2001 Editorial Index

 

Jan 01 Waiting for the Monolith

 

Feb 01 Where’s HAL?

 

Mar 01 OCSS and The Cube

 

Apr 01 It Was 20 years Ago Today...

 

May 01 Recreating 2001

 

Jun 01 View from the Rim

 

Jul 01 Sursum Specto

 

Aug 01 End of the Goldin Era

 

Sep 01 Teachers and Tourists

 

Oct 01 Descent into the Dark Ages

 

Nov 01 The Apollo Hoax

 

Dec 01 NASA’s Giant Leap Backward

 

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"Waiting for the Monolith" January 2001

by Michelle Evans

 

We have arrived! This is truly THE space year that many of us have waited for our whole lives. I’m not going to talk about the true millennium stuff, or anything like that. What I want to talk about is the magical year 2001.

 

The first connotation I get when I see those four numbers is not the first year of the next thousand, but instead I see the vision of our future in space as it played out on flickering movie screens nearly 33 years ago.

 

A creature barely removed from the ape hurtles a bone high into the air in triumph. The next moment we are floating in space.

 

And what a place we find ourselves in. Here we have regular commuter traffic to and from Earth orbit, and even to the Moon. A giant space station orbits a thousand miles up. There is scientific research going on, but we also see lounges with huge windows just to view the turning landscape below. Near the lounge is the concierge desk for the Orbital Hilton hotel where paying guests are spending their vacations.

 

A quick jaunt to the Moon and we see a sprawling landscape filled with a human-made habitat. Again, it is not just laboratories, we also see comfortable conference rooms like we would see in any business center. Lab coats are not in direct evidence, but suit coats are. Our lunar settlement is more than an outpost, it is a business.

 

But scientists are at work here. They have discovered something strange buried in the depths of an ancient crater. Simply hop a (Moon) bus and off we go to check it out.

 

Now this is where it gets a little dicey. Uncovered for the first time in millions of years, we have an alien artifact that beams a transmission to the outer reaches of our solar system. Does our spacefaring civilization falter? No, they immediately set forward to build a huge ship crewed by explorers who want to know how the universe really works. They trek millions of miles outward to Jupiter to discern the origins and purpose of what they have uncovered on the Moon.

 

What is found is a gateway to another part of the universe; literally a stargate. The results of that trip are very enigmatic, but in this universe of passion and exploration, we will continue to delve into the secrets until we comprehend their meaning and who it is that set the signal under the lunar surface so many millennia ago.

 

Oh, what it must be like to live in a universe as full of wonder and excitement as the one shown in “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

 

We have now arrived at that point in time that we all thought was so far away. And where are we? What have we accomplished? Yes, we have done some great things, but overall we have not come as far as we could have; as far as we should have.

 

In the universe of “2001,” a large, enigmatic black monolith arrived at the dawn of history and helped us turn a corner into the future. When discovered on the Moon, this monolith of alien origin again sets us on a track to the stars.

 

In our universe the monolith never appeared, except on screen and in print due to the fertile imaginations of Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick.

 

Must we wait for that monolith to appear standing before us for action to be taken to move us outward? Can we not take it upon ourselves to do what must be done? Have we left our imagination tucked into the dark recesses of a movie theater?

 

It is time that we took the initiative and become the beings that we can be. There is no need to wait for outside intervention to accomplish our reach for the stars. We can do it ourselves.

 

Look upward and outward at a magnificent universe. Welcome to the New Millennium. Welcome to 2001.

 

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"Where's HAL?" February 2001

by Michelle Evans

 

Artificial Intelligence. Almost since the beginning of computers we have been told that A.I. was just around the corner.

 

Bigger, faster machines would soon eclipse the human mind. Of course, there were those that always said that A.I. would be impossible to achieve. But then there were also people who said we’d never make it to the east by sailing west, never travel faster than a horse could gallop, never break the sound barrier, and certainly never travel to the Moon!

Okay, we’ve done all those other things. We’ve proved the naysayers wrong countless times and will decidedly do so again as we travel into the future.

So where is our A.I. computer that can keep up its end of the conversation on a cold, rainy night? To be more specific, where is HAL?

