In Other Tourism-Related News

Externaltank012811
That's the external fuel tank from a 1989 space shuttle mission, a picture my brother-in-law Dan happened across while we were discussing shuttle history (and he was correcting my memory on a couple of fine points, such as the fact the first during the first four missions, the shuttle was equipped with ejection seats). The subject came up while we were remembering the Challenger disaster in 1986 (a subject another friend brought up on Facebook).

Anyway, I'm always a sucker for a good space program picture, and this is one. Not to over-romanticize, you could look at this and say it's simply part of a wasteful industrial process (the external tank is jettisoned and partially disintegrates as it falls through the atmosphere into the Atlantic). There's more to it, for me: a picture from an untamed place that holds unlimited promise, a picture of our civilization reaching to extend its understanding and its capabilities. 

Sure, we have lots of problems here at home (that blue background–what a beautiful place). It's always seemed to me we ought to be able to extend our reach out there and do the work we need to do down here, too. 

(End of the foregoing.)

6 Comments

Filed under Current Affairs, History

6 Responses to In Other Tourism-Related News

  1. smichel

    Agree. The money we spend on the space program does not get spent in space (discarded fuel tank notwithstanding), but is spent on earth.
    But though it’s romantic, it’s hard to see a huge role in space for humans in the short term. Much more fascinating are those little robots we have cruising through the solar system and exploring its planets. These little avatars are just magic, and can go where we can’t.

  2. Dan

    Steve, I’m with you about our robots and remote missions and deep space work. Amazing stuff–I’ve always been blown away by that (remember how long NASA kept in touch with Pioneer 10? http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/news/display.cfm?News_ID=4618).

  3. Rob

    We get a whole lot more bang for our taxpayer buck with unmanned missions. They’re cheaper, infinitely safer, and they can go places that are still impractical to send men. I’m reminded of The Right Stuff.
    “You know what makes this bird go up?”
    “Funding”
    “No bucks. No Buck Rogers”
    “Now , the press over there. They all want to see Buck Rogers”
    NASA still needs astronauts but mainly as fundraisers now. The public doesn’t clamor to see little probes and modules sent into space.

  4. Dan

    The unmanned missions can go places and do things we can’t — yet. But the reason the manned space program has become stunted and expensive is because of choices made at the end of the Apollo program that emphasized low-Earth-orbit “exploitation” and canceled plans for further exploration of the moon and beyond. There are compelling reasons for human exploration, including understanding our own world better and perhaps even increasing our own long-term survival as a species, that don’t add up on the bottom line right this minute. All spending on the space program is a long-term investment, and it’s the long view we seem to be losing.

  5. jb

    This is a great photo. One can also find video, shot from a space shuttle, of the external tank being jettisoned, tumbling slowly as it drifts along in low orbit. But the thing you don’t get from photos is the scale of the thing. It is moved to the Kennedy Space Center on a barge. It is too big for the railroads and the interstate.It must be a sight when it plummets back to earth.
    I like most of the stuff that NASA does, especially the robotic missions around the solar system. I just read a good article: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/31/science/space/31planet.html?scp=6&sq=nasa&st=cse about the Kepler telescope and its mission to find planets in nearby parts of the galaxy. The last paragraph is pretty good. Amazing times we’re in.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *