Jul 022011

I should stow this until Atlantis is safely back on the ground, but I can’t stop braining so all I can do is write.

Everything is pointing towards this really being the beginning of the end. How many times in human history has a civilization put a mega-scale project down, and then actually picked it back up again?

After Atlantis lands, the U.S. will be unable to put a manned vehicle into Earth orbit, will be unable to performed extra-vehicular activities, and has no operational plans to recover these abilities in the future. The plan is essentially to rely on industry to provide these are commercial services.

Rather than focus on the Richard K. Morgan style sexually explicit gore of this nightmare- I’ll do something else.

I’ll tell you what I believe a planet of almost 7 billion people could do in one year.

We could effectively end hunger. With the cooperation of industrialized nations we could begin a systematic campaign to eleminate malnutrition world-wide. Beginning with focused internal national efforts to a) provide baseline nutritional needs to every human being within national borders b) begin massive peace-corps like employment/works campaigns to recruit those willing to bring this to the rest of the world. Beginning in the least-dangerous countries, work will begin to produce environmentally and economically sustainable crops locally using scientifically tested techniques. Moving to more difficult areas will require the potential use of intially overwhelming physical presence and economic force followed by sustainable presence and estabilishment of transparent, world-sanctioned food distribution practices to avoid the potential for local abuse. The absolute most difficult areas such as those in extreme isolation and repression as N. Korea will of course be a persistent problem that could make the goal of 1 year unachievable. However, as the credibility of a world-wide, well-supported anti-hunger movement grows, it may be more and more difficult even the most repressive regimes to deny the potential benefits to their people.
Those countries invested in ending world hunger must first end hunger in their own borders. This is crucial, but this really is the easy part. America has the resources to end hunger now, the only logistal factor in some cases would be finding it, but as the effort became established and sustained this would be less and less of a problem. I don’t feel I have to get into the possible political problems involved in getting this done inĀ  the US, because those problems boil down to the fact that starving children cannot contribute campaign funds. One year, hunger has been defeated in N. America and Europe. Hunger in the rest of the world is getting really scared.

We could end the war on drugs. Actually this one is sort of wrapped up with ending hunger. Basically drugs from marijuana to lsd, cocaine to heroine will be regulated and taxed. Taxes will be used to fund drug rehab, education and
houseing for the non-violent drug offenders that will be released from prison, and of course, ending hunger. Additionally hemp will be re-intruduced as an industrual and food-crop. Hempseed will be used extensively in malnurished areas as it is a complete protein food. Once again special interests such as commercial prison services providers can suck eggs.

We could return to the moon, and launch a mission to mars. Okay, this ones a stretch I know, and I would rather not push a moon landing or mars launch date. I’m gung-ho but I want safe flights, rugged, tested hardware, and extensively trained crews, and I know that takes more than a year even for a return to the moon. Maybe 3 years for a moon return and 5 for a mars launch. That would require a total rededication of funds at least on the order of Apollo. It took 10 years from virtually nothing. For the return to the moon we could have a spacecraft designed in a year, built and tested in another year, and another year for more flight tests and crew training. Then the mars mission could build on that. So why should we? because last time we grew a pair we got ourselves a whole treasure trove of cool new technology out of it, plus a boat-load of science nerds that run university’s and big companies and fuel our economy.


[tminus t=”08-07-2011 15:26:46″ omitweeks=”true” style=”carbonite” id=”STS-135-Liftoff”]— LIFTOFF ATLANTIS!!! —[/tminus]

This really could be titled STS-1 – STS-135, but this is about the last flight of Atlantis OV-104.

Her first flight was on October 3, 1985. She was the last built of the original orbiters. The Endeavor was commissioned to replace the Challenger. Atlantis service time and flight record was second only to Discovery, with very similar statistics.

In 33 missions she helped repair Hubble and build the ISS, deployed 14 satellites including the Magellan and Galileo probes that surveyed Venus and Jupiter.