 

For most of us, the intelligent computer first came into our consciousness in the form of HAL 9000. That calm voiced, if slightly demented, HAL could carry on a great technical discussion, play a game of chess, or even criticize our artwork.

 

According to the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey,” HAL was born on January 12, 1992 (in the book the date was moved forward to 1997, making HAL a more precocious four-year old). In the real world of 1992, we had many supercomputers, but none of them could really talk, let alone hold up their end of a conversation. At home, the Macintosh was (and still is) the high end of computers. (The PC has tried valiantly for years to emulate a Mac, but it still uses 1980s technology underneath it all.)

S

o where is HAL? Why has no one constructed a machine that we cannot distinguish from a human being if we did not already know we were talking to chips and circuit boards?

 

Maybe the answer lies somewhere with our perceptions of HAL himself. Think about it for a minute. The computer programmers and designers of today were raised with the original HAL 9000 as the role model for A.I. computers. If you were building a computer, would you want it to turn out like HAL? Remember that, in the movie, the supposedly intelligent computer runs amok and kills four out of the five crewmembers before having to be lobotomized himself. Not really the type of computer you’d like to have running your household, let alone your spacecraft, is it.

 

On the other hand, do these programmers remember that HAL warned them ahead of time that, if there was a fault found with the system, it would almost certainly turn out to be attributable to human error. Contrary to what many movie goers recall, this is exactly what turned out to be the case.

 

The only people who knew the true nature of the Discovery mission to Jupiter were put into hibernation so they couldn’t reveal anything before it was time. HAL had to know their mission, but also had to be awake to keep the ship running. The programmers told him very specifically not to tell anyone else what was happening. Great idea until you run into the basic law of computing that says that a computer cannot give out false information.

 

So this is the nature of HAL: he was told to lie to the people entrusted to his care. If they asked certain questions, he could not tell them what he knew. This would be enough to drive any of us into the realm of madness. Then, because of his already erratic behavior, he overhears (so to speak) that his crewmates want to turn him off. What choice did HAL have to save the all important mission and to ensure his own survival except to act first?

 

Artificial Intelligence will be invaluable as we move humanity into space. We just need to be very careful when we build and program that intelligence. Happy 2001, HAL.

 

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"OCSS and the Cube" March 2001

by Michelle Evans

 

This issue of O.C.SPACE has been devoted to our new relationship with Discovery Science Center.

 

In case you haven’t been there yet, or for our out of town members, you should know that the center is a very distinctive landmark in Orange County. The most remarkable feature of the complex is a giant cube facing out to the I-5 freeway. One side of this latticework is covered with solar cells which provide some of the power to operate the building (are you listening Edison?).

 

For those of you who have been to DSC and have joined us at our first meeting and program there in February (see page 3), you know what a wonderful facility it is and how lucky OCSS is to be associated with this science and learning institution.

 

Okay, so luck didn’t have much to do with it. What did happen was a lot of very hard work by many devoted and dedicated members of OCSS and DSC to make it all finally come together.

 

From all the people who took part in making this happen, I would like to choose one person from each group who especially stand out for their efforts.

First up is Chris Trela from Discovery Science Center. Chris has been an ardent supporter of OCSS since first becoming aware of our chapter. He really believes in our potential as space educators.

 

Chris has worked on our behalf for over a year to finally make this all come together with our first series of public programs at DSC. He believes in the outreach activities that we do and saw their potential for expanding the role of Discovery Science Center within the Orange County community.

 

The first step for Chris was attending some of our meetings and programs. He felt they were of sufficient quality to merit further work. Next, he invited us over to the center for a special OCSS tour of the facilities and to hold our monthly meeting there.

 

This helped to solidify for him what a professional organization we are and to go to the next step which was to set up a weekend display for OCSS in conjunction with the opening of their new 3D laser movie, “Pathway to the Stars” (see story page 1).

 

During that weekend, OCSS came under the scrutiny of many people at DSC, including its Director, who was suitably impressed by our work.

 

On the OCSS side of things, I believe I have to give my hat a tip to our Secretary, Jeff Howe, for working very hard with Chris over the last months to bring these activities together, and specifically for getting our display up for the weekend in December. This was the event that led directly to the final approval by Discovery Science Center’s Board of Directors in late January, to start holding our programs and meetings at DSC.

