For All the Space Travel Dreamers

I feel cheated about space travel. I got bamboozled!

This blog is for all the dreamers who imagined a future that included regular and frequent space travel — for the dreamers who got bamboozled by the broken promise of a space-age future. 

Space Travel: The Starship Enterprise

Space – The Final Frontier

I have always been possessed with the idea of space flight. As a child, I didn’t play with fire trucks, blocks or normal childhood toys. I pretended that I was a NASA Mission Control engineer. Or better still, I pretended that I was an astronaut on a space mission. My eyes were on the sky, not the sandlot.

My obsession was not a phase―it persisted throughout my youth and my adult life. I studied and read everything I could about space and space travel. I paid enormous attention to the NASA missions to the moon and I fully believed it was just the start of a bigger space program to follow. My exuberant beliefs were nourished by Walter Cronkite’s TV reporting of space missions, excitedly telling us how important these events were, and how the future would be changed by the dawning of the “space-age” we were witnessing.

In 1967 through 1970, I watched every episode of Walter Cronkite’s “The 21st Century” on CBS. This program postulated the advances the next century would bring, due to all the rapid technological changes occurring at the time. The space-age future did indeed look bright.

I watched episodes of “Star Trek,” the 1966-1969 NBC series, which further stoked my beliefs in the coming space-age evolution. By1970, after the moon landing, it was obvious for me and many others of my era, that we would have colonies on the moon and be commonly traveling to Mars by the turn of the century.

I didn’t just dream about the future, I worked hard to become part of that hi-tech, space-age future by obtaining three engineering degrees. My first professional engineering job was at NASA in 1975. However, I quickly learned that NASA was no longer the rapid incubator of creative thinking as it was in the early 1960s. Instead, it was a bureaucratic place, undergoing staff reductions, where concern for keeping your job was paramount—not advancing space-age technology.

“The Right Stuff” had left NASA. My ideas about an efficient space launch vehicle were ignored. Although I quickly learned that my dream of working at NASA was a misguided goal, I still remained hopeful that the coming Space Shuttle program would re-ignite my shining dream of the future. It was not to be. The technical failures of the Shuttle lead to declining interest in space, declining budgets, and placed my dreams in a deep freeze.

Now, in the second decade of the new century, I feel cheated that the space-age dreams of my youth are unfulfilled. I got bamboozled! All the dreamers of my era got cheated.

However, the heat from a new light shining on the subject may thaw out my frozen dreams. Now NASA and other satellite users are embracing private industry for launching their payloads into space. Now, my decades-long dream of an efficient, low-cost launch system has a better chance of getting implemented than during the bureaucratic, government operated era.

Perhaps the right people will read the book “What If We Made Space Travel Practical?

Maybe the dreams of my youth will still come true. Please check out the web site www.StarHorseProject.com in order to understand more about making space travel practical.

photo credit: Boogeyman13 via photopin cc

American Space Program Has Lost Its Mojo

The Space Program was Negatively Influenced by Cold War Thinking

Rockets Are Not the Best Way to Get into Orbit

To put it simply: our current space program has lost its mojo―it is simply a refinement of what was done before. Few seem to be interested in re-examining what can be accomplished. Rather, we only seem interested in making small, low-risk improvements to previous technology—yesteryear’s, not tomorrow’s, or even today’s.

Hubble's Wide View of 'Mystic Mountain' in Infrared

By NASA Goddard Photo and Video (Flickr Photo Some rights reserved) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Our approach to going into space has barely changed since the initial design decisions were made in the 1950s and 1960s. The decisions, made during the Cold War era, were based on proving to the Russians that our rockets could reliably destroy Russian targets and thus provide a deterrent. The exploration of space was only a subterfuge. Our manned space program had to use the same propulsion system as our military system in order to prove to the Russians that our systems were effective.

The design decisions shaping the U.S. space program scarcely considered making the program practical, economical or low cost. It didn’t matter how much the rocket cost if it prevented a Russian nuclear bomb from reaching our shores. Why do we continue to make only small incremental improvements to a fundamentally non-practical launch system?

Rockets are not the only way to get into space. However, traditional rockets are the common item people imagine when they think of space travel. Rockets have been ingrained in our psyche as the method to get into space since the early days of science fiction.

“What if” we consider and examine all methods to get into LEO? Would we still select traditional rockets to get into space? Have science and technology advanced enough since we selected rockets in the 1950s to allow better choices than rockets today?

We owe it to our future to reexamine the choices made in the past and to determine if a new, more practical solution is possible. Let’s rethink space travel. The book “What If We Made Space Travel Practical?” dives into this topic at length.

Learn more by examining the website www.StarHorseProject.com.