Halfway to Nowhere

 

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SLS: going somewhere, doing something. ‘Merica. Credit: NASA

The great Robert Heinlein famously postulated that Low Earth Orbit is “halfway to anywhere,” meaning that it takes almost as much energy to send a spacecraft to its final destination (say, Mars) as it did to put that spacecraft into Earth orbit in the first place. In some cases it actually requires less energy.

After years of development and who knows how many billions spent, NASA’s Congressionally-mandated Space Launch System is nowhere closer to having a clear mission than it is to actually launching. Literally, a “rocket to nowhere.”

So we have a massive booster launching a stupidly expensive spacecraft with no clear destination. There’s talk about a circumlunar flight, maybe a jaunt out to EML-2 or a near-Earth asteroid – they’ll figure that out later since the first manned flight won’t happen until at least 2020. NASA expects they can only afford to do that once a year. Maybe two. Again, later. Because reasons. Continue reading “Halfway to Nowhere”

Once and Future Past

Gemini 9. Credit: NASA

The Atlantic recently posted a couple of really nice photo essays on the space program. The piece on decommissioning the space shuttles isn’t too surprising; that’s a big and fairly recent deal. The Gemini story is more surprising, as it happened nearly 50 years ago and is generally only thought about by space geeks like me.

Gemini was the gateway drug that hooked me on the space program, maybe because they were the first missions I was conscious of. I remember being fascinated by the big silver rocket with the little two-man tin can on top. And spacemen were cool. How could I not be drawn to something that looked just like my favorite G.I. Joe? Continue reading “Once and Future Past”