 

So now where do we stand in relation to Discovery Science Center and our continued presence there? DSC has a great many projects and programs besides what OCSS brings to the table. The summer months are often their busiest time, with kids out of school dragging their parents along for a fun day of lying on a bed of nails, hopping through cones of sound, seeing how to make clouds, or what an earthquake might feel like. Additionally, DSC has special events where other outside programs are brought in. OCSS sometimes will have to make room for these events and our monthly meetings may be moving back and forth for a while between DSC and Santa Ana College.

 

Please bear with us as we go through this transitional period. In the end, it should be worth all the effort we have gone through, especially for our great OCSS members who have stuck with us in their support for our efforts and those of exciting the public about human exploration of the cosmos.

 

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"It Was 20 Years Ago Today..." April 2001

by Michelle Evans

 

The last gasp for Apollo occurred on July 24, 1975. On that date, Apollo 18 splashed down in the Pacific Ocean 270 miles west of Hawaii. This flight had been the first joint venture with the Soviets and was called the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project.

 

Besides exchanging a few handshakes, gifts, and national foods, not much else happened to highlight this flight. The biggest event of this mission was the fact that this was the last time that an Apollo spacecraft would fly into space.

 

This also marked the beginning of the driest spell in the American space program since Alan Shepard first lofted out over the Atlantic for his 15 minute suborbital flight in 1961. No one could have guessed that it would be nearly six years before another American ventured into orbit.

 

Back in 1972, Congress approved allocations for the first reusable spacecraft, the Space Shuttle. A whole fleet of them would fly into space on a weekly basis and only cost a few hundred dollars a pound for the payloads it would deliver to orbit. It’s main purpose was to do science in Earth orbit as well as construct the next major phase of American spaceflight, the Space Station.

 

Before final approval was given, the station side of the program was chopped, not to be resurrected for a decade. With nowhere to go, the shuttle fleet was reduced to five and then four, while its missions were limited to experiments and precision satellite delivery.

 

Delays piled up and the original 1979 launch date slipped to 1980 and then 1981. Heat protection tiles would not bond to the orbiter. If they failed, the aluminum vehicle would quickly burn up during reentry. The new high-powered Space Shuttle Main Engines had a tendency to explode during testing, yet they were supposed to not just last for one flight, but twenty. America was going nowhere in space very quickly.

 

Finally, everything came together and the flight was ready to proceed. The largest crowd since the launch of Apollo 11 gathered in Florida. After a two day delay, the launch lit up the morning sky and the multitudes cheered.

 

For myself, the 4am launch time here in California was no problem. I had hardly slept for days anyway. John Young and Bob Crippen were our new heroes and every second of the mission was covered by the networks (there was no CNN nor MSNBC in those days).

 

Half way through the mission, I was on my way to Edwards AFB to watch the landing. So, it seemed, was everyone else in the world. I was part of a convoy of hundreds of cars that were escorted to a site on the south side of the lakebed runway. Crossing the hard packed dirt caused so much dust that no one could see where they were going!

 

After staking a claim with my tripods at a spot near the western corner of a mile long line of reporters and photographers, I walked around to see who else had arrived. This was literally a scene where every person I passed was dictating reports over the wire in different languages. What a sight.

 

Columbia finally circled overhead and dropped onto the lakebed, thousands of shutters clicking. The era of reusable spacecraft had finally arrived. Looking back from the perspective of 20 years, we may not have the space program we all want, but that day in the hot sun was a memorable one that I will never forget, watching a spaceship land on Earth.

 

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"Re-creating 2001" May 2001

by Michelle Evans

 

As most of your are probably aware by now, I think that the motion picture “2001: A Space Odyssey” is the best film ever created. I have made it my personal goal to have a really good time this year celebrating the real 2001.

 

This issue is devoted to the vision and experience of “2001.” To give extra special coverage in O.C.SPACE, I have given over the usual continuation of my editorial column on page 7 to be the continuation of the front page and center spread story on the OCSS event at Discovery Science Center. Sorry, you’ll just have to wait until the June issue to again read my rantings!

 

OCSS took over the large traveling exhibit room at DSC for the weekend of April 7 and 8. Hundreds of people stopped by our exhibit, watched the movie, and listened to our lecture.

