Saturday, December 29, 2018

When NASA dreamed big...

"Yes, there were days that NASA dreamed big. And when NASA dreams big, our youth also dream big. Today, NASA is more concerned with global warming and PC this or that, than true science. Oh well - what could have been."

Back in the early 70's, as the Apollo Program was winding down, NASA was replete with dreamers and doers. This was the dream team which answered President Kennedy's challenge to put a man on the Moon before the end of the 1960's. And against all odds - they did it. And did it again, and again, and over again, until the waning days of 1972, when Apollo 17 blasted off. That was the final time we set foot on the Moon.

A while back, one of the scientists who was involved with the Moon landings, was asked on a science program what the biggest bang for the buck was. In other words, was it worth going to the Moon just to bring back a few rocks? The scientist gave a polite grin and answered it this way, (if I may paraphrase a bit). "Going to the Moon allowed us to think like scientists. It allowed us to believe that just about anything was possible, in space or back on Earth. It started a well spring of young people with a renewed interest in the sciences." Bingo. And with that well spring, this nation was off and running, once again.

What some don't know, or maybe have forgotten, years after the Apollo Program ended, we had the chance for NASA greatness, once again. In 1989, twenty years after the first Lunar landing, and over a year before the first Gulf War, President Bush (41) announced the Space Exploration Initiative (SEI). It was a whopper of a program, and made the Apollo Moon landings look puny in comparison. 

The SEI was set out to send people to Mars. And not just decades away, but near term. It involved a do over on most of the existing space station. Bigger, better, and able to do some space construction on rocket parts. It also involved a Moon base to house astronauts while the final assembly was occurring on the massive Mars explorer. Basically, the SEI told NASA to reach for the stars in its dreaming and planning. So they did. And came up with a program costing $450B.

Needless to say, when this program, along with the price tag, was submitted to Congress, it went absolutely nowhere. DOA. It would have been the most expensive program since World War II. But what if? What if this nation took the challenge and did it anyhow, price tag be damned?

In 2019, we would have numerous bases on the Moon. Some for research, some for low gravity manufacturing, some for mining. We might even have a lift off area for launching from a low gravity location. Mars would be yesterday's news. We would also have a colony on Mars. Trips to the Moon, Mars and the Asteroid Belt would be so routine, they would barely make the paper.

Some might yell out, "Bird! You idiot! We can't spend that kind of money when we have so many needs here on Earth!" You mean, like spending almost $1T on Obama's stimulus program and coming up with spit? I would love to see what other technologies we would have today if we had taken that bold step in 1989.

Yes, there were days that NASA dreamed big. And when NASA dreams big, our youth also dream big. Today, NASA is more concerned with global warming and PC this or that, than true science. Oh well - what could have been.


  1. I still am incredulous that you and Trump deny what 98% of the scientists believe. The same scientist that we admired for decades.
    What could be there motivation to all rally around a single idea? And all be wrong? Stupifying.
    And then...........
    At a moment of economic peril, Obama's Recovery Act provided a critical ‘shot in the arm’ to the American economy. It made millions of jobs possible and, in 2010 alone, lowered unemployment by as much as 1.8 percent while raising GDP by up to four percent. It was also an important step toward economic turnaround in subsequent years, with unemployment at the start of 2017 less than half of what it was at the peak of the recession.
    In the meantime Trumps's 1.5T boondoggle has created huge, immediate gains for wealthy shareholders combined with tepid increases in business investment and decreases in real wages. That doesn’t paint a flattering picture of the tax cut’s impact so far. Not to mention the deficit and interest expense spending which GOP'ers have now quit worrying about. And you rail over Democratic spending for programs serving real needs.

  2. I'm not so sure. I think much of this could be done with currently known technology, needing only a big budget to make it work. I worked on rocketry that would have shortened the Mars trip by 60% or more. It's still available.

  3. At least spending on Mars would accomplish something real, unlike all those stupid windmills that accomplish nothing except killing birds and blighting the landscape.

    1. NASA has lost relevance due to its conservative methods. Part of the reason for that is private industry is less risk-averse than NASA has historically had to be. Private industry can focus with a keener eye on moving quickly and saving money, whereas NASA had to prioritize consensus. In order to be a good steward of taxpayer money and ensure successful outcomes, NASA would take more time and spend more money in order to ensure everyone was on the same page, and agreed on the outcome.
      They focus on low orbit crap, like the ISS and only dream about deep space.
      Until we get that WALL built and keep the brown skins from occupying Cal-Tech, Houston and Cape Canaveral, we'll never see the kind of money budgeted necessary to make them relevant. Oh, and Steve Miller doesn't understand space or science so the idea will never cross the dotards desk.

    2. I would tend to agree that NASA, being a government agency, probably tended to design horses by committee, resulting in a camel. OTOH, unlike private industry, they can afford to fund basic research which may not pay off for many years.
      And I wouldn't complain about Trump's priorities putting deep space last. We certainly have lots of issues right here that need fixing, and we waste a lot of funding on bad solutions.

  4. Oh, now it's 9*8*%! :D

    We're apparently seeing the beginnings of private space exploration & related developments now. Could actually lead to improvements on NASA's practices.

    It'd be interesting to hear about that better rocketry which is "still available." I'm aware of some earlier abandoned nuclear projects (Orion, Hyperion, NERVA) and newer ideas of electromagnetic propulsion, for starters.

  5. 98% of scientists "believe" in manmade global warming? I guess Goebbels was right. In reality, that "98%," when the survey is done correctly, turns out to be about 2.5%. And science isn't done by consensus, and not even their own data shows what they say it does. Better they should work on getting us to Mars, it is a lot more likely to have a real result.

  6. OH, and Dave? Obama's secret economic plan for cutting unemployment and the deficit? First you triple each, then take credit when it comes down to only double.