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    • CommentTimeMay 27th 2011 edited
    Yes, I know there's a supply shuttle set to go up in July, but right now is the last flight of the endeavor. The crew of the Endeavor just completed what is to be the last space walk from a US spacecraft.

    When I was a kid of about four my mom was a soldier at an Air Force Base. She used to bring to her work sometimes so I could watch the military aircraft come and go. My mom said if I was lucky I'd get to see a space shuttle, which she probably told me so I wouldn't put up a fight about sitting around a boring motor pool office - because Ohio isn't space capitol of the world or anything. She bought some amazing posters featuring the crews of America's spaceflight history that hung on my wall for years. I never got tired of looking at them, it just seemed a given that this wonderful exploration and these amazing people would be going to the stars forever.

    Anyway - I'm starting to feel down now that the cutoff time for American spaceflight is ticking down the last few seconds. What are your feelings/thoughts/memories on American spaceflight?
    • CommentAuthorStefanJ
    • CommentTimeMay 27th 2011
    I'm old enough to remember a similar dry patch, between the end of the Skylab missions and the first shuttle flights. What made it all the more excruciating was that this was the era of the L-5 society, when lots of SF authors got the space colonization religion.

    When the economy has recovered a bit, politicians will start making noise about the importance of beating the Chinese to Mars, thus increasing spending and getting the manned program back on the front burner.
    • CommentTimeMay 28th 2011
    Fortunately, privatized space flight does seem to be making some headway. It would be nice if human expansion into space wasn't completely reliant on the same budget that is funding military efforts across the globe.
  1.  (9898.4)
    America might be out of the game, but the rest of us are slowly stepping up. British spaceplane:

    British spaceplane
    • CommentAuthor256
    • CommentTimeMay 28th 2011
    Important to remember that the US' space program isn't just human spaceflight.

    Right now, NASA has active space probes:
    MESSENGER in orbit around Mercury
    Cassini in orbit around Saturn
    Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter which is, yep, orbiting Mars
    Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, figure it out
    WIND in orbit around the Sun
    SOHO in orbit around the Sun
    ACE in orbit around the Sun
    STEREO A & B in orbit around the Sun
    Three THEMIS probes around the sun, and two (renamed ARTEMIS) moved to lunar orbit
    New Horizons on the way to Pluto
    Dawn on the way to the asteroid Vesta
    and, of course, Voyager I & II, and Deep Impact are still out there, heading out of the solar system.

    This doesn't include any of the Earth orbiting NASA satellites, of which there are a huge number.

    But I don't blame people for not knowing or caring about these missions, because NASA do an absolutely shocking job of managing their public relations. The collective web presence of these missions is a horrendous mishmash of outdated, ugly, unconnected sites. There's also a real problem with audience - they seem to pitch to pre-highschool ("Mars activity sheets!"), or post-doctorate ("ftp raw data here"), and nothing in between.

    This is something they really, really need to sort out.

    Honestly, they could just employ one person, give them access to everything that's coming in from the entire probe fleet, and pick out a few of the prettier pictures to put them on a blog somewhere. Is there a yet?

    Also, @justinpickard:

    That is a penis.
    • CommentTimeMay 28th 2011
    A mighty British Space Penis
  2.  (9898.7)
    I think it's a bit early to say this is the "death" of the US space program. In fact I think it's a bit early to call this anything more than a tactical retreat.

    There's also the Lockheed Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, designed for so-called "deep space" missions (in this case "deep space" means "beyond the moon" or "to Mars"). Read about it here.

    Or, let's consider the Dragon Capsule, which has been contracted for cargo delivery to the ISS.

    Manned spaceflight from the US is in a transition period. It's not dead.

    That doesn't mean it can't still die, and I'm sure there are people who will say either of these projects will be canceled, but nobody can predict the future. They're moving forward, and that's the plan.
    • CommentTimeMay 28th 2011
    @justinpickard Two tickets to board your British Spacepenis, please.
    • CommentAuthorFan
    • CommentTimeMay 28th 2011
    > What are your feelings/thoughts/memories on American spaceflight?

    It's not about America: it's about people, and space. I'd be no less happy if it were the Chinese space program ... or (less likely) dogs.
  3.  (9898.10)
    I'm glad I wasn't the only one who thought the Brit spaceplane looked like a gigantic cock and balls.
  4.  (9898.11)
    @256: Muhuahahahahahahaha...

