Kuro5hin.org: technology and culture, from the trenches
create account | help/FAQ | contact | links | search | IRC | site news
[ Everything | Diaries | Technology | Science | Culture | Politics | Media | News | Internet | Op-Ed | Fiction | Meta | MLP ]
We need your support: buy an ad | premium membership

[P]
25 Years ago this month...

By DeadBaby in MLP
Fri Jul 20, 2001 at 05:55:10 PM EST
Tags: Science (all tags)
Science

The Viking 1 spacecraft landed on then Martian surface at Chryse Planitia. 25 years later the Viking spacecraft is responsible for some of the most important advances made in planetary research.


Everyone who is captivated by the possibilities of space travel always feels as though we're doing too little. Not spending enough money and not taking enough risks to further our knowledge of the universe. It's important to remember only 25 short years ago the United States, and for that matter the world, successfully landed the Viking 1 spacecraft and by doing so completed one of the most successful and important space missions in our short history of space travel.

I think it's important for us to always acknowledge these great achievements in space travel so we don't get too lonely hoping for the day we can travel to the stars ourselves. I know I'll be taking a walk outside tonight in hopes of spotting the red planet.

Some coverage:

Rethinking Viking: The Life on Mars Debate Rages On

Debate on Mars life rages long after Viking

Sponsors

Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure

Login

Poll
Exploration of space is progressing:
o Too slowly 78%
o Incredibly fast 4%
o At an expected pace 14%
o Ask Captain Kirk 2%

Votes: 41
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Rethinking Viking: The Life on Mars Debate Rages On
o Debate on Mars life rages long after Viking
o Also by DeadBaby


Display: Sort:
25 Years ago this month... | 15 comments (15 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
Thanks... (3.33 / 3) (#1)
by Sikpup on Fri Jul 20, 2001 at 04:31:00 PM EST

I remember following this closely as it happened. Thanks for making me feel really old...

25 years is an eyeblink. :) (4.00 / 2) (#2)
by joegee on Fri Jul 20, 2001 at 05:06:19 PM EST

Only a hundred years ago we were just perfecting pushing ourselves through the air. Seventy five years later we drop a probe on a world that is, at its closest, still around 40 million miles away from us. Space travel may not be happening as predicted by "Space 1999", or "2001: A Space Oddessy", but it is progressing at a (mostly) sustainable pace.

My greatest impatience lies not with technology or science, my greatest impatience lies with short-sighted politicians who hand out space access so parsimoniously. Instead of moving towards the privatization of space enterprise, politicians insist on running all space development through costly bloated government-funded bureaucracies whose very structure begins leeching funding away from projects as soon as they are announced.

I feel it's time for government to encourage space enterprise, instead of limiting it. Give tax incentives for companies that implement inexpensive ground to orbit technologies or find new ways to exploit extraterrestrial resources. Make launch permits easier to acquire. As for government in space, let NASA become a purely scientific agency, and create a branch of the USAF the deals specifically with military space technology: a space force?

If the U.S. government would listen to me I'd tell them "if the market is so all-powerful, let the market find uses for space. Get out of telling our best minds how to build the future and let them decide for themselves."

But who listens to me? :)

<sig>I always learn something on K5, sometimes in spite of myself.</sig>
[ Parent ]
Response in Detail :) (4.50 / 2) (#3)
by _Quinn on Fri Jul 20, 2001 at 05:21:42 PM EST

   Yes, we should move towards privatizing space enterprise; even not _discouraging_ private space launches would be a step forward.


   Yes, NASA should be a purely scientific agency, but it never was... it took over from its predecessor agency to beat the Russians, and mutated into half half-assed research (robotics, gentlemen), half PR-stunt (robotics, gentlemen), and half shipping/construction company. And it complains about not having enough money, because it gets funded as one agency rather than three.

   That being said, I agree with you, but with the caveats that NASA should sell off its shuttles when it goes into research (they're 25 years old) and be funded as a research agency with the goal of dropping the cost-per-pound-to-orbit by an order of magnitude every ten years, until I can afford to visit a tourist trap on the moon.


   Finally, I believe the US Space Command (www.spacecom.af.mil/usspace/) is who deals with military space technology, though I don't know the specifics.

