2000 Editorial Index

 

Jan 00 A Message from the Past

 

Feb 00 Voyage of Endless Discovery

 

Mar 00 Is Faster and Better, Cheaper?

 

Apr 00 Gee, It's Only a Movie

 

May 00 Communication and Cooperation

 

Jun 00 Boundaries of Survival

 

Jul 00 Next Space Horizon: China

 

Aug 00 Leadership Fundamentals

 

Sep 00 A Last Roundup

 

Oct 00 If We Can Go to the Moon...

 

Nov 00 The Role of Women in Space

 

Dec 00 ISR: A Scam of Celestial Proportions

 

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"A Message from the Past" January 2000

by Michelle Evans

 

I am writing this editorial from the other side of a wall. By the time you read this a new year and a new Millennium will have dawned. No longer can we write a date that starts with “19.” And just think what state the world was in when that first “1” appeared in dates, let alone when that “9” came on the scene just a hundred short years ago.

 

As I write this, I have no idea if all the doomsayers predictions for Y2K may actually come true. For all I know, the world did end at midnight January 1, 2000 (As Arnold asked in his latest movie: “Is that Eastern Time?”). If this did indeed happen, then I guess you won’t be reading any of this anyway, so disregard this editorial!

 

But in case you are still around and can read, please continue.

 

Just think, all of our lives we have written our dates with a 19-something. I recall the first time it really occurred to me that time was passing: It was the first time I wrote a date with 1970 in it. I was born in 1955 so the change to 1960 was a little early for me to take any notice (I rarely dated my coloring books in those days). But in 1970 it seemed that my whole life had been lived in the 60s and that it would forever change now that those two numbers were lost in the mists of time.

 

That was about the time that I also really started thinking about the coming of the next thousand years. I thought it was pretty cool that I would get to see such a momentous change in our calendars. I took a moment to figure out what age I would be when 2000 would happen. By the time the calendar odometer rolled over, half of my expected lifespan would be behind me. What a shock to confront a teenager with!

 

Now the time has actually arrived and we have to deal with whatever we get. We, as a spacefaring civilization, are not nearly as far along as the vision said we would be in those long ago days of 1970. But in some very interesting and unexpected ways, I feel more in charge of where we are headed than I ever thought I might be. All of us within OCSS have made that conscious decision to be part of the shaping of our own future.

 

Now, let’s talk about the year itself.

 

Okay, I’m going to take some heat for this one, but the Millennium is definitely upon us all. I know, I know, technically we have another year to go. Two thousand years from Year 1 gives us 2001, not 2000 (Hey, “2001,” now that sounds like a cool title for a movie!).

 

In my head I know we’re a year early, but in my heart we’ve reached the milestone. Now tell me honestly, how many of you ever celebrated your 31st or 41st birthdays? As soon as that zero appeared you put on the party hats and had a blast. Well, now everyone can do the same with 2000, only instead of one zero, we get three!

 

It’s really all in the attitude after all. Our mindset is one thing for the 1900s and, at least speaking for myself, that mindset changes drastically for the 2000s. It has taken us the last 1000 years to achieve this mindset as a civilization and the last 100 years to develop the technology to go forward with what our minds have envisioned.

 

Now it is here. We can never go back. Everything is in place for us to create a future more fantastic than any of us could have ever imagined.

 

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"Voyage of Endless Discovery" February 2000

by Michelle Evans

 

We finally got Charlie off into space where he belongs (see story, page 1). Now it’s up to the rest of us to go catch up with him.

 

It has been a difficult time for many of us who knew Charlie and worked with him, but it is now time to put that behind us and move forward. To quote from Wally Schirra, commander of Apollo 7, when asked about his upcoming flight in connection with his fellow astronauts and friends who were lost in the fire aboard Apollo 1: “You can’t wear the black armband forever.”

 

But even as we move forward, we must make sure to remember the people that put us where we are. For that reason I have dedicated this entire issue to Charlie Carr and all that he did for us while he was here.

 

Also, I want to remind everyone that the way Charlie took to get into space is not the way we want to go. I want to go there once, twice, many times. To experience the Earth from low orbit, as well as from far away, from the surface of the Moon, and through a telescope from Mars.

 

Our goal is to explore and settle, not just to rest in peace. But for now at least, indulge me one last time as we say good bye to a dear friend.

