Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Happy 50th Birthday Space Flight!
I have been a space junkie from the day I could figure out what outer space was. Part of that was being lucky enough to be a little kid during the age of the Apollo flights--when space travel was a national event. Everyone stopped what they were doing and paid attention. There was a sense that we were witnessing some of the greatest achievements in human history. And we were.
Having grown up steeped in the imagery and lore of the Apollo program--I'm always amazed at how the Russians did it. There's the famous story about NASA spending $1M developing a pen that would write in space, and the Soviets brought a pencil. That sums up so many aspects of the different attitudes and approaches that the US and USSR took towards space flight. At the end of this video, somebody's marking the site of the landing with a railroad spike and an axe, for pete's sake! A far cry from getting picked up by a nuclear powered aircraft carrier.
This recent article in the New York Times Magazine really brought to light how wildly different the two worlds were. There was no countdown--just a warning that "after the one minute readiness is announced, there'll be about six minutes before you actually take off." ABOUT SIX MINUTES? Wow. Read the article to learn how Vladimir Komarov, a later cosmonaut, knew he was being sent to his death because the rocket was unsafe. Not exactly Apollo 13!
But its invaluable to remember that fear of Sputnik and Gagarin created the boom in scientific education in the United Staes, and the subsequent boom in science and technology that brought us to the future. Internet anyone?
Obama has been talking about how renewable energy could be our Apollo. Emphasis on could. Its not yet.