February 10, 1993 |
Even before space travel was possible, astronomers and science-fiction writers were obsessed with the mysteries it might reveal. What lies beyond our planet and our solar system? they wondered. Could there be other worlds like ours? Other life forms? The National Air and Space Museum's Star Trek show, which closed Jan. 31, presented one version of these imaginings. Its new permanent exhibition, "Where Next, Columbus?" offers a more sobering view. It reminds us that warp speed, which allowed the USS Enterprise to dart from galaxy to galaxy, is just a convenient fiction.
October 25, 2004
This Week U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter (R., Pa.) and his opponent, U.S. Rep. Joseph Hoeffel (D., Pa.), will answer questions from members of The Inquirer's Citizens Voices panel on the Pennsylvania and Metro commentary pages. Subjects will include No Child Left Behind, military spending, and national energy policies. Kate Johnson of Jenkintown asks: Will you work to ensure that NASA's programs for space exploration, including the plans to send a manned mission to Mars, remain funded and supported?
March 22, 2004
Re: "Changing vision for NASA may blind Hubble forever," March 14: The commentary lacks some needed background information. Because we are committed to complying with the safety recommendations of the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, I decided two months ago to cancel the final mission to maintain and repair the Hubble space telescope. In making my decision, I had to balance the world-class science that the Hubble has produced, and will continue to produce, against the risks to the shuttle and its crew.
August 29, 2003
THIS WEEK'S report on the second space shuttle disaster, involving Columbia, is remarkably like the report that followed the Challenger disaster 17 years ago. Both said that the people in charge at NASA didn't let themselves see obvious clues and did not do the investigations that might have led them to inconvenient information. The 248-page report even has a name for this tragic myopia: They call it the "broken safety culture," the drive to keep the program going even when its value is questionable, by cutting corners and pushing past warnings.
April 21, 2010 |
Last week, President Obama outlined a new plan for the future of American space exploration. It calls for increases in NASA's annual budget, a new heavy-lift launch vehicle, and more collaboration with the developing commercial space sector. And it also sets the goal of sending people to an asteroid, to the moons of Mars, and to Mars itself. That lofty goal of putting people on Mars is the primary difference between Obama's space exploration plan and that of former President George W. Bush, who set the goal of returning us to the moon.
February 27, 2003
With a gentle dying-out in outer space, an era has ended. Pioneer 10, a satellite launched in 1972, has evidently ceased to send signals or return calls. The Deep Space Network of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena received its last known beep on Jan. 22. JPL called again on Feb. 7. Nothing - and lab officials have decided to let it rest. Pioneer is a needed reminder, as the country still grieves for the shuttle Columbia astronauts, that sometimes these things go right.
September 29, 2004 |
WHEN YOU first hear about SpaceShipOne, it sounds like billionaire Paul Allen has run out of things to buy on Earth. Allen, who founded Microsoft with Bill Gates, surpassed the stage where millionaires finance yacht races about three zeroes ago. He owns half of DreamWorks studios, Oxygen Media, the Seattle Supersonics, the Portland Trailblazers and he's buying up every acre of available real estate in the Northwest corner of the United States that...
February 6, 2003
America officially grieved this week at a memorial service led by President Bush for the seven heroes who died in the space shuttle Columbia tragedy. The nation will take much longer to ease the sadness it feels for the fallen astronauts and their families. But Americans shouldn't just feel sad. Americans should feel ashamed. Granted, space exploration is an inherently dangerous pursuit. But it is a shame that 17 years after the liftoff explosion of the Challenger, America hasn't developed a safer replacement for the space shuttle.
February 10, 1986
One of the many sad aspects of the space shuttle explosion was the manner in which the press handled reporting on the seven casualties. The death of the "civilian" schoolteacher completely overshadowed the deaths of the six "professional" crew members who dedicated their lives to space exploration for our country. Would the grief-stricken faces of the mission commander's family have generated as much sympathy? I am reminded at this time of the freeing of the Iranian hostages and our unbounded enthusiasm and gratitude which we could not spare for the Vietnam veterans.
December 11, 1995 |
We need space exploration; without it, we heirs of Western civilization risk becoming a frontierless folk culture engaged in endless self-reflection. The Galileo spacecraft encounter with Jupiter provides exactly the kind of cultural infusion our society needs. Our history since the Renaissance shows a strong correlation between geographic exploration and general cultural vitality, says Stephen Pyne, a history professor at Arizona State University. Pyne sees important similarities between what space exploration offers our civilization and what the exploration of the world contributed to Europe after the Middle Ages.