1998 Editorial Index


Jan 98 Ascent Stage


Feb 98 Works in Progress


Mar 98 RLV Update


Apr 98 CRV’s


May 98 It’s the Message, Stupid!


Jun 98 A Final View


Jul 98 In Search of Excellence


Aug 98 Farewell to the Admiral


Sep 98 Back for the Future


Oct 98 Cosmic Oktoberfest


Nov 98 Home of the Brave


Dec 98 Hail and Farewell




"Ascent Stage" January 1998

by Michael Cutler


As 1997 draws to a close most of us tend to review the ups and downs which have been part of our life experience this past year, while awaiting with some trepidation what the coming year might bring.


My assumption of the presidency of OCSS is a distinct honor and I shall work very hard to keep and maintain your trust. The shoes, or should I say moonboots, that departing President Larry Evans has left for me to step into are well worn indeed. Larry, and retiring Secretary Cherie Rabideau's efforts in forging OCSS into a living, viable conduit for the propagation of all things involving space have been Herculean indeed.


During the Evans administration OCSS has experienced a rebirth akin to that of a renaissance, taking our organization from an obscure darkness to a new era of enlightenment. The foundation laid during Larry's tenure as president has solidified the OCSS resolve to grow and establish a real presence in the space community


As your new president, I plan to build upon this hard won foundation by expanding upon many of the common goals that Larry and I share for the future growth of OCSS. I believe that change is a good and effective tool to bring about some of the goals that Larry and I feel would best serve the OCSS mission. I do not believe in change only for the sake of change. (If it isn't broke, don't fix it.)


I believe that without the infusion of new blood, the message of the legacy of space will be left to future historians to argue its merit or proclaim man's folly for abandoning its arduous pursuit. My administrations prime objective will be to increase our membership and utilize our membership to keep exploration of space paramount in the minds of all we encounter.


To accomplish this endeavor effectively, I will be calling upon every member of OCSS to utilize their unique and individual talents to support this mandate. It is often difficult to implement change smoothly when new leadership in any organization evolves, but I am confident that the talented individuals in OCSS will continue to contribute their time and effort.


* * * * *


To prepare us to meet the challenge of the new millennium, I believe we should commit ourselves to:

• Create a media/community affairs liaison group for making the society's presence known at the grass roots level.

• Establish an educational interface for primary and secondary educational avenues requiring exhibit materials and/or guest speakers.

• Provide a "one call" referral service for educators seeking space curriculum assistance from OCSS resources as well as providing an easier access to existing NASA and other collateral space resources.

• Involve the private sector and entrepreneurial interests in OCSS activities.

• Canvas the membership as to what special programs we should establish or eliminate.

• Establish an updated presence on the Internet.

• Catalog materials that we are able to be displayed for public display use.

• Reassess the visual appearance of our logo and graphics used by OCSS.

• Expand availability for supporters and advertisers in our newsletter.

• Evaluate the format of our newsletter, and reshape its look to better serve future OCSS demands.


* * * * *


I am looking forward to getting to know as many of you as possible and look forward to working with each and every one of you. Prepare to make a difference in 1998!




"Works in Progress" February 1998

by Michael Cutler


I am excited to report that several of our members accompanied me on a visit to the famed Lockheed Martin Skunk Works in Palmdale to receive a briefing on the X-33 RLV (reusable launch vehicle) and its larger follow-up sibling, the Venture Star RLV. In addition to a special briefing given by Jerry J. Rising, vice president of RLV/X-33, Cleon Lacefield program manager for X-33, and Gene Austin, NASA liaison, our group was treated to a rare tour of the actual X-33 vehicle now under construction. Next month's issue will feature extended coverage of the X-33 program and highlights of OCSS's penetration of the Skunk Works.


For the past three months I have been working with graphic designers, artists, and imaging professionals to create a new, updated look for the official OCSS logo. Many designs were presented for review and I am pleased to announce that after much design review, the talents of our own OCSS member Robert Kline will be utilized for the creation of our new logo. Robert's selfless dedication to tackling this task are greatly appreciated. His design visually reaffirms the credibility of OCSS and should serve our organization well into the new millennium.


I have been working on production of OCSS apparel items, the first prototype being produced is a black pique' knit golf shirt emblazoned with the new OCSS logo in metallic silver. Other items are being considered and if there is sufficient interest from our membership, more items will be produced. The first prototype shirt will be shown at the February meeting.


One of the photographs taken during the OCSS visit to the set of the upcoming Tom Hanks production of "From the Earth to the Moon," was featured in Location Update magazine and ran with an OCSS credit. This publication is sent to every major director, and studio in the entertainment industry world wide.