-_Quinn
Reality Maintenance Group, Silver City Construction Co., Ltd.
[ Parent ]
regarding the Space Command ... (3.00 / 1) (#5)
by joegee on Fri Jul 20, 2001 at 05:51:34 PM EST

As I recall, something the current administration is considering is the creation of a United States Space Force, initially organizing as a branch of the military under USAF, but eventually becoming a separate entity with its commander as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Regarding NASA being a research-only organization, I wasn't born yet when Kennedy declared the race to the moon, but I remember NASA's heyday, when being a NASA engineer meant you had the neatest toys, the coolest pictures in your office, and rode on the bleeding edge of material and aerospace science. NASA was great for American PR during the Cold War, and actually did create several benefits for civilian society.

That having been said, the space agency has been dying a slow death ever since the end of the Cold War, as various watchdog groups each make their small cut and watch NASA hemmorhage.

I agree wholeheartedly regarding NASA selling off its shuttle fleet. I suspect they would be decommissioned rather quickly and replaced by something like the more cost-effective Delta Clipper.

Again, I think government's role should become one of encouragement, as opposed to subsidization. Thanks for your comment!

-Joe

<sig>I always learn something on K5, sometimes in spite of myself.</sig>
[ Parent ]
NASA (none / 0) (#9)
by sigwinch on Sat Jul 21, 2001 at 10:34:14 PM EST

That having been said, the space agency has been dying a slow death ever since the end of the Cold War, as various watchdog groups each make their small cut and watch NASA hemmorhage.
Funding levels aren't really a problem. If you ramped NASA up to $150 billion/year, cost per pound to orbit would actually increase (due to increased competition for shuttle payload capacity).

The real problem is that NASA has no Congressional mandate, and no internal leadership, for developing better launch vehicles. Instead, they have built a massive, entrenched bureaucracy dedicated to the shuttle. NASA leadership sees improved launch vehicles as a deadly threat to their shuttle funding, and stops at nothing to eliminate them.

I agree wholeheartedly regarding NASA selling off its shuttle fleet.
Absent a major disaster, massive Congressional focus, or being sputniked, that will never happen. Decommissioning the fleet would kick hundreds (thousands?) of NASA and subcontractor managers out of their quiet, stable, predictable 40 hour/week jobs where they execute handbook solutions for solved problems. It would throw them into the hideous turmoil of engineering research and development, where they would fail miserably at everything they tried. Designing a new system takes much more skill than merely building the existing system to regurgitated specifications.
I suspect they would be decommissioned rather quickly and replaced by something like the more cost-effective Delta Clipper.
Remember your history. The entrenched shuttle bureaucracy and contractors did everything they could to bury the program. Even when the DC-X functional one-third-scale prototype was built and working, they persisted in fighting it and nearly got it cancelled. When that didn't work, they got the project transferred to NASA and destroyed the prototype. (Officially, the DC-X loss was an 'accident', but you can be sure there was great relief and rejoicing in the shuttle program.)

The only way I see to kill the shuttle is to develop an entirely private launch vehicle that is cheaper, make a big stink in the press about how much cheaper it is than the shuttle, and get the shuttle proxmired.

--
I don't want the world, I just want your half.
[ Parent ]

Rambling Observations :) (none / 0) (#10)
by joegee on Sun Jul 22, 2001 at 02:23:04 PM EST

"The only way I see to kill the shuttle is to develop an entirely private launch vehicle that is cheaper, make a big stink in the press about how much cheaper it is than the shuttle, and get the shuttle proxmired."

Thanks for the informative comments. I always learn something on K5. I was not aware the Clipper prototype had been destroyed. How sad. :(

What do you feel are the most promising private technologies? I know there was Space Service Inc.'s now deceased Conestoga, and there's HMX's Roton. The Roton (to me) looks like something I wouldn't climb into for a million bucks. It might get someone up into space, but the idea that the only things stopping you from being a pancake in the middle of the Mojave after reentry are four tiny spinning blades. Um, give me a parachute any day.

I know there's "rocket guy" out in Oregon, with his peroxide missile.

As for mandates, I think without the Cold War there was no reason to strive for anything better. There was no one for NASA to pit themselves against, and no way for Congress to justify spending billions of extra dollars on big science missions that were basically intended to be PR victories against the mighty Soviets.

Maybe a race with China will get the U.S. or E.U. to the moon. :)

<sig>I always learn something on K5, sometimes in spite of myself.</sig>
[ Parent ]
Launch systems (5.00 / 1) (#11)
by sigwinch on Sun Jul 22, 2001 at 07:51:37 PM EST

The Roton (to me) looks like something I wouldn't climb into for a million bucks. It might get someone up into space, but the idea that the only things stopping you from being a pancake in the middle of the Mojave after reentry are four tiny spinning blades. Um, give me a parachute any day.
I like the Roton. Powered vertical landing capability is *good*, and helicopter-style rotors are a mature technology.