 

Although I fancy myself a writer, there are many times when I cannot adequately express what I want, or I find that others have said it much better than I ever could. Not many of us could ever lay claim to the eloquence of President Kennedy when he committed our nation to space, or of Neil Armstrong when he touched lunar soil for the first time.

 

With that in mind, I would like to turn over the rest of this space to the words of Michael Scott Miller. He is a songwriter who was asked to write what he felt on the eve of the Celestis flight. His words and music were more than up to the job. Unfortunately you can’t hear the music, but the words alone will have to suffice here.

 

And so, at last I can fly

I give you my light

To show you the way.

 

There is no fear of the night

No more pain to fight

I ride the light into space.

 

I’ll meet you there, beyond the Sun

With the colors of the sky

Where new life has begun

And the children never cry.

 

Until that day, rejoice and sing

For the liberation of

Everyone and everything

That is to be or ever was.

 

Behold the mighty wings of Celestis

Rising over the land

On a voyage of endless discovery

Each of us in her hands.

 

And you need not weep this day

For love does not die…

I’m with you in every way

Just look to the sky.

 

And so, at last we can fly

We live as the light…

Our souls on the way.

 

We are the stars in the night

You’ll never lose sight

Of what we create…

And what we are…

and create still…

is love.*

 

*Reprinted with permission

 

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"Is Faster and Better, Cheaper?" March 2000

by Michelle Evans

 

Since the loss of two Mars spacecraft has been attributed by some to the NASA policy of “Faster, Better, Cheaper” (FBC), I thought it might be a good idea to talk a little about that policy and what it really means.

 

* * FASTER * *

 

What do we mean when we say “Faster” in the context of the FBC program? The idea is that since the late 1970s there have been very few voyages of true exploration carried out by the United States. Human landings on the Moon ended in 1972. Robotic missions such as the twin Viking Orbiters and Landers in 1976, and Voyagers 1 and 2 launched in 1977, were the last of their kind for over a decade.

 

During the heyday of early space exploration, America and the Soviet Union were launching probes to the planets left and right. Most of these attempts failed, but we kept on experimenting until they worked.

 

The first flyby missions needed to be followed up by more specialized craft which could linger longer and peer deeper. By their very nature, these missions would have to be more expensive. Extra dollars meant that fewer missions could be flown, so scientists had to make sure that whatever special area of expertise they had for planetary science was going to be represented with a berth on the next (and possibly, last) flight out.

 

With less flights available, there was a good chance that anyone involved with a single mission might find that one mission turned into their entire career. There had to be a better, faster way to get back to the planets to do the follow-up required.

 

* * BETTER * *

 

This may be the category where everything gets stuck. If you do something faster is it truly possible to do things better?

I’ll take a great political stance here and say: Yes and No.

 

You can do things better and faster, provided that you start by standardizing things. Think what kind of problems would arise if each and every car manufactured had major inconsistencies like a different chassis, motor, or wheels.

 

NASA has tried to standardize planetary probes as much as possible using the FBC policy; however, the results have not been what was anticipated. In other words, when a spacecraft starts out to be just like another, by the time they are finished, based on the specific needs of that mission, it often is a whole new design.

 

* * CHEAPER * *

 

Lastly, but actually the driving factor on every mission, is cost. If the idea costs too much to bring to fruition, the exploration will have to wait for another generation.

 

Cheaper is what gets approval. If the price tag is small enough, it attracts attention and says, “Pick me!”

 

Actually a mission could cost ten times as much and yet be a better return on the dollar. The phenomenally successful Mars Pathfinder and Sojourner rover is a fantastic case to prove my point.

 

The original rover mission that became Pathfinder/Sojourner was envisioned as a billion dollar program that included a rover that could traverse half the globe of Mars. Because of FBC, the scale model of that mission’s rover flew to Mars instead and covered hundreds of feet around the lander instead of thousands of miles.

 

Are we better off with FBC? If done right, with the proper quality oversight (which costs money) it can work. Sometimes you just have to spend the money to get the job done right.

 

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"Gee, It's Only a Movie" April 2000

by Michelle Evans

 

Touchstone Picture’s “Mission to Mars” was released last month to huge fanfare and full support by our parent organization, the National Space Society. When there are major releases of space movies, OCSS has almost always used that opportunity to get out to the public and push the cause of renewed human exploration of space. Why did we fail to do this for the new Brian De Palma “space epic?”