To repeat a cliche', Where has the time gone? Can you believe it has been 40 years since the United States launched its first satellite, Explorer 1, on January 31, 1958? Sure makes me feel old. Speaking of old, congratulations to Senator John Glenn (D-Ohio) on being selected to once again journey into space as the world's oldest astronaut launched into space.


On February 20, 1962, Glenn, a Marine Corps test pilot, was the first American to orbit the Earth aboard the Friendship 7 spacecraft. Senator Glenn, who will be 77 when he is launched aboard the shuttle Discovery in October of this year, was granted special permission by NASA to fly again so that the effects of aging can be studied in relation to spaceflight. Godspeed, John Glenn!


On a more serious note, we must take time to once again observe anniversaries of the loss of our fellow Americans fallen in the service of their country:

The Crew of Apollo 1, January 27, 1967: Ed White, Roger Chaffee, Gus Grissom.


The Crew of the Challenger, January 28, 1986: Dick Scobee, Mike Smith, Judy Resnik, El Onizuka, Ron McNair, Christa McAuliffe, Greg Jarvis.




"RLV Update" March 1998

by Michael Cutler


As all of you are aware, the most daunting challenge that must be met in realizing practical space transportation systems is cutting the huge costs involved in their operation. Presently, the cost of sending one pound of payload into space aboard the space shuttle orbiters exceed $10,000. Even though many elements of the shuttle system are reused, a great deal of expensive hardware is lost every time a mission is launched.


The need for reusable launch vehicles that can be launched from almost anywhere, and turned around rapidly much like commercial airliners operate today, has never been greater. As dependable a workhorse as the shuttle system has been, it has not been the do-all, be-everything for everyone, end-all launch system that many expected it (although perhaps unfairly) to be.


After the tragic loss of the Challenger, the shuttle fleet was grounded and our ability to launch vital military and civil payloads into space was severely impeded as our conventional rocket fleet was also limited in scope and could not handle the extra mission requirements, leaving a huge backlog of unflown payloads.


The wisdom of having all of our eggs in one basket has been embraced by several private sector aerospace companies and consortiums large and small alike. The need has never been greater for cheap access to space. Clients are appearing rapidly with needs ranging from placing low Earth orbit satellite networks to spaceborne cremains capsules carrying the final ashes of those dearly departed whose final wish was to make the ultimate journey.


Some of the other systems that are under development presently, in addition to the Lockheed Martin X-33/Venture star projects include the Kistler K-1, the Pioneer Pathfinder, and the Rotary Roton. Kelley Space and Technology's Eclipse Astroliner is being planned for commercial space tourism, with flights beginning in July 2001. The Civilian astronaut Corps' plans to launch their Advent rocket in 1999 with suborbital excursions for $3,500. These projects share very little in common with each other than sharing the goal of being the dominant player in the space race for the new millennium. These systems will be covered in depth in coming issues of this newsletter.


The different technologies being incorporated into these unique designs range from being towed by other aircraft, then dropped to fire their own engines to continue on, being launched as a multistage rocket utilizing surplus rocket engines produced by the former Soviet Union, free standing launch to orbit, then return as a glider, and a system which utilizes helicopter-like rotor blades to control its landing back on Earth.


Another incentive to be first among the competition is the $10 million purse known as the X Prize, to be awarded by the nonprofit X Prize Foundation to the first team that sends three people on two consecutive flights to an altitude of 100 kilometers (62 miles).


The X prize Foundation has said that they are looking for a "21st century Charles Lindbergh." A similar prize was offered earlier this century to instigate inventiveness and innovation in aviation by offering a large sum of money to the first pioneer to successfully cross the Atlantic. It took many people many years (and many lives) before Lindbergh finally claimed the prize in 1927. Cash prizes have always fed the motivation for aviators to push the envelope a little farther than what is easily within reach. Hopefully this will be as true for space.


The competition amongst these diverse players will ensure more competitive and customer friendly space access is afforded to a much broader segment of our society.




"CRVs" April 1998

by Michael Cutler


No, this article is not about the California Redemption Value deposit you pay when you purchase a bottle of soda. The CRV (Crew return Vehicle) I am referring to is the X-38 atmospheric test vehicle, the emergency lifeboat prototype/Crew Return Vehicle for the International Space Station (ISS). The X-38 is undergoing evaluation for duty in 2003 as a successor to the Russian Soyuz spacecraft now planned to be docked to the ISS for duty as its initial CRV.


