======================================================================== Cybernetics in the 3rd Millennium (C3M) -- Volume 3 Number 7, Aug. 2004 Alan B. Scrivener --- www.well.com/~abs --- mailto:abs@well.com ========================================================================

Goof Gas

~ or ~

Holding the Dream Hostage

(Part Two)

[If you haven't read part one, see the archives, link below.] "You know - a starship circling in the sky It ought to be ready by 1990 They'll be building it up in the air Ever since 1980 People with a clever plan Can assume the role of the mighty Hijack the Starship Carry 7000 people past the sun And our babes'll wander naked Through the cities of the universe" -- "Hijack" from the album "Blows Against the Empire" (1970) Paul Kantner & Jefferson Starship ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000002X2B/hip-20 ) In out last episode, your humble reporter was working at Rockwell International's Space Station Systems Division in Downey, California in 1986, helping to try to win the main structure contract for NASA's space station Freedom; our competitor was McDonnell-Douglas down the road in Huntington Beach, sponsors of the old "Mission to Mars" ride at Disneyland. ( sorcerersworkshop.disneyfans.com/missionmars.shtml ) I sat next to a great guy named Steve Cervantes, who we all called "Cerv." His job as an engineer was designing a Crew Emergency Rescue Vehicle for the space station, also called a "CERV." (This was a genuine coincidence.) I find ironic that 18 years later the only crew emergency rescue vehicle on the space station is a Russian spacecraft designed in the early 1960s for their moonshot program, the three-person Soyuz, which is why in the post-Columbia-disaster era we can only have three crew members on the station. It didn't take me long to start getting bummed out by the mind- numbing bureaucracy and petty practices in the space program. I remember writing an entry in my journal entitled "Slouching Towards Betelgeuse," a play on the Joan Didion title "Slouching Towards Bethlehem" (1968) about the foibles of the sixties, ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0374521727/hip-20 ) which in turn comes from a cynical W. B. Yeats poem which includes: The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity. ( www.mcabee.org/~lcm/lines/slouch.html ) Cerv shared my frustration. He was a motorhead by temperment, who became an engineer because he liked working with machines. But in the tightly defined hierarchy of Rockwell, only union machinists were allowed to touch metal. Cerv operated a Computer Aided Design (CAD) system, and all he touched were thumbwheels that defined spline surfaces on a graphics display. One day we were grousing together when he said "come with me, I want to show you something." We worked together in Building One, a giant industrial building that dated from World War Two, which was where the Apollo capsules were built that went to the moon, and where the four space shuttle orbiters were built as well, at least partly. (They were finished in a plant in the desert town of Palmdale over the mountains to the north). He took me onto the factory floor where the fifth orbiter was being built to replace the exploded Challenger. Inside a large glass booth an older Japanese lady was hand-assembling the wiring harness for the new shuttle. Cerv told me that she had personally assembled the wiring harnesses for the previous four as well, and was the only person who really knew how to do it. He said when he got frustrated with his job he would come watch her work for a while, and it soothed him. I ended up adopting this habit as well. I also spent a bit of time in the incredibly well-stocked technical library, where I checked out books on the history of space flight, and read the monthly magazines and weekly newsletters devoted to the aerospace community. One day I opened a magazine, I think it was "Aviation Week and Space Technology," ( www.aviationnow.com/avnow ) and there was a double-page ad by McDonnell-Douglas arguing in favor of the space station, which was constantly under attack in congress. Under an artist's conception drawing (we used to call them "artist's deception" drawings) was a description of how China turned its back on ocean-going exploration in the thirteenth century. I wish I could find this ad, in my scrapbook or on the web, the gist of its argument appears in the on-line book "Space Exploration From Talisman of the Past to Gateway for the Future" (1995) by John F. Graham. ( www.space.edu/projects/book/ ) He writes: In the 1200s great ships were sent from China on explorations of the seas around China. There is evidence that the Chinese explorers got as far as India on their great ships and there is further evidence that some Chinese from this period may have discovered North America. After the discovery of India by the sea routes the Chinese inexplicably quit their exploration and returned to China where the emperor had all of the great ships destroyed and allowed no further exploration. In a curious turn of events, the Europeans led by Portugal discovered a sea route to the Orient. The Europeans found the Chinese very backward and very aloof about their cultural superiority. They were ripe for conquest by a power that was interested in exploring. What a turn of events may have occurred in history if the highly adventurous Chinese had "discovered" Middle Ages Europe and gone on to populate and discover the new world? If we continue to turn inward by disregarding the study of science and the exploration of space by gutting all of the space programs because they don't fit into some bureaucrat's version of how the world works, then the United States will become the twenty-first century version of China. At the time I still bought this argument. At a divisional meeting (under a full size shuttle orbiter mockup) I rose during the Q&A and urged my fellow employees to write congress in support of the space station, as I had. Word began to get out that I was interested in space history, and I began to meet "old timers" who sought me out to share their tales. One gentleman told me how he came to work at Building One, which was then North American Aviation, in the early sixties. He told his father he was going to work on a program by the government to put a man on the moon. "I don't believe it," his dad said. "No, really," he insisted, "I got the job." "I believe you got the job," his dad replied, "I just don't believe the government is going to put a man on the moon." Pretty soon I was invited to a regular Monday lunch that included Cerv, Ben Thompson of the Space Transportation Systems (shuttle) Division -- both of them twentysomethings -- and a gang of fifty- and sixty-something old timers I called "the geezers" (but not to their faces). Then I really began to get an earful:
  • Werner von Braun at Hunstville (originally the Army's Redstone Arsenal, later NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center) took money budgeted for roads and built a neutral buoyancy tank for rehearsing zero-G, helping to establish his facility's key role in manned space flight, and establishing a tradition of Marshall doing its own thing in defiance of the rest of NASA.
  • In the early days of the aerospace, the department of defense would release specifications for military aircraft and the contractors would submit designs; DoD would select several to be built for a "fly-off" to select the best design. A manager at North American Aviation named Harrison Storms (is that a great name or what?) came up with the strategy summed up by "find out what the customer wants and trace it," i.e., get the decision-making bureaucrat to draw a picture on a bar napkin of what they think the best design would be, and then submit that, feeding their ego when you announce it is the best engineering solution. In the early days of NASA they also released specs and asked for designs, but then they switched around to a process in which NASA would release a "reference design" and ask contractors to "verify" it -- formalizing the Harrison Storms method. Any attempt to modify the design was labeled by NASA "technical arrogance" and punished with lack of contracts. Who sounds arrogant to you in this scenario? (A fascinating biography of Storms, and the story of how he was made the scapegoat for the Apollo One fire, was published in 1994, "Angle of Attack: Harrison Storms and the Race to the Moon" by Mike Gray.) ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/014023280X/hip-20 )
  • The design for the space station came from out of nowhere and "jes' grew." (The covert agenda seemed to be that it would involve every NASA center.) Ultimately no design decision could really be justified. For example, the trusses were 5 meters long. NASA said that came from a "trade study" (a technical evaluation by contractors). But in fact the trade study cited ASSUMED a 5 meter truss and set out to answer the question whether the assembly should be by spacewalking astronauts or by robots.
  • The General Accounting Office (GAO) wanted a space station that could be bought "by the yard," with variable funding at the whim of congress. Ultimately NASA wanted and got the opposite, an interdependent design that could not easily be downsized.
  • An early design for the space station was extremely well- balanced (in the center-of-mass sense) and stable; there were complaints from the NASA center responsible for the orbital attitude control software, that they wouldn't have enough to do, and later designs were less balanced and stable.
  • Perhaps the most damning allegation from the old timers was that the space station requirements (which should drive the specs) were still being written after the design was finalized. In other words, the requirements were being reverse-engineered to match the design the included all the NASA centers in the process.
One of the gang of geezers was Oliver "Ollie" Harwood. He had worked on Skylab while at McDonnell-Douglas, inventing the triangular grill floor that allowed astronauts to anchor their boots with rubber triangle nubs, ( www.quantumworks.com/jbis_article_files/jbis_article2.gif ) and since coming to Rockwell had designed an alternative space station based on the octet truss invented by Buckminster Fuller. ( www.tabletoptelephone.com/~hopspage/Fuller.html ) Unlike the NASA design we were "validating," Ollie's space station could be built "by the yard," and also could be reconfigured. For this reason he called it "Protean," after the shape-shifting god of Greek mythology. The long version of the story of my involvement with Ollie Harwood and the Protean space station can be found in a letter I wrote to a number of friends in December of 1987; I have scanned it and posted it on my web site. ( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/ppp0001.jpg ) ( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/ppp0002.jpg ) ( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/ppp0003.jpg ) ( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/ppp0004.jpg ) ( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/ppp0005.jpg ) ( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/ppp0006.jpg ) ( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/ppp0007.jpg ) ( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/ppp0008.jpg ) ( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/ppp0009.jpg ) ( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/ppp0010.jpg ) (Note the contact addresses for me in that letter are obsolete.) Steve Tice, the person who hired me at Rockwell and who was mentored by Ollie, has posted some material on his web site, including an article by Ollie for the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society, Vol. 38, "An Evolutionary Space Station Architecture" O. P. Harwood, Huntington Beach, California, USA. ( www.quantumworks.com/Protean_Construction_System.htm ) ( www.quantumworks.com/jbis_article.htm ) A mirror of the article is at the San Diego SIGGRAPH web site. ( san-diego.siggraph.org/articles/JBIS/jbis_article.htm ) (In 2002 the San Diego Professional Chapter of ACM SIGGRAPH had Ollie speak about his unbuilt design at what may have been his last public appearance; he passed away in 2003.) ( san-diego.siggraph.org/events/SS0204_files/SS0204.htm ) Eventually Ollie's alternative design got so much press that NASA pressured Rockwell to fire him, hinting that we wouldn't win the space station contract if he couldn't be muzzled. But Ollie was talking the the LA Times by now, and firing him would've been a PR nightmare. Instead Rockwell management assigned a group of college grad new-hires to debunk his plan. (I learned a lot from this. NASA and aerospace always use green engineers for this kind of hatchet job -- they can usually be counted on to deliver the desired conclusion, and if they don't they are easily discredited.) The main contention they came up with was that Ollie's design had slightly smaller hatches, and wouldn't allow the optical bench from the Hubble Space Telescope to be brought aboard. Ollie's response was to challenge the requirement. With the hindsight of history, isn't it interesting that in the wake of the Columbia disaster that NASA wants to burn Hubble and keep the station it was supposed to able to use to fix it? Late in my term at Rockwell I happened upon newspaper article from the Houston Chronicle (I think) daily paper in Houston, TX. ( www.chron.com ) Someone had posted it on a company bulletin board. It told the tawdry tale of how NASA administrator James C. Fletcher had been ambushed by the congressmen from Alabama, who threatened to cancel the space station unless the program management was moved from the Johnson Space Center in Houston to NASA Marshall in Huntsville, Alabama. Being a totally political animal, Fletcher caved right away. When Texas congressmen complained, he promised them 1,000 space station jobs in Houston. This didn't satisfy them, and after a series of counter-threats the decision was finally rescinded. "What a spineless weasel," I thought at the time. By end of summer 1987 we had finished our proposal for the space station contract and were waiting to find out if we won. Word on the street was that since Rockwell already had the fifth orbiter deal, plus a lot of shuttle servicing pieces, and was a shoe-in to win the space station power systems contract for its Rocketdyne division, that the odds didn't look good for the main structure contract; plus it was perceived that it was McDonnell-Douglas' "turn" to win. The whole time I worked there I kept hearing rumors, and reading news stories, about how McDonnell-Douglas, was run by a bunch of crooks, and how they routinely bribed government officials (usually with high-paying do-nothing jobs) to get pricing information on their competitor's bids. (When Boeing bought Rockwell and then merged with McDonnell- Douglas I thought to myself, "maybe they finally will have some honest management." But the crooks came with the deal, and made the news recently in a similar bribery scandal. The rumors of this have never stopped flying, leading to incessant jokes on the internet.) ( techsupt.winbatch.com/webcgi/webbatch.exe?techsupt/tfleft.web+Work~and~Occupational~Humor+McDonnell~Douglas.txt ) The day before NASA announced the winners of the space station contracts, a woman who sat near Cerv and me told us that her dad, who was very well-connected in Washington, had heard that McD-D had bribed someone at NASA to get Rockwell's pricing, and underbid every line item by exactly 5%, and that NASA administrator Fletcher had responded by getting a group of young NASA engineers (natch) to re-score Rockwell's technical proposal, which had been approximately tied with McD-D's, so we would lose on technology AND price, making his decision a no-brainer. The next day NASA announced that McDonnell-Douglas had won the main structure contract. The Space Station Systems Division (SSSD) was dissolved, and everyone was transferred to other divisions, mostly Space Transportation Systems Division (STSD), including me. I was assigned to work on Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) -- or "Star Wars" -- projects. After learning a bit about the project (the non-classified portions) I remarked one day to my boss that the whole thing seemed to me like it could never work, and it was just a boondoggle to waste taxpayers money and fatten the aerospace industry. He put his finger to his lips and said, "Shhh!" One day we had a guest from Rockwell's Washington, D.C. office, who came to help us produce a video of a Kinetic Kill Vehicle (KKV) hitting a missile at a kilometer per second. At one point he said, "And then we close with the BOHICA." "The what?" we asked. He picked up a piece of Rockwell International stationery and pointed to the ever-present corporate logo. ( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/rockwell.jpg ) "You haven't heard it called a BOHICA?" he asked. "That's what we call it in Washington. It stands for 'Bend Over, Here It Comes Again.'" * * * * * * * * Soon afterwards, in early 1988, I left Rockwell, and went back into the computer vendor world. I quickly found that my customers were frequently aerospace companies: Rockwell and McDonnell-Douglas of course, and also Northrop, Lockheed, TRW, Hughes, Grumman, General Dynamics and Boeing. Though they all made military aircraft (or subsystems) and other stuff so secret you and I don't know about them, the models in the lobbies were almost always NASA projects, as I had been told at that conference back in 1983 (see last month's part one). 