 

There were some indications early on that there were problems with the story and that we might not want to be associated with it. This is the personal reason that I did not push at our meetings to pursue anything extravagant as far as public outreach was concerned.

 

I have already been taken to task about our failure to use the materials NSS gave us to do these programs at local theaters. I have been told that I must use any means necessary to talk about “real” space with the public, especially when NSS partnered with Lockheed Martin to produce expensive Viewer’s Guides and distributed them to all their chapters. But I still stand behind my decision.

 

Contrary to the “Gee, it’s only a movie,” comment, I believe that movies and television can have a powerful and profound impact on society. From the fantasy side of things, look how Star Wars has embedded itself into the fabric of our culture.

 

Back in the 1950s, Collier’s Magazine, Walt Disney, and Wernher von Braun teamed up to present a series of stunning magazine articles and later, television shows about the movement of humans into space and onto the Moon. This can easily be traced to the impetus that stirred public imagination to the point that they were ready to commit to Kennedy’s Moon landing challenge just a few short years later.

 

What if we had a movie or series of movies and television specials that accurately depicted what an exciting journey of discovery it would be to go to Mars? Instead, we are asked to support a movie that depicts NASA astronauts as idiots that stand around a giant tornado forming a few feet in front of them and do nothing to save themselves, even after their comrades start to die around them.

 

We are further asked to throw out the laws of physics for the sake of storytelling by having a spacecraft try to enter Martian orbit by adding velocity instead of slowing down. Then they must transfer from their main spaceship, travelling at interplanetary velocity, to a cargo ship travelling at orbital speed, by using only their EVA suits and small fuel supplies.

 

But to highlight one of the worst transgressions of “Mission to Mars,” I ask, “What is the most infamous piece of real estate on the surface of Mars?” The Face. Purported by people like Bob Hoagland (who also believes that Apollo astronauts took photos of crystal cities on the Moon) to be absolute evidence of aliens at work on our sister planet. Then NASA decides to land the first expedition to Mars within just a few miles of this spot and yet no one ever figures out that all the weird happenings just coincidentally originate from this very location!

A

nd what about the basic premise of it all, that Martians seeded Earth hundreds of millions of years ago with their DNA, and after all this time and evolution, from simple sea creatures through dinosaurs, that humans would eventually just happen to look very much like their original bipedal benefactors? What would they have done if that convenient asteroid had not changed the course of evolution on Earth 65 million years ago?

 

Guilt by association would drag us down to the inane level of what Brian De Palma hath wrought. OCSS should have no intention of lending one gram of credence to Hoagland, De Palma, or anyone else who must invent ways to make our universe a magnificent place. Reality does just fine on its own.

 

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"Communication and Cooperation" May 2000

by Michelle Evans

 

The only way we get anywhere is by working together. This seems like a simple and very obvious proposition doesn’t it?

 

OCSS has been very fortunate in the way we’ve been able to work together with other space groups to accomplish quite a bit here over the years in Southern California. We’ve had educational events at schools, art galleries, movie openings, museums, book stores, and many more. We hold monthly programs (and even a few parties) for our members each year. We try in every way to present a professional face to our members and the public. In this we are very successful.

T

hen there are times when it looks like we get blind sided. A recent and perfect example is what happened when our parent organization, the National Space Society in Washington, D.C., decided that they were going to hold a fundraiser for themselves here in our area, involving the 30th anniversary of the historic flight of Apollo 13.

 

It started out as a cooperative effort between NSS and the Space Frontier Foundation. So far, so good. We highly support working together. Then there was a falling out between the Foundation and NSS headquarters which forced the Foundation to bow out of participation. NSS said that was fine, that they just wanted to raise funds for themselves anyway, so no big loss. This is where the first problem crops up. All of these events occurred before OCSS was even aware that this Apollo anniversary was being held.

 

How did we finally find out? We got a forwarded email from two people at NSS: the event coordinator for the fundraiser and from the Executive Director of NSS, Pat Dasch. Both of these forwarded emails asked for any help that could be provided by local NSS members since this event was going to take place at the Santa Monica Museum of Flying. They asked if anyone had ever dealt with this place before and, if so, could they please help out.