The X-38 is designed to reenter and land automatically, but the crew will have the ability to switch to backup systems to control their reentry and landing should the need arise. The X-38 utilizes a nitrogen gas-filled attitude control system and uses batteries for its electrical power. A crew of six can be supported in the X-38 for up to nine hours after separating from the ISS. After separating from the ISS, the X-38 will jettison its deorbit engine module, pass through its reentry phase, and deploy a steerable wing-like parafoil (based upon U.S. Army parachute designs) allowing the 28.5 foot long vehicle to land on a set of skids.


The X-38's lifting body design can trace its lineage back to the U.S. air Force's X-24A/B project in the mid-60s. Despite its long bloodline and familiar form, the X-38 brings new technologies into practical application. A new coating has been developed by NASA to protect the X-38's thermal tiles, which will allow greater durability than the present space shuttle tiles. NASA has been able to keep project costs down by using off-the-shelf items for up to 80 percent of the X-38's design. Applied existing technologies include its computer system and a navigation system based upon the Global Positioning System (GPS).


Other uses for the X-38 design might include modification for use as an international spacecraft which can be placed aloft by the Ariane 5. The first true test of this vehicle will come in a couple of years when an X-38 will be deployed from the Space Shuttle and go through a complete reentry profile and soft landing.


The 16,000 pound X-38 has just successfully completed its first drop test from 23,000 feet from NASA's B-52 at Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards AFB, California, on March 12, 1998. And no, "Colonel Steve Austin" was not at the controls!




"It's the Message, Stupid" May 1998

by Michael Cutler


I am writing this month to share my views on the twelve part HBO miniseries “From the Earth to the Moon.” My opinion’s are based upon only the first six episodes which I have viewed to date.


When I first heard about the project, I was very excited to hear that the project would be headed by fellow space enthusiast Tom Hanks. Mr. Hank’s portrayal of Astronaut James Lovell under the direction of Ron Howard brought the all but forgotten story of the aborted third lunar landing mission to the screen in the motion picture “Apollo 13.” Besides giving us an exciting motion picture for entertainment, these two men aided by their fellow actors and production crew did a much greater thing for the public at large. They helped revive widespread interest in the space program.


Some thought that the film would highlight the fact that the mission failed, and add fuel to those still clamoring to cut space budgets completely. The film did the opposite, or in the words of Gene Krantz, showed “NASA’s finest hour.” The attention to detail paid in the film and the quest for perfection was shared by the entire crew. Was the film perfect. No. Were there glitches or continuity problems? Sure. Was it enjoyable? Of course!


In response to the clamor to know more about the space program, Tom Hanks felt the time was right for “From the Earth to the Moon” to be made.


To say the least, the scope of this program is a microcosm of the actual race to the moon. Both called upon some of the best creative and scientific talent this nation had to offer and put them up against an all but unobtainable goal in a very limited time period. Both invented new technologies and untried techniques.


The visual and technical aspects are very interesting to me but where this series excels is its showcasing of the seldom known human events which took place during the space race. Some of the things I especially enjoyed seeing were: The astronauts did not all like each other. They swore, drank, and had marital problems. They had to use codenames when in public as a means to fool the Soviets as to their whereabouts. One crew was sued by an atheist for reciting Genesis from the bible while orbiting the moon. These men of science were also spiritual. Bizarre schemes were proposed for sending the first man to the lunar surface with no means of returning him to Earth. Gus Grissom did not panic and blow his Mercury capsules hatch on landing. That Sen. Mondale tried unsuccessfully to kill the moon program. And that the Apollo 11 flight patch did not have the crew names on it to better symbolize that they represented all humankind.


Is this miniseries perfect? No. Are there glitches or continuity problems? Sure. Is it enjoyable? Of course!


The thing that annoys me the most is when fellow space enthusiasts “dog” a valid attempt made by someone to bring the message of the importance of the space program to the public as entertainment. Someone is always playing armchair astronaut by whining that the roll pattern isn’t correct on the Saturn V or the wrong NASA logo is being used, or that the story isn’t “human enough.” If you are one of these people who condemns the all but perfect dramatization of factual events, you need to get a life. I am not saying that it is wrong to look for the inaccuracies or even to discuss them, but dwelling over perceived inaccurate minutia only leaves people with a poor feeling for the film. Much like the presidential elections of `92 where the catch phrase “It’s the economy stupid!” brought the paramount issue home to the electorate. In the case of the space program the phrase should be “It’s the message stupid!”