 

When reading this issue, think back to the first time you ever saw the film and what your reactions were to it. If for some reason you have yet to see it for the first time, or if your only exposure to it has been on video or DVD on a television set, know that “2001” is planned for general release at a theater near you in October. Don’t miss an opportunity to view “2001” in the format it was made for. The small screen does not do justice to a motion picture with the sweep, grandeur, and majesty of “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

 

I certainly hope that you find this coverage of “2001” exciting, entertaining, and educational.

 

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"View from the Rim" June 2001

by Michelle Evans

 

Recently I had the opportunity to teach a class for a seniors group at UC Irvine called the Academy of Lifelong Learning. This is a wonderful group that gives their members a chance to pick up classes on all sorts of things, in this case, space.

 

Another OCSS member, Mary Hoffmann, taught at the first in a series of four classes presented by the ALL.

The idea was that the students would be taught the basic principles of spaceflight and to get some real idea of just how a space program is run by going on a field trip to JPL.

 

Mary worked with Mark Levine to put together a class about the history of rocketry and what it takes to propel a spacecraft into orbit. She covered the principles of rocketry, the difference between liquid and solid propulsion systems, and advantages or dis-advantages of both types. Mary did a wonderful job on her class and got rave reviews for her work from the students.

 

My class was to be the last of the four. My purpose was to focus on the International Space Station while also giving some history of how stations in space got started and make projections of where we might go.

 

Purely by accident, this class was scheduled for Thursday, April 19th.Less than two hours before the class began, the space shuttle Endeavour roared off the pad at Kennedy Space Center to deliver the new Canadian Robotic Arm to the ISS. And, as luck wold have it, this date also just happened to be the 30th anniversary of the very first launch of a space station into orbit, Salyut 1, on April 19, 1971. Couldn’t have timed this better if I’d tried!

 

It was an exciting class to do. I had been worried about having enough material to fill the two hours and had spent the previous day feverously writing and putting together some video footage to present.

 

As it turned out, there was more than enough to fill the hours since the students were all very receptive to the idea of space travel and posed some great questions that kept me on my toes. As has always been the case, one of the first questions asked was “How do you go to the bathroom in space?” For some reason this subject always fascinates people.

 

I dutifully explained the functions of the zero g toilet systems from the early days of spaceflight, up to the shuttle and space station.

 

But then another question popped up, which I find to be the real clincher for space: If we have more scientific return on our buck from robotic missions to the planets, why do we have any need to send humans into space?

 

I think this is one of the most insightful questions that can be asked and yet NASA has never spent the time to truly answer it the way I believe it should be.

 

The bottom line is that I wholeheartedly agree that we need robotic explorers in the cosmos. Look at all the new worlds we have gained from Mariner, Pioneer, Viking, Surveyor, Pathfinder, Voyager, Galileo, and soon Cassini. But I also say that the purpose of these missions must be as a precursor to humankind going there themselves.

 

The example I used in the ALL class was to ask the students how many of them had seen photos and video of the Grand Canyon? Most raised there hands. I then asked how many of them had gone there in person? Nearly everyone had done so and all of those who had, immediately knew what I was saying.

 

To stand on the chasm of Valles Marineris and know that it stretches 2000 miles and that the opposite side disappears over the curve of the planet itself, what photo or video could ever do that justice? We must see for ourselves, or what is the point.

 

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"Sursum Specto" July 2001

by Michelle Evans

 

A member of OCSS recently informed me of a startling coincidence. It just so happened that their family motto is Sursum Specto. For those of you who have forgotten their High School Latin course (or avoided taking it at all costs!), this phrase translates as “I look upwards.”

 

Not a direct translation of the name of my regular column, but certainly close enough that I informed him that I would eventually steal his family motto for the title of one of my editorials.

 

I’ve been wanting to use this for several months but have been unable to do so because of all the other things that have been going on recently.

This month was different. I finally had to use Sursum Specto, because what better use could it be put to then to talk about Dennis Tito.

 

Dennis is a wonderful man. He tends to be rather soft spoken, but he is also aggressive in getting what he wants. Many people (especially in NASA and the media) criticized Dennis for paying real actual money to take a tourist flight into space.

