1999 Editorial Index
Jan 99 Calamity and the Millennium
Feb 99 Whose Space Is It Anyway
Mar 99 What's In A Name?
Apr 99 First Light on the Future
May 99 Rules of Engagement
Jun 99 Space and Science Fiction
Jul 99 Great Friends Take Leave
Aug 99 Remembering Pete
Sep 99 Charles A. Carr
Oct 99 Apollo 30/30
Nov 99 Privatize Mars
Dec 99 Flights of Fancy
"Calamity and the Millennium" January 1999
by Michelle Evans
So much has happened since the last time I filled this space just over a year ago that we’ve had to devote almost the entire January issue of O.C.Space just to give an overview of the highlights. What better feeling than to come back to the helm of an exciting and smoothly running chapter.
Shortly before writing this I spent some time with Jeff, our OCSS Secretary, going through our plans for the coming year. From that conversation, it dawned on both of us that the list of accomplishments you see on page 4 of this issue for 1998 will fall far short of what’s in store for 1999. Consider the fact that we only have two firm slots left open for our monthly meeting programs through all of next year! Not too bad for January.
This time next year we should be looking back on a very productive year in terms of getting our space message out to the public, as well as making sure that everyone already a part of this great chapter had a really fantastic time getting there. This time next year we will also be looking at a new calendar with a “2” and lots of zeros behind it. Even though it will technically still be the 20th Century, I think that we are going to be doing some major celebrating as the millennium pounces upon us all.
During the last flight to the Moon in December 1972, then President Nixon mentioned how proud he was of the accomplishments of the crew of the last lunar landing in this century. The statement took many people aback. How could we possibly come so far and not continue our journey to the planets and, eventually, the stars?
By that time, we all knew that Apollo was pretty much over except for the Skylab flights in 1973 and 1974 and the Soviet linkup in 1975. But no one ever believed that 30 years would pass and we would not return to place more dusty steps on our nearest celestial neighbor. Nixon’s pronouncement was laughed off as being more political than scientific in nature.
Well, here we are at the dawn of the new millennium and it is a sad duty to confirm that he was right. His one prediction of the future of human spaceflight was more on the mark than just about every prediction a tabloid soothsayer could utter.
On the other hand, it looks like we have survived the long drought. The signs are looking good that we may finally return to the Moon and beyond in the not too distant future. Nothing definite yet, but keep watching the skies!
Personally, I think that what has been happening is more to do with the millennium than most would think. A good case could probably be made that the rise in interest in things like science fiction can be traced to the approaching 2-0-0-0. Earlier this century, there were amazing predictions about what the world would be like by this time. In some ways these predictions fell far short of expectations, but in others, who could have guessed where we would be today?
For the most part, those early predictions were optimistic, but now that we are actually approaching the date when the odometer rolls over, we hear more and more of how the end is near; that the millennium will bring catastrophe instead of enlightenment. Look at the history at the turn of each century and you find similar things happening. Add a thousand years and the paranoia gets even worse.
If we can survive the next year, I can say with almost certainty that what will happen on midnight of January 1, 2000 is that just about everyone will breath a great sigh of relief that we’re all still here. At that point then, I also predict that the future will finally start to take shape before us. The hurdle of the new century and the new millennium will have been breached and new vistas in space and here on Earth will be seen.
"Whose Space Is It Anyway" February 1999
by Michelle Evans
A recurring theme among space activists is trying to decide who should actually get us into space. Is space the venue of the private entrepreneur, or must it remain the sole domain of the government?
Although the answer may seem quite obvious to most of us, there are actually many who do disagree. You will find those who argue strenuously for the fact that NASA is the first, best, and only agency equipped for the job to put anyone or anything into orbit.
Sure we have commercial space ventures. The most successful of these is the communications satellite industry and the rockets used to launch them. But remember that NASA was the prime booster for these types of payloads until President Reagan told them to get out of that business when the Challenger was lost in 1986.
Another success story is SpaceHab. This module was designed to be dropped into the payload bay of the Space Shuttle, connecting directly to the crew cabin to add lots of open space for new experiments. Each docking flight to the Mir space station was accomplished with a SpaceHab module in place. The astronauts love the extra space and NASA thinks it’s great, too.