"A Final View" June 1998

by Michael Cutler


Somehow, as Americans we seem to have lost our interest in the accomplishments that once embodied our national pride and honor. Our history undergoes a constant rewrite, where acts of genuine American ingenuity and courage are no longer fashionable to celebrate. Tom Hanks’ telling of the often overlooked story of America’s struggle against all odds, to place the first human beings on another world and return them safely to the Earth reaffirms that we are capable of doing the impossible in this country, should our national resolve sustain it.


Television has the power to inspire and motivate but it also has the power to stupefy and desensitize. The televised fare we so often devour is comprised of mindless rehashed sitcoms stemming from only a handful of once original ideas. We are so accustomed to televised violence that we aren’t horrified when our schools are shot up by students. When police are in pursuit of a suspect on our local freeways, news helicopters broadcast the chase live to all corners of the world, where people sit for hours watching the drama unfold. Is it any wonder that many children have no direction or goals? Children are instinctively “sponges” for absorbing information. If they are exposed to the right types of stimuli they will thrive and thirst for more productive knowledge.


Can you imagine the impact this series could have if it were incorporated into curriculum in our school system? It would certainly hold the interest of most of the students and bring home the immensity of landing humans on our nearest celestial body. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin are only names from the past to many students fortunate enough to have even heard of them. Examples presented in this series of the importance of teamwork, leadership, and perseverance under arduous conditions are great character builders.


Do any of you remember sitting through incredibly boring lectures in geology, chemistry or math class? I know I do. How great it would be to illustrate these courses with real world examples of their practical applications.


Wouldn’t word problems be much more interesting if they included space travel scenarios? It’s time to update the “Train A leaves Chicago at 2:00 pm traveling at 75 mph, how long will it take for train A to...” Showing a purpose for the math brings enlightenment. Personally, I learned basic math much faster once I put a dollar sign in front of the numbers.


In episode 10, “Galileo Was Right” (one of my personal favorites) we see that the Apollo 15 astronauts had little interest in the science aspect of their mission. Due to budgetary constraints which mandated that Apollo 17 will be the final lunar mission, the mission profiles for the 15, 16, and 17 flights are redefined to include more scientific research.


Colonel David Scott and his crew-mates are tasked with wearing geologist’s hats in addition to their famed “Snoopy” headgear.


The episode shows the crew’s initial boredom they experience sitting through lecture after lecture on geology. To make their education more effective and interesting the decision was made to move their training from the classroom to an actual geological site on Earth where they could gain first hand experience working as field geologists.


The training so successfully motivated the crew that prior to launch the crew requested that they trade off some of their abort propellant in exchange for a rake to aid their lunar rock collecting, and a telephoto lens for their Hasselblad cameras for documenting the terrain.


The Apollo 15 crew went on to discover what is now known as the Genesis Rock. This is a sample of the original lunar crust brought back from the surface of the Moon which has been extremely helpful in our attempts to understand the origins of our solar system. The crew would probably have stepped over it while strolling on the surface had they not been compelled by the desire to find it, as well as having the knowledge of what to look for to begin with.


The final six episodes of “From the Earth to the Moon” provided what I have always felt the medium of television should be utilized for, that of making the dissemination of history and the revelation of previously little known details entertaining. Not since historian/film maker Ken Burns’ PBS miniseries “The Civil War” has there been such a wonderful or important use of the television medium.




"In Search of Excellence" July 1998

by Michael Cutler


I am very pleased to announce that OCSS has been recognized by our parent organization NSS as the recipient of a Chapter Excellence Award for 1997. OCSS, under the leadership of former President Larry Evans and our Board, contributed greatly to this accomplishment by rallying our organization’s membership to support an expanded educational outreach program and the commitment to lobby for continued space support through political action.


In addition to participating in national NSS projects involving the motion picture “Contact” and the Tom Hanks miniseries “From The Earth To The Moon,” OCSS maintained a presence at Spaceweek and JPL for the Mars Pathfinder landing.


So, are we just sitting around in 1998? Wrong! What are we doing? Plenty!


As recipients of this coveted award we are indeed in good company. The Huntsville, Alabama, chapter was recognized for their achievements which included the actual launch of a homebuilt rocket! While the OCSS member rolls do include former astronauts and rocket scientists, I doubt if we will be granted a permit to launch vehicles skyward from anywhere within the Orange County limits. We will have to settle on being recognized for what we bring to our community rather than what we send out of it.


Our membership has grown so rapidly we have been forced to change our monthly meeting venue to a larger facility. Members of OCSS have given presentations to school children on astronomy. We have bolstered our relationship with the O.C. Register, who has been gracious enough to include us on their science website, “Lift Off!” We are listed as an accredited space news source, right next to the Associated Press. The site presently features essays by three OCSS members.


