Tag Archives: Nasa
It Was 40 Years Ago Today
On Jan. 5, 1972, President Richard M. Nixon and Dr. James C. Fletcher, NASA Administrator, discussed the proposed Space Shuttle vehicle in San Clemente, Calif.
The President announced that day that the United States should proceed at once with the development of an entirely new type of space transportation system designed to help transform the space frontier into familiar territory.
Image Credit: NASA
NASA’s Space Shuttle could have flown again as early as 2014 if a secret effort to repurposethem for commercial flight had succeeded.
Two reports this week reveal frantic efforts to save one or two Shuttles from full-scale dismantling and relaunch them as a commercial operation—without government funding. Though deemed viable by parties involved with the matter, the plan finally met with a number of insurmountable hurdles and was, for all intents and purposes, pronounced dead this week.
This rather depressing news emerges nearly six months since Space Shuttle Atlantis touched down for the last time. NASA has been planning on ending Space Shuttle operations for some time (and at least temporarily putting on hold manned space-flight), but there always seemed to be a reprieve in the wings. The end, though, did come and now Shuttles are either mothballing at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, or on their way to various museums.
NASA is now focusing its attention on the Space Launch System (SLS), a heavy lift space vehicle that could lift off in 2017. The SLS, it turns out, may have played a role in the Shuttle revival plan’s demise.
Part of this incredible story comes from someone who ought to know, Mary Lynne Dittmar, PhD. Though she now runs a consulting firm in Houston, TX., Dittmar previously managed International Space Station Mission Operations and Spaceflight Training for the Boeing Company. In a fresh post on her blog, Dittmar tells the tale of an English millionaire, Kevin Holleran, who thought there might be a chance that the Space Shuttle Atlantis and Endeavor could be used for commercial operations.
Dittmar writes that she was initially “disinterested” in the idea: The space community had “moved on” from the Shuttle program and commercial shuttle program efforts were nothing new and generally financially unsustainable. Holleran persisted and eventually Dittmar listened. Dittmar, though, did outline four prerequisites for a viable commercial space shuttle project:
1) No government money for development or operations
2) A real business without NASA as a customer
3) An ability to reimburse the government for any infrastructure costs involved
4) She would only support a serious effort and a team she trusted.
According to a lengthy report on NASA Spacelight.com, Dittmar not only became a revival supporter and a key liaison in the Shuttle revival plan, but also saw real benefits in the switch to commercial operations.“One of the advantages of our purely commercial approach is that it allowed our engineers to consider alternative suppliers and advances in manufacturing, materials, processing, and production across the globe and across several industries,” Dittmar told http://www.nasaspaceflight.com
Though secret, the plan quickly gained support and Dittmar described how funding and interest grew dramatically. “Initially skeptical,” she wrote, “people became caught up in the vision of a Commercial Space Shuttle funded entirely by private and institutional investors and put back into service to shape new markets.”
Over a 10-week period, all the pieces seemed to be falling into place. According to NASA Spaceflight.com, “Based on ‘available demand’ – details of which are proprietary – it was anticipated one flight would have taken place at the end of 2014, then two in 2015, three in 2016, and four a year beginning in 2017.” That was just a little more than two years away. So why aren’t we gearing up for the return of the Space Shuttle program?
Dittmar explains that the decision to end the Shuttle revival process was not due to irreversible “orbiter disassembly.”
In the end, two crucial factors made it all but impossible to revive the shuttle program as a commercial enterprise or in any fashion. One was that so much of the Shuttle infrastructure has already been shifted to other efforts that the revival team could never pull together sufficient funds to return those resources to the Space Shuttles. Two: The SLS program. According to NASASpaceflight.com, “the amount of “repurposing” that has already taken place for SLS, some of which involved using parts from the Shuttles, meant “that any potential return of the Space Shuttle was no longer viable.”
“Even among those who didn’t believe it possible or didn’t think it should be possible, many still hoped there was a way. That’s a fitting, final epilogue for those incredible machines,” wrote Dittmar on her blog.
I asked a NASA spokesperson for comment, who said, “NASA has received a number of unsolicited proposals regarding the space shuttle fleet. The agency fully intends to proceed with plans to place the three flown shuttle orbiters in museums in Florida, California, and Washington, D.C.”
In other words, this isn’t the first, and may not be the last Shuttle revival plan NASA sees, but its plans for the fleet remain unchanged.
(Courtesy of Lance Ulanoff)
For me, this information is mind boggling. Maybe many just don’t understand, or care to know just how hard hit the “Space Coast” actually is. We’re all living in hard economic times, but this area solely depended on the space program for the last thirty years. Without it, the area has become desolate. Almost half the homes here are vacant foreclosures! Retailers already are in dire straits. Along a 20-mile stretch of U.S. 1 through the heart of the Space Coast, vacancies dominate some strip malls. Darkened windows can’t hide the etchings of stores-gone-by: My kids school doesn’t even use all of the classrooms. The five school buses are only about a quarter full of kids. There’s no jobs left. And I mean none. Just last May, the Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville metro area, which encompasses the Space Coast, had the steepest employment decline in the state, losing 6,800 jobs. Brevard might have absorbed the blow better had the shuttle shutdown not happened on the heels of the deepest and longest recession since the Great Depression.The middle class is already being squeezed out, and many people like myself just don’t know how much longer we can hang on.