The only problem is that most people tend to forget that NASA was not in favor of SpaceHab when it was first proposed. It wasn’t that the space agency thought this was just another flaky company trying to hitch on to the coat tails of spaceflight, but they just didn’t seem to want anybody dropping in from the outside and saying they had something great for NASA that NASA hadn’t thought of themselves. “Not invented here” definitely seemed to be an appropriate catch phrase for this project. But then higher powers actually intervened and said that SpaceHab looked like a good idea and NASA had better take it. They did and now everyone is happy.
So now we come to access to space itself; an actual “put lots of paying customers into space” type of proposition where a private company decides to build a launch vehicle that not only competes with NASA, but that blows their socks off! Study after study has shown that people want to get off this planet. There are so many of us itching to see some new frontier that we would gladly part with goodly sums of our retirement accounts just grab a few minutes of weightlessness in suborbital flight, let alone stay awhile in a zero-g hotel or a lunar resort.
There are many projects out there vying for the “X-Prize” — to be the first entrepreneur to loft at least three people above the atmosphere and to return and do it again within two weeks. No one has grabbed the prize as yet, but the odds are excellent that it will happen soon. What does NASA think about all these backyard space barnstormers? If past experience is any guide, they would rather it wasn’t being done, or if it must be, that NASA would handle the reigns. Should we let them do this, or should we let private enterprise take its course?
Early in Victor Koman’s book “Kings of the High Frontier,” a businessman/rocket scientist has an idea that he wants to present to NASA. He is shuffled aside and only given an audience with a single astronaut, whose job it is to brush him off in as polite a way as possible. But the man’s ideas on cheap access to space have merit and the astronaut understands that he is no crackpot. Wondering exactly what he wants, she tells him that even though his design might work that he would never be able to get a contract from NASA.
“I’m afraid there’s been some sort of awful misunderstanding,” he tells the astronaut. “I never intended to ask for NASA’s help with Starblazer.”
“Then what do you want of us?” she asks.
“I want NASA to stay out of my way.”
"What's In A Name" March 1999
by Michelle Evans
Ah, there’s nothing like getting everyone’s attention, is there?
This is exactly what happened when I wrote the letter that accompanied the last issue of this newsletter. It definitely had its intended purpose, which was to solicit opinions of OCSS members and those of other people within the Southern California space activist community.
What has been suggested is that it may be time to make some changes within OCSS, the first being the possibility that our name should more accurately reflect our the geographic area in which we work.
The first time this idea was presented to our membership was at the January meeting. It started a spirited discussion, which unfortunately had to be cut short so that George Osorio could give us his program on private investment leading the way to Mars.
The next step was to make sure that other parties that might be affected were told before any decisions were made. This involved writing several emails to our sister chapter in Los Angeles, as well as the Western Spaceport chapter in Bakersfield. In addition, I made sure that representatives from NSS, CSDC, and others were in the loop.
Some of you are probably saying that it really isn’t anyone’s business but our own as to what we call our chapter. If we want to be the Lilliputian Space Society, then so be it.
But we do not work in a vacuum (even though we are involved with space!). Our actions do affect those around us and must be considered.
So what is the consensus so far to the Southern California Space Society? Well, I have to admit that we have raised a few eyebrows and ticked off a few people, and yet have also elicited a lot of excitement about the possibilities.
Our idea is that we need the name change to help broaden our horizons as a chapter and to bring in corporate sponsors that will give us the resources to meet the high demand we have for space education and public outreach events and activities.
What this means to some others is that we may be stepping on their territory and looking like we want to swallow the competition. Actually, some respondents have said this may actually be a good thing. But then this is not what was ever intended. It is not our place, nor our right, to take over a territory just because we feel we can.
Even within our own chapter there has been some adamant opposition. In this regard we do not want to alienate the great members we already have. These are the people who have made everything we have done, and will do, possible in the first place.
The factors that must be considered in the final analysis are that we have worked long and hard to build up a name recognition for the Orange County Space Society. We are known as the leaders in our community for getting the word out about space. In return we hope that this community will support us further by becoming our sponsors.
We have great plans for expanding our reach, but in the process we will not steamroll anyone, and we have no need to do so. OCSS is going to become greater than it already is.