 

Well, even though not asked directly, I responded to both emails from NSS. What was their response? It came down to the fact that even though we had worked astronaut events at this very location, and we have a great reputation for putting on great events, NSS said they had absolutely no need of any local chapter help from either OCSS or the Los Angeles chapter, OASIS. Let me qualify that somewhat. They did want our input, but solely as purchasers of tickets at $300 per person (yes, that’s for each and every individual, not for an entire table!).

 

Sure glad that NSS has told us how much they want to reinvigorate their chapter organization and to support their chapters like they have not done for quite a while. Instead, I was even told that they really have no interest in working with the chapters since they only make up about 11 percent of the members of the society.

 

Gee, do you think that if they actually worked with us, and other chapters like us, that maybe NSS members not affiliated with local chapters might find that there was actually some reason to get involved, instead of just reading their magazine from NSS HQ every two months?

 

We must work together within our national organization and with other space advocacy groups, or what purpose does any of our work serve? This is even relevant to within our chapter itself. Each and every one of us must do whatever we can to make our chapter a better place to reach the public, or why does OCSS even exist?

 

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"Boundaries of Survival" June 2000

by Michelle Evans

 

The topic of exploration has always been close to my heart. Not just the exploration of space, but searching for the unknown, stepping foot on a spot where no one has trod before. This is what drives me and it is what I believe drives humanity.

 

I remember as a child opening a National Geographic magazine to a photo spread of a mountainous area of South America. I have to admit that I don’t recall exactly where this spot was, but I do remember that they said it was one of the most rugged pieces of terrain in the entire world. What was most fascinating about this was that until the expedition that arrived to take these photos, the geography of this land shown on the maps was totally flat and barren.

 

It had been an area considered inaccessible and probably desert-like. Oh, what a fantastic surprise had been in store for those first explorers! No one had even been close in their theories of what the region held until real human eyes gazed upon it.

 

This has always been true. No matter where we go, we have always made supposedly educated guesses about what we would find. Almost without fail, we never got it right. Be it Columbus, Magellan, Cook, Mariner, Pioneer, or Voyager, surprise awaits at every turn.

 

“Here be dragons,” said the maps of the ocean west of Europe.

 

“All moons in the solar system will look just like what the Earth’s Moon does; cratered, battered, and boring,” was the wisdom before we actually went there.

 

“The Earth is the only possible abode of life,” according to naysayers today as we search our planetary neighbors, and the cosmos as a whole, for signs we are not alone.

 

It can easily be argued that one of the greatest stories of exploration in this century is not the race to be the first on the Moon in 1969, but of the race to be the first at the South Pole in 1911-1912.

 

There were a great many parallels between the two endevours. National prestige and pride were on the line, great amounts of money were raised and spent, and failure was not considered to be an option.

 

However, there was one major difference: Lives were much more in the balance. Dangers were dealt with by people who had absolutely no contact with their home base. Instead of the public hanging on every word and watching blurry television of their exploits, the explorers were truly on their own once the journey began. The rest of the world often did not know the outcome for months or even years after it was all over.

 

Scientists, engineers, and technicians were not sitting in back rooms checking and rechecking everything to make sure mistakes were not made. If the explorers miscalculated the amount of food required to sustain themselves on a 1,600 mile journey to and from the pole, they died. It was as simple as that.

 

Some of you will recognize my inspiration for this column since they were with myself and my wife, Cherie, when we saw a recent play entitled: “Terra Nova.” It is the story of Robert Falcon Scott versus Roald Amundsen. If you are familiar with the story, you know that Scott lost the race and his life (and the lives of four of his men) because he didn’t have the strength to understand what he was really up against, or to admit that he was wrong early enough to make a difference.

 

Amundsen appears as a taunting apparition to Scott in the play. When Scott asks him why they even bother going on when all hope is lost, Amundsen sums up with words that should have meaning for anyone who wants to see over the next horizon.

 

“For man to not want, is to die.”

 

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"Next Space Horizon: China" July 2000

by Michelle Evans

 

It has been 30 years since China entered the community of space launching nations. Their first launch was of the Dong Fang Hung 1 satellite on a Long March 1 booster on April 24, 1970.

 

With 67 launches under their belt since then, they have done fairly well in their progress. On the other hand, they have also done many things wrong. A great example of this was a few years ago when they launched a rocket over a village that was supposed to have been evacuated first. The odds caught up on this one and the rocket exploded soon after liftoff. The village was burnt to the ground and many people lost their lives. This is not the way to run a space program.

 

Many of their space launches have been of commercial satellites. This has also caused problems, but not so much for the Chinese government as it has been for commercial United States companies, such as Hughes. There have been many debates about improper technology transfer. This trepidation is definitely called for since China has often been known to gain technology from more advanced nations through surreptitious means.

 

My favorite example of this was when the Chinese purchased a single Boeing 707 airliner many years ago. Part of the deal was that the plane would come equipped with a very large quantity of spare engines. What they in fact did was use the single 707 as a mold to copy and create their own airliner. They knew that the engine technology would be far more difficult to duplicate, so they simply used all those “spare” engines to power their fleet until they could come on line with their own derivatives.

 

Now the Chinese space program is staging for the next giant leap—putting a person in orbit. This will truly bring China into the realm of spacefaring civilizations. It is very interesting to note that once again the Chinese have opted for guidance in their designs from outside their borders. Their Shenzhou spacecraft is a prototype of a man-carrying spacecraft that looks an awful lot like a Russian Soyuz.

 

Shenzhou first flew in late 1999 and it is believed that manned flights may be just a year or two away. When the spacecraft and rocket were first rolled out to the launch pad, photos were released which showed the vehicle being carried vertically down a crawlerway out of a building that looked like a scaled-down version of our own Vehicle Assembly Building. In fact, when these photos first appeared, many believed that they were not real because of the similarities.

 

After the flight, the skeptics were proven wrong. Further proof of the reality of their manned space program has now come directly to OCSS with the building of the Lunar Module that is going to the space expo in China. This will be used by the government to instill excitement amongst their citizens for their upcoming manned launches (see article on page 3).

 

Personally I think that competition is great. Even though they may have gotten to this point by copying everyone else, they will eventually find their own way. For me, the Chinese paid my way to see a Space Shuttle launch so I can’t complain since I finally had a chance to hitch a ride!

 

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"Leadership Fundamentals" August 2000

by Michelle Evans

 

“A long-term national commitment to explore the universe is an essential investment in the future of our nation.”

 

These are the words of Gene Kranz, former flight director and author of the recent book “Failure Is Not an Option.” I’m sure these words sound familiar since they were made famous in the movie “Apollo 13” about five years back. But you must remember that these were not just words from a script, they were the words of Kranz himself during one of the worst crisis faced during a manned spaceflight.

 

His book is highly recommended reading. It is a fascinating look at the lunar landing program through a different set of eyes. Most of the time we are shown the world of Apollo through the eyes of the astronauts. Now we are shown that world from the eyes of the people at Mission Control.

 

Gene Kranz is obviously a patriot to the United States, but it goes beyond that. He believes that we all had a vision in the 1960s which has now faded and all but disappeared. He wants to see that vision returned. And the place to start is right up at the top.

I couldn’t agree more.

 

Responding to a need to energize the American people after the Bay of Pigs fiasco, President Kennedy chose to set our course to the Moon. What started as a political idea to save face and divert attention soon captured the imagination of the President. He actually became a true believer in his own political program.

 

JFK saw what the idea of exploring the cosmos had on the minds of everyone, including himself. It was like a door to rejuvenation had been opened. The whole country got a spring in its step and became armchair explorers. What a fantastic ride was in store for everyone who opened their minds.

 

Then we lost Kennedy and Johnson took over. He became preoccupied with Vietnam, even though LBJ had been one of the biggest initial proponents of spaceflight and had even been the person behind convincing JFK that it was a worthwhile pursuit. By the time that Nixon arrived as President, he wanted no more to do with space. He allowed Apollo to finish its original goal and then used its popularity to set his own agenda on other sites overseas, primarily in China. Nixon refused to even allow the aircraft carrier JFK to be the one to pick up the Apollo 11 astronauts because he didn’t want to instill any nostalgia for the good ol’ days of national space leadership, especially since he was of a different political affiliation!