The new OCSS logo and motto designed by Robert Kline has given OCSS a more updated look which is helping prepare our organization for the new millennium. This has given us a sleeker, more polished look which has helped when making first impressions within the aerospace community.


The production quality of our newsletter has increased greatly, while its cost has decreased, due to a great extent to the efforts of Larry Evans, a skilled professional technical writer, and Jeff Howe, an accredited journalist.


OCSS members have been included in awareness programs hosted by the famed Lockheed Martin Skunk Works on the merits of their X-33/Venture Star reusable launch vehicle now under development. We have toured the actual construction site of the X-33 which is due to launch in less than a year.


Our membership is presently involved in maintaining a manned presence aboard the RMS Queen Mary for the upcoming Space Fair 98. An estimated 50,000 people will walk by our display area during the 10 days the show will be open.


The arduous task of creating a newer, more contemporary web site is well underway. The last obstacle to overcome is minimizing the cost of maintaining the page while keeping a professional appearance. Final image selection is underway and the short list of URL links has been compiled. If you have any suggested links you would like to see on our page please email them to Jeff Howe, our newsletter editor.


Thanks to all of the of members for making OCSS an credible entity within the space community. With your continued efforts we will retain our honored status and again grab the gold at award time. But even more importantly we will share in the satisfaction of a job well done. Godspeed!




"Farewell to the Admiral" August 1998

by Michael Cutler


I am deeply saddened to reflect on the passing July 22nd of my personal hero Admiral Alan B. Shepard Jr. We are all reminded of our mortality when individuals who cast a larger than life shadow walk among us no more. I was a very small boy when Admiral Shepard became America’s first human ballistic missile back on May 5, 1961 by riding aboard a rocket originally designed to deliver mass destruction to an enemy on the orders of the President of the United States.


I have very vivid recollections of pestering my parents for all of the “necessary” accouterments a boy just “had to have” in order to play astronaut with his buddies. I mean, who wanted to strap on a six-shooter when you could wear a space helmet? My space helmet was not fashioned from NASA’s most advanced high impact resins, but was a humble one made from an empty pistachio container from the local Baskin-Robbins ice cream store. It was quite a sight I assure you. Trimmed with aluminum foil, pipe cleaners, ping pong balls, and of course the mandatory gold and silver glitter. My life support system was made from a piece of garden hose attached to a couple of empty quart size milk cartons also trimmed in aluminum foil. This was the standard space exploration uniform for my buddies and I.


As I grew older, my interests remained with the space program. I can still remember coveting one of my friend’s Astro Base toys made by the Ideal Toy Company. The thrill I got opening a Christmas gift to find the GI Joe Mercury Space Capsule complete with pressure suit. I voraciously devoured anything I could read or watch about all of the astronauts, but I always held a special spot in my heart for Admiral Shepard. He wasn't the “Clean Marine” that his rival Colonel Glenn was, but rather, an ordinary man who achieved the extraordinary. He could be a mean SOB and strike terror into anyone that did not measure up to his standards of excellence, but was extremely charitable, giving much of his personal wealth away to support education and other worthy causes. Al Shepard was one of “us,” with his motivation set to overdrive.


As I got older I always wanted “Big Al” to get another chance to fly since his first flight aboard Freedom 7 lasted less than 16 minutes. While training with Tom Stafford to take the Gemini spacecraft into space, he was diagnosed with Meniere’s Disease, a severe infection of the inner ear and was taken off of flight status. It looked as though Shepard would never again fly alone in jet, let alone a spacecraft. At the insistence of Stafford, Shepard underwent a risky experimental ear surgery which allowed him to return to flight status. He fought hard for, and was given command of, the Apollo 14 mission, where upon the lunar surface he became the first extraterrestrial golfer, hitting two golf balls on the moon which he told us went for “miles and miles.”


The only way that Admiral Shepard could triumph over the incredible odds against getting back into space was his unswerving belief in himself and the cause. Admiral Shepard was the very embodiment of the word perseverance. His ability to not give up no matter how difficult the struggle may be has shown us all as humans that we are indeed up to the tasks that lie ahead providing we keep our cool and remain focused on our goals.


Our thoughts are with you Admiral and our most sincere condolences expressed to your family for you have once again “slipped the surly bonds of earth.”

Godspeed and good tailwinds sir.




"Back for the Future" September 1998

by Michael Cutler


As the 40th anniversary of NASA approaches, I have come to realize that the 50s and 60s cold war paranoia did produce something other than giving us the bragging rights for all time of being the first nation to have its citizens plant their national emblem in the soil of another world. It continued to sustain a national resolve to have the best standard of living and the most advanced technologies available for its citizens. We were a much bolder people back then.


