10 Comments


  • Of course, he blew the script — he meant “one small step for a man.”

    I think we took a seriously wrong turn on spaceflight when the Apollo program started, and another with the way the shuttle program developed, and to some extent it’s made me lose my taste for spaceflight. I mean, if Magellan had tried to plan for every possible contingency before leaving port, and tried to rely as little as possible on his own skills and the skills of his crew, and not done anything without the approval of a huge government bureaucracy, we’d still be sitting around in Europe drawing sea monsters on maps of the Pacific.

    But the nostalgia for the future-that-used-to-be certainly resonates with me; old World’s Fair memoribilia and the covers of 60s SF paperbacks inspired (shameless plug) my song “Remember the Future.”

    October 04, 2004
  • Of course, he blew the script — he meant “one small step for a man.”

    I know: the NASA website quotes it thus: “one small step for (a) man.” But I don’t think he blew it; his ad-lib, intentional or not, made the quote better.

    …if Magellan had tried to plan for every possible contingency before leaving port, and tried to rely as little as possible on his own skills and the skills of his crew, and not done anything without the approval of a huge government bureaucracy, we’d still be sitting around in Europe drawing sea monsters on maps of the Pacific.

    I think Magellan was facing a slightly different set of circumstances: if it weren’t for the giant bureaucracy that went before them first, there would be no Scaled Composites or SpaceShipOne. Also, rocket launches are an all-or-nothing deal: if the ship leaks, you can’t just paddle back to shore and recaulk the hull; you can’t put into port and repair the sails if they’re damaged underway; and you can’t live off the land (or the sea) enroute. That’s to say nothing about the vastly more complicated navigation, and the fact that computers will always be necessary to calculate thrust, weight, orbits, and so on.

    October 04, 2004
  • Thank you

    Thank you for this interesting posting.

    I always had a soft spot for Laika . . .

    October 04, 2004
  • Nicely said, Bob. Thanks. I too do miss the old romanticism, though I believe it’s still obtainable in our new century (despite our damnably rocky start).

    Btw, have you seen the logo at today’s Google.com?

    October 04, 2004
  • Re: Thank you

    Thank you for the compliment. Have you ever seen My Life as a Dog?

    October 05, 2004
  • Thank you. I normally find “good old days” nostalgia insidious, but this is one area where I’m certainly susceptible to it. I loved the Google logo—that might be someplace it would be fun to work as a graphic artist.

    October 05, 2004
  • Re: Thank you

    Yup!

    Laika, then Belka and Strelka . . . I always had a soft spot for the Soviet space system!

    October 05, 2004
  • Very good, as your essays always are. However, I must take issue! I believe that getting corporate interests into space will do nothing but help develop many of our SFnal dreams. If NASA can return to its pure-exploration grandeur, and if commercial ventures take over the entertainment and launch business, NASA’s resources can get pulled from the Shuttle and funneled into real exploration efforts liket he rovers and missions to various star systems. If nothing else, these private launches return romance and daring to spaceflight, something we’ve seldom seen from NASA.

    Perhaps I’m naive, but I like to think it’s optimism!

    Chris

    October 05, 2004
  • Well, I agree: to the extent that commercial spaceflight can take over the burden of satellite launches, freeing NASA to concentrate on scientific and exploration missions, it’s a good thing. I’m worried about the increased amount of orbital junk that’s the inevitable side effect of more launches, especially since deregulation has become the official religion of Washington.

    I admire Rutan, as I said, and the test pilots, and I applaud the technical feat of getting into space for $20 million. But the appreciation I have for Scaled Composites is of a different order than that I have for NASA and the Astronaut Corps: it’s like the difference between U.S. Navy pilots and United Parcel Service pilots; the former has a mission, the latter a job.

    October 05, 2004
  • Yah, true. What mostly got me excited is that this is the realization of one of my childhood dreams. Without NASA, the world of space travel would be dreary, indeed, even with such events as this!

    Chris

    October 06, 2004

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