 

Who else could take the greatest achievement in history and drop it like it had leprosy? Nixon’s leprosy, er, legacy, lives with us today. NASA is a bloated bureaucracy that has lost its vision. A few Presidents have tried to emulate JFK, notably George Bush (Sr. not Jr.). His speech on the 20th anniversary of Apollo 11’s landing at the National Air and Space Museum in 1989, was the most far-reaching that had been attempted since 1962. But he didn’t have the political will to follow through, on top of the fact that he didn’t have a NASA Administrator who could pull it off.

 

Again, in the words of Gene Kranz: “NASA needs a new Administrator, someone who knows how to represent the space program in the political arena, someone like its second administrator, James Webb, who was the master of the bureaucratic process and a skilled builder of support alliances. A new Administrator with a clear set of goals, supported by an energized and vocal space alumni, can build a mandate for space.”

 

And finally, “An American-led program of multinational space exploration is a critical test of our intention to continue as a world leader in the twenty-first century.”

 

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"A Last Roundup" September 2000

by Michelle Evans

 

First it was John Glenn. Now it’s Clint Eastwood and his pals. Seems that everyone over 70 wants to go into space. I’ve still got a few years left to reach that age goal myself, but the whole idea sounds pretty good to me.

 

When it comes to space movies I am usually right on top of things and have all the skinny months before the theater lights start to dim. The new flick “Space Cowboys” was unusual in that it seemed a wall had been put up. No matter what I did to break through or hop over, I just couldn’t get much of a look on the other side. What I had heard was pretty good, so I was getting really frustrated that I couldn’t learn more.

 

Just about everyone I knew kept asking me if I had seen the previews, and all I could answer was, “Nope.”

 

It was getting to be a vendetta with me to try and find a preview and get some idea of what this movie might look like. I finally caught a very short trailer on some sci-fi show, but it was only a couple days before the movie was to open. Couldn’t have gotten closer to the wire if we tried.

 

Then I saw the four primary cast members get interviewed on Jay Leno. Clint, along with James Garner, Tommy Lee Jones, and Donald Sutherland, all came out and sat down on the set just like they were on board the Space Shuttle ready for launch, two in front and two behind. The interview and one short clip of the movie went great. The basic feeling I came away with after watching this was that they must have had a grand time making this outer space yarn.

 

Then opening day finally arrived (missed being a birthday present by one day!). Cherie and I sat there for two-plus hours and had a really fantastic ride along with Team Daedalus.

 

Okay, I know you want to hear me list off the technical glitches, so I’ll get that out of the way: 1) The X-2 shown during the prologue never had two seats (heck, it barely could squeeze in one!). 2) Clint and his team would never fly as the primary crew of the Space Shuttle. They might fly, but only as Payload Specialists with a seasoned prime shuttle crew at the helm (but who would go to the movie if Clint wasn’t in the driver’s seat?). 3) The robot arm on the shuttle (this is minor point, but still really weird) was the wrong shape. Instead of round arm segments, they were hexagonal.

 

Oh, sure, there were other minor points, (like the fact that you don’t aim directly at the Moon to get there several days later)but overall, they did a real bang-up job getting it right. Unlike the stupendous failure of “Mission to Mars,” which also had NASA technical guidance and yet still blew it big time, “Space Cowboys” didn’t have to invent the plot points to revolve around. Here they set up the premise and let it ride.

And what a ride it was.

 

This movie was funny and touching and worked on so many different levels. The rivalry between the young and old astronauts is very real. I still remember interviewing one of the younger shuttle astronauts about Gemini, Apollo, and Shuttle veteran John Young, and how his whole attitude was one of, “Why doesn’t John just retire?” Some of these same notions were also shown quite well in the movie “Deep Impact.”

 

In “Space Cowboys” the old geezers give it out as well as they can take it, and in the end pull off the mission with real style.

 

If for some reason you haven’t seen this movie yet, please take my recommendation and head to the theater before it disappears to video. If only for the very final scene, you will thank me for it. That swooping shot that takes you to where only a few have trod before will bring tears to your eyes. If it doesn’t, then I highly suggest going to see your doctor to find out what’s wrong with your head!

 

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"If We Can Go to the Moon..." October 2000

by Michelle Evans

 

Ever since the Apollo program took us to the Moon, we have heard the cry of “If we can go to the Moon, why can’t we [insert wants and needs here]?”

