Thursday, October 04, 2007

Original orbit occasions overflight order...

Smithsonian: Milestones of FlightToday is the 50th anniversary of the first human-made object successfully orbiting the Earth. "Sputnik I changed the world,"..."it changed history." A great victory for the Soviets although, as Astroprof tells us, it was not Korolev's original choice for the first man-made object to be put into Earth orbit...and a great wake-up call to the USA. Space historian Howard McCurdy of American University says Sputnik... stoked fears of a nuclear attack, because "if you can fly a satellite over the United States, you can drop a warhead on New York City." This resulted in a total reorientation of priorities in the United States and the establishment of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as a focal point for space activities writes Dr Roger D Launius National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution calling the Sputnik launch a 'force for world peace' because when it overflew the United States and other nations of the world the Soviet satellite established the overwhelmingly critical principle of ‘overflight’ in space: simply put this principle was...

"the ability to send reconnaissance and other satellites over a foreign nation for any non-lethal purpose free from the fear of attack on them."..."Orbiting reconnaissance satellites served more than virtually any other technology as a stabilising influence in the Cold War."
However that was then and this is now: these days there’s nothing to jolt politicians into action, although apparently a 'few space enthusiasts are confident that America will return to the moon soon.' Alan Bean, one the dozen people who have actually walked on the moon put it well:

"I don't see us doing a heck of a lot, until someone threatens us."
Incredibly, even though that first orbit was 50 years ago...nearly 30 years ago NASA killed the successful Apollo program and at that time astronauts were still exploring the moon's craters and plains. "Two rockets ready to carry crews to the lunar surface were left to rust after NASA cancelled moon trips." Then came the shuttle (first launch 1981)

"Though a marvel of engineering, in its 100-plus flights the shuttle has only gone around and around the Earth. It can't do anything else."
This is why, we can assume, they attract such little interest. Most interest is on Mars and beyond, but NASA administrator Michael Griffin argues that 'NASA needs to test equipment and procedures on the moon before undertaking a trip to Mars. On the moon, "we're going to learn things that we'd be silly to skip," he says, calling a moon base "an enormous risk-reduction" tool.' You have to agree with him; I've never understood why they stopped the moon missions; I cannot accept the excuses of expense although a majority of Americans thought the Apollo program wasn't worth the cost (as well as boredom?...having 'won' the race etc) Public support for human space exploration is, and always has been, "a mile wide and an inch deep" says Launius but the other thing, as far as I can see, it's the one thing that lends credibility to the moon-landing hoax accusations because, as far as politicians are concerned, when has the cost ever mattered?

3 comments:

IsobelMagsBuchan said...

I never did 'get' space and the urge of humans to want to explore it especially after that first Alien film because after all, in space no one can hear you scream. That was until my son was born and from quite a young age he showed fascination with the stars and planets. By the time he was 4 he knew far more about space etc than I did so I thought I ought to rectify it.

First step was the Planetarium in London, sadly no longer with us and that was a spectacular show. A few years ago we visited the National Space Museum in Leciester and that really did blow my mind. One reason for this was it explained things, science physics type things, in a language I could understand and as a consequence think about. Fantastic.

Last week I watched the launch of Dawn, Nasa's 8 year mission to the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. It was a beautiful launch. I can't wait for the pictures to come back but oh what a wait! Now it worries me that I just don't have a long enough life to discover if there really are hunks like Cap'n Jack Harkness travelling around space. Going to Cardiff is not an option!

missbonnielass said...

I echo a lot of what the last sentences in the article in USA TODAY said ..I sadly do not think I will see a Mars trip in my life time...I live in hope however as it is amazing what can be achieved.
Space ... a fascination for me as long as I can remember.

Span Ows said...

Mags...it's like Marmite...you either love it or hate it. I'm with missbonnielass on this - fascination - I can still remember (in fact I think I still may have it) a PRIMARY school project on space: planets, Sputnik, Yuri Gagarin, Mercury, Gemini, Apollo etc

P.S. I too remember a school trip to the Planetarium (and Madame Tussauds)...1971/2...oh my...where's my zimmer :-)