The Thirty Minute Blogger

Exploring Books and the Writer's Life, Faith and Works, Culture and Pop Culture, Space Science and Science Fiction, Technology and Nostalgia, Parenting and Childhood, Health: Physical and Emotional ... All Under the Iron Hands of the Clock and That 30 Minute Deadline

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Spaceflight After Disaster: Imperative We Do NOT Quit

Cygnus at the ISS
Orbital Sciences lost a rocket and their automated payload delivery capsule Cygnus when one of the Russian built Antares rocket engines failed. The team destroyed the rocket as they should and no lives were lost at the Wallops Island, Virginia, launch site. Equally fortunately, the cargo heading for the International Space Station was not critical to the crew's survival and other launch systems are still providing supplies. For more, you can see:

Sadly, for Virgin Galactic and the families involved ... and us all as we share our empathy with them over their tragedy (we do stand with you in this trying, terrible time), loss of life was involved in the destruction of their SpaceShip2 during a test flight checking out new fuel for a higher flight. It is hypothesized that flaps may have been deployed at the wrong moment, causing the craft to break up in midair. For more, see:

In the wake of these disasters, especially when loss of life is involved, many lose their resolve. They begin to fret over the private company space program venture of NASA or the very existence of a company devoted to space tourism (well, somewhere near space tourism in the Virgin Galactic case). This happens every time something goes wrong with a spacecraft. You would think we might learn from history and calm down a bit. Spaceflight is complex, very complex. It is rocket science after all. Unlike science fiction, real life science in space cannot be done without risk. Pushing boundaries can't be done without testing new and exotic equipment. We will get past this unless we decide to be a spineless as jellyfish and run away from the challenges to "safer" pursuits. Doing so will not keep us safe, however. We live in a risk-filled, dangerous world. However, steer that course to "safety" and we lose. We lose opportunities to explore, to learn, to teach new generations about new wonders, and we lose out on "awe." So what about the "awe" thing, you might ask. Well, science has uncovered a truth long known by humanity but rarely thought about. Humans faced with the awe inspiring become a more tight knit community because of it. Humans soaked with awe also become more empathetic of others. We NEED more awe in our lives, given the way the world is going right about now. We need a robust and exciting, awe inspiring human spaceflight program heading further out than we have gone before. We need to be able to ride along vicariously with the brave men and women who venture out further than ever before so that we can be in awe and raise the next generation of future explorers who bend their lives to constructive pursuits and away from violence, war, and death. We need future generations more inspired to push boundaries of knowledge and spirit, not generations soaked in traditions, dwelling on past hurts, and seeking revenge in all its nasty caveman forms.

We need a robust space program sending humans out beyond the moon. Right now NASA is preparing to launch a spacecraft capable of making that happen, the Orion, which looks much like the old Apollo space capsule for those of you who are old enough to remember (and love) and what the rest of you may have read in history books. If all goes well, sometime in December 2014, an uncrewed Orion will head out beyond the moon's orbit and return. If that is done safely and the ship is proved space worthy, crews will climb aboard once the really robust rocket to launch the fully loaded craft is ready and we will be off on new adventures to asteroids, perhaps back to the moon, and eventually off to Mars.

And who knows, that private company SpaceX may surprise us with their Dragon capsule. It may go farther than the International Space Station before Elon Musk is done. Let's hope so. We could use the competition.

Let's fill our future with awe. Let's excite everyone with the possibilities and bring back the heady days of Apollo 11 and the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey when people wanted to buy their own Pan Am shuttle tickets to space while humming "Fly Me to the Moon." It's worth the investment for the benefits of awe alone. Then there is all that we will learn, all the spin off technology we'll benefit from right here on earth, all the jobs created on all levels across the nation ... and if other nations are involved ... around the globe. Really, in the end, we cannot afford to be spineless jellyfish when it comes to human spaceflight. We can't afford to sink back into our old and angry caveman ways. Here's to the future. Here's to flight in space and risk taken and awe. Here's to future generations of spacemen and spacewomen created by our endeavors and all the men and women who will support them as they take us toward the stars. Let's make it a bright future together!

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