In a few days her engines will fire and she’ll ride 2,800,000 pounds of thrust into orbit one last time, carrying a crew of veteran astronauts
Christopher Ferguson, Douglas Hurley, Sandra Magnus and Rex Walheim.

This crew will dock with the ISS, deliver equipment and supplies to the ISS, then return to the Earth.

Then the United States of America will forfeit its capability to put human beings into orbit.

For the first time since Alan Shepard’s Freedom 7 Mercury Mission, America will have no flight-ready manned orbital spacecraft, and none in production.

Gus Grissom has something he’d like me to say for him:
“Hey you latte sucking gimps! I died so you yuppies could enjoy satellite radio and talking GPS in your goddamn BMW? Fuck that bull-shit! No fucking way. I died so that Neil, Pete, Dave, Eugene and all my buddies could be your eyes and ears in a place you dream of but cannot reach. I died so that America and the world could look at the stars and see a world waiting for them. I died so that we could begin a new age. Now you fucks have apparently decided the age I died to help create is a little too enlightened and you’d rather wallow in fear and consumption. You’d rather worry about patenting genes and making sure space is profitable.
Space is profitable – you fucks just don’t know how to count.
Grissom OUT!”

Ed White, Roger Chaffee, Vladimir Komarov, the crews of the Challenger, Colombia, and Soyuz 11 share similar sentiments as Gus.

t: +10:00
That’s what manned spaceflight is all about. Unfortunately that’s all there is. The human race will now crawl back into caves and trees and contentedly throw poo at each other. Sentience was fun, wish we could have made more of it.

t: +8:30
15,000mph. 3 good main engines, 3 good APUs, 3 good fuel cells. Standing by for MECO. MECO. ET sep good.

t: +4:30
Gimme MECO baby.

t: +1:40
21 high, 24 downrange, standby for SRB sep. Good sep.

t: +0:30
Roll program complete.

t: -0:10
Main engine start.

t: -0:30 – resuming
Good to go.

t: -0:31 – hold
Some kind of failure here. Doesn’t seem too substantial. Something with a camera? Did’n’t retract from the SRB or something?

t: -1:30 – counting
Florida’s seagull population is cowering.

t: -3:30 – counting
Gimbal check, I love that. Big ole bells, ring baby ring.

t: -5:00 – counting
Retracting that arm. Last time we’ll see that beauty on the pad. Such a calm leviathan, but no gentle giant.

t: -9:00 – resume count
Weather looks good. This is going to happen. Commander said this is only the end of a chapter of a story that will never end. I hope so, but what’s with the frequent and lengthy intermissions?

t: -12:00
Weather looks good from here, but I’m in Baton Rouge…

t: -05:00:00
I probably shouldn’t watch this launch. It’s very upsetting as it is. It has to be a perfect launch. It will be a perfect launch, a perfect flight, and a perfect landing.
I’m trying to stow my despair for now and concentrate on appreciating the people who are doing their finest work to manage this flight. But it’s hard not to think about what this means and get really pissy about it.
Makes you feel like we just don’t stand a chance. We didn’t care that much when they shut down Apollo either. If spaceflight can’t inspire us, we’re totally fucked. How is money supposed to inspire us more than this? Little kids aren’t supposed to dream about becoming millionaires, they’re supposed to dream about becoming doctors, scientists, astronauts.
I think maybe a society can be judged by what the majority of its kids want to be when they grow up. Ask around, see what we’re headed for.

  One Response to “STS-51-J – STS-135”

  1. Similar sentiments here. I don’t mind doing gene research, but that’s not what I’d trade off. The shuttle program cost about $200 billion overall, and recently has run ab out 5 billion per year. If we stopped subsidizing ethanol that would give us close to ten percent of that. Law enforcement against marijuana costs $7 billion per year. If we legalized the stuff and taxed it like we do liquor, we could save that 7 and generate another 7 in revenue.

    Here is a pretty lengthy discussion of the cost/benefit factors on space exploration. http://www.freakonomics.com/2008/01/11/is-space-exploration-worth-the-cost-a-freakonomics-quorum/

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