrats who found nothing praiseworthy in anything President Bush ever said, thought. Factoring out Obama's Kennedyesque charisma and undeniable oratorical skills, I can objectively say that he delivered a powerful, hopeful message for the future of America's space exploration-a vision that would lead us to multiple places beyond low Earth orbit, asteroids included.
Space Chronicles : Facing the Ultimate Frontier by Neil deGrasse Tyson (2014, Paperback)
He also reaffirmed the need to retire the space shuttle and spoke longingly of Mars. President Obama even went one step further, suggesting that since we've already been to the Moon, why return at all? Been there, done that. With an advanced launch vehicle-one that leapfrogs previous rocket technologies but would take many years to develop-we could bypass the Moon altogether and head straight for Mars by the mids, right about when Obama expects 80 percent of Americans to abandon cars and planes, and instead travel to and fro via high speed rail.
I was there.
I felt the energy of the room. As for coverage of the speech, a typical headline in the Obama-supportive press was "Obama Sets Sights on Mars. Scores of protesters lined the Kennedy Space Center's surrounding causeways that day. In the weeks to follow, many people-including marquee astronauts-felt compelled to choose sides.
Two moonwalkers sharply critical of Obama's plan to cancel the return to the Moon testified before Congress: Neil Armstrong of Apollo 1 1 and Eugene Cernan of Apollo 17, pOignantly presented as the frst and the last to step foot on the Moon.
On the other hand, Neil Armstrong' s command-module partner Buzz Aldrin was strongly supportive of Obama's plan and had accompanied the president to Florida aboard Air Force One. Either Obama had given two different speeches at the Kennedy Space Center that morning and I heard only one of them.
But to somebody who wants uninterrupted access to space. It's worth remembering that during the halt in shuttle launches that followed the Columbia tragedy, the Russians were happy to shuttle" our astronauts back and forth to the Interational Space Station aboard their reliable Soyuz capsule.
So the stipulation that American access to orbit shall always and forever be in a craft of our own manufacture may be an example of pride overiding practicality. And by the way. President Obama was simply following through on Bush's plan. Taken at face value. They could simply be honest differences of opinion. But they weren' t. Views and attitudes split strongly along party lines, requiring olive-branch compromises in Congress before any new budget for NASA could be agreed upon and passed.
A letter I was invited to submit to lawmakers reaffirming NASA's value to America' s identity and future while also urging a swift solution to the impasse-became a twig on one of those olive branches. A bipartisan posse of solution-seeking congressmen attempted to alter the president's proposal and the associated budget for NASA in a way that would appease the fundamentally Republican-led resistance.
They sought to accelerate the design and construction of the heavylift launch architecture that would enable the first manned mission beyond low Earth orbit since the Apollo era's Saturn V rocket.
This deceptively simple adjustment to the plan would help close the gap between the tWilight of America' s shuttle launches and the dawn of a new era of launch capability-and, as a consequence, preserve aerospace jobs that the Obama plan would have destabilized.
Is that what it's about? Now it all made sense. I' d thought the real issue was the cultural imperative of continuous access to space and the short-term fate of the manned program. Surely that's what all the protest placards meant, as well as the associated anti-Obama rhetoric. But if jobs are what really matters to everybody, why don't they just say so?
If I were a shuttle worker at any level-especially if I were a contractor to NASA in support of launch operations-then the gap between the phaseout of the shuttle and the next rocket to launch beyond Earth is all I would have heard in the president' s speech. And if new, nonderivative, uncertain launch technologies would be reqUired to achieve the vision, then the downtime for manned space fight in America would also be uncertain, which means the only thing certain in the face of these uncertainties is that I' d be out of ajob.
Since the shuttle is a major part of NASA operations, and NASA's industrial partners are spread far and wide across the American countryside, an unemployment ripple gets felt in many more places than the causeways of Florida' s Space Coast. President Obama's speech did include mention of funded retraining programs for workers whose jobs would be eliminated. He also noted that his plan would erase fewer jobs than his predecessor's Vision for Space Exploration would have done had it been implemented-although he put a positive spin on that fact by asserting, Despite some reports to the contrary, my plan will add more than 2, jobs along the Space Coast in the next two years compared to the plan under the previous administration.
I wonder what the reaction in the room would have been if Obama's statement were mathematically equivalent but more blunt: "Bush's plan would have destroyed 1 0, jobs; my plan would destroy only 7, So anybody who didn't like President Obama before the speech at the Kennedy Space Center now had extra reasons to brand him as the villain: In there were two spacefarng nations.
Fifty years later, in , there would still be two spacefaring nations.In the weeks to follow, many people-including marquee astronauts-felt compelled to choose sides.
Over that time, the Soviet Union beat us in practically every important measure of space achievement: Following the federal election, they were represented in the House by six Democrats and four Republicans; in the election that distribution was reversed. With the Soviet launch of Sputnik 1 , the world's first artificial satellite, America was spooked into the Be the first to like this.
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