When performing our jobs out of the county, such as at Space Fair in Long Beach, people ask the obvious question as to why an Orange County group is involved with such an undertaking? The reason is clear and obvious: Orange County is the hub of aerospace on the west coast and OCSS represents the best of the best wherever we go. There is no need to expand our name, just our vision.
"First Light on the Future" April 1999
by Michelle Evans
As the millennium approaches most of us can look back many years to the lunar landings of the ‘60s and say with absolute confidence that right about now we thought we’d all be taking vacations in Earth orbit and probably even on the Moon. NASA would have led us on expeditions to Mars and we might be seeing the first solar power satellites and commercial mining of the asteroids.
What a bright future we thought we had with new frontiers opening all the time — places to go and see that had never been seen before and the possibility of an opportunity to pull up stakes and make a claim to a parcel on a whole new world.
It’s been a tough 30 years to live through with the deflating of these wondrous dreams. Many of us are getting to the age when we feel that by the time the frontier does finally open, we may not even be young enough to purchase tickets, let alone help out in the exploration.
Now don’t get me wrong, the last third of the 20th Century has seen new vistas open like no one had ever dreamed. We’ve skimmed over so many new worlds that it takes us a while to make the count. From the magnificence of Valles Marineris to the volcanos on Io; the oceans of Europa to the nitrogen geysers on Triton, who would have imagined all this would be available to us by now.
The problem that remains is that all this exploring has been done vicariously. We want to see these things for ourselves. No photo of the Eiffel Tower can match the experience of riding to the top in person.
But our dreams will not die quite so easily. The generation that thought they would be reaping the rewards of the first wave of rocket science has now taken the reigns themselves. Tired of waiting for someone else to do it, they have started to make it happen at last.
All across the country, and even a few places overseas, plans are rapidly coming together to jump-start reality.
First up is the entry from Rotary Rocket, the Roton. On March 1st, to much fanfare, this small California company showed that it really could be done. They have built a prototype of the rocket they hope will start to open cheap access to space. No, this one will not actually take us there, but the real one with rocket engines will not be far behind, if the atmospheric tests go as planned later this year.
Best of all, this is not prototyping for some far-future project to be built over decades at enormous government (i.e., taxpayer) expense, this is for just two or three years down the road.
Roton is only the first off the block. At the same little Mojave airport, just a few hours north of O.C., is another contender for our future vacation dollars. Built by Burt Rutan, the Proteus launcher and the aptly named Boomerang orbiter were also on display. There’s much more to come.
Anyone who remembers the classic science fiction movies from the ‘50s probably remembers that a recurring theme was that the rockets these explorers used would many times be built and financed by individuals, not by the government.
After a 40-year hiatus, we are coming full circle to that picture we once had. The backyard entrepreneurs are finally getting their day.
Now that John Glenn has shown us all that age may not be the factor we once thought it would be, we might yet have our chance at zero-g. Rotary Rocket, Scaled Composites, Kistler, Lockheed-Martin, Space Clipper International, and many others we may not even know the names of yet, show that space now beckons for real.
"Rules of Engagement" May 1999
by Michelle Evans
There are times when we all have to wonder exactly what it is that we’re doing as a chapter of the National Space Society. For most of us I think we know the answer: We are dedicated to doing whatever is in our power to drag this planet kicking and screaming into becoming a spacefaring civilization.
However, there are others who appear to not be as worried about making that happen as they are about simply protecting their turf.
Our chapter has rapidly been expanding, from new members across the country to our ability to put on more and better outreach programs.
We are building display cases that can be set up and left at a location for long periods such as at a school or theater for those times when we can not be there ourselves. We are making more contacts throughout the industry that allow us to bring better programs to our members. Groups from schools to astronomy clubs, from scouting organizations to radio and television stations, are all contacting us asking for our expertise.
The problem with this success is that we are doing more and more work outside of Orange County.
Last year we held events in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Long Beach. This year already we’ve been to Pasadena, Torrance, and North Hollywood, with lots more to come.
Our reach throughout Southern California has expanded so much that we even have contemplated changing our name to better encompass who we are and where we do our work. This idea has been dropped for now, mainly because we have worked too hard and too long to build the name recognition of the Orange County Space Society.