Men sitting atop rockets in lieu of atomic warheads being blasted into the unknown epitomized the now cliched “right stuff.” These early pioneer explorers fueled the imagination of young and old alike. We couldn’t get enough of everything related to the astronauts and the space program. Being a “nerd” complete with crew-cut, pocket protector, and slide rule was the uniform of the day. The excitement of those initial flights swelled within us until we came down with “go fever,” putting our national honor on the line in competition with our rivals the Soviet Union in a no holds barred race for the crown of space achievement.


Who are the heroes of today? Professional athletes make seven and eight figure salaries annually and are looked up to by millions of fans while some anonymous underpaid technicians are arduously working to discover the secret to fusion power, or perhaps a cure for AIDS or Cancer. Do we have our priorities in order?


President Kennedy’s challenge of landing humans on the moon before 1970 allowed us to function as only a great nation can. Mustering enormous materials and manpower and assuming great financial costs were all accepted to achieve this goal.


Even with the rise of the hippie counter culture, and all things turbulent from the sixties, we still were able to focus on a great goal.


Vietnam changed us and stripped away our remaining national innocence. We have been exorcizing the ghost of Vietnam for all too long now, and have beaten ourselves up long enough over it. We have become very cynical now, often desensitized by what we see. We have become a nation of whiners who think that society owes them just for being alive. The generation X’ers falsely perceive warfare as something of a bloodless advanced arcade game where those who oppose us can be vaporized in an instant by submarine launched Tomahawk missiles without endangering a single hair of our countrymen. We live within a false aura of security.


We are still fortunate in this country to have really bright people in addition to the legions of dolts who also reside here. The problem is that the ratio has been going the wrong way for too long now. The vast majority of Americans can’t understand the instruction manuals that come with our high tech products. We have become a nation of slackers, who have complacently been sitting on our behinds for all too long now. Mediocre educational performance is accepted. When teachers recently tested in Massachusetts had a high percentage fail a review of their basic math and language skills, perhaps we should reevaluate the curriculum that is being espoused to our youth and put an end to the revisionist histories which are being propagated.


The world is still a dangerous place. We are facing real dilemmas as the second millennium approaches. The geopolitical situation is so volatile that our national security is at great risk. If we once again fall back as a second rate producer of technologies we will fall from the prosperity we have been enjoying of late.


We need more smart people. To insure a secure future for us we need national leadership calling for committing ourselves as a nation to the goal of establishing a permanent manned lunar base and to explore the planet Mars with human beings. Committees, symposiums, conferences etc. have been taking place for decades regarding this. Enough talk. Light the candle. Humans need to revel in the pride of achieving that which is perceived impossible. Grandeur is good for the spirit.




"Cosmic Oktoberfest" October 1998

by Michael Cutler


If you’re feeling a little disenchanted and are longing for something good to hear about rather than the latest recap of the problems facing our 42nd President, please join in celebrating the birthday of NASA which turns 40 on October 1st.


Some of our members can remember that NASA was created initially to respond to the perceived threat by the former Soviet Union in which it sought to expand Communist.


After World War II, the conquest for the high ground of space was paramount to American and Soviet policy makers alike. The validation of both countries political and economic systems, as well as their national honors were the stakes. Both countries knew nothing would showcase their technological prowess, or provide a better strategic military advantage like being the unquestioned conquerors of outer space.


President Eisenhower approved a plan to orbit a scientific satellite as part of the International Geophysical Year (IGY) for the period, Jul. 31, 1957 to Dec. 31, 1958, a cooperative effort to gather scientific data about Earth. The Soviet Union announced plans to orbit its own satellite, Sputnik, which caused shockwaves world wide when it was launched on Oct. 4, 1957. Since American efforts to orbit a satellite had not achieved fruition, a hysteria swept over our country which severely bruised our national pride and honor. This hysteria lead many of us to believe that a great technological gap existed between the US and USSR.


As a direct result of this crisis, NASA began operations on Oct. 1, 1958, absorbing into it the earlier National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics.


While many thought we were losing the race for space, American technology was covertly being used to create Project Corona, which placed super-secret spy satellites in orbit to monitor potential Soviet threat capability.