 

This is actually a noble sentiment. If we can do such lofty things as step onto another world, why can’t we eliminate poverty and hunger, murder and oppression, cancer and AIDS?

 

The human race is able to do great deeds, but do we do enough? And, more important, should we set our sights back on the ground below until such time as we have proven ourselves worthy of continued expansion and exploration? What right do we have to look upward ourselves, if not everyone else on our planet has the ability to do the same?

 

Much of the promise that Apollo brought us to expand our horizons was eliminated very nearly at the moment that they were achieved because of this rallying cry against continued technological prowess, while many still suffered.

 

It’s interesting that the roots of this sentiment never meant for this to happen but had intended just the opposite.

Reading recently the book “Genesis: The Story of Apollo 8,” by Robert Zimmerman, he points out that soon after the return of Apollo 8, several editorials were written which conveyed the basic theme of “If we can go to the Moon, why can’t we…” Most notable of these was written by Tom Wicker in the New York Times (March 18, 1969) which stated:

 

“The vision, skill, courage, and intelligence that have gone into the space program ought to shame mankind – and Americans in particular. Because if men can do what the astronauts and their earthbound colleagues – human beings all – have done, why cannot we build the houses that we need? Why must our cities be choked in traffic and the polluted air it produces?…Why does every effort to remove slums and rebuild cities bog down in red tape and red ink?”

 

Nothing in Mr. Wicker’s editorial called for an end to our Moon program. He rightly pointed out that we should be able to do both equally well. There is no reason for anyone to live in squalor when we are reaching for the stars.

 

People like Senator Edward Kennedy (yes, the brother of the man who set our sights on the Moon in the first place) took these words and twisted them into meeting his own agenda by calling for a slow down in Apollo, even before the first landing took place. More ironic was the fact that he called for this diversion of space funds toward social programs during the keynote speech at the opening of the Robert Goddard Library, an institution dedicated to the preeminent American rocket scientist.

 

By the time Apollo 11 landed, instead of gearing up for the future, NASA was forced into massive layoffs. Some of these came literally the day the massive Saturn V left the pad on July 16, 1969, and others not long after the mission was complete.

 

So we have given up our space initiatives so the people on Earth could eat well and live in clean houses. It is now over 30 years later; have the dreams of the great social scientists come to pass after our sacrifice of the far horizons?

 

I think that most of us will agree that we are not necessarily much better off than we were over a generation ago. At least at that time, the people who didn’t have much could say that there was hope. After all, if we could go to the Moon, why wouldn’t they expect their lives to get better?

 

Now we are living the future that Senator Kennedy wanted for us. Our sights are still on the ground, our problems are still with us. I think we would be much better served to follow the example of Mr. Wicker and yearn again for space and a bright future.

 

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"The Role of Women in Space" November 2000

by Michelle Evans

 

Our feature article this month is about Gordon Cooper’s early days in the space program. During the talks promoting his new book, “Leap of Faith,” he mentioned several women who had been in training for the Skylab program but had been shunted out when another group of women lobbied NASA to get them into space instead. This angered NASA enough to cancel the whole deal and no American woman flew until 1983 on the seventh mission of the Space Shuttle.

 

Who were those overzealous women that supposedly set back the cause of putting their gender into space? Well, the primary person behind that lobbying movement was Geraldyn “Gerrie” Cobb. She was the leader of the infamous “Mercury 13.” This was a group of women who secretly took (and qualified) all the same physical examinations as had their male counterparts, the “Mercury 7.” But NASA never let them fly.

 

Cobb did place political pressure on NASA to reinstate her and her group to flight status, but the climate just wasn’t there to make it happen in the 1960s. In fact, the final straw for the women of the Mercury 13 was provided by famous aviator Jacqueline Cochran.

Although she had actually helped finance the medical testing for the women, in the end Cochran wrote: “There is no present real national need for women in such a role.” She went on to warn Cobb that, if she continued to press the matter, it would “retard rather than speed” the role of women in space. Cochran certainly proved to be prophetic since it took nearly two more decades to finally bring down the barriers to female astronauts.