Space is Brevard’s lifeblood
Cocoa Beach and Titusville grew up around the Kennedy Space Center, booming first in the 1960s as the Kennedy Space Center opened 15 miles north of town and the Apollo program soared. Cocoa Beach became so synonymous with the space program that Hollywood set the I Dream of Jeannie sitcom there, with a dashing astronaut as its main character.
The county hosts the Air Force’s 45th Space Wing at Patrick Air Force Base, on the beach between Cocoa Beach and Satellite Beach, which launches the military’s unmanned rockets from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
There are other key industries. Tourists and surfers are drawn to Cocoa’s 13 miles of public beach. Cruise ships dock at Port Canaveral. Tourism businesses employ about 20,000 people, accounting for 8% of Space Coast employment. Tourists pump $2.8 billion into the Space Coast economy each year.
But space is at Brevard’s core. Though it seems it will have to find a new identity. For this region, it’s the end of an era.
An internal review said the space agency doesn’t keep track of the (now) irreplaceable artifacts.
The American space program was riding high when the astronauts from the Apollo missions returned from our planet’s only natural satellite with samples of moon rock. NASA lent out these samples to observatories and research facilities for experimentation and observation – I even remember my high school science teacher showing me a moon rock in class – but after a story came out in 2010 from a Delaware institution’s large sample being lost, NASA performed an investigation on where all its moon rocks had gone. The report from NASA’s inspector general released admitted that many of the moon samples are lost forever and the agency needed to keep better records.
NASA has lent more than 26,000 to museums and scientists over the years. The inspector general audited a quarter of these samples, and reported that more than 500 have either been lost or stolen. 19 percent of the recipient’s in question could not locate the samples, either because they were lost, they had been destroyed or lent to other institutions. Some of these samples can never be gained again, including 22 meteorites and two comet samples from an operation that retrieved them from a comet as it passed by.
In other cases, one scientist admitted to possessing 9 samples he borrowed more than 35 years ago. Others kept samples for 16 or more years after they had finished working with them. Even worse, some scientists said they held onto moon samples that they had never performed any experiments on at all.
NASA’s report doesn’t mean that it will stop lending out moon rocks, but the agency plans to adopt specific measures to track and keep accurate records of where its samples are located. I imagine that NASA will start checking in with these scientists to return the rocks after they are used, and start tracking them with bar codes or another tracking method to keep them all straight.
These rocks are difficult to replace, now that we haven’t traveled to the Moon since 1972 and are likely not to return since the space shuttles are retired from service. Crap, we’re not going to get any more moon rocks any time soon.
SAMPLES STORED IN NITROGEN TO MIMIC CONDITIONS ON THE MOON
- The main repository for the Apollo moon rocks is the ultra-secure Lunar Sample Building at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
- There is a smaller collection at Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.
- The samples are stored in nitrogen to mimic conditions on the moon and keep them free of moisture.
- The Apollo 15, 16, and 17 missions brought back 2,415 samples weighing 382 kg.
- The three Russian Luna spacecraft returned with an additional 0.32 kg of samples.
- In 1972, President Richard Nixon sent moon rocks to 135 foreign heads of state, the 50 U.S. states and its provinces as a goodwill gesture
- In 2002 three young Nasa interns stole dozens of samples from the Houston repository but were arrested as they tried to sell them to an undercover FBI agent
An Apollo astronaut digs for samples (right) and President Bill Clinton shows off a sample of moon rock given to him in 1999
What was most significant about the lunar voyage was not that men set foot on the moon but that they set eye on the earth.
Ok I’m sure you all know about NASA’s retirement of the Space Shuttle fleet by now. Discovery officially retired on March 9, 2011. Endeavour,after a journey of six and a half million miles, landed for the final time at Kennedy Space Center on June 1st, leaving Atlantis to complete its final space shuttle mission on July 21,2011.
Here a few photos from my backyard of Discovery & Endeavour’s nighttime launch. These pics do no justice, These Shuttles light up the sky like the sun, and make the ground roar and shake by the time they’re out of sight.(That whole scientific speed travels faster than sound saying) When these Shuttles come back to Earth, we are close enough to the Space Center to hear the Sonic Boom. I don’t really get all the sciencey stuff, but man is it LOUD! Imagine a shotgun being blasted next to your head, and you’re pretty close.
Here is Endeavours Re-Entry at 2:35am just so you get the idea
© Kel Trustsnoone