Jun 282013
 
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The "Mercury Seven" astronauts pose ...

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I’m going to throttle back my overbearing, know-it-all, in your face attitude just a bit this week, and ask Ralph to forgive me for horning in on one of his favorite categories to write about…  Nostalgia.

Despite this post being due for publication on Monday, February 28, I sit here on the previous Thursday feeling the need to write Monday’s post now.  I saw something happen today that got the muse going, and she will not be denied.

First, let’s back up a little bit.  50 years, to February 20, 1962 to be exact.

Just nine months after JFK had called for the United States to put a man on the Moon by 1970, a fellow no one outside of military flying had ever heard of, John Glenn, climbed into a Mercury capsule and into the role of American hero.

Two men, wearing that newfangled career moniker “astronaut” had preceded Glenn in our quest to conquer space, taking brief, sub-orbital flights.

This day, this flight, was to be dramatically different.  John Glenn, riding in Friendship 7, was going to be the first American to orbit the earth, circling it three times in approximately 4 hours before splashing down.  Not to minimize the United States earlier flights, but this was a major step forward for JFK’s vision of reaching the moon.  Sub-orbital flight amazed, but actually orbiting the earth and returning safely was almost beyond belief.

America’s march to the moon progressed through the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo space programs, and ended on December 19, 1972 when Apollo 17, our last manned flight beyond earth orbit, splashed down.  Astronaut Gene Cernan was the last man to walk on the moon.  Little did we know it then that now, almost 40 years later, we would not yet have returned.

And now today, Thursday, February 24, 2011 we watched the sun setting on the United States manned space program.  At 4:50 PM Eastern Standard Time space shuttle discovery, the first of the shuttle fleet, launched from Cape Canaveral for the last time.

Sure, there will be a couple more shuttle launches, but this, the final launch of the workhorse of the shuttle fleet, brings into stark relief the fact that the United States days of commanding the heavens are over, at least for the foreseeable future.  After this and a couple more launches, culminating with a June 28 launch of space shuttle Atlantis, the United States will once again be earthbound for the first time since Alan Sheppard was launched in Freedom 7 on May 5, 1961 in a suborbital flight that lasted just 15 minutes.

When Atlantis lands at the end of its final flight, the United States will be hitchhikers to the international space station, a space station mostly built, and paid for, by the United States.  Regarding manned space travel we will once again be at the mercy of the Russians.

When was the last time we were in that position?  Before launch time on February 20, 1962.  How’s that for progress?

Ralph got a bit agitated over the space program too.

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Bob@HayleStorm Interactive

Bob comes to us with a skeptical attitude and a full cup of Cantankerousness. He also writes about homesteading and yurts over at JuicyMaters.com and rants about politics at Common-Sense-Conversation.com Most of the time, though, you'll find him at HayleStorm.net, cranking out great websites for clients OR writing tutorials teaching them to build their own sites.

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  9 Responses to “A retro moment I could have done without”

  1. There goes my dream of one day living on the moon. There’s just too many problems her on earth, to be wasting our resources on space flight. But if Star Trek is any indicator, well be back out there with even better space ships in a few centuries.

  2. Bob,
    The space program died long ago with the space shuttle to nowhere (aka the international space station). the US abandoned the vision of men on the moon because with the space shuttle, you couldn’t get there. The space shuttle could not reach the altitude necessary for a fully functional space station that would serve as a transition point between vehicles suitable for earth landings and launches and landings and lunar launchings and landings.
    Nothing to cry about now. The space program has been dead for 30 years and stopping our adulation of its mummy is healthy.
    This is just one more example of the government destroying American ingenuity and spirit. Just like education, manufacturing (automobiles for example) the government domination of space has led us from first place to also ran.
    Three cheers for private industry and Sir Richard. If man is going to the moon, it will be men like him that will lead.

    And Hansi, you are the one man, I would have bet has been to the moon. So disappointing.

  3. Ralph, everyone knows how important the space program is, how large a part it has played in scientific advances.

    Hell…if it weren’t for the space program we wouldn’t have that tasty drink “Tang”.

  4. Bob,
    That is actually an urban legend and untrue. Maybe I need to do that Tang nostalgia post after all. I thought the best thing to come from NASA was Corning ware.

  5. It’s sad that manned space flight by the USA is coming to an end.

    In the film 2001 A Space Odyssey, people travelled to the Moon on a Pan Am flight. The future isn’t what we thought it would be; I would have bet on manned missions to Mars by now.

    On the other hand, micro chip technology has advanced further than even the Science Fiction writers could imagine.

    John
    Being nostalgic in Leamington Spa, England

  6. John,
    It’s because the government isn’t running microchup development- and up til now they were running space exploration. With the government out, the sky’s the limit.

  7. Ralph, I think you hit the nail on the head – the problem with the space program is that is was run by the government. Mostly all the government does is spin their wheels and waste money.

    Have you read the book Deception Point by Dan Brown? It’s about the topic of government vs private enterprise in the space program. Of course, it’s fiction but interesting.

  8. Joan,
    I haven’t read that book but I will look for it.

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