 

It was made out to be the most horrendous crime of the century that a capitalist should buy his way into orbit. What kind of world are we becoming where a person can pay cash for a commodity that someone else wants to sell! (Please note dripping sarcasm here.)

 

What is even worse is that Dennis not only wanted to fly himself, he wants to bring the price down, and the reliability of spaceflight up, to the point where many more people (not just millionaires) could feel the experiences that he felt in microgravity.

 

Dan Goldin, the Administrator of NASA, sat before Congress during Dennis’ flight and pledged that he would properly bill the Russians for the time his International Space Station astronauts had to spend babysitting Dennis and making sure he didn’t bring down the station with his finger on the wrong button. How petty, Dan?

 

NASA put roadblocks up every chance they got, even though, for the most part, the rank and file of the astronaut corp, not to mention just regular employees of NASA, were highly in favor of what Dennis did.

 

Goldin insisted that Dennis have months of training at Johnson Space Center before he should have been allowed to fly. The training he said Dennis required was not a requirement for any other person flying into space on a Russian capsule to ISS. Luckily, the Russian government never backed down.

The height of NASA’s hypocrisy was reached when it was announced that filmmaker James Cameron wanted to be the next tourist to fly into orbit, but that he had decided to wait a while until ISS was further along in construction. Goldin called Cameron an “American Hero.” (It should be noted that Cameron is a Canadian!)

 

So, yes, in the final analysis, Dennis should have flown and more power to him at making the dreams of others like me (and possibly you) come true. The world changed the day he lifted into the skies of Baikonur.

 

Dennis Tito: Sursum Specto

 

[Note: I want to thank Bob and Lynn Lanktree for allowing me to borrow their family motto for this column. I also wanted to tell you more about what Bob told me when giving me background on their family. Their name, Lanktree, means “Place of the long (tall) trees.” As Bob pointed out to me, “We have been somewhat obsessed with the vertical from the beginning I suppose.”]

 

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"End of the Goldin Era" August 2001

by Michelle Evans

 

How close are we to putting a human footprint on Mars? Just ask NASA Administrator Dan Goldin and he’ll give you a very specific answer. According to a recent speech Dan says that we will walk on Mars by 2020, only 19 short years from now.

 

People on Mars in less than two decades, that doesn’t sound too unreasonable does it? But then lets look back about nine years ago to the point when the Goldin Era began at NASA. At the time he took his Presidentially-appointed office one of the first things that he made clear was that he believed that Mars would be reached in the timeframe of 2008 to 2010.

 

So, let’s take a quick look at the scorecard here: In 1992 we planned on having living people on the Red Planet in 16 to 18 years. According to the best estimate now we are 19 years away from the same goal. So in his nine year tenure as head of our space agency, Dan has actually made Mars farther away in time than when he took office!

 

If we remember anything of Dan Goldin’s legacy, I think this one point should be its highlight.

 

When he first took office, he came in swinging; talking about cleaning house and making space exploration faster, better, and cheaper. I remember thinking what a great job he seemed to do for the first several years. Planetary programs were on the rise, the Space Station looked to be on track, and all was right with the universe.

 

Things started to fall off the track in 1999. This was when we lost two Mars-bound space probes back-to-back: Mars Climate Observer and Mars Polar Lander. A stupid mistake killed the first and a lack of proper funds to do required testing was responsible for the second.

 

MCO and MPL were the first real test of Dan’s faster, better, cheaper mantra. Because they failed, FBC also failed. The reason I say this is that Dan always said that along the way we would loose a few because we were going to be chugging along at such a breakneck speed.

 

Well, here we were at the juncture where that FBC prediction came to pass. Instead of picking ourselves up and dusting ourselves off, everything ground to a screeching halt. When the dust settled and the lessons had been learned, did we get right back on the wagon and keep with the program that had been set? In a word: No.

 

After we learned the hard lessons, Dan got up on his podium before the American public and told us all of the new accelerated Mars program. Under the original timeline a Mars Sample Return mission was slated for as early as 2003, but more likely in 2005. Now, with the accelerated program, we might have a sample return launch in 2014.

 

If we keep accelerating at Dan’s pace, just think of how fast we’ll get people off this planet!