    Though to be perfectly honest it doesn't look all that exciting, and it hasn't been updated in over a year. :(
  5.  (9898.12)
    I'm not sure what to make of the fact that this purported British spaceplane looks like a large, black cock and balls. Probably nothing.

    I have long been a fan of manned space travel, and co-write a "hard sf" web-comic strip concerning same, but the more I learn about the challenges involved the more I start to think that before we can get very far from Earth orbit, humans themselves -- or at least, those who do the traveling, will have to change in fundamental physiological ways. The problems of bone and muscle degeneration in microgravity, the radiation hazards, the huge cost (in terms of mass) of necessary life-support systems, the lengthy travel times to get even as far as Mars, may mean that we need to develop a new sort of human -- homo coelus peregrinans? -- adapted to an environment of low gravity, high radiation, and requiring far lower amounts of oxygen and water than we do. Or at the extreme, to become machines -- human consciousness uploaded into an artificial brain controlling a metal body.

    Unless, of course, we have some fairly enormous break-throughs in areas like propulsion, artificial gravity, chemical and elemental transmutation, and radiation shielding. None of us can know what the future will bring, but I doubt I'll see any of this in my lifetime, and probably not in the lifetime of most people here, either.

    Just the same, it's still fun to dream about.
  6.  (9898.13)
    I'm not sure what to make of the fact that this purported British spaceplane looks like a large, black cock and balls.

    Multiculturalism in action.
      CommentAuthormister hex
    • CommentTimeMay 30th 2011
    @ warrenellis - makes then end of Ministry of Space somewhat ironic, then.
    • CommentAuthorStefanJ
    • CommentTimeMay 30th 2011
    Unless, of course, we have some fairly enormous break-throughs in areas like propulsion, artificial gravity, chemical and elemental transmutation, and radiation shielding.

    Amen. Space travel isn't easy. It won't be cheap.

    As a teen I dug the quasi-religious space boosterism of guys like Bova, Pournelle, Niven and Baen. A confused mix of free enterprise is the answer and why isn't the government funding the space program more? and rousing rhetoric like all we need is imagination and nerve.


    I want a space program. To some extent we need one. But I'm not holding my breath for any flashy mission action any time soon.
    • CommentAuthorDickey
    • CommentTimeMay 31st 2011
    @ 256 & Jamie Heron

    My name's Brian, been a lurker around this board for a bit and saw your post re: the NASA tumblr. Quickly afterwards I contacted the gentleman who ran it and it turns out he hasn't had time to throw up images on there. But he added me to the group, so posting to should be happening on a far more regular basis.

    I work for a NASA contractor (primarily in the proposal dept for new contracts) so I have unique info I would love to share, but am unsure about how far my NDA extends on what I know through the company. Until then I'll probably be posting more generic-ish. However, if anybody on this thread has any kind of topic area/subject matter they'd like me to highlight, then please let me know.
    • CommentAuthorOddcult
    • CommentTimeMay 31st 2011
    There's been someone occasionally chucking out pictures of British Spaceplanes since I was a kid. I remember getting very excited about HOTOL.

    And look... just look at the pictures on the website - someone's just traced the Anastasia and coloured it in black. This isn't a real spacecraft programme! And all this press release is just saying is 'weeeelll... we think it *should* work. But fucked if I know how we're going to afford to get it beyond the photoshop stage.'

    Sorry to be a downer, but the British Space Programme is never going to get out of the white vest, put down the can of Stella and stop beating me, then crying when I say I don't believe it'll change and am leaving, much as I want to believe in it.
  7.  (9898.18)

  8.  (9898.19)
    @Dickey: Thank you, lots of thank you's, with a few fuck yeahs thrown in
  9.  (9898.20)
    I don't know if it's possible to make a non-phallic space vehicle? Not one that's got to get itself into orbit anyhow...

    Feels really sad watching the shuttles retire. An uncle has worked on the programme for 27 years, so it's a huge upheaval for him and his family - they're having to relocate from New Orleans to Sunnyvale. It kind of feels too like a glitch in progress - that we're retreating, sinking back down to an Earth that we're busily wrecking. I really hope that's not true, and we will keep moving forward and outward.

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