Category: space travel

Not Your Daddy’s NASA

It was just like the old days at NASA early this morning. Mission control updates. Blow by blow operation of critical systems. The tension was palpable as the Curiosity approached the surface of the Red Planet, Mars. In reality the results of the landing were already accomplished, good or bad, because it takes almost fourteen minutes for radio signals to reach earth from Mars at its current relative location.

As each major stage was successfully accomplished, mission control employees would applaud, and then continue their tasks as the landing progressed. Mission Control was at the JPL facilities at Cal Tech.

When it became known that the lander had arrived safely, it was party time. People jumped up, clapping their hands, showing their total enthusiasm. It was after one-thirty in the morning in Atlanta at my house, and I was happy, but not quite so jubilant.

I am probably wrong, but I got the distinct feeling that NASA wants us to feel like we still have the NASA of the last century. My feelings were a bit different.

This is the nineteenth Mars program in NASA history. The project cost $2.5 Billion, and was $1 Billion over budget, taking two years longer than projected.

What were the NASA folks cheering about? They had broken no new ground getting to Mars because they had done that eighteen times in the past. The only thing new was finding a way to land an automobile size rover without destroying it. They had been doing that bit of arithmetic for decades.

This is not your Daddy’s NASA. This is a bureaucracy of technocrats who feel they are entitled to unlimited sums of money, and deserve accolades when they come in over budget and late.

In my opinion they are barely doing their jobs.

Galactic Abortions?

artist conceptual drawing of the Bussard Instellar Ramjet Engine
PIcture of Bussard Ramjet Engine from Wikipedia

As I was re-entering Earth’s atmosphere last night about midnight after a quick trip to the far-side of  the moon,  I had one of those flash-backs from my childhood better left un-flashed. Sometimes, things can be painful.

You see, my poor mother was a woman beset with a multitude of ills and pains in the posterior, most of which were children. I was the last issue of a prolific set of parents, and therein lies the tale.

Adjusting my anti-gravity drives as I set my craft down in my driveway, I remembered that little comment my mom made to me when I was about ten years old.

“I thought you were a tumor”, she said.

Back then, I had no idea what she was talking about, and went about my business of killing ants, or whatever ten-year old boys did. I was really good at getting them with a magnifying glass in the midday sun. I never could get the family cat to stay still long enough to see what I could do to that species.

It was not until years later, many years, that I recalled that comment, and started to wonder exactly what my mom meant. Originally, I did not know what a tumor was. In those days there was no such thing as a legal abortion, either. So, it took a while to put the pieces of the puzzle together about my mom’s meaning.

The poor woman had so  many kids, and her age was such that she thought her childbearing years were over. When that new lump appeared (me), she really thought, or hoped, that it was a tumor and not another baby. God knows, she had enough little monsters running around the house. I know, because I had to fend for myself against all those hungry siblings.

While stowing the stubby atmosphere wings on my T-91 stellcraft, I was grateful that abortions were not legal when I was born. Otherwise, you never know what would have happened. What my mother really meant was that she was afraid she had a tumor, and was really glad to learn she was pregnant. I think.

As my individual interstellar craft finished morphing back into looking like a 1991 Ford Taurus, I was at peace with myself and my mother. There is no way she would have aborted me. I am too important, and she could foresee that. Instead of becoming a doctor, as she fervently wished, I became something even more impressive and important.

I am the representative for Planet Earth to the Galactic Federation, as my nightly flights to the stars would seem to indicate. The fate of Planet Earth rests in my hands.

You should be very thankful that I was not aborted.

Somebody’s Got To Do It

With retirement comes opportunity. Suddenly, like it or not, you have the time to take on some pretty important tasks that you have left for others. It is a time to exult in freedom, and watch bad movies on weekday nights.

You can go to bed at three o’clock in the morning, sleep until ten o’clock, and not worry about somebody (except your wife) beating up on you for your much deserved slothfulness.

It is my turn to contemplate faster than light (FTL) space travel and other as yet undiscovered principles of physics.  I know it sounds a bit like science fiction, but I have been watching the History Channel, and not only do they show some pretty good stuff on UFO’s, but they are also solving the problem of traveling at sub-light speed. If you really want to go somewhere, 55 mph won’t get it.

Of course I don’t plan on solving all these problems by myself. I intend to do a study of Tennessee sipping whiskey and light speed drives for space ships. Now, hold on a bit. This is not a joke. I have to make up for lost time, and the squandered opportunities of my youth.

It is time to squander my retirement years. Why else have I worked so hard?

When I was young man, I was taught to work for my money, and everything else that came along. My family was a big family, and the folks could not afford to pay anything on my college education. Indeed, none of my siblings at the time had a college education. I was the first.

I worked my way through engineering school at radio and television stations as a broadcast engineer, and I didn’t have time for all the dope smoking, free sex, and general debauchery of the Viet Nam war generation. If I had been caught doing drugs, I would have been thrown out of school, and fired from my job. Plus, future employment would be jeopardized because of a criminal record. It happened to lots of kids.

Now that I am retired and have lost my baby face and some of my incredible sex appeal, I am forced to spend time improving life for others. Yep, FTL is the way to go, and I anticipate my inspiration from Tennessee whiskey; Jack Daniels, to be sure.