There are other chapters of NSS in Southern California besides OCSS. How does our expansion effect the members of those other chapters? This is hard to say for certain since each time we have done an event that moves us out of Orange County we have put out the word to our sister chapters in the hopes that they might also participate with us. Without fail we have yet to receive a positive response for help.
On the other hand, we have heard grumbling from many of the members of these other chapters who have complained that we are stepping on their toes and taking over their territory.
My only response to this is that when we receive a request to get out there and educate the public about space, we will do everything in our power to make it happen. I don’t care where it is; if we have the ability to respond, we will do so.
Since my first term in office as president of OCSS I have been trying to foster better relations and joint ventures with other chapters. I will continue to do so. However, I will not support the idea of dropping a project just because it is not within the borders of Orange County and no other chapter chooses to participate.
What do I want to see in an ideal world? Very simply: everyone working together.
If we have an opportunity presented to us, or if we make our own opportunities happen from scratch, this is a good thing. If anyone within the space activist community of Southern California has any ideas for an event, we will listen and help whenever possible. Working together is a great thing. Complaining about OCSS doing something where no one wanted to do anything previously, or where we actually asked for assistance and got none, is a bad thing.
Working together will make all our dreams into reality. Protecting the turf where you stand only guarantees that that is all you will ever have.
"Space and Science Fiction" June 1999
by Michelle Evans
There are always mixed reactions when the term “Science Fiction” is used around space activists. Most roll their eyes and start to complain about how science fiction has ruined the credibility of people who really want to get into space. Others will smile slightly, but say little, afraid that they might be found out as a fan. Still others will outright embrace science fiction, saying that it serves as the vision for all of us.
There is something to be said for all three of these groups.
We must always be careful when we present our ideas to the public because we want to be taken seriously. How many times have you started a conversation with a friend who is not into space exploration and they immediately reply with something along the lines of: “I didn’t know you were a Star Trek geek?” It’s frustrating, but something almost all of us have had to deal with at one time or another.
On the other hand, maybe you are a Star Trek geek. Well, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that either. You don’t necessarily have to hide the fact. We all got our inspiration for space from somewhere, and for many of us, it may have initially been through science fiction in general and Star Trek (or Star Wars) in particular.
The only thing that I ask is that we must remember what we are trying to do. Make sure that you separate fandom from space activism or we will continue to have problems convincing the general public that we are to be taken seriously.
I read something recently where a member of The Mars Society said that the best way to attract attention for the group was to go to a public rally and dress up like Marvin the Martian. You might get press coverage, but I don’t think it would be the type that you want. We must have our future vision, but we must also have at least one foot stuck in today’s reality if we are to get anywhere in space soon.
Another example happened a while back when a fan of Star Trek decided to wear her Starfleet uniform to jury duty. She said that it was to show the types of values that she held dear, but for some reason the judge and the lawyers decided that she wasn’t credible enough to hold the position of juror.
In reality, she may very well have been one of the better candidates for that public service job, if indeed she held those values depicted in Star Trek to heart. But, those values never get tested if the everyday person in the street sees you as nothing but a strange person with their head in the clouds.
There has been a wonderful trend recently at science fiction conventions where they not only have a group of speakers and guests dealing with science fiction shows like Babylon 5 and Star Trek, but that a full track of talks are also scheduled dealing with Single-Stage-To-Orbit, Space Stations, and Sending the First Humans to Mars.
Many fans of sci-fi are not into “real” space because we don’t yet go warp speed and tooling around a couple hundred miles above Earth in low orbit is about as exciting as watching the proverbial grass grow.
So now these conventions can serve the dual purpose of getting fans involved with what’s really happening in space, and at the same time showing the general public that not all space is sci-fi.
With this in mind, OCSS is teaming with OASIS at this years’ AgamemCon III in Burbank to help further this cross-over audience. To make science fiction into reality will take a lot of effort on all our parts. Please join us at this event to get us moving in the right direction.
"Great Friends Take Leave" July 1999
by Michelle Evans
For several years now, a group of our most active members have all originated within one family, or as they prefer to be known, a “colony.”
Most of you are probably well aware of The Smiths: John, Laura, Margie, and D.J.. Even though they live several hours outside of Orange County they always find the time to attend OCSS meetings and other events. They have supported us in so many ways, including two of their colony serving on our Board of Directors.