Roger D. Launius, NASA Chief Historian and Steve Garber, NASA History Web Curator sum up NASA’s first 40 year achievements as follows:

“In its 40 year history, NASA has made historic achievements in many areas of aeronautics and space research. Most well-known of its efforts are the human space flight initiatives. These began with Projects Mercury and Gemini in the 1960s, hit a major highlight with the lunar landings of Project Apollo, continued on in the 1970s with Skylab and the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, and then carried on to the Space Shuttle program in the 1980s and 1990s. Space science programs have included missions to our Moon and all the planets in our solar system except Pluto. In Earth science, remote-sensing satellites such as Landsat and meteorological spacecraft have helped scientists understand the complex interactions between ecological systems on Earth. NASA’s aeronautics research has helped to enhance air transport safety, reliability, efficiency, and speed through such programs as the X-15, lifting bodies, and general aviation.”

The other great event to celebrate this month is the return to space by one of America’s favorite sons, Retired Senator and former Marine Corps Colonel John Glenn of Ohio. On Oct. 29 Glenn will be given an unbelievable chance of a lifetime, a second ride into space.


This time, Col. Glenn and his STS–95 crewmates will be riding in style aboard the shuttle orbiter Discovery rather than sitting atop a modified missile originally designed to bring a nuclear warhead to downtown Moscow. The 3.3G ride into space should be more comfortable than his last in which he experienced forces of 7.7G. Colonel Glenn will actually be traveling 44 miles per hour less than when his Mercury capsule achieved 17,544 mph.


Glenn’s Friendship 7 capsule only completed three orbits. This time Colonel Glenn should add another 144 orbits to his log book during the 8 day mission.


John Glenn’s return to space is not just something warm and fuzzy for us to enjoy and reminisce about the glory days of space flight, but will instead provide important data on the effects of aging on the human body. John Glenn is the perfect candidate for this mission, since NASA has decades worth of medical information compiled on him to provide effective baseline comparisons against new data to be compiled from the flight.


We love sequels in this country especially when they are done right. I can think of no other American who can restore our national pride, put a little more spring in our step and return the gleam to our eyes and help us to remember that America is indeed the “home of the brave.”


— Godspeed the crew of Discovery.




"Home of the Brave" November 1998

by Michael Cutler


Last Thursday, as the countdown wound down for the launch of the STS-95 mission I became fully engrossed as I watched with millions of others around the world anticipating with great anxiety the return to space of American icon John Glenn. When private aircraft wandered into controlled airspace over the Cape, I found myself secretly wishing for a couple of F-16s to “splash” the intruder. And of course after the stack cleared the pad, I knew that it was the power of every viewers eyes focused on the orbiter that was responsible for sustaining the vehicle aloft, rather than any other fuels engineered by man. Human audacity would not allow that bird to fall from the sky.


Everything in place created a portal back in time when space travel was not a mundane routine event, but rather a calculated risk against death, for what we believed to be an important national crusade. Hundreds of thousands of people stormed the surrounding areas of Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center to witness the launch first hand. The crowds that were on hand were reminiscent of those found during the heyday of the Apollo program.

Famed newsman Walter Cronkite came out of retirement to cover the launch for CNN, rather than CBS. Cronkite, an avid supporter of the space program since its inception did an excellent job of covering the new launch as well as providing an insight of what it was like to cover the first mission where John Glenn was shot into space aboard a modified ballistic missile oddly named Friendship 7, possibly to diffuse the fact that the vehicle his Mercury capsule was placed upon was originally built for the express purpose of putting a nuclear warhead in the middle of Red Square. Even Astronaut Scott Carpenter was on hand once again to repeat his famed blessing of “Godspeed John Glenn.”


The coverage provided such an effective background canvas for the events I was witnessing that I forgot about the present and became very swept up in the event. I can still remember Colonel Glenn’s first launch back on February 20, 1962. The early 60’s were a very different era indeed then today. We were still experiencing prosperity after the second world war, and had the audacity to think that we Americans were the smartest, strongest, and bravest that the planet Earth had to offer. We had a president that had the courage to issue a challenge to us of mobilizing to prepare for the boldest venture of humankind, the task of landing a man on the moon before 1970.


As we are now all aware, the gauntlet was thrown down by President Kennedy for many reasons including political expedience.


Amidst all the “feel good lets have the 60’s back” euphoria, the nagging question of why John Glenn was allowed to fly again continues to be raised. Many journalists are obsessed as if they were on a personal quest to discredit every aspect of this mission.


NASA maintains that John Glenn at 77 years of age is qualified to fly aboard the shuttle. But I find it ironic that Story Musgrave, albeit not a household name, who last flew in space at age 61 was told at age 67 he was too old for space travel.


Was Senator Glenn’s second ride into space gleaned from political cooperation? Probably. Did Glenn stonewall the Thompson hearings investigating Clinton’s alleged campaign finance abuses? Perhaps.