1988 was also the year that Nobel-prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman published his second autobiographical book, "What Do You Care What Other People Think?: Further Adventures of a Curious Character." ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0393320928/hip-20 ) It included his account of working on the Rogers Commission which investigated the space shuttle Challenger accident, as well as reprinting his "Appendix F: Personal Observations on the Reliability of the Shuttle" which Rogers tried to suppress until Feynman threatened to go directly to the press. NASA now has it on-line, ( history.nasa.gov/rogersrep/v2appf.htm ) as part of the entire (mostly) commission report. ( history.nasa.gov/rogersrep/51lcover.htm ) A copy is also at the Feynman web site, just to keep them honest. ( feynmanonline.com ) This is the essay in which he says: It appears that there are enormous differences of opinion as to the probability of a failure with loss of vehicle and of human life. The estimates range from roughly 1 in 100 to 1 in 100,000. The higher figures come from the working engineers, and the very low figures from management. What are the causes and consequences of this lack of agreement? Since 1 part in 100,000 would imply that one could put a Shuttle up each day for 300 years expecting to lose only one, we could properly ask "What is the cause of management's fantastic faith in the machinery?" Dr. Feynman's take on this accident helped me understand why NASA screws things up. More on this later. * * * * * * * * In August of 1989 the SIGGRAPH conference was held in Boston, and my wife and I took the opportunity to plan a post-conference vacation with another couple, Bob and Trish, driving from Boston down to Florida and ending up at Walt Disney World. On this trip I began reading a book called "Deep Black: Space Espionage and National Security" (1987) by William E. Burrows. ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0394541243/hip-20 ) I remember being at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, sitting under a Soyuz capsule waiting for my friends, reading this book, and being informed that our first satellite, Explorer One, was actually a spy satellite, designed to photograph the Soviet launch facility at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. (Or so Burrows claims.) He went on to explain that Eisenhower let the Soviets beat us into space with Sputnik because he was concerned that if we launched first they would protest the violation of their sovereignty of our overflights, but by letting them go first he forced their hand into accepting an "open skies" policy for earth-orbiting satellites. This echoed what I'd read a few years earlier in "Critical Path" (1982) by R. Buckminster Fuller. ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0312174918/hip-20 ) Bucky said that after World War Two one of America's greatest military priorities was determining the exact latitude and longitude of Soviet cities and military bases (so we could target them with ICBMs). The Soviet Union had used various forms of subterfuge, including fake maps, fake cities and fake defectors to feed us misinformation. The goal of our satellite program was to photograph and thereby precisely locate military targets. Getting them to accept "open skies" was vital to this effort. One of the things we wanted to do on this Boston-Florida trip was see a shuttle launch. From Washington I called back to Downey to my buddy Ben, still at Rockwell. He told me there was a military launch planned, but the exact date wouldn't be announced until 24 hours before liftoff. Reading more in the "Deep Black" book, I learned that the size of the shuttle orbiter's cargo bay was determined by a military satellite so secret that we (the public) still don't know its name. Its nickname is "Keyhole" usually abbreviated "KH" and it has about the same profile as the Hubble Space Telescope, except it looks down at Earth instead of up at the Heavens. It is the workhorse of our satellite intelligence system, and the reason the Air Force was willing to pay 50% of the shuttle's development costs. Thinking about this, I realized that this cargo requirement severely limited the shuttle's ability to serve as a passenger craft. Even empty, it must carry all the weight of the cargo capacity into orbit, and all the fuel to launch the weight, and all the fuel to launch the fuel, and so on (the so-called "mass ratio problem). A smaller passenger-only vehicle would be much cheaper to operate. I still remember the night of August 7, 1988, as we headed down through the Georgia night towards Florida. I was driving while everyone else napped, and I had the radio on to keep me awake. A news update came on, and the announcer said, "Everything set is set for that shuttle launch tomorrow morning." I woke up my traveling companions. "We're going to see a launch!" The next morning at dawn I got to see the Columbia -- again -- blast off into outer space, this time carrying a top-secret KH satellite for the Air Force. * * * * * * * * A user group conference for AVS brought me to Orlando in 1993, ( www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=lang_en&ie=ISO-8859-1&safe=off&q=%22Proceedings%22+2nd+%22International+AVS+User+Group+Conference%22 ) and afterwards my wife and I visited the Kennedy Space Center and -- on Memorial Day -- I saw the Astronaut Memorial for the first time. ( www.undercovertourist.com/tickets/orlando/kennedy-space-center/astronaut-memorial.htm ) It brought tears to my eyes. The names of the fallen were carved in marble and illuminated from behind by the sun, causing them to glow. It reminded me of a song by the alternative band "the Mekons" called "Ghosts Of American Astronauts" from their album "So Good It Hurts" (1988). ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0000018VE/hip-20 ) Here are the lyrics, nabbed from the 'net: Up in the hills above Bradford Outside the Napalm factory (They're floating above us) Ghosts of American Astronauts Glow in the headlights beam It's just a small step for him It's a nice break from Vietnam (Filmed in a factory) Out on the back lot in Houston Who says the world isn't flat John Glenn drinks cocktails with God In a cafe in downtown Saigon (High above them) Ghosts of American Astronauts Are drifting too close to the sun Chorus: A flag flying in the vacuum Nixon sucks a dry Martini Ghosts of American astronauts Stay with us in our dreams ( www.mekons.de/lyrics/ghosts.htm ) The tune is haunting, though the lyrics are sarcastic and repeat the hackneyed sentiment that the space race was 1) a distraction from Viet Nam and 2) filmed in a sound stage. Still, it gives me shivers. It invokes an ennui for a lost opportunity, which is better served by the short story collection "Memories of the Space Age" (1988) by J. G. Ballard. ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0870541579/hip-20 ) Rather than describe how it affected me, I defer to this reviewer at Amazon, who sums it up well: End of "The Dream", June 3, 2003 Reviewer: A reader. I read the book several years ago in its ... first ed. It floored me and has stayed with me ever since. These stories are amazing work. The idea, from one of the Canaveral stories, of people taking pieces of dead astronauts and making them into objects of religious veneration was astounding, and seemingly incredible until pieces of Columbia began to show up on eBay. This is simply one of the finest collections of sociological SF ever written--period. Ballard is proactive and prophetic here; I've read this collection again and again, and it's probably most haunting for those of us born during the Camelot era. We watched as Apollo 11 touched down and then we dreamed of space tourism to the moon and Mars bases by 2000. Now, as The Dream (with a capital D) of space travel limps along like a blind, poor beggar attacked by feral dogs, I keep returning to Ballard's collection. Read it, as my students will do this year, and weep for a lost dream. What is the dream that was lost? Well, the shuttle was supposed to be cheaper than expendable launch vehicles. It isn't. All the visions of orbiting solar satellites and space colonies were predicated on a cheap way to get to orbit. What went wrong? In 1994 I was back again in Orlando, this time for the SIGGRAPH conference. ( www.siggraph.org/conferences ) In anticipation of the trip I made a tape of music, including a song I'd snagged off VH-1 called "Sleeping Satellite" by Tasmin Archer, from her album "Great Expectations" (1993). ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000002UQB/hip-20 ) I selected it because I liked the voice and guitar work, but upon repeated listening I discovered that it was a musical answer to the question, "What went wrong with the moon shot?" Here are the lyrics (again nabbed for the 'net): I blame you for the moonlit sky And the dream that died with the Eagle's flight I blame you for the moonlit nights When I wonder why Are the seas still dry? Don't blame this sleeping satellite Did we fly to the moon too soon? Did we squander the chance? In the rush of the race The reason we chase is lost in romance And still we try To justify the waste For a taste of man's greatest adventure I blame you for the moonlit sky And the dream that died with the Eagle's flight I blame you for the moonlit nights When I wonder why Are the seas still dry? Don't blame this sleeping satellite Have we got what it takes to advance? Did we peak too soon? If the world is so green Then why does it scream under a blue moon? We wonder why The Earth's sacrificed For the price of its greatest treasure I blame you for the moonlit sky And the dream that died with the Eagle's flight I blame you for the moonlit nights When I wonder why Are the seas still dry? Don't blame this sleeping satellite And when we shoot for the stars What a giant step Have we got what it takes To carry the weight of this concept? Or pass it by Like a shot in the dark Miss the mark with a sense of adventure I blame you for the moonlit sky And the dream that died with the Eagle's flight I blame you for the moonlit nights When I wonder why Are the seas still dry? Don't blame this sleeping satellite ( www.lyricz.net/T/Tasmin+Archer/141883 ) So here I was back in Florida (though I didn't visit Kennedy Space Center this time), being invited by a musical coincidence to ponder the question "Did we fly to the moon too soon? Did we squander the chance in the rush of the race?" And I pondered the line, "...I wonder why are the seas still dry?" and took it to mean that the Maria (seas) of the moon are meant for terraforming -- we should be covering them over with domes and filling them with water from the melted pole ice. Why haven't we yet? 1994 was the 25th anniversary of Neil's "giant leap for mankind," and a lot of people were taking another look. Alan Shepard and Deke Slayton wrote a book called "Moon Shot: The Inside Story of America's Race to the Moon" (1994), ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1878685546/hip-20 ) that was made into an excellent special on the TBS cable network called simply "Moon Shot" (1994). ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/6303126707/hip-20 ) One ad for the show quoted a reviewer: "If we can put a man on the moon why can't we have more great television shows like 'Moonshot'?" The following year the Ron Howard film "Apollo 13" (1995) came out, starring the irrepressible Tom Hanks as the irrepressible Jim Lovell. ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0783225733/hip-20 ) The film emphasized the human drama of the accident, but it did have this intriguing dialog: EECOM: Gene. We have a situation brewing with the carbon dioxide. TELMU: We have a CO2 filter problem in the Lunar Module. EECOM: Five filters on the LeM. TELMU: Which were meant for two guys for a day and a half. EECOM: That's what I told the Doc. DR. CHUCK (FLIGHT SURGEON): They're already up to eight on the gauges, anything over 15 and you get impaired judgment, blackouts, the beginnings of brain asphyxia. GENE KRANTZ (FLIGHT DIRECTOR): What about the scrubbers on the command module? EECOM: They take square cartridges. TELMU: The ones on the LeM are round. GENE KRANTZ (to LUNNEY): Tell me this isn't a government operation. ( sfy.ru/sfy.html?script=apollo13 ) One thing the film did not address was the cause of the accident. Here is an analysis: The accident began, in fact, in 1965 when the design engineers decided to change the spacecraft power supplies from 28 to 65 volts. Normally, of course, such a change would cause a cascade of other changes as designers adapted their particular components to the new operating environment. However, the people building the innards of the Service Module oxygen tanks somehow never became consciously aware of the change. Each of the tanks contained a stirring fan, a heating element, and a temperature -sensitive switch designed to shut everything off if the element got hotter than about 25 degrees centigrade (80 F) and none of these components was ever redesigned to accommodate the higher voltage. NASA might have gotten away with the design flaw (as it had on Apollos 7 through 12 ) if one of the oxygen tanks destined to fly on Apollo 13 hadn't been damaged in 1968. This particular tank had originally been installed in the Apollo 10 CSM but, prior to that mission, was removed for modification. At some point, the tank was dropped about 5 cm (two inches) and because of its very thin walls, suffered noticeable damage. Another tank was installed in Apollo 10 while the original was set aside for repair and eventual installation in the Apollo 13 spacecraft. Tests run on the tank after the repairs indicated proper functioning but, in the weeks preceding the Apollo 13 launch, ground crews experienced significant difficulties draining it. In hindsight, it was at this point that NASA should have taken a hard look at the health of the tank but instead, all of the cognizant individuals - the crew included - concluded that the problem was not serious. Replacement of the tank would have delayed the mission - by a month at least - and, at the time, it seemed acceptable to try emptying the tank by running the internal heater for several hours. No one imagined just how serious a problem the procedure would cause. As we now know, the temperature-sensitive switch was not designed to operate at 65 volts. During normal operations, the heater was on for only brief periods and the switch never opened. However, during what proved to be a lengthy process of emptying the tank using the internal heater, the switch opened but, then, was immediately welded shut again by an electric arc driven by the high voltage. Indications that the switch had closed were missed. Subsequently, whenever the CSM was powered up, the heaters went into operation without the protection normally provided by the switch; and, at some point during pre-launch activities, the whole assembly reached a temperature of over 500 degrees Centigrade (1000 F). This was a high enough temperature to cause severe damage to the Teflon insulation protecting the fan-motor wiring and, as the Apollo 13 Review Board later concluded, "from that time on the oxygen tank was in a hazardous condition when filled with oxygen and electrically powered." The stage was set for the accident. ( www.solarviews.com/eng/apo13.htm#cause ) Because I have this compulsion to over-research, I reviewed this film during the last month in preparation for writing part two of this column. (I also read Shepard & Slayton's "Moon Shot" and saw the TBS special again, and re-read the book "The Right Stuff" as well as re-screening the 1983 movie.) ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000092T6N/hip-20 ) Thinking about it all, and all the "what went wrong questions -- about the Apollo 1 fire, the Challenger explosion, and the failure of the shuttle to meet its goals -- I remembered something mentioned in the 1996 novel "The Cobweb" (1996) by Stephen Bury (a pseudonym for the collaboration of Neal Stephenson and his uncle, J. Frederick George). ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0553378287/hip-20 ) A fictional FBI failure in the first Gulf War is explored, and we are told that the FBI operates to deliver only the top guy's pet theories up through the hierarchy. Any other communications are condemned as "forward leaning analysis" and are filtered out. This is why the CIA told George W. Bush that there were Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq -- it was what he wanted to hear. It isn't a Republican problem, not is the fault of the previous Democratic administration. It's a hierarchy problem. A fictional character named Hagbard Celine in another novel, "The Illuminatus Trilogy" (1975) by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson, puts it even more succinctly: "Communication is only possible between equals." ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0440539811/hip-20 ) (This means that current proposals to create an "Intelligence Tzar" and concentrate cabinet-level power in their hands will only make the problem worse. What we really need is more independent and competitive intelligence sources, not more top-down control.) Recall that Morton Thiokol's own managers squashed the engineer's judgment that the Challenger shouldn't have been launched in freezing weather -- they knew NASA didn't want to hear it on the day of Reagan's State of the Union Address. * * * * * * * * In 1997 Saturday Night Live aired a biting yet hilarious sketch about how boring and irrelevant the shuttle program had become, with David Duchovney as an over-eager astronaut. As one critic described it: Our space program lingers in its infancy. Saturday Night Live pokes fun at our regression by parodying the Apollo documentary "From the Earth to the Moon" with "From the Earth to the Area Around the Earth: The Story of the Space Shuttle." ( freedompress.blogspot.com/2003_02_01_freedompress_archive.html ) If you don't agree with this assessment, can you name any of the three shuttle orbiters which were NOT destroyed, and are still in the fleet? (Answer below.) * * * * * * * * On Halloween 2000 the first crew arrived at the International Space Station (ISS), after a long, expensive and halting evolution of the space station concept. Reagan's America-only plan had been supplanted by a multinational effort. McDonnell-Douglas had long ago been tossed out as main structure contractor for "screwing it up." (I never did figure out exactly what they did wrong, besides spending a bunch of money and not building anything, same as NASA. One web site refers to McD-D's "notorious Work Package 2," but doesn't say what made it notorious.) Whatever goals the thing was supposed to have seemed to have long vanished. It did set the record for the most expensive thing ever built by humans. And it did make it into operation before Stanley Kubrick's fantasy deadline of 2001. ( www.astronautix.com/craftfam/usstions.htm ) In late winter 2001 I took my family on a driving vacation around southern California, including a visit to NASA Dryden at Edwards Air Force Base, the place where Yeager broke the sound barrier and the shuttles land. The morning of our tour, March 1, NASA announced the cancellation of the X-33 lifting body Single Stage to Orbit (SSTO) project. ( members.nova.org/~sol/station/x33-3.jpg ) This was supposed to be the follow-on to the shuttle. As we assembled in a press room to begin our tour, we were handed slick press packets with pictures of the X-33 all over and through them. There was even a CD-ROM with more X-33 pix. "Boy," I thought, "what a lot of wasted tax dollars." During the Q&A I asked what would replace the X-33. I didn't get a straight answer, but I think I pissed them off. (I'm glad we made this trip; after 9/11 these tours were permanently cancelled.) * * * * * * * * Less than a year later Columbia -- which I'd fallen in love with on the pad in 1981, seen twice launch and once land -- burned up during reentry in a macabre fireworks display over Texas and nearby states. I think I was more upset than I was about the twin towers. After I got over my shock I remember thinking, "They can't build another one. The old Japanese lady who knew how to do the wiring harness must've retired by now." Six months after the accident the press reported that NASA contractor Boeing had a program called "Crater" which was used to analyze the foam impact that doomed Columbia, but the team that used it was inexperienced and drew the wrong conclusions, prompting the ire of the retired Boeing engineer who developed the program, Allen J. Richardson. Once again green engineers could be counted on to give NASA the answer they wanted to hear. See the New York Times article "NASA Misused Foam Program" reprinted at MIT's web site. ( www-tech.mit.edu/V123/N33/long3.33w.html ) Also, for the record, let use note that the revised system-wide failure rate for space shuttles is not 1-in-100,00 (the managers' hopeful estimate), or even 1-in-100 (the engineers' worst case estimate), but 1-in-57. For a real eye-opening experience, you can read the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB) report. ( www.caib.us ) (It's also supposed to be on the NASA web site, but I couldn't find it there.) * * * * * * * * 2003 was the centennial of the Wright brothers flight. Do you remember Samuel Pierpont Langley, namesake of NASA Langley? He tried to build an airplane with government money and failed. There was certainly no dishonor in his attempt, but apologists for government funding attempted to rewrite history after the fact, as is chronicled in this report from Fox News December 12, 2003: "Junk Science" Smithsonian Wrongs Wrights ... Again By Steven Milloy ... By 1908, the Wrights owned a general airplane patent in the United States and Europe and aggressively enforced their rights with lawsuits. Their principal U.S. foe was aircraft manufacturer Glenn Curtiss, who repeatedly lost court battles with the Wrights between 1910 and 1914. In early 1914, Curtiss met with Albert Zahm, one of his former expert witnesses, who had just become the head of the Smithsonian's Langley Aerodynamical Laboratory -- the Aerodrome's custodian. Zahm suggested rebuilding and retesting the Aerodrome to see if Langley's design was capable of flight had it not been thwarted by the supposedly faulty launching equipment. If it could be shown that the Aerodrome was capable of flight first, then a court might limit the Wright patent. Smithsonian chief Charles Walcott, a friend of Langley's and a supporter of his Aerodrome project, agreed to this "restoration" scheme, cloaking his approval in historical and aeronautical safety rationale. Walcott then commissioned Curtiss -- hardly a disinterested party -- to rebuild and test the Aerodrome! Curtiss went far beyond restoring the Aerodrome's original design. Engine parts were changed. The propellers and wings were enhanced. Pontoons were added to replace Langley's houseboat-launch set-up. Curtiss' reconstructed Aerodrome wasn't Langley's original Aerodrome, at all. At