Parachutes can get hopelessly tangled, landing in high winds in problematic, and there is little control over landing site. Landings are also hard, which is bad if your payload is delicate. Unpowered horizontal landings are nearly as bad. And both are one shot deals: if something goes wrong, bend over and kiss your ass goodbye.

Overall the Roton is a nice design. The choice of kerosene instead of liquid hydrogen makes it simpler and cheaper. The rotor means that most launch aborts will not cause loss of mission. Manned control instead of machine control allows recovery from simple computer glitches.

I know there's "rocket guy" out in Oregon, with his peroxide missile.
All I can say is "What a way to die!" ;-)
Maybe a race with China will get the U.S. or E.U. to the moon. :)
China on the moon would certainly get gov't attention, especially if it was self-sustaining.

--
I don't want the world, I just want your half.
[ Parent ]

What I fear with Roton ... (none / 0) (#12)
by joegee on Sun Jul 22, 2001 at 08:29:55 PM EST

is re-rentry at 17,000 + Mph with those flimsy looking little blades being the only things between me and the fast-approaching Earth. I agree that VTOL and high maneuverability are highly desirable, but I hope there's at least a backup parachute on the thing.

The last thing I want to hear is: "oh crap, there goes a rotor!" :)

The article for Rocket Guy is a riot. If you read into it you'll notice he is getting his hydrogen peroxide propellant by distilling liter upon liter of drugstore-quality 3% hydrogen peroxide solution. It's amazing the lengths some guys will go to just to get doused in champagne by Hooters' girls. :)

Back to the peroxide thing, man I'd love to own a drugstore near this guy. On an aside, for all the work he is putting into a distillation unit, isn't it much easier to manufacture hydrogen peroxide? %)

Thanks for the good discussion. :)

Peace!

-Joe G.

<sig>I always learn something on K5, sometimes in spite of myself.</sig>
[ Parent ]
Roton (4.00 / 1) (#13)
by sigwinch on Sun Jul 22, 2001 at 10:47:58 PM EST

Regarding the 'flimsy looking little blades', it's no worse than a helicopter. If they can take the load, they will be good for hundreds of hours of service.
If you read into it you'll notice he is getting his hydrogen peroxide propellant by distilling liter upon liter of drugstore-quality 3% hydrogen peroxide solution. It's amazing the lengths some guys will go to just to get doused in champagne by Hooters' girls.
**shakes head** He's just crazy. Distilling 3% H2O2 is insane. Buying it at the proper concentration would be cheaper and much safer. And I love this quote: "If they were to accelerate the shuttle on a 200-foot- (60-meter-) tall catapult tower to just below the speed of sound, they?d be able to put it in orbit with 60 percent less fuel."

Standstill to Mach 1 in 200 feet? **boggle** That's a *lot* of gees.

--
I don't want the world, I just want your half.
[ Parent ]

Astronaut pancakes ... (none / 0) (#14)
by joegee on Sun Jul 22, 2001 at 11:45:11 PM EST

There has been talk for several decades about using a railgun to propel payloads to orbit, but it is well-known that several hundred gees acceleration tends to liquify living matter. :)

I guess with the Roton the image that runs through my mind is that of an umbrella caught by a stiff wind. Hypersonic velocity aside, they'll have to be made of something exotic even to unfurl at supersonic speeds without snapping.

But it's an exciting little craft. :)

<sig>I always learn something on K5, sometimes in spite of myself.</sig>
[ Parent ]
Opening Space (4.50 / 2) (#6)
by DeadBaby on Fri Jul 20, 2001 at 06:29:58 PM EST

I believe the biggest factor slowing the development of space travel presently is the lack of commercial interest. Besides commercial satellites there has been very little reason for the commercial sector to consider space travel. Tourism likely will be one of the pioneer sectors of the space economy.

Let's use aviation as an example. The airplane was not only an incredible advance in technology but it also was a valuable tool for military and industry alike. As soon as it was a proven technology there was an instant market for the private sector to fill. As time has passed air travel has become cheap, fast and safe enough to become the preferred way to travel. The industry largely fed itself. Advances in technology were directly rewarded with financial gains.

Space travel, on the other hand, lacks this built in market. Unless there is some major terrestrial problem this might very well continue for the foreseeable future. I imagine space might very well develop the same way the American west did. People migrated there, for various reasons, created large and economically sound cities and in time the private sector was there to provide rail services that made shipping goods and people to and from the west much more viable. I feel the same will happen once there are space stations and colonies.