 

But what of the Russians? They were always considered way ahead of us Americans in providing equal opportunity in space. After all, they were the first with Valentina Tereshkvova aboard Vostok 6 in June 1963. Then, when we were finally about to fly Sally Ride, they beat us again by sending Svetlana Savitskaya. But in the end this was all simply window dressing since the Russians really do not believe that women possess a role in space.

 

Male cosmonauts were heard to say how it was wonderful that Valentina flew so that she could hang curtains and make the capsule look pretty. After Svetlana made it to orbit, she was greeted with a similar, if not even more degrading, attitude.

 

Valentin Lebedev wrote about this in his book, “Diary of a Cosmonaut.” He talked about their first meal after Svetlana came aboard the Salyut 7 space station in 1982: “After a communications session we invited [her] to the heavily laden [dinner] table. We gave Sveta a blue floral print apron and told her, ‘Look Sveta, even though you are a pilot and a cosmonaut, you are still a woman first. Would you please do us the honor of being our hostess tonight?’”

 

Only three women have ever gone into space on the Russian program. The United States has flown over 30, including Eileen Collins, who entered orbit on the Space Shuttle as a Pilot and then as the first female Mission Commander.

 

Cobb and her Mercury 13 group should have flown a lot earlier than they did. Even now, there is a role for her, or one of her fellow astronaut candidates. John Glenn recently returned to space to provide medical data on an older man, so why not send an older woman who also has the baseline medical data? Unfortunately, since they never flew 40 years ago as Glenn did, we don’t have actual spaceflight-related data, but the basic stuff is there and it is certainly better than doing nothing and excluding half our population.

 

Things have certainly improved, but we can still do a lot better.

 

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"International Star Registry: A Scam of Celstial Proportions" December 2000

by Michelle Evans

 

It is now close to the holidays and I’m sure that our members are out diligently shopping for the really cool stuff to give their loved ones. One of the items that may draw interest could be a deal called the International Star Registry, or ISR.

 

This company sells stars, or at least they sell the names for stars. This seems like a really great idea on the surface. There are literally thousands of stars visible to the naked eye on a very dark night away from city lights.

 

Of these approximately 3,000 visible stars, most do not have names. Only the very bright ones like Mizar, Rigel, Arcturus, and others have been assigned monikers. The rest are listed by their NGC (New General Catalog) number or some other obscure method that just about anyone outside of astronomy circles would find confusing.

 

So, why not start assigning names if people would like to pay for the service? Well, sounds like a great idea, but the International Star Registry can not do that. They are not an officially recognized body that can assign or approve names to any celestial object.

 

For many years now, the ISR has been selling names to gullible people who would like to honor a loved one. Not only do they feed on that gullibility, they often feed on our grief. ISR markets to people who have recently lost a family member. They say that by giving ISR a fee to “officially” name a star in their loved one’s memory, you are giving them a monument that will literally last a billion years and more.

 

I have always felt anger toward ISR for doing something as despicable as leading people on in this way when they have absolutely no legal leg to stand on. For your money all you ever get is a piece of paper, not a piece of the cosmos.

 

Many of our members may already be familiar with the fallacy of ISR, but for those who are not, please take heed if you ever see their ads and feel the compulsion to take them up on their services.

 

Another reason that I have chosen this time to write about the horrors of the International Star Registry is that they are getting more and more aggressive in their tactics.

 

All professionals associated with astronomy know the real way that stars receive names. They know that ISR is a crock of garbage. Many observatories and planetariums placed notices on their web sites and warned callers to their institutions to stay away from ISR.

 

How does the International Star Registry react to this? They threaten to sue any place that tells people that ISR has no right to name stars. And the worst thing is that without exception, every institution has caved in under that threat. Not one place has stood up to them and told them to bring on the lawyers if they think they have such a great case for defamation. The managers all state that they are at the mercy of public funding and can’t take any chances.

 

Well, OCSS may not be a major national organization (although we’re close!), I wanted to take this opportunity to state for the record that the International Star Registry is doing something illegal, immoral, and unethical.

 

All of us should do whatever we can to get the word out to stay away from these people. I invite ISR to come after OCSS, or me personally, and tell me that we can’t tell the truth about their scam. If they want to threaten a lawsuit for defamation, bring them on!

Whatever you do, stay away from the scam of ISR.

 

On a more positive note: I want to wish everyone in OCSS a wonderful holiday season and to celebrate the “real” new millennium in style.

XXXX