But there has always been one problem: John is an active duty member of the United States Marine Corps. He is now, what is called in the military, “short.” This means that before the end of this year he will have finished his term and will be taking the colony and moving to new climes. In this case they have chosen Warner Robbins, Georgia as their new landing site.
All but John will be leaving California this month to set up their new home in the southeast. John will be with us for a few more months but will obviously have a lot of things on his mind with the family moving on ahead of him.
At my request our Secretary, Jeff Howe wrote up a letter that was presented to the Smith Colony at the May meeting. I would like to pass that letter along to all of you who were unable to attend that meeting.
To John, Laura, Margie and D.J.,
We knew you were a special group when you first attended a meeting of the Orange County Space Society. When we found out you were willing to drive all the way from Twentynine Palms every month for a single meeting, we discovered how dedicated you were.
Over the past two years, you have attended our biggest shows and our smallest meetings, always with a smile, a kind word, and great ideas that have not only helped us continue with projects, but also plan and develop the future.
Every time something cropped up that prevented the entire colony from attending a meeting or event, we felt it. Collectively, you have been one of our strongest pillars, and individually, each strongest of friends.
Bringing the final frontier within reach is going to require a team effort. We were honored to have you part of our team for these years, and hope you will continue as supporters.
Though you are leaving the area and the new distance will be even greater, we will still look forward to hearing from you and counting you as some of the biggest supporters of the Orange County Space Society.
Your loss will be difficult. We will try to carry on, even though part of our valuable force has gone. A hard road, yes, but hopefully we can manage. You can never be replaced or forgotten.
It is with our sincere hope that you will stay in touch and let us know how the next phase in your life is going in Georgia. We can rest assured knowing that all your gifts will enable you to succeed wherever life's path takes you.
It has been an honor and privilege working with you and we consider you great friends. We will miss you.
* * * * *
I want to thank Jeff for writing such a wonderful letter and I want to especially thank the Smiths for being there for all of us in OCSS these last several years. They have promised to keep their membership current, but it just won’t be the same with them not being here.
As coincidence would have it, Margie Smith also wrote a letter to the members of OCSS. We have reprinted that letter on page 5.
"Remembering Pete" August 1999
by Michelle Evans
Pete Conrad, June 2, 1930 -- July 8, 1999
“Whoopee! That may have been a small one for Neil, but that’s a long one for me!”
Pete Conrad was full of exuberance when it came to space. His first words as he became the third man to walk on the Moon were typical. In fact, the entire Apollo 12 mission was known for a crew commanded by Pete Conrad that were all full of life and the joy of what they were doing.
His first flight into space on Gemini 5 in August 1965 was to prove that man could survive in space long enough to make it to the Moon and back. For eight days he was locked into a spacecraft where he barely had room to stretch out his legs. In that regard, with Pete being one of the shorter astronauts, he was lucky enough to enjoy that luxury. The taller of his fellow astronauts had to keep their knees bent the entire time. Certainly a good place to keep a great sense of humor.
The first time Cherie and I met Pete was at the grand opening of a K-Mart. No, he wasn’t a customer, he was the main attraction! (Look closely at the photo at the top of this column and you’ll see the K-Mart patch right next to all of his other flight patches.)
This seemed like an inauspicious place to be meeting a man who had flown in space four times and walked on the Moon. He was working for McDonnell Douglas at that time and it was not long after we saw him that the first announcements about the DC-X experimental rocket were made. Pete was one of the key figures in this program that jump-started Single-Stage-To-Orbit research. I have often wondered if Pete came to a decision that day at K-Mart to not be remembered for department store openings, but for his contributions to getting us all off this planet.
With the advent of the DC-X program he came back to prominence as the first-class engineer and entrepreneur that he was. After that program was cancelled he started his own company, Universal Space Lines, where he kept in the forefront of our return to space.
Many of us in OCSS had the pleasure of working with him on occasion (see O.C.SPACE March 1997, “A Conversation with Pete Conrad” and April 1997, “Continuing the Journey”). Just knowing that Pete was out there was an inspiration for us all to redouble our own efforts.
Now we must leave the era of Pete Conrad behind. The third man to walk on the Moon has now become the third moonwalker to pass from the Earth.
