Hey, everybody. It's Friday evening, so it must be time for a Block Party.
Fishgrease is gone and the last shuttle launch has gone well -- capping thirty years of low-orbit recoverable vehicle flights, the successors to Apollo, Gemini, and Mercury as this nation forfeited its heritage and turned its back on science and effort and achievement to placate "political pragmatists" who couldn't wrap their tiny little purse-mouthed tight-fisted moneygrubbing souls around a future free of superstition and unbound by their sense of entitlement, as all mankind joined hands to climb out of our planetary cradle.
Come look what we've lost -- join me past the orange tangle of ineffective fucking boom for a double wake, one for Fishgrease, who made us all smarter, and one for the space shuttle program, that made us all take manned space flight for granted, if you dare ....
Six of them were built. In general, though no two are exactly alike, they're all similar.
Five of them leapt, time after time, from the Kennedy Space Center launch pads over the horizon, bearing men and women from all over the earth toward the final frontier.
Not as novel as Mercury, not as fraught with danger as Gemini, not as breathtakingly glamorous as Apollo, these are the pickup trucks of the space program. FSM, Ceiling Cat, & all the gods, what beautiful apexes of engineering they are! Speeds in excess of 15,000 miles an hour attained on fuels of oxygen and hydrogen, at unimaginably cold temperatures, pouring an exhaust of 350,000 gallons of water onto the pad, driving forces even a jet plane aficionado like me has trouble comprehending.
Four of these marvelous vehicles -- meant to go into orbit repeatedly, meant to land safely for recovery and recycling -- survived the entire 30-year program. Fourteen individuals -- including the first teacher in space -- were killed aboard the two that crashed.
That seems like a very high loss rate, until you consider that over the 30 years between the first takeoff of Enterprise in test flights through the last launch of Atlantis this morning, a huge number of missions succeeded fully. A huge number of Earthlings rode those magnificent vehicles into space, and back, safely. Compared to the casualty toll of one jumbo jet crash, our space program has been remarkably low-fatality; compared to the operational costs of one aircraft carrier group in the Iraq war, our space program has been remarkably cheap. Compared to the cost of the Iraq war alone, our Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid programs have been, benefit-per-dollar vs. benefit per dollar, remarkably cheap. Yet we're being told all of these are too costly and too dangerous to continue, today, and we're acquiescing to this calumny (as we have done steadily since 1980 in the face of greed and insincerity, abandoning our principles, our employment, our culture, and our nation's honor in pursuit of some elusive "pragmatic savings"). More to the point than all the complex discussions of profit (when was government supposed to make money? Even the TEA party can't find that in the founders' intent!!), though, are the jobs, the flights, the scientific research, the International Space Station construction and provisioning runs, the repairs to our satellites in space ... and they did it all fueled on oxygen and hydrogen.
I come here not to bury our manned space program, though, or our fearless, inspiring Fishgrease,
With very few exceptions, most of the booming we've seen on television and on the internet since the BP Gulf of Mexico Disaster began has been containment booming. It has been what I call PR booming and it is wrong. They're using Containment Booming, meant to hold oil IN for a short period of time. But they're using it to hold oil OUT from the shore for long periods of time. This doesn't work. They're also using Absorbent Boom as containment boom. Most people call it Sorbent Boom, but I don't because it makes me think of oil-flavored sherbet. Absorbent Boom is meant to be a last line of defense in use with other booming, and for general worksite cleanup. So in these cases they're using the wrong stuff AND they're using it wrong! Rachel showed the results and those results speak for themselves. So what we've been seeing is bad boom. Listen.
but to praise them.
Today's launch defied weather successfully. Into a cloudy sky, Atlantis overcame a flaw with 31 seconds left in the countdown. Eight minutes later she rolled into low-earth orbit, pursuing the International Space Station for a Sunday-morning rendezvous.
Reuters' article about today's launch contains this paragraph, echoing what we were told before the shuttle program started, with complaints about the cost of the Apollo program:
Because of the vast expense necessary to maintain and fly the shuttle fleet it was decided the craft had outlived its usefulness and it was brought to an end in a decision that will be debated in space circles for decades to come.
Here's a good summary, from Neil deGrasse Tyson, via Twitter:
Neil deGrasse Tyson
@neiltyson Neil deGrasse Tyson
Apollo in 1969. Shuttle in 1981. Nothing in 2011. Our space program would look awesome to anyone living backwards thru time.
We are not the nation we were when John Fitzgerald Kennedy said we choose to do hard things. We are not the nation we were when we landed astronauts on the surface of the moon. We can be again, but we have to face reality. If we learnt nothing else last summer fromthe spewage into our Gulf of Mexico-- the same waters the shuttles overfly on takeoff, the same waters that sustain fisheries vital to Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas, the same waters that wash the shores of the Caribbean paradise, the same waters we share with Mexico -- we learnt that we cannot depend on self-policing industryto do anything other than take shortcuts in the name of profit that kill people and destroy our environment. We have to stand for something, rather than piling on against some other thing.
The alternative is unacceptable.