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.

Discovery landing (Live).

What’s that?  Oh, the Discovery is an Earth orbiter; we used it for various scientific and economic purposes, back when we had an actual manned space program.  They’re bringing it into DC today to put it into a museum*: you can watch it here.

Take a good look, folks.  Because damned if I know when we’re going back up there.  But don’t worry: the administration plans to spend that money right here on Earth…

Moe Lane

*Because that’s what we do with dead things that retain a certain cultural sentimental value.

So… we’re abandoning the International Space Station?

Looks like that might happen.  Only ‘temporarily,’ of course.

Astronauts may need to temporarily withdraw from the International Space Station before the end of this year if Russia is unable to resume manned flights of its Soyuz rocket after a failed cargo launch last week, according to the NASA official in charge of the outpost.

Mind you, ‘temporarily’ in bureaucrat-speak means ‘a unit of time ranging from the sound of the beep [beep!] to five minutes before the end of time…’

Via Glenn Reynolds.

Moe Lane (crosspost)

PS: Hey, do you know what 787 billion dollars could have bought us in 2009?  A functional manned space program!  Then we and the ISS wouldn’t be dependent on the Russians’ ability to launch rockets that don’t blow up!  No, wait, forgot: Texas, Alabama, and Florida won’t be voting Democratic in the next Presidential election.  Never mind…

Oh, look. Antimatter in orbit.

In extremely small amounts – extremely, extremely, extremely small amounts – getting caught up at the Van Allen Belts.  Still, as energy sources go it doesn’t get any more efficient than antimatter – besides, any information on how to stably store antimatter ‘naturally’ for any length of time would be handy when it comes time for us to do it artificially.

So I guess that we better write all of this down for the benefit of the next civilization that decides to have a manned space program, so that they can properly exploit this information.  I hope that they like human rights!

Via Instapundit.

Moe Lane

PS: Nooooooo, I don’t think that I would quite trust private space development with antimatter quite yet, thanks.

This isn’t heartwarming.

Much as I hate to disagree with Ace, it is heartbreaking.

Thirty years ago, the first space shuttle launched into the stratosphere. Chris Bray and his father Kenneth watched — and took a picture. Then last Friday, the shuttle Atlantis took its final trip. Again, the Bray men were there. And again, the two snapped a photo to capture the moment.

Mostly because it reminds me of a rather galling line often attributed to Jerry Pournelle: “I always knew I’d live to see the first man walk on the Moon. I never dreamed I’d see the last.” Not quite the same lyrics, but damned if the tune isn’t the same.

But, hey: the Russians can still give us rides to orbit, right?

Moe Lane

PS: Those Democratic party SOBs in Washington won’t trust us to pick out our own light bulbs: what makes you think that they’ll let us have our own private manned space program?  The only real question is which government agency they’ll use to stamp it out: Labor’s the obvious choice, but don’t forget either the EPA or BATFE, now that it’s got ‘Explosives’ attached at the end.  Bureaucrats love turf expansion, don’t you know.

Today is the 50th anniversary of JFK’s moon speech.

With this speech, the USA effectively abandoned any plan to return to the pre-Sputnik paradigm of an orderly and systematic exploration and exploitation of outer space; and confirmed that all of our space infrastructure development would be for specific, one-off Grand Projects instead of for generic, multi-purpose use.  And, oh, yes, that we’d get to the Moon without actually making sure that we would find it easier to go back a second time.

It’s enough to make me wish for a time machine, except that: I don’t speak Russian; couldn’t find Baikonur on a map; and don’t know how to operate a surface-to-air missile anyway.  Still, if that damned beeping ball Sputnik had blown up on the pad in 1957 then maybe JFK wouldn’t have mucked up the American manned space program* so thoroughly in 1961…

(Full disclosure: my wife works in a space-related field.)

Moe Lane

*Which is rapidly becoming the former American manned space program.