After the Moon Test, NASA Lays Another Egg
After days of waiting, the next generation of space vehicles, the Ares I-X finally launched with all the excitement of watching latex paint dry.
The Ares, scheduled to replace the Space Shuttle, is actually a return to the early days of space travel where smaller modules were launched in pieces and joined together in space so only the crew portion had to be capable of a "soft" landing. This is a VAST savings in money and a lot simpler - obviously, it came well before the shuttle and back then computers were about as powerful as a cheap cell phone.
Today's NASA TV coverage had all the drama of a soft boiled egg and communications with the vital landing area were lost (or reported lost) almost immediately.
How can they expect support for a Mars launch, or even a moon base when they can't even maintain radio contact with a ship 100 miles away?
Everyone in the control room was patting themselves on the back for doing what Goddard and Von Braun did the middle of the last century - they got a rocket to launch.
Now to be honest I'm not a rocket scientist, never was. I was a quantum physicist and we used to say that what we did wasn't rocket science, it was difficult.
But building and launching a rocket is a highly complex task. Still, North Korea can do it and the U.S. has been doing it since before most readers were born.
Is this something to celebrate? How about dropping the payload on target so it can be recovered? Did they do that? I was watching and I don't know. They said THEY didn't know either, yet they celebrated as if they had invented sliced bread.
There was either loss of radio feedback from the landing site or they never established it in the first place which, in my opinion, was the actual important part of the entire experimental launch.
Did someone throw the wrong switch? The average high school grad could establish a control room-to-ship link with two hand-held satellite phones; can NASA be so inept that they can't? Or just so inept that they demonstrate the lack of such a basic capability on TV for the world to see?
Neither possibility is comforting as Billion$$ of dollars pour into yet another ill-advised government project.
As I write this we still have no idea whether the flight path was within parameters; whether the vehicle landed in the target area; or even if it can be recovered or why there was no contact with the landing zone.
Essentially the NASA coverage of this launch was only matched by the recent highly-hyped moon crash where viewers got to see the exciting event by watching a video signal fail.
Now, please understand me, I am all for space exploration.
Friends of mine worked for NASA on the Apollo missions and had a big part in it.
I have met astronauts at The National Press Club and covered their heroic exploits.
We have gotten many important scientific and practical down-home developments due to the space program but now it is time and time long-past to turn space exploration over to private management.
Otherwise NASA is in desperate need of someone, ANYONE who has some experience in making space exciting again.
When people, even scientists and science reporters who understand exactly what is happening, watch a SUCCESSFUL moon mission or the first flight test of a vital new NASA space vehicle and turn away completely bored, there is either something exceedingly wrong at NASA in the communications department OR the plutocrats have taken such tight control that even people who should know how to put on a real event to catch the public's attention, are forbidden to do anything which might draw even the slightest interest and public support for NASA.
Are they that politically dumb? Or, were they too afraid of failure?
After two PR disasters in a row (both apparently complete technical successes) I seriously doubt that NASA will be permitted funding to set up a base on the moon, plan a mission to Mars, or even that the agency SHOULD be given funding.
Tax payers simply won't support politicians who can't point to anything which is even as interesting as watching water boil.
Turning this over to the private sector would both get NASA off the hook for any inevitable future accidents and failures, it would probably also speed up space exploration by decades.
Just the opinion of a tax payer and space fan of course.
John McCormick is a reporter, /science/medical columnist and finance and social commentator, with 17,000+ bylined stories. He has been covering the space program since the mid- 1960's. Contact John through NewsBlaze.
* The views of Opinion writers do not necessarily reflect the views of NewsBlaze
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