NASA Administrator Goldin’s gushy reception at the Cape for the Clinton’s was sweeter than the Tang that once permeated everything NASA. I was actually embarrassed by how goo-goo Goldin gets around the 42nd President.


If I were in a position to approve his appointment to the STS-95 crew would I support it? ABSOLUTELY. Remembering the line from the movie The Right Stuff: “No Bucks, no Buck Rogers.” Everything in life is a trade off and involves political motivation. If we didn’t split up the Peenemunde boys between the Soviets, neither one of our countries would have gotten off the ground during the golden age of space travel.


The renewed attention that has been raised by Glenn’s return to space once again focuses the public spotlight onto NASA. The public interest will be fleeting unless the opportunity is seized to capitalize on the moment. No one else could have re-inspired so many other than John Glenn. The ball is in your court NASA, and yours Mr. President.




"Hail and Farewell" December 1998

by Michael Cutler


The dream of establishing a permanent manned laboratory in space is now becoming reality. Deployment of the first modules of International Space Station (ISS) has begun. When it is completed in 2004, ISS will be the largest and most complex scientific project in history. The International Space Station draws upon the scientific and technological resources of 16 nations: Canada, Japan, Russia, 11 nations of the European Space Agency, and Brazil, under the leadership of the United States.


ISS will be over four times as large as the Russian Mir station, and will mass over 1 million pounds. It will measure 356 feet by 290 feet, with almost an acre of solar panels to provide power to six state-of-the-art laboratories.


ISS has an orbit with an altitude of 250 statute miles with an inclination of 51.6 degrees. This orbit allows reach by the launch vehicles of all the international partners, providing a robust capability for the delivery of crews and supplies. The orbit also provides excellent Earth observations with coverage of 85 percent of the globe and overflight of 95 percent of the population. By the end of this year, about 500,000 pounds of station components will be have been built at factories around the world.


America has the responsibility for developing and ultimately operating major elements and systems aboard the station. The U.S. elements include three connecting modules, or nodes; a laboratory module; truss segments; four solar arrays; a habitation module; three mating adapters; a cupola; an unpressurized logistics carrier and a centrifuge module. The various systems being developed by the U.S. include thermal control; life support; guidance, navigation and control; data handling; power systems; communications and tracking; ground operations facilities and launch-site processing facilities.


The U.S.-funded and Russian-built Zarya “Sunrise” Module is the first piece of the International Space Station placed aloft on November 20th. Zarya awaits the arrival of the shuttle Endeavor, which will bring the “Unity” connecting module up to be joined with it.


The Russian Space Agency reports that “Zarya remains in excellent condition with only a few minor mechanical issues under analysis that are not expected to pose any problems for planned operations. For one of the problems — a potential glitch with the energy storage and discharging capability of one of six batteries housed in the module — flight controllers are planning to carry replacement parts aboard Endeavour that could be installed by the shuttle crew.”


NASA offers the following reasons for justifying the need for ISS:


The mission of the International Space Station is to enable long-term exploration of space and provide benefits to people on Earth.

• To create a permanent orbiting science institute in space capable of performing long-duration research in the materials and life sciences areas in a nearly gravity-free environment.

• To conduct medical research in space.

• To develop new materials and processes in collaboration with industry.

• To maintain U.S. leadership in space and to serve as a driving force for emerging technologies.

• To forge new partnerships with the nations of the world.

• To inspire our children, foster the next generation of scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs, and satisfy humanity’s ancient need to explore and achieve.

• To invest for today and tomorrow. Every dollar spent on space returns at least $2 in direct and indirect benefits.

• To sustain and strengthen the United States’ strongest export sector — aerospace technology — which in 1995 exceeded $33 billion.


ISS will afford scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs an unprecedented platform on which to perform complex, long-duration, and replicable experiments in the unique environment of space. The Station will maximize its particular assets: prolonged exposure to microgravity and the presence of human experimenters in the research process. Yet ISS is much more than just a world-class laboratory in a novel environment; it is a human experiment — an exciting “city in space” — a place where we will learn how to live and work “off planet” alongside our international partners.


I would like to close my final column with a special note of thanks to Jeff Howe for his support as OCSS Secretary during my term as your President. I would also like to thank the members of the board for your council. Thank you Judi for keeping us honest. And to the Smith Colony a crisp salute. Thanks Dr. Busby for making it fun. To John for teaching me the Cosmos. And finally, to my friend and mentor of all things off-world, I extend my sincere best wishes to President-Elect Larry Evans as you pick up the torch proudly.


Wishing all of you a happy and healthy holiday season and a prosperous new year!