April 13, 2010

5, 12, 15. April is an important month

I've never watched a space launch live, in person. It doesn't seem likely that I ever will. I can, however, console myself with the fact that I have now seen a shuttle launch, live, on television. And it was a good one, too! All early dawn darkness lit up as if by the fires of creation, air torn asunder by the rage of the Gods, and a graceful arc, a brilliant light receding into the darkness. And after, as the sun rises, we see the remnants of it's departure. Noctilucent beauty, pastel light strewn across the face of the sky.

A: Which makes me wonder, what exactly is that gigantic rocket spewing out of it's tail pipe, and how much of it is expelled? Not that I'm saying stop launching stuff into space or anything, I mean, I can't imagine a single shuttle launch is much worse than half of Chicago for about an hour. But this issue does require some attention. I'm not even speaking of emissions laws or anything. First, we don't really know enough to set feasible goals for standards. We must first research alternative fuels in an effort to see which ones are viable, and we must research the technologies that make engines more efficient. Second, being that space exploration is of vital importance, and that there are other, more urgent emissions issue's that need to be addressed (Coal fired power plants!), and that the emissions of Shuttle launches is sparse compared to the emissions of other industries, we should not limit our launches into space based on emissions. We should work to limit those emissions, but not by limiting the number or type of launches undertaken. Before we create any specific emissions goals we first understand what goals might be feasible.
B: Ok, so I don’t really know if the sky sounded as though it were being torn asunder by holy wrath or anything. I was watching this on TV. I just can't imagine anything looking like that not sounding like that.

On the upside, President Obama is due to speak at the Kennedy Space Center on the fifteenth. As he hasn't made too many announcements or spoke too much of his plans for NASA, this should be an interesting speech. Of course, he did make one comment that caused quite a stir. And by comment, I mean the NASA F.Y. 2011 budget. But I still am uncertain on his personal ideas regarding space, apart from all the political, social, and economic factors. How does our president feel about space exploration? I have my own ideas on what should be done, but as I ain't a rocket scientist, I take my own opinion with a grain of salt. I have my predictions for what will be said, and my hopes for what might be said. Regardless of the outcome, it will be a very interesting speech by our president.

Speaking of 2011, April 12th, 2011 will be the official "Fifty Years of Human Space Exploration". You see, Yuri Gagarin made his famous flight into space on April 12th, 1961, ushering in the age of Humanity as a space faring race. I find it to be no surprise that there are celebrations around the world in honor of this historic event. I should like to celebrate Yuri's Night next year, in honor of the first Human in space and the global feeling of peace, wonder, awe and co-operation that began with his flight. I should also like to propose a celebration on July 20th, 2011, the 42nd anniversary of Apollo 11. Those two events, more than any others, encapsulate Humanities birth into the cosmos. First we proved that we could go to space. Then we proved that we could go to other worlds. Now, the only question is which worlds would we like to visit first?

To decide that, though, we must know what technologies are at our disposable. And so we must research the technology a little before we say which destination should be our next goal. We must also consider the cost and benefits of our current space programs. To research the technologies to go, and eventually actually to go to places like Mars is expensive. Maintaining a transport to low Earth orbit is also expensive. We have plenty of data regarding long term stays in space. We know how to fly in deep space. We are nearing completion of the ISS. We no longer need our government space program to maintain a low Earth transport system. The commercial sector can handle that, while NASA focuses on other, more important things. We do not need both expenses. The commercial sector will employ those who will soon be unemployed, because lets face it, if you've worked for NASA and have an excellent school career, then that is your entire resume. And soon, in the fullness of time, NASA will again engage the public in a plan to send Human Beings to a place that no one has gone before. This speech will not tell us exactly when or where we will be going. But it will layout the path that we need to take to one day go there.

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