There was so much left to do and I know I speak for all of us that we hope his vision of the future comes to pass. At 69 he knew that space was not just for the young. When asked about the John Glenn flight on the Space Shuttle, he declared, “I fully expect that NASA will send me back to the Moon, as they treated Senator Glenn. And if they don’t do otherwise, why, then I’ll have to do it myself.”
Pete was out enjoying life as he always did, when he left us. It was less than two weeks before the 30th anniversary of Apollo 11 when this happened (and just four months from his own Apollo 12 anniversary). Pete was asked for his feelings on this occasion and he answered, '”Time flies when you're having fun, and I’ve been having fun for the last 30 years.”
"Charles A. Carr" September 1999
by Michelle Evans and Jeff Howe
Editor’s Note: This month we have combined the President’s and Secretary’s columns. Jeff and I have each written our thoughts about Charlie below.
Charles A. Carr, January 3, 1956 -- August 20, 1999
Space Event Producer, OCSS Member, Activist, Dreamer, Friend
* * * * *
I have never had as much difficulty putting together an issue of this newsletter as I have this month. What I write today is something I never thought I would have to do: to tell you of the passing of a great man and a great friend, Charlie Carr.
I knew him for only 15 years, but there are many who knew him a lot longer. Nearly everyone involved with creating a spacefaring civilization knew Charlie, if not personally, then by his wonderful reputation. From the time I heard the news that he passed away, I tried to make sure I called or personally talked with others who I knew should be informed. Charlie’s reach was so far, that each time I sat down to think, I would come up with more names of people across the country who were friends that should be told, and I would return to the phone.
It was so difficult to make those calls, as I am sure it was for John Spencer to call and tell me not long after he heard the news himself. But you know the amazing thing about it all was that almost without exception, each time I talked with someone, by the time we finished we were both laughing and having a great time remembering something we had done with Charlie.
As I mentioned in my initial e-mail notice that I sent out to our chapter, Charlie infected me and everyone he came in contact with. I hope that medical science never finds a cure!
When many of us were doing our usual bit at complaining of the sad state of affairs that our space program had become, Charlie devoted his life and his dreams to doing whatever he could to give us all the chance to take a ride into orbit some day.
The really amazing thing about Charlie was his attitude about life. No matter what happened, I never once remember seeing him get angry in any way at any person. There were times when I worked with him on projects where someone we dealt with was not up to par and I would get really ticked. Charlie always just shrugged it off and moved on, helping to defuse my own anger.
There was nothing like getting a call from him. I knew whatever it was he wanted to talk about would be exciting. Even when Charlie was excited, however, he always remained very soft spoken. This was often to the point where I might have to strain a bit to hear him, but it was always worth any extra effort. I still expect that light voice saying “Well, hey Larry, how’s it going?” when I pick up the telephone.
Ad Astra Charlie…
* * * * *
We must remember that nothing is forever. Jobs end, relationships break up and even stars collapse. But the loss of a life is never easy on anyone.
The world lost a great man on August 20, 1999. Charles Carr died late that night of complications of stomach surgery. He was 43.
Charlie was a member of the Orange County Space Society for several years, as well as one of the founders of OASIS, the Los Angeles chapter of the National Space Society. Charlie's list of accomplishments is long and distinguished.
He coproduced Space Fair 98 at the Queen Mary, the first space tourism-themed show ever and it was far more successful than anyone had planned. Through this medium and his involvement with the Space Tourism Society and Space Renaissance Inc., Charlie helped develop the idea of space tourism, that mankind can and will be able to journey into space for fun, commerce and exploration.
Charlie influenced many science shows, meetings and conferences with his display ability, his unsurpassed connections in science and industry and his ability to bring outside ideas to the space-activist realm and show that no idea was ever too far out.
I met Charlie Carr in 1996 at WorldCon in Anaheim. At that point I was new to the space-activist arena and only had an interest in space travel and the science and technology behind it. I didn't truly know the type of work Charlie and his friends and associates were doing. I was never looked at as an outsider or someone who didn’t know anything. Charlie shook my hand and was genuinely pleased to meet me. Since then, he became one of the many people who helped me grow and understand what was “out there.” He showed great confidence in an untested young man when he gave me responsibility during Space Fair and beyond.
