Saturday, July 30, 2005

Space Cadet Basil

I heard some music on some commercial the other day and it reminded me of "The Right Stuff." You know that movie, right? About the beginnings of the U.S. space program? Sure you do. It's one of my favorites.

When the cable (and therefore, Internet) went out Friday night,  I grabbed the DVD and hit "play." It was great!

Perhaps one of the reasons I'm fascinated by it is, even though I'm old enought to remember them, I don't remember any of the Mercury space shots. Not any of them! And I wish I did.

But I do remember the Gemini flights. I can't say I recall each and every one, but I do remember sitting way too close to the television and seeing the Titan II rocket with the Gemini capsule on the top. I can picture that in my mind today.

Of course, I remember the Apollo program, from the Apollo 1 fire to the Apollo-Soyuz flight.

But Gemini, because it's the first space flight program that I remember, it holds a special place in my heart.

Gemini is the fogotten space program, in my mind. You don't see any movies about Gemini. There have been movies about the Mercury program and the Apollo program, but I don't recall any about Gemini.

Mercury was the first Americans in space. Apollo was Americans landing on the moon. Gemini was ... what?

Was it the first space walk? Not really. The Soviets beat us to that. Aleksei Leonov made the first space walk during the Voskhod II mission on March 18, 1965. But the Americans mastered the space walk, which was needed for going to the moon.

Sure, it was the first rendezvous and docking, but how exciting is that? It's big news, and they couldn't have gone to the moon without it, but it's not flashy. But it sure was important.

There's one thing about Gemini that I didn't know at the time, but Gemini was more advanced than Apollo. Betcha didn't know that, did ya?

You see, the Apollo program was designed to follow the Mercury program. But once Mercury started, they found out it was a lot harder than they thought. So they came up with another program. And the third American space program was actually the second to fly: Gemini.

They used information they learned from Mercury to design Gemini. And, because Apollo was already underway, they made some adaptations, but it was essentially older technology than Gemini.

In face, there was an effort by some in the space program to send Gemini to the moon! Heck, I was shocked when I learned that. But, it was a more advanced technology craft than Apollo, and could have done it, had it been it approved.

So, what's all this got to do with anything?

The Space Shuttle is old technology. It was designed in the 1970s, and the first one flew in 1981. And Discovery first flew in 1984.

The Shuttle fleet is old. Sure, they do upgrades and modifications, but the basic desgin and technology on which it is based is old.

After the Mercury and Apollo programs began, the need for anther program was discovered and they came up with Gemini. That's what we need today: rocket scientists that can come up with something brilliant that can do more than it was designed to do.

Maybe we need to go capture some more German rocket scientists.


  1. I remember the sound barrier being broken.

    When Sputnik went up ... every eye was turned skyward at night looking for it

    The US put up TeleStar ... which BTW WAS big enough to see and I suspect for that reason.

    Before NASA, there were people who brought mylar to high school assemblies to demonstrate its 'toughness'.

    Gemini ... especially #1 with Glenn ... stopped the country. Everybody was eared to a radio.

    TV was not available in much of the country.

    I sat in front of a radio in Danang to listen to the first moon landing. And the second.

    Yes, the so called 'fleet' is woefully antiquated.

    You have more computational power in your wrist watch than the Shuttle.

    It uses chips that preceed 8086 chips.

    The reason there has not been an update in the wings (sic) is that the program has become a piece of pork for a handful of legislators.

    Mostly from CA, FL and MA.

    THAT is where the work goes on.

    Those legislators are mostly Democrat. If they can't deliver the pork they vote NO on further exspenditures vis a vis space exploration.

    And now you know the rest of the story.

  2. Oh, wow. The sound barrier being broken must have been exciting!

    And you reminded me of something with your Telstar story.

    I remember one late night, our parents taking us outside to see a satellite. I never did see the darn thing but I knew if I didn't say I did they'd keep us up until we did.

    And your point that they did a heckuva lot with so little is well taken. If only folks would quit worrying about their slice of the pie ...

    It's like a kid in the grocery store. All they want is Cap'n Crunch and candy bars. Which is all well and good, I guess, but don't do well when you are hungry tomorrow.

  3. The Weekly Roundup Of Common Sense (a day late)

    It is now time for the weekly roundup of common sense in the blogosphere. As per the weekend trials, a day late.


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