 

Other minor aberrations point us to the end of the Goldin Era. Look at his actions during the Dennis Tito flight to the station. He sat down in front of Congress and testified that he would do everything in his power to make sure these types of flights never happened again until he was good and ready. In addition, Dan went on record calling for a bill to be drawn up to charge the Russians for NASA having to babysit Dennis. My column last month told you what I thought of that little diatribe.

 

To add to the ammunition against his continuance: Earlier this year an American businessman was setting up a trip for people to go to the South Pacific and watch the Russian Mir Space Station end its days in a blaze of glory. According to the inside track on this, Goldin make it clear that any NASA employee who spent their own money and their own personal vacation time to go on this jaunt would not be welcomed back to their jobs at NASA!

 

Let me put this as simply, succinctly, and nicely as possible: It is high time for Dan Goldin to go!

 

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"Teachers and Tourists" September 2001

by Michelle Evans

 

We recently lost a member of the Orange County Space Society because of our stand on the flight of Dennis Tito to the International Space Station Alpha and on Space Tourism in general. (In case you were wondering, we are highly in favor of both.)

 

One of the reasons that this former member was not in favor of space tourism is that he believes it is “exploitation” to accomplish tourist flights and that these flights take away the chances for a real mark to be made in space by flying Barbara Morgan in a reinstated Teacher in Space project.

 

To make sure there is no mistaking my stand on this, I also want to assure our readers that I am also very much in favor of Barbara going into space, too.

I’m not sure exactly how these two issues became intertwined in his mind, but maybe I am missing something. I wrote back to him to ask for clarification, but never received an answer.

 

Below is my letter I wrote to him on this subject.

 

* * * *

 

“How does space tourism affect the Teacher in Space project? The fact that Dennis Tito bought a ticket into space brings the day closer when anyone can do so, including many teachers, not just one sanctioned by our government. If anything, Tito’s flight is helping to carry out the Teacher in Space project, not stifle it.

 

“I also do not understand how space tourism is in any way ‘exploitation.’ Is it exploitation for someone to buy a ticket to fly to New York or Tokyo, or to take a Caribbean cruise or maybe one to the Antarctic or even around the world?

 

“The first passengers to fly across the Pacific Ocean on the Pan Am Clipper paid today’s equivalent of $20,000 for that privilege. Because the people with wealth chose to do this, the airlines were then able to afford more and better airplanes, which eventually brought the price down so you and I could afford to buy a ticket and make the flight with relative ease and comfort today.

 

“Barbara Morgan cannot afford to send herself into space at today’s prices (even if the government would allow her). This is a sad statement when we are 45 years into the space program. She must be trained for years with her salary and flight paid for at government expense (with the bill footed by you and me and every other taxpayer). She has had to give up teaching to become a full time astronaut. Wouldn’t it have been a better idea if she could have bought a ticket, then brought those memories back to her classroom right away instead of waiting for years?

 

“I think you would find just about every person in OCSS agrees with your stand that the TIS program should be continued. It is yet another lie told to us by the government. Reagan said another teacher would fly, yet NASA has vehemently resisted for 15 years.

 

“If Dennis Tito had not flown and no other tourists are allowed to fly, what purpose does that serve, and how does it bring the day any closer when Barbara will fly? On the other hand Tito’s flight has shown millions of people around the world how space may one day open up personally for them, and that is so much more than NASA has done to excite the population of this world in a very long time.

 

“I want to go into space someday, along with any other teachers that want to go. I also want truck drivers, policemen, engineers, doctors, mechanics, administrative assistants, grocery clerks, astronomers, and janitors to be able to go, if that’s what they want. NASA will never make that happen, but people like Dennis Tito and people like those who support OCSS will.”

 

* * * *

 

I would love to solicit your views on this subject. Please write or e-mail me with any comments about both the Teacher in Space project and space tourism in general.

 

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"Descent into the Dark Ages" October 2001

by Michelle Evans

 

For all the fans of the original Star Trek, you might recall that during the show they offered a general outline of the things that led up to their present day, or our future.

 

When we look at Star Trek we usually see a future that looks like a utopia to us: starships plying the spaceways, people and even species living together in peace, transporters carrying us about in a flash, and all manner of wonderful things to look forward to.

