links for 2007-12-24

A Survival Imperative for Space Colonization

“To ensure our long-term survival, we need to get a colony up and running on Mars within 46 years.”

Ouch! We may resemble that remark… [h/t Garret]

A Survival Imperative for Space Colonization [NY Times Science]
“Maybe the reason civilizations don’t get around to colonizing other planets is that there’s a narrow window when they have the tools, population and will to do so, and the window usually closes on them.”

links for 2007-06-25

STS-51-L Challenger “Vehicle lost during launch” in 1986

My iCal has a NASA history calendar with this terse entry for today:

(1986) STS-51-L Challenger Launch – Tracking and Data Relay Satellite-B (TDRS-B); SPARTAN-203 – Vehicle lost during launch

Vehicle lost during launch.” Yeah, 73 seconds after launch. That’s pretty glib about the first time we got to see seven of our Astronauts die in real time. I didn’t happen to see it in real time.

On 28 January 1986 I was on my way to a 9 am meeting with a group of volunteer corporate fund-raisers for the local Boy Scout Council.* When I got out of my truck at the Community College, Leslie, my fellow District Executive, was leaning against her car shaking her head and listening to the local NPR affiliate. Before I could say anything she blurted out, “The Shuttle just blew up. On takeoff.” I stopped in my tracks and didn’t say anything. I ended up leaning against her car too.

That’s where our mutual boss found us a couple of minutes later and told us that we had to get inside and give him some support because the group of people we were meeting with were, “distracted by the Shuttle thing.” I said, “we’re a bit distracted by this ‘Shuttle thing’ too.” I’m sure I sounded a bit snotty. That’s how I get sometimes… I got told something about ‘your (my) priorities yadda, yadda.’ I don’t exactly remember, I was distracted with that shuttle thing.

Somewhere during the next 45 minutes Leslie and I got a stern talking to because we were unable (and mostly unwilling) to turn the group’s emotional tide of concern about the Challenger disaster towards fund-raising.

I wasn’t cut out for that kind of work and didn’t last long in that position.

I still get a lump in my throat and my eyes get wet when I see that footage.

* (long story, career mistake in hindsight, we’ll speak of it some other time)

What Ed White Saw

Back in 1967 I was in 6th grade and quite the aspiring geek. I was a major space flight and NASA geek. The news of the Apollo 1 fire chilled me to the bone.

This is from the Wikipedia entry where there are some pictures of the plaques:

Launch Complex 34 has been essentially dismantled, the cement and steel-reinforced launch platform remains at the site. The platform bears two plaques for the 3 men who died. One reads:

LAUNCH COMPLEX 34
Friday, 27 January 1967
1831 Hours

Dedicated to the living memory of the crew of the Apollo 1:

USAF. Lt. Colonel Virgil I. Grissom
USAF. Lt. Colonel Edward H. White, II
U.S.N. Lt. Commander Roger B. Chaffee

They gave their lives in service to their country in the ongoing exploration of humankind’s final frontier. Remember them not for how they died but for those ideals for which they lived.

The other reads:

IN MEMORY
OF
THOSE WHO MADE THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE
SO OTHERS COULD REACH FOR THE STARS

AD ASTRA PER ASPERA
(A ROUGH ROAD LEADS TO THE STARS)

GOD SPEED TO THE CREW
OF
APOLLO 1

I remembered Ed White from his space walk during Gemini 4 and seeing a picture of his family and two kids. I remembered Virgil Grissom from his Mercury mission. I really felt like I had been sucker-punched.

links for 2006-11-04