a May 1914 test flight, the Smithsonian's Zahm reported that the "restored" Aerodrome "rose in level poise, soared gracefully for 150 feet and landed softly on the water." The New York Times, however, reported the news differently -- "observers who watched the proceedings from the shore failed to see that the machine rose at all from the water." Two photos were taken of the Aerodrome with its pontoons just above the water's surface at a subsequent test in June 1914. No time or distance estimates were recorded for the "flight." Curtiss then lured Orville -- Wilbur had died in 1912 -- into filing another infringement suit in November 1914. As evidence of the Aerodrome's capacity for flight, Curtiss used the Smithsonian's annual report for 1914 in which Zahm described the Aerodrome as the "first man-carrying aeroplane capable of sustained free flight." The report included the photos of the Aerodrome aloft, maintaining the machine was unmodified. But the Curtiss-Smithsonian scheme didn't impress the court, which upheld the Wright patent. Curtiss' defeat, however, didn't end the Smithsonian's effort to deny the Wrights' claim to fame. In 1918, the Smithsonian restored the Aerodrome to its original 1903 condition and displayed it in the museum with the label, "The first man-carrying aeroplane in the history of the world capable of sustained free flight. Invented, built, and tested over the Potomac River by Samuel Pierpont Langley in 1903. Successfully flown at Hammondsport, N.Y., June 2, 1914." "It was a lie pure and simple, but it bore the imprimatur of the venerable Smithsonian and over the years would find its way into magazines, history books, and encyclopedias, much to the annoyance of those familiar with the facts," wrote Fred Howard in "Wilbur and Orville." The lie lasted 25 years. ( www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,105513,00.html ) * * * * * * * * "Do you know why we have to have a monopoly, for a few years at least? Because every so-and-so and his brother is going to want to build a Moon ship, now that they know it can be done. After Lindbergh did it, every so-called pilot who could lay his hands on a crate took off for some over-water point. Some even took their kids along. And most of them landed in the drink. Airplanes got a reputation for being dangerous." -- "The Man Who Sold the Moon" (1949) Robert Heinlein, reprinted in "The Past Through Tomorrow Future History Stories" (1967) ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0399106200/hip-20 ) In the last issue of C3M I talked about the Ansari X Prize, a $10 million prize for the first vehicle to carry three humans up to 100 km twice in two weeks. ( www.xprize.org ) The current odds-on favorite to win it is Burt Rutan and his company Scaled Composites. ( www.scaled.com ) Their previous accomplishments include the Voyager aircraft, the first aircraft to fly around the world without stopping or refueling. An article in WIRED from over a year ago, now on-line, has details of Rutan's entry as well as profiles of the other major competitors. ( www.wired.com/wired/archive/11.07/space.html ) These include John Carmack, cofounder of id Software (Doom, Quake), Elon Musk of creator of PayPal, Paul Allen, cofounder of Microsoft, Bill Gross founder of idealab! (dotcom-era incubator), and Eric Klien, president of Colossus (webhosting service). It is comforting to realize that not all the dot-com billions disappeared into a black hole; some of them are funding the commercial space revolution. Earlier this year I saw an article on the web in which an official of the Canadian Space Agency complained about the X Prize not having adequate technical controls. I had two thoughts on this: 1) Was he seriously suggesting that government projects are higher in quality? Then why do we have the expression "Close enough for government work" in common use? 2) What has the Canadian Space Agency accomplished anyway? We drove up to see a test of Rutan's craft, mother ship White Knight and its belly-mounted pod, SpaceShipOne, on June 21 of this year. A few days earlier we'd watched the movie "The Right Stuff" again, sharing it with out 10-year-old daughter. As we made our way in the pre-dawn hours up to the Mojave airport past Edwards Air Force Base and NASA Dryden, we reflected on how we were just a few miles from where Yeager made his final X-15 flight to the edge of space in which he crashed the plane and burned away half of his face. The movie presents this as a Maverick flight in which the veteran test pilot was trying to show an uncaring world that we could be going to space in aircraft instead of capsules. The book makes clear that this was an authorized test flight, but I still think of it as Yeager's message to history. It was a message history would not have received if not for the brilliant research and writing by author Tom Wolfe. I heard on the radio on the way up that White Knight was named for two X-15 pilots. Shortly after dawn we saw test pilot Mike Melvill earn his astronaut wings, the first person to do do who wasn't in a government-built craft. We almost saw him die instead, as we found out later from news reports on the web. Two serious mechanical failures tested test pilot Melvill's "right stuff." The 63-year-old flight test veteran "pulled it out of the fire." I was reminded of something my dad, who was a test flight engineer for Convair, used to say: "There are old pilots and bold pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots." He also had a picture of a very ancient test pilot hanging in his garage, with the caption, "Testing is fun." ( www.haw-hamburg.de/pers/Scholz/Flugerprobung.html ) I wish I had some great pix to share with y'all of the event. The crowd was right next to the runway, in marked contrast to the miles away I had to stand to see Saturn V and shuttle launches. But we were staring right in to the dawn sun, and the video I shot was pretty useless. The press got some good pix. I stole a few. ( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/040621media.jpg ) ( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/040621taxi.jpg ) ( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/040620testlaunch.jpg ) ( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/040621postlanding1.jpg ) More impressive than seeing it was hearing the excitement of the crowd as the flight milestones were announced over loudspeakers. There were also reportedly some celebrities there, including John Travolta and the Governator, though we didn't catch a glimpse of them. I did see and snap a photo of some local high desert beauty queens: Miss Mojave, Miss Boron, Miss Antelope Valley, Miss Rosamond, etc. ( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/Mojave0026.jpg ) It was a day for reflecting on contrasts. The movie "Apollo 13" reminded us of the incompatible connectors on the CO2 scrubbers in the Command Module and the Lunar Module (built by Rockwell and Grumman respectively). White Knight and SpaceShipOne had identical cockpit controls -- anyone trained to fly one could fly the other. Clearly this was not a government job. I've seen several Apollo capsules -- at the Smithsonian, at Rockwell, and at San Diego's Air and Space Museum (I saw their Apollo 9 capsule again last week). All the ones that have been through reentry are terribly scorched. SpaceShipOne was not scorched at all. The design, which pops out to a shape like a badminton shuttlecock or "birdie" during reentry, keeps it oriented and slow enough to not need a heat shield. When I saw the second Columbia landing in 1981 at Edwards Air Force Base the astronauts had to stay inside for about an hour because they were waiting for toxic rocket fuel remnants to "outgas." Melvill hopped out of SpaceShipOne immediately -- it burns rubber mixed with laughing gas, made by local company SpaceDev. ( www.spacedev.com ) The fuel is so safe that they give away coasters made of it; my wife