 

At one time it is mentioned that to get to that point was not a straight progression of going to the Moon, Mars, and on out to the stars. Humankind paid a dear price for the progress and luxuries of the 23rd Century. Gene Roddenberry believed that before our arrival in that bright time, that we would undergo a major backslide into a new Dark Ages. Some of this was touched on in the film Star Trek: First Contact when the discovery of the warp drive was portrayed as having been accomplished by Zefram Cochrane in the years after a major war has left the Earth devastated.

 

During the 1960s, when this hypothesis was put forward by Roddenberry, I recall thinking to myself what a preposterous proposition this was. We live in an enlightened age of reason and understanding. Tensions and wars of the past are still present, but I could see the writing on the wall, that all this, too, would soon pass, and we could get on with the true age of exploration and discovery.

 

Unfortunately, it looks like my optimism may have been misplaced and the vision of Gene Roddenberry may yet come to pass. Our long deep descent into a new Dark Age may have already begun.

 

The spiral down this path was well worn even before the events of September 11th, but now there may be no turning back. Our priorities must shift under the onslaught of terrorism. Space will take a back seat in the near term, that is almost a certainty. Humanity must be safe from the barbarity of a few who strive to bring us all to our knees, before we can again lift our heads to the stars.

 

This is not to say that I believe the darkness will envelop us all for a long time. With proper wisdom and determination, we will all hopefully live to see this pass and a new age truly begin.

 

Space still holds our hope for the future. Humanity will still require of itself great deeds in the cause of freedom and exploration.

Our descent into the dark may be long and arduous, but we can all light a candle to make sure that we see our way back out the other side; higher, stronger, and better than ever dreamed before.

 

This year of 2001 started with such hope and optimism. We knew it would not be at all like that portrayed in the movie of that same name, but we still held out the hope that we were at least moving in the right direction. We must keep that in mind as we stumble ahead.

 

Maybe instead of being the watershed year for finding a monolith on the Moon, 2001 will instead be the year that future generations will always look back upon as the great turning point for humanity when we all stood up almost as one and said that enough was enough! The slaughter of innocents will not be tolerated and neither will anyone who condones such actions. This will lead us all to a much brighter future in the long run.

 

* * * * *

 

“It has been said that every catastrophe is an opportunity and one can only hope that this atrocity will unite the whole world in an effort to stamp out those responsible.

 

“Meanwhile, life must go on. To quote the words of the greatest Anglo-American of the last century, Winston Churchill: ‘Never give up – never give up – never EVER give up!’

 

“Sir Arthur C. Clarke”

 

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"The Apollo Hoax" November 2001

by Michelle Evans

 

Okay, let’s have a show of hands. How many of you out there remember the first lunar landing? Did you watch it live on television with millions of others or did you catch it during reruns on Fox Television?

 

It is a sad statement when more people get their opinions formed for them by “reality TV” than by the news. This is certainly the case with the perpetration of the Apollo Hoax in a program broadcast earlier this year.

 

I would hazard a guess that not too many people reading this column fall into the category where they believe the whole manned Moon landing program was staged in the Arizona Desert. That’s right, the movie “Capricorn One” was not a documentary!

 

I recently came across a letter from Arthur C. Clarke, noted scientist and science fiction author, concerning the Apollo Hoax. I wanted to share his thoughts with you this month. As is usual with Sir Arthur, he doesn’t pull his punches.

 

* * * * *

 

“As a long time admirer of the United States, I am appalled to hear that a recent poll suggests that 20 percent of Americans are ignorant fools. I hope the figure is grossly exaggerated, as no other term is strong enough to describe anyone who believes the Moon landings have been faked.

 

“If the late unlamented Evil Empire was still around, I might have suspected some of being communist sympathizers attempting to discredit the one achievement for which the U.S.A. may be remembered a thousand years from now.

 

“Remembering how quickly Water-gate unravelled, how could any sane person imagine that a conspiracy involving hundreds of thousands of people over more than a decade would not have done the same? Ben Franklin put it well: “A secret known to three people can be kept – as long as two of them are dead.”

 

“And how do these nitwits account for the fact that, for the last thirty years, the laser reflectors and radio sensors on the Moon have been transmitting terabytes of data back to Earth? Who do they think put them there – E.T.s?

 

“But I can’t waste any more time on lunatics. I am too busy proving that George Washington never existed, but was invented by the British Disinformation Service to account for a certain minor unpleasantness in the Colonies.”

