February 22, 1986 |
One of this week's headlines reads, "Investigator says booster tempterature was 'absurd'. " So is becoming absurd the feverish investigation into the tragedy of the space shuttle Challenger. Not because it is absurd to inquire into the causes of accidents, but because the spirit of this inquiry gives off unhealthy odors, one part Luddite, one part ideological, one part opportunistic. Here is some perspective on the Challenger accident. On May 2, 1953, 37 passengers and six crew members of a BOAC Comet jetliner were killed when the aircraft crashed, in a storm, 30 miles from Calcutta, India.
March 27, 1992 |
Anyone who is debating whether we should fund the space program should remember Queen Isabella of Spain. What did she think when Christopher Columbus asked her to finance his crazy plan to go east by sailing west? Presumably he had a good proposal, one that promised cheaper spices, faster transportation routes, even the possibility of discovering a new island or two. Just as likely, the queen had plenty of other demands on her purse. Surely one of her ministers pointed out that Columbus had not received many grants previously and had a spotty record.
February 3, 2014 |
Budget cuts scrubbed Northeast High School's acclaimed space research program. Supporters saved it. On Monday - just a few weeks after The Inquirer reported that the Philadelphia School District's budget crunch had killed the trailblazing, NASA-recognized program - it will resume operation. Alumni and friends of "SPARC," as the program is known, have funded it for the rest of the school year with plans to update outdated technology, find industry partnerships, and ensure its long-term survival.
July 25, 1995 |
"Apollo 13" is one of the big movie hits of the summer, right up there with "Batman Forever" and "Pocahontas. " It deserves to be. Rather than being a multimillion-dollar cartoon strip that talks, it is solidly based in reality - a 1969 moon walk mission that went bad and very nearly left three astronauts stranded in space, with no escape or rescue possible, as a horrified nation looked on. The averting of that disaster, the details of which the...
January 12, 2004 |
The United States, NASA and its Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Cal Tech can rejoice over the successful Jan. 3 landing on Mars of the spacecraft called Spirit. Soon it will be commanded to begin moving from its landing site to search for evidence that there once was life on the red planet. Meanwhile, space buffs, many of whom are known for their vivid imaginations, predict another activity for the craft: breakdown. During the past three years, several American and British robots have reached Mars only to refuse to communicate with their masters on Earth.
September 29, 1988 |
The United States was once the only superpower that was open about its space program. From the beginning, U.S. launches were shown live on television. While full disclosure had embarrassing and tragic moments, it added greatly to the effect of successes. It also promoted support for space activities and recognition of American leadership - in the years when the United States was ahead. Now the Soviet Union has started to practice glasnost, or openness, in space. Not only have the Soviets started to televise their liftoffs, but also in recent weeks they have given extensive publicity to two missions that got into serious trouble: a near-disaster that occurred in bringing two cosmonauts back to Earth, followed by the failure of an automated spacecraft that was launched in July to probe the moons of Mars.
August 17, 1989 |
In celebrating the 20th anniversary of Apollo 11's manned lunar landing, many Americans have wondered why this nation did not surge forward in its efforts to conquer and explore space. Why did America stop going to the moon in 1972 after only six missions? What happened to all the elaborate hopes and dreams for planetary exploration and the establishment of a space station? Why does America have such a hard time getting back into the real space race? At first, space exploration was a mere idea, but we were scared into making it a reality in 1957 when the Soviets launched the Sputnik satellite.
July 25, 1997 |
All you have to do is look at the scientists and engineers behind the Mars program to know where all the high school audio-visual squads have gone. They have the same endearing goofiness of the Science Club when a project of theirs actually worked in a way that didn't require evacuation of the school and presence of the Fire Department. The NASA team successfully sent a spacecraft 119 million miles, sent it screaming down through the Martian atmosphere at 16,000 mph and gently set it on the surface of another planet, where it transmits back pictures of a rock named Scooby Doo. Gang, what we're missing here is excitement, sex appeal, suspense - in short, marketing.
February 5, 2003 |
It was July 20, 1969, and I was 12. Like most Americans, I was sitting with my family in front of the television set, witnessing a turning point in human history. We all understood the gravity of the moment. With the words "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed," some new measure of the grandeur of human achievement was impressed on my 12-year-old soul. I developed a passionate, though casual, connection to the space program, which persists in a childlike part of me, wrapped in wonder.
January 26, 2012 |
COCOA, Fla. - Newt Gingrich . . .. to infinity, and beyond! Gingrich, the former House speaker and Republican candidate for president, pledged Wednesday to colonize the moon and develop a "continuous propulsion system" capable of rapid travel to Mars, drawing cheers from a crowd of 700 here on America's "space coast," economically hard hit by cutbacks at NASA. "By the end of my second term, we will have the first permanent base on the moon, and it will be American," Gingrich said, adding that it is a "tragedy" that the U.S. has abandoned manned space flight.