wrote away for one. ( collectspace.com/ubb/Forum3/HTML/002026.html ) In the afternoon we drove east to Barstow where we had an appointment to take a tour of the Goldstone Deep Space Network which NASA uses to communicate with manned and unmanned spacecraft. (We wanted to make sure that if the launch was cancelled we still had something interesting to do in the area.) ( deepspace.jpl.nasa.gov/dsn ) The contrast between the private launch at Mojave Airport and the publicly-owned facility inside Fort Irwin Army Base was stark. We got onto the Mojave Airport simply by paying for parking. At Goldstone we needed an appointment, ID, proof of car registration and insurance and a vehicle pass from the Army. There was no doubt this was a government job. And boy did the hardware look expensive. ( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/Goldstone0043.jpg ) Our tour guide was a very nice woman named Marie Massey. She was very interesting and informative, as was the tour, but it did give me the willies that she had spent her entire adult life working for NASA. It got me to wondering if we have a paradox in which our space ships are unnecessarily dangerous because our space workers are risk averse. I do recommend the tour. It's free -- you already paid for it! Roger Herzler has a web-tour of the complex that is nicely photographed and annotated, and shows just about everything we saw. ( theastropages.com/articles/articles019_goldstone_album_1.htm ) * * * * * * * * This summer I attended the funeral of one of my oldest friend's father (I don't mean my friend is old... you know what I mean). At the open house afterward I was telling my friend about the SpaceShipOne test and he recommended two books to me. The first was "Full Moon" (1999) by Michael Light, which is a collection of moon mission photos digitized from the original negatives that I'm told are mind-blowingly beautiful. ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0375406344/hip-20 ) The second is "Lost in Space: The Fall of NASA and the Dream of a New Space Age" (2004) by Greg Klerkx, a former director of the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Life (SETI) Institute. ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0375421505/hip-20 ) This book was a real eye-opener for me, even given my level of cynicism, and it put a lot of pieces together. From this book I learned that insiders have groused that NASA is "Not About Space Anymore." It has actively suppressed alternative technologies that would threatened the shuttle, as well as commercial space ventures. It bullied Russia into "burning" the Mir space station when it had potential buyers who wanted to make a tourist destination and movie studio. I learned that the Marshall Space Flight Center has continued to be a loose cannon, defying the NASA administrator to take its own steps to kill alternative low-cost launch initiatives. Even former NASA administrator James Beggs is now highly critical of the agency. Beggs's disillusionment at NASA's skullduggery, which he felt largely helpless to stop, so affected him that he later became openly hostile to the agency. "NASA should not be a transportation company. . . . NASA should not be a landlord in space," Beggs wrote... "And above all, NASA should not be an employment agency. . . even if that means a few bureaucrats have to find something else to do." Beggs even took the extraordinary step of lambasting Dan Goldin, then the administrator, saying that despite "repeated public pronouncements of support for commercial space from [Goldin], in recent years NASA has done IN DEED the exact opposite." I learned that the X-33 was designed to fail, "proving" that we need to keep using the shuttle even though its design is now 30 years old. This protects the monopoly of the NASA centers and their favored contractors. My friend who recommended the book said NASA has turned into the post office. I didn't understand this at first. The book has the same charge: Writing in "The National Review," Andrew Stuttaford sniped that NASA was "little more than the postal service in a space suit." Then I remembered that the post office had a government mandated monopoly on first class mail. Did you know it's illegal to use FedEx if you're not really in a hurry? Every year the Postal Service audits corporations and extorts money out of them for using overnight services unnecessarily. NASA has an even better scam: you need their permission to launch anything into space, and they can say no for any reason. I found myself remembering that Thomas Pynchon (in my opinion one of the greatest novelists of the 20th century) wrote his two best works about the struggle to control the postal monopoly -- "The Crying of Lot 49" (1966) ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0060931671/hip-20 ) -- and the struggle to control rocket technology -- "Gravity's Rainbow" (1973). ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0140188592/hip-20 ) "How did you feel about the old Rocket? Not now that it's given you job security, but back then --" -- "Gravity's Rainbow" Just last month former Microsoft COO Robert Herbold published "Fiefdom Syndrome: The Turf Battles That Undermine Careers and Companies - And How to Overcome Them" ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0385510675/hip-20 ) in which he gives senior managers advice on how to break up fiefdoms in corporations. Corporations desperately need to break up their fiefdoms, because they become hamstrung otherwise and their competitors eat their lunch. But government monopolies don't experience this pressure. Their fiefdoms must be broken up by political processes. I think we have our work cut out for us. * * * * * * * * "Manicheans... see two Rockets, good and evil... a good Rocket to take us to the stars, an evil Rocket for the world's suicide, the two perpetually in struggle." -- "Gravity's Rainbow" Okay, I've passed the 9,000 word mark, and am approaching the longest e-Zine I've ever written (and that's just part two!) so I better wrap it up here. I just have a couple of more points. Why is space travel important? I have three answers. The first nearly everyone knows. The sun is going to explode in about a billion years. (Old joke: "What did he say?" "The sun is going to explode in about a billion years." "Oh, thank goodness -- I thought he said million!") One of the best discussions of this point is Italian-American author Oriana Fallaci's "If the Sun Dies" (1977), ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0689706103/hip-20 ) There is an excellent review of this book from the CoEvolution Quarterly archived at NASA's web site. ( lifesci3.arc.nasa.gov/SpaceSettlement/CoEvolutionBook/LIFES.HTML#If%20the%20Sun%20Dies ) The second reason is that we now know that the Earth gets slammed from time to time by meteors that cause "Great Dyings." ( www.rednova.com/news/stories/1/2004/03/08/story001.html ) In 1990 the crater from the dinosaur-killing meteor from 65 million years ago was found in the waters off the Yucatan Peninsula (the one that left the iridium layer). ( www.rednova.com/news/images/1/2004/03/08/meteor_impact_5big_satellite_chicxulub_nasa.jpg ) In 1994 we got to watch comet Shoemaker-Levy 9's collision with Jupiter (thanks especially to the Hubble Space Telescope) and wonder, what if that had been our little watery world instead of that gas giant? ( www.rednova.com/news/images/1/2004/03/08/jupiter_20big_comet-impact_Shoemaker-Levy-9_hubble.jpg ) Earlier this year the crater was found in the waters off Australia from the comet 250 million years ago that wiped out 90% of all life. "Hunt for Oil Leads to Crater Linked to 'Great Dying' By Robert Roy Britt Senior Science Writer 13 May 2004" "...scientists have announced that the search for oil has led to the identification of a 250-million-year-old impact crater that may be associated with the worst mass extinction in history." ( www.space.com/scienceastronomy/great_dying_040513.html ) Unlike the death of the Sun, we don't know when this threat will strike. We could be about to get a few days warning (like Jor-El, father of Superman, whose son was the only survivor of the destruction of the planet Krypton...) ( theages.superman.ws/Encyclopaedia/jor-el.php ) The third reason I mentioned in last month's e-Zine, but I think some of you missed it. This is the cybernetics part. In the late 1960s the Club of Rome sponsored a research project into the "carrying capacity" of the Earth, and results were published in "The Limits to Growth" (1970). ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0330241699/hip-20 ) The authors basically used computer simulation to confirm this commonsense conclusion: if the Earth has finite resources, finite energy, finite places to put pollution, and an exponentially growing population, then sooner or later they system is going to "crash." Technical "fixes" can postpone the outcome, maybe even for hundreds of years, but it can't cancel it. Peter Vajk, a physicist at Lawrence Livermore Labs, reran the computer models with energy input from solar power satellites and saw a much rosier scenario. He first published it in the article "Space Colonies, Ethics and People" in the CoEvolution Quarterly in 1976, which included a graph of his revised model's output. ( lifesci3.arc.nasa.gov/SpaceSettlement/CoEvolutionBook/GRAPH1.GIF ) He also discussed the possibility of stabilizing the Earth's population without birth control through space migration. Assume, for the sake of discussion, that the population of the earth 50 years from now is 10 billion people, and suppose that the rate of population growth is still 2%. That means that population stabilization on the earth would require the emigration to new lands in space of 200,000,000 people annually. Isn't that preposterous? To put that question in perspective, think back 50 years. At that time, the number of people who had crossed the Atlantic ocean by air was less than the number of people who have today been in space. Today we take it for granted that the airline industry in the United State alone carries 200,000,000 passengers every year. Okay, but is a jetliner in any way comparable to the space shuttle or an Apollo flight? The energy required to launch one pound into earth orbit is, in fact, the same as the energy needed to ship that pound from San Francisco to New York by airfreight. The difference is simply that the jetliner spends five hours burning up that much energy, while a rocket burns it up in less than five minutes. Both vehicles are built by the same industries using the same technologies, and the price tag for one Boeing 747 is not enormously different from the price tag that Saturn rockets would have if they were built in the same quantities as 747's. The advance from an Apollo capsule for three people to a re-useable launch vehicle carrying 1000 passengers is less difficult than the advance that has been made in aircraft between the Wright brothers' one-man ship and the 747 with more than 300 passengers and crew. It is possible to design and build such launch vehicles to have less environmental impact than our present airline fleet. He later wrote a book called "Doomsday Has Been Canceled" (1978) expanding these ideas. ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0915238241/hip-20 ) So what do we do about NASA? They've expressed an willingness to burn Hubble to save the space station, and more recently (in response to a lot of pressure) allowed that a robot mission to fix Hubble could be done. If that works, it's going to raise a lot more questions about why we need a manned space program at all. I believe the answer is that we DON'T need a manned space program. In fact, the only believable reason at this point to send humans into space is that they WANT to go. That is what you call "space tourism." It's what NASA keeps refusing to do, and it's the "killer app" for manned space travel. I think we need to clip NASA's wings, and get them out of the operations side of space flight. They were originally a research organization, it's what they've always done best, and it creates a genuine benefit for the country. They still perform they role for the commercial aviation sector, developing new jet engine technology and such, but we don't let them run airlines. Mars Rovers: yes, joyrides for John Glenn: no. Back in the 1980s when I was in the thick of the aerospace industry, one day I started hearing people refer to "the NASA." The explanation was that it was "the National Aeronautics and Space Administration," so it should be "the NASA" for short. (I am reminded of the comedy movie "Hot Shots" (1991) -- a parody of "Top Gun" -- in which all the jets were stenciled "THE NAVY.") ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000067J1Y/hip-20 ) There are some people so angry that they want to shut NASA down, but I just want to take away their "THE." * * * * * * * * A perceptive and cynical schoolteacher named James Herndon wrote a book about his teaching experiences called "How To Survive In Your Native Land" (1971), ( www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0671230271/hip-20 ) in which he included a chapter called "Four or Five-Minute Speech For a Symposium On 'American Institutions and Do They Need Changing Or What?'" He argued that institutions will always place survival ahead of the goals they were created to accomplish, and then resist those goals because if the achieve them it will place their survival in jeopardy. He went on to say institutions don't change, they adapt. Criticism gives them something to adapt to, thereby avoiding change. The report on the Columbia disaster says NASA learned nothing from the Challenger disaster. Raise your hand if you're surprised to hear this. About ten or so years ago I went to a conference called "Medicine Meets Virtual Reality," at which James Burke (of "Connections" fame) was the keynote speaker. ( www.nextmed.com/mmvr_virtual_reality.html ) He predicted that in the future, maybe 100 years hence, people will look back and marvel at how we let our institutions kick us around. Somehow, through the internet or something, he expects we will manage to abolish permanent institutions and replace them with ad-hoc self-destructing temporary mission-driven clusters of people performing tasks. I hope so, but I'm not holding my breath. * * * * * * * * As I was working on trying to finish this issue at the end of July (before I decided to split into two parts) I heard on the news that we were having a "blue moon," which simply means the second full moon in the same calendar month. ( www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047/blue_moon.jpg ) As I gazed up at that sleeping satellite, I wondered ...why Are the seas still dry? ======================================================================== Answer to quiz: 1 point each for Atlantis, Discovery and Endeavor. Minus 2 points for Enterprise (it was only used for landing tests). ======================================================================== newsletter archives: www.well.com/~abs/Cyb/4.669211660910299067185320382047 ======================================================================== Privacy Promise: Your email address will never be sold or given to others. You will receive only the e-Zine C3M unless you opt-in to receive occasional commercial offers directly from me, Alan Scrivener, by sending email to abs@well.com with the subject line "opt in" -- you can always opt out again with the subject line "opt out" -- by default you are opted out. To cancel the e-Zine entirely send the subject line "unsubscribe" to me. I receive a commission on everything you purchase during your session with Amazon.com after following one of my links, which helps to support my research. ======================================================================== Copyright 2004 by Alan B. Scrivener