Monday, July 21, 2014

Man on the moon


An expensive liberal government propaganda stunt, understandable given the Red threat, but also the golden era's last hurrah, and just plain amazing. USA!

I slept through it. It was, what, late at night our time?
In a sense you could say we're still paying for it. According to Jerry Pournelle, the Space Shuttle program was basically designed to keep everyone who worked on the Apollo program employed. And by focusing on the Space Shuttle we abandoned traditional spacecraft, which is why now that the Shuttle has been retired, we have to send our astronauts up on Russian rockets.
That's not good, even though they're not our enemies anymore. We should be self-sufficient like in 1945 with our industry.


  1. John, maybe your spirit was so small that you didn't feel some sort of pride over that "small step"; or perhaps you were too young to understand. I don't recall whether I stayed up to watch the first moonwalk, but I do recall the landing, and every liftoff I could manage to watch. After all, I was the son of a man who was designing the sorts of things that went on the tops of those rockets (he worked on an instrument that flew on the last two Apollo flights, for example).

    No doubt the propaganda value was valuable in preying the money loose from the small-spirited, but that isn't why anyone who worked on the project did it. If you don't understand why Mallory said "because it's there," then you don't get this either.

  2. Pournelle's assertion, BTW, is not altogether untrue, but he's exaggerating. It was basically true that Skylab and Apollo-Soyuz were in large part done because the hardware was lying around from the Apollo program termination, and A-S was mostly a political exercise. (Rumor has it that the one-time docking adapter was designed because neither country was willing to be the female end of the docking interface.)

    The shuttle, however, dates back into the late 1950s and the Dynasoar program. Up until the late 1960s there was a parallel USAF track of development towards manned recon spacecraft, but these all died as satellites took over those roles. The shuttle was started as part of a comprehensive program for general exploration, almost all of which was killed off because Nixon knew the funding was going to die off; the push to create a reusable vehicle that grew into the shuttle was a convergence of a bunch of different requirements/desires which were all piled on a single program because a single program was about all that could be gotten through congress. (The only other big projects-- Voyager and its immediate predecessor Pioneer 11-- went off because of a once in a lifetime celestial opportunity, and even these were cut back considerably.) Pournelle was right in saying that there was some urgency in keeping people employed, but the more fundamental (and positive) reason was avoiding expertise loss. And his picture of the path to the Challenger accident is too much Monday morning quarterbacking. If someone were willing to pay for it, Thiokol could have been persuaded to put a shuttle engine plant pretty much anywhere; but nobody was willing to pay for it, and the notion that the joints were that risky was something that was only realized after the fact. Pournelle has a bad case of "I'm an expert on everything" and should always be taken with a grain of salt.


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