They Didn't Ask Me (dr_phil_physics) wrote,
They Didn't Ask Me

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Bad Timing

Monday morning and I'm reading an article during breakfast in the Saturday Grand Rapids Press about NASA's plans for going back to the Moon.

Now my friends know me -- they know I am a big proponent of the space program and space exploration, especially as science fact as opposed to science fiction, which is as close as I am likely to get to space in my lifetime. But what bright rocket scientist decided that last week was a good time to dump this plan into the news cycle? It reminds me eerily of "dumping the trash" on The West Wing -- bury it on a Friday and hope no one notices.

Bad Timing -- Part I

Because we are staring at a $200,000,000,000.00 (two hundred billion dollar, in case you get lost seeing all those zeroes -- grin) bill or more for the pork barrel rebuild of the Gulf Coast, while we are fighting an expensive war overseas, and worried about the economics of higher prices for natural gas this winter and "delighting" in gasoline at "only" $2.73.9/gallon... while some want to cut other spending to pay for these and some want to continue the expansion of the tax cuts -- especially amongst the wealthy. And some NASA bureaucrat dumps out a report on going to the Moon?

It's likely to get laughed right out of the Congress. Sadly.

Actually, the article didn't mention dollars at all -- perhaps all those expensive rockety thingies don't actually cost anything in the future. Kind of like atomic energy being too cheap to meter and all that.

Bad Timing -- Part II

The sub-head said we'd get to the Moon by 2018 -- the body of the article gave the date as 2020. I am assuming these are A.D. dates, and not two millennia past some new Date Zero.

I may have these dates misplaced, but I believe it said that the new generation ground-to-sky vehicle which will carry the parts to orbit for assembly will begin service and servicing the International Space Station in 2012 -- with the current space shuttles being retired in 2010. (Or maybe those dates are 2010 and 2008 -- either way it's a two-year gap which is unaccounted for.)

Seems to me we could spend a couple of billion Right Now and build one new space shuttle in about two years -- and have one brand new, modernized, zero mileage airframe which would enter the flight pool in 2007-2008 and allow a slow retiring of the older units and extend service into that two-year gap. REALLY. I'm not kidding. I think it'd be money well spent and actually take pressure off of NASA, which seems prone to panicking about risking lives in space these days.

Bad Timing -- Part III

The article talks about the new vehicles -- the ground-to-space-and-return vehicle, the manned moon landers and the unmanned lunar cargo ships -- as being "a mix of shuttle and Apollo parts." Reliable, not revolutionary.

Huh? Am I missing something here?

We don't have the technology to build Apollo right now -- and I'm not sure the new flight rules would allow Apollo to be manrated anyway. Now if they mean a more leisurely evolutionary design flow, rather than something radical and controversial, okay, that's better.

But am I allowed to feel worried that the description of the New Moon Travel in this article reminds me uncomfortably of the rushed Pilgrim plan in Robert Altman's 1968 movie Countdown? Only with the Chinese looking to travel to the Moon, too, instead of the Russians. (grin)

Bad Timing -- Part IV

Or Something Radical This Way Comes... This year the Clarke-Bradbury International Science Fiction Competition's theme was the Space Elevator. There are people who are really serious about building the Space Elevator and one guy is talking about starting construction in 2008. Again, that's 2008 A.D.

I'm not totally wild about the Space Elevator as a concept, but if it works and if money got put into this project -- rockets blasting off the face of the Earth would be on their way to extinction to some extent.

So I Shouldn't Feel Like A Party-Pooper Here...

... but I'd like to see some real innovation going on at NASA, rather than reheating old 1960s leftovers.

Or maybe I shouldn't be so sensitive and not believe the crap which shows up in a newspaper about a technical subject. (grin) Anyway, the timing and the timeline both seem to suck here.

Dr. Phil

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