There will always be pioneers.
"Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us." - Carl Sagan
[ Parent ]
There needs to be another destination ... (5.00 / 1) (#7)
by joegee on Fri Jul 20, 2001 at 09:35:18 PM EST

besides "up". :) I see your point.

You know the moon would make a tremendous place for the aerospace industry. You can put satellites in geosynchronous orbit much easier than you can from Earth, and there aren't all the environmental restrictions/considerations.

The moon is rich in many of the same elements that are found in our crust, meaning there are metals, silicon, all sorts of goodies a nice industrial complex could work with. It's also relatively easy to make a near vaccuum on the moon.

I think workers would line up to be able to work off-planet, if nothing else, at first, for the novelty of the experience. And it's not like the moon is half a solar system away. It's like the shallow end of the swimming pool. :)

You know, we could build and launch a Mars mission from Lunar orbit as easily, if not easier than we could from Earth orbit. Unfortunately it'll easily take us twenty years to establish any meaningful-sized settlement on the Lunar surface, and since we haven't even started that we'll be waiting a LOT longer for a moon-launched Mars mission. :/

I would like to see humanity getting its suited toes dusty on Mars before I die. That would be sweet.

<sig>I always learn something on K5, sometimes in spite of myself.</sig>
[ Parent ]
B5 wisdom (4.00 / 1) (#4)
by argent on Fri Jul 20, 2001 at 05:36:31 PM EST

I totally agree that we need to be doing more in the way of space exploration.

The idea was really brought home for me during an episode of Babylon 5 when Sheridan essentially said, (this is paraphrased, I don't remember the exact statement)"One day, the sun will burn out, and when that happens all of our Marilyn Monroe, our Shakespear, our triumphs and tragedys, all that makes us what we are will be lost."

Now I realize this won't happen in my lifetime, my child's lifetime, or their children's lifetime, but it will happen.

argent.

Buzz' take on it... (none / 0) (#8)
by warpeightbot on Sat Jul 21, 2001 at 01:28:00 PM EST

Buzz Aldrin (yeah, that Buzz) has a take on it, which I'll quote in a moment... somewhere between the eco-nazis and the dumbing down of America we've lost the will to explore, to live life on the edge, to risk being hungry for a few days much less put our butts on the line for the sake of the knowledge that comes from the journey. "But why spend money on space when people are hungry down here?" people whine. I'll tell you why. If it weren't for the bloody space program, there would still be an East Germany, Iraq would own Kuwait permanently, and I wouldn't be able to walk into any library in Washington State and apply for anything from food stamps to a home mortgage. And kids in Cambodia would still dream of being truck drivers and maids instead of Linux sysadms or college professors.

Of course, I'm probably preaching to the choir, but I think it needed saying again, because somewhere some newbie might stumble across this and somewhere in the chain of followups and crossposts somebody might get inspired to actually do something instead of spending their Saturday morning typing at K5 (or worse yet, watching the OTHER CRT...)

Speaking of folks doing things, Buzz isn't just flapping his yap. The sig on the .sig is a link. Explore, if you dare.

--
History will remember the inhabitants of this century as the people who went from Kitty Hawk to the moon in 66 years, only to languish for the next 30 in low Earth orbit. At the core of the risk-free society is a self-indulgent failure of nerve.
    -- Buzz Aldrin

[ Parent ]

WTF? (none / 0) (#15)
by StrontiumDog on Mon Jul 23, 2001 at 06:42:49 AM EST

If it weren't for the bloody space program, there would still be an East Germany, Iraq would own Kuwait permanently, and I wouldn't be able to walk into any library in Washington State and apply for anything from food stamps to a home mortgage. And kids in Cambodia would still dream of being truck drivers and maids instead of Linux sysadms or college professors.
Pure bullshit. I guarantee that you can't back up any of these statements. I will go further and say that it was Buzz Aldrin's generation who effectively fucked up spaceflight in the US by their insistence on focussing exclusively on tremendously expensive and thoroughly unproductive prestige projects.

Spaceflight nuts are the worst kind of utopian dreamers.

[ Parent ]

25 Years ago this month... | 15 comments (15 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
Display: Sort:

kuro5hin.org

[XML]
All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. The Rest 2000 - Present Kuro5hin.org Inc.
See our legalese page for copyright policies. Please also read our Privacy Policy.
Kuro5hin.org is powered by Free Software, including Apache, Perl, and Linux, The Scoop Engine that runs this site is freely available, under the terms of the GPL.
Need some help? Email help@kuro5hin.org.
My heart's the long stairs.

Powered by Scoop create account | help/FAQ | mission | links | search | IRC | YOU choose the stories!