A quiet man, Charlie let his actions speak louder than his voice. It is always amazing to find people who knew him, for there were hundreds of them. Everyone who worked with him at some point in their lives had nothing but kind words and praise for him.
Longtime friend and space tourism partner John Spencer described Charles as “a gentle giant.” This fits Charles Carr perfectly. Ad Astra, Charlie. When we're all working and living and playing in space, we'll look up and say thank you.
"Apollo 30/30" October 1999
by Michelle Evans
President’s Note: This editorial was originally written a couple months ago to more closely coincide with the 30th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing. The idea was to look back 30 years and ahead 30 years. The concept originated with Charlie Carr and John Spencer and was to be the focus of the Space Fair 99 banquet.
Just before the August issue was to appear I received the word that Apollo 12 astronaut Pete Conrad had died in a motorcycle accident which bumped this editorial to the September issue. Then, just a week before going to press, Charlie Carr passed away and it was pushed back again.
So now the words I wrote may be a slight bit more dated, but I did want to go ahead and use the editorial since it was based on one of Charlie’s innumerable ideas. So, for Charlie, here goes…
* * * * *
Just that year is enough to evoke a very specific feeling in most of us. A month and a day do not need to be stated for us to know its significance.
Even for those who were not around in that year, you probably know instinctively what is being referred to. To a certain extent, you may even have some of the same feelings that those of us who were around still feel when 1969 is mentioned.
What are some of those feelings? Pride, Accomplishment, Awe, Majesty, Power, Exhilaration, Light-Headedness.
Then there is the flip side when we realize that it has been 30 years (!) since those feelings coursed through us. Regret, Heartache, Powerlessness, Sorrow, Loss.
This last feeling is maybe felt more by those that never witnessed the feats of that year first-hand. A generation promised us the Moon and beyond. Well, we got the first part, only to lose the latter. For those born after the landings were completed, there has been little to keep their interest in space and exploration fresh and alive.
Where are the orbiting hotels, lunar science stations, farside observatories, settlements at L5, footprints on Mars (recent footprints on the Moon)?
We must look back to see where we have been and to know where we could have gone. However, it is also time to take a look 30 years into the future. What legacy will we leave the next generation? Will it be the same hopelessness that a lot of us feel right now when we think of our space program?
I certainly hope not.
Maybe in 2029 the dreams of 1969 will finally become a reality. But this can only happen if we keep pushing. It is not enough to want something, it must be forged in our minds and then made into reality.
OCSS is successful because of the fantastic people who believe we can make a difference. How many of us have gone out there and talked to a friend about space who may not have shown any interest before? Your enthusiasm is infectious.
Our chapter started small and struggled for many years, but now we have all worked to bring in more and more people who share our vision, who understand where we must go. Some of them didn’t even know they had that vision until you went out and showed them.
Exploration is in our souls. Just because that feeling of wanting to see over the next horizon has been suppressed by many educational institutions and even our own government, doesn’t mean that the fire has gone out inside.
Help OCSS spread the infection. Help make the dreams of 1969 a reality while we can all still enjoy it.
"Privatize Mars" November 1999
by Michelle Evans
The recent loss of the Mars Climate Observer (MCO) spacecraft has raised an interesting question. Most of us tend to believe that the more that can be privatized concerning space travel, the better for all of us in the long run. NASA’s basic goal should be exploring the frontiers, not running commercial operations in Low-Earth Orbit (LEO).
But what about Mars? Is Mars still in the realm of frontier exploration? Should it be hands-off at this stage to any attempt by a private company to reap benefits and profits?
The answer is clear: Yes and No!
Yes, NASA should stay in the exploration business and Mars falls squarely into that category.
No, NASA does not need to do it all at Mars. There is definitely a market niche which could easily be filled by private concerns.
That niche is one where private companies have always excelled in spaceflight: Communications.
The biggest money to be made in the future in space will be space tourism. However, the biggest money being made right now is through the construction, launching, and utilization of communications satellites (ComSats). But why does this industry have to be limited to LEO and Geosynchronous orbits. How about heading out further to our next exploratory outpost, Mars?