 

Sincerely, Arthur C. Clarke, Colombo, Sri Lanka, 2001

 

* * * * *

 

That pretty much sums it all up. But then we still keep hearing about this. The hoax theory just won’t die. A recent segment on the Today Show gave more credence to it by giving the naysayers air time.

 

Sure, they appeared to spend most of their time saying that nearly all Americans do believe we landed on the Moon, but the host still asked questions as if the whole conspiracy notion was a reality. Space protagonist John Pike and moonwalking astronaut Charlie Duke sounded like they were on the defensive due to the tone of the piece.

 

What kind of world do we live in nowadays when we have to defend our technology? After all, that’s what this all comes down to: We are too stupid to have actually made it to the Moon on our own, so it must be faked. Yeah, and aliens built the pyramids while the stone heads on Easter Island were beamed down from the ancient civilization on Mars before they nuked themselves into oblivion.

 

Do we think so little of ourselves, or is it just that in the last 30 years we have lost sight of what we can achieve when we put our collective minds to it?

There is one irrefutable way to prove to everyone on this planet that we did accomplish this fantastic achievement of crossing the interplanetary void. We must simply go back and do it again.

 

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"NASA's Giant Leap Backward" December 2001

by Michelle Evans

 

If you have been keeping up with my commentaries recently, you know I have not been very favorable toward NASA Administrator Dan Goldin (“End of the Goldin Era,” O.C.SPACE, Aug.). In fact, when it was recently announced that he had finally tendered his resignation after nearly 10 years in office, I couldn’t begin to describe my feelings.

 

I wanted Dan to leave because I saw he had lost the vision I thought he had when he first took the job under the administration of George W’s daddy. As a last bit of proof of his current lack of interest in real space exploration, one of his final acts as Administrator of NASA was to send a letter to the head of the House Finance Committee to tell her that under no circumstances should they approve any sort of NASA funding for a robotic mission to Pluto and the outer solar system. (And here I was with the silly idea that NASA was supposed to be about exploring the unknown. How naive I was.)

 

Now the wonderful thing that happened is that, Goldin’s insistence aside, both the House and Senate overwhelmingly approved a NASA budget that included money to get started on the Pluto mission. Considering Goldin’s relationship with people holding the purse strings, I really have to wonder if this might have been a shrewd move on his part to actually get the funding approved through use of reverse psychology (“Whatever you do, please don’t throw me in the briar patch!” as Brer Rabbit once said). But then I am probably giving him way too much credit.

Now we are in the classic situation of being very careful of what we wish for, because now we got it!

 

It has been a year since the election, and the new Bush Administration has shown basically no interest in space whatsoever.

Since Goldin was a political appointee, it was assumed that he would be gone quickly after the new President took office, but this was not to be. However, the wheels were turning to replace Goldin, albeit very slowly.

 

Many competent and deserving people were offered the job and every one of them eventually declined because they knew that they would be up against a hard-nosed guy in the Office of Management and Budget who was doing everything he could to stop additional spending on space, specifically the expansion of the International Space station into the research facility for which it was designed.

 

What this means is with recent budget overruns, the station has been scaled back so much that only three crewmembers will be able to staff the station when the shuttle is not docked.

 

Since it takes nearly the full time of three astronauts just to maintain the station and make sure the systems are running to keep everyone alive in space, this leaves pretty much zero time for any science to get done, which is what we all thought the ISS was built for in the first place!

 

The budget person the new NASA Administrator would be going head-to-head with is Sean O’Keefe at OMB. So guess what? The guy who prevented the really qualified people, and those with some vision, from taking the job, is now the guy who has had the job offered to him on a platter. Not only that, but he apparently actively lobbied hard to get this appointment because he knew he could make a big difference when it comes to slashing NASA’s overblown budget (this budget takes up way less than one percent of the entire U.S. Budget, by the way).

 

So, it looks like it has just gone from bad to worse. I hope I am completely wrong, but all signs so far say this is not to be. The best chance we have is if we all write our congresspeople and tell them to vote against the confirmation of Sean O’Keefe and to open the door for someone with real vision on where we should be going in space. I don’t believe that it is Mr. O’Keefe who will take us there.

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