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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

First day of remembrance

On this day in 1967, Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee died in a fire during an all up test of Apollo Capsule 101, later renamed “Apollo 1” in their honour.

May their souls rest in peace and guide those who work to carry on their dreams of the high frontier.

5 comments to First day of remembrance

  • Byron

    Gone but not forgotten. RIP.

    Speaking of the space program, and since you (Dale) apparently have made your career in it (I gather, from your other recent comments), perhaps you can explain something to me. Bear in mind that I’m not as educated on this topic as I would like to be, hence this question.

    Are we truly maximizing the resources we have devoted to the world’s space programs? I.e, what benefits do we obtain from the space station, or periodic shuttle flights, that are worth the billions we’ve put into it so far? Or would it be better for us to abandon space for now, devote all our resources to developing the next generation of enabling technologies, and then return to space when we can go farther, faster, cheaper, and do more interesting stuff when we get there? Chemical rockets are relatively limited; why not devote NASA’s (and whatever other agencies’) resources toward, say, nuclear fusion, particle physics, materials science, quantum computing, and biotechnology? Fusion and particle physics may eventually provide propulsion breakthroughs, which in turn may require new materials better able to withstand increased stresses over their lifetime. Quantum computing to simulate and analyze these technologies, and biotechnology to teach us how to take our atmosphere with us on long space journeys. These are just a few ideas I have pondered for a while, and which appear to my untrained yet forward-looking eye to have a much larger potential payoff in the long run. What do you think? (and don’t laugh too hard if my question is absurd)

  • Dale Amon

    The answers are yes and no. Yes, the government programs have wasted simply enormous amounts of money. The shuttle is a white elephant. The Space Station cost many multiples of what it should and took over twice as long as it should.

    But they are now sunk costs. Most ventures I am aware of are in one way or another using the existence of those facilities to help move them along.

    In the best of all possible worlds, we hold NASA at status quo in manned space flight (or perhaps let them start thinking of a Lews and Clark expedition out to Mars) and make absolutely certain they are stuck with the shuttle until a private company can sell them a vehicle it built with its’ own money.

    I also don’t mind so much if NASA does things like Prometheus. That’s more in line with the old NACA work that helped commercial aviation take off.

    Lets face it. If the US pulls out of space, all the entrepreneurs go to Russia and perhaps later on, China. Hell, most of the people I know are *already* working with the Russians.

    We should also push to get ISS under a “Port Authority” of some sort as soon as possible. Basically commercialize it. You can’t totally do so because of the International partners, but you do want to see Spacehab, companies doing inflatable habitats and the like attaching there and contracting for core services from the common facility.

    There are good roads forward, and I actually am fairly confident there are some people high up who are thinking along these lines.

  • Walter E. Wallis

    May the idiots who pressurized the capsule to atmospheric pressure with 100% oxygen burn in hell like the astronauts did, only eternally.

  • The thing which annoys me is that if the total amount of money that has been wasted on the shuttle and the ISS had been spent on planetary space probes and on getting people to Mars, the amount that could have been achieved by now is immense. And, public interest would be much greater. Public interest in a mission to Mars would be enormous, and a lot of good science would be done. As it is, a lot of money has been spent on going nowhere.

  • Justin Lawlor

    The ISS is a tremendous boondoggle. It consists,
    as far as I can determine, of a make-work program
    for Russian scientists and aerospace companies that
    lost DoD contracts. I shudder to think about what
    the money wasted on the ISS could have
    accomplished as prize money for building an SSTO,
    better light aircraft technology, microjet technology,
    etc. But we had to build it to ensure funding for
    pork, err, I mean science experiments. Whatever.