NASA has plans for two spacecraft to be launched every 26 months to explore Mars and eventually bring back samples for study here on Earth. The first missions were Mars Surveyor/Pathfinder in 1996-7. Next up are the current missions of Mars Climate Observer/Mars Polar Lander (MCO/MPL). This trend is slated to continue in 2001, 2003, 2005, and hopefully beyond. Add all these spacecraft together and we get what is called the Mars Surveyor program. The goal of Mars Surveyor is nothing less than gathering all the information we need so that humans can set foot on the red planet.
Launching this many spacecraft is bound to have a loss or two and we have experienced the first when MCO entered the Martian atmosphere and broke up back in late September. This loss will definitely impact the data return from the December 3rd landing of MPL near the south pole of Mars.
MCO was to serve as a relay station for data from MPL. In addition, MCO was to serve the same function for future missions, including possibly some from the European Space Agency. Now this can not happen.
There are backups and options which will be used in the short term to make sure that we get all the data possible from MPL, but in the long run, with all the missions to come, do we want to rely on backups?
So now is the time to call upon the ComSat industry and tell them that they should be doing this job of launching and maintaining a constellation of satellites in orbit around Mars. They can sell their services to NASA in the short term and their infrastructure will then be in place as humans head out in that direction.
It is time for these industries to step up to the plate and see beyond Earth. If we are going to become an interplanetary civilization in the 21st Century, the most important tool will be communications It will not only be true for Mars, but for all other places that humans travel amongst the planets. There is absolutely no reason that ComSats should not be some of the first robots on hand when we go to explore someplace new. Look how much more we would have gotten from Galileo's exploration of Jupiter and its fascinating moons if there had been a communications relay in place to make up for the useless high-gain antenna?
"Flights of Fancy" December 1999
by Michelle Evans
Remember when you were a small child and you had dreams of flying through the air? You felt yourself to be Superman even without the cape and embarrassing tights!
It appears that nearly everyone has had those types of dreams at one time or another. Usually they are reserved for kids, but I know that adults often get them, too. What is it in our psyche that brings on such dreams even though humans are not built to ever experience this thrill without great mechanical aide?
I know that I used to have these dreams quite a lot, but then they disappeared as I grew older. My wife, Cherie, has often had them and she complains that they do not enter her consciousness like they used to. We probably all feel that way.
What can we do to make these flights of fancy return? As far as unaided flight goes, that may still be a ways off in the future. But getting your mind to start soaring can actually be quite easy.
The first time in my adult life that I felt the lightness of flying again was not long after I witnessed my first Space Shuttle launch. I had seen launches all of my life, usually through the medium of television. However, prior to the shuttle I had seen several launches from Vandenberg, up close and personal. It wasn’t until the shuttle, however, that the dreams returned.
Standing there near the venerable old countdown clock on the lawn of the Kennedy Space Center press site, I watched the Sun rise slightly above the horizon before the first moments of flight by the Space Shuttle Challenger on STS-7. The engines ignited and the spacecraft pushed backward against the unyielding Earth to fling itself skyward.
Because of the distance to the viewing site, it took nearly 15 seconds before the thundering sound finally arrived to compliment the view all of us there shared.
The sound waves buffeted against my chest, pushing me backward slightly, but this is not the direction I felt I was actually going. Instead, it felt that the pressure had buckled me over and wrestled me into the sky, my arms and feet dangling behind, pushing upward directly on my heart, with my face watching the ground grow quickly distant below.
I had never experienced anything like it before. This was so much more powerful than mere flying or floating dreams had been as a child. But now I could feel it and relive it time and again. Each launch with humans aboard that I have personally had the wonder to watch amplified the sensations, instead of having them fade as most feelings do. I think that this is the answer to why it occurred at this first human launch and not the others before: there were people aboard and I knew that because of that fact, that someday I would finally go too. I know that it probably won’t be the shuttle that takes me there, but this was the beginning. Whatever else comes off the drawing boards will owe a lot to this ship.
So where does that leave us today for all of us to resume our dreams of flying? It is time to participate as much as we can. It is time to push forward with whatever means we have at our disposal to make our flights of fancy come true. Push yourself, push your chapter, push your friends, push your political representatives.
Push yourself in the same way that I felt the power of that first launch pushing at my heart.
You will have no greater reward than to bring yourself back to those feelings you thought were lost in the mists of your childhood. Lift your mind from the ground and start to soar!