Nov
05
2013

In which I represent for the early space program.

Peggy Noonan wrote an otherwise serviceable enough article on just badly Obamacare sucks (short version: it really, really sucks), but I’d like to push back on this:

[Obamacare is] the biggest governmental enterprise that hasn’t worked since the earliest beginnings of the U.S. rocket program, when they kept trying to send rockets into space and they kept falling, defeated and groaning, into the ground. Only the rockets were still unmanned, so those failures never hurt anybody!

…No. The goal of the early rocket program was to figure out how to put something into space, and after a certain point of time in the design process you do that by building an actual rocket, setting it off, and seeing what happens.  They would have been happy to have it all work on the first try, but they weren’t counting on it… and a test rocket that, for example, blows up on the pad is not a failure; after all, it’s just very successfully told you that YOU SHOULDN’T BUILD YOUR ROCKETS THAT WAY.

This was actually all in the book  The Right Stuff; while the movie was also awesome the book itself is worth the time to read, as are most things by Tom Wolfe.

7 Comments

  • UtahMan says:

    Of course, the hard is figuring out why you shouldn’t build your rockets that way.

    Supersonic flow blows…

  • Jeff Weimer says:

    Most things except A Man in Full. That was not worth waiting over a decade for.

  • acat says:

    Noonan’s quote has the grubby paw-prints of the “We couldn’t build rockets until we got the captured Germans to do it for us” meme.
    .
    This meme, of course, is not precisely true .. Von Braun* brought a boatload of knowledge and bright people with him to his prison camp in middle-of-nowhere Alabama. (look at a map and you’ll notice that Huntsville is hours (by fast car) from anywhere .. it was a prison with rednecks and cotton fields instead of bars)
    .
    The reason for the meme of “we couldn’t do it so we got them to do it” is we were in a hurry and couldn’t afford to wait for our people to re-learn what the Germans already knew… but that isn’t as pleasant to Euro-superiorist ears.
    .
    Mew
    .
    .

    * http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wernher_von_Braun

  • Tom In Korea says:

    That snippet read like someone whose entire familiarity with America’s early space program came from movies and a single day of covering it in high school history.

    Also, I highly doubt that Obamacare is the “the biggest governmental enterprise that hasn’t worked since the earliest beginnings of the U.S. rocket program.” Off the top of my head, I’d say the Department of Education and the TSA are two big things that haven’t worked.

    • acat says:

      DeptEd is still busy bouncing the rubble .. but it won’t really be noticeable until the current crop of middle-schoolers hit the job market.
      .
      The TSA hasn’t failed catastrophically … yet.
      .
      Mew

      • qixlqatl says:

        The TSA hasn’t failed catastrophically … yet.
        .
        .
        Not to be an ass, but I would point out the TSA agent killed in L.A. recently. How many dead bodies does it take to make a catastrophe? They can’t even protect themselves…….

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