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calendar   Friday - September 01, 2006

After The Shuttle

I am disappointed. NASA is going back to “tried and true technology”? This is just a modified version of the Apollo capsules. Of course, NASA probably didn’t have much choice considering how much funding has been cut from the space program over the last few decades. I would much rather have seen the X-33 or some SCRAMJET variant zooming across Earth’s upper atmosphere to a fully functioning space station with huge research facilities and living accomodations for several hundred.

We are now five years past Arthur Clarke’s vision of humans in space in “2001”. The problem is simple: take a close look at the space station in that movie and you’ll see that it was built by private companies .. not government. The orbiter has PanAm on the side and inside the station was a Howard Johnsons, if I remember correctly.

Space will not be colonized or explored by governments, neither ours nor anyone else’s. Government funding is too whimsical and often at the mercy of partisan politics or military expediency. The exploration of space is too important to mankind to be left in the hands of bureaucrats. I wish the government would sell off NASA and let private companies take over. If that ever happens, our children or grandchildren will see colonies on other planets in no time ... provided the Vulcans and Klingons are willing to accept us ....

imageimageLockheed Wins Contract to Build
NASA’s New Spaceship

(WASHINGTON POST) - Friday, September 1, 2006

Lockheed Martin Corp. won a multibillion-dollar contract yesterday to build a vehicle to replace NASA’s space shuttles, put a human on the moon for the first time since 1972 and be the precursor to a manned spaceship to Mars.

The award marks NASA’s most concrete step to fulfill President Bush’s two-year-old, $230 billion promise that the space agency would return astronauts to the moon and restore excitement about space exploration. NASA has planned to replace the shuttles since the mid-1980s and has spent almost $5 billion to do so—with little success so far.

“It’s just thrilling, for all of us,” said Skip Hatfield, NASA’s project manager. The vehicle, known as Orion, is the embodiment of the “very future of human space flight,” he said.

Orion will look somewhat like the three-man Apollo command module but will carry as many as six astronauts. Like the shuttle, Orion will be able to carry cargo to and from the International Space Station.

Orion is expected to make its first manned flight by 2014, four years after NASA’s three operating shuttles are retired. NASA said it hopes for a moon landing by 2020.

Unlike the shuttle, which lands like an airplane on a runway, Orion will descend with the aid of a parachute to landings in the ocean or on land. NASA plans to build two of the vehicles, one for manned flight and the other for unmanned. After judging how often the spaceships can be reused, the agency will decide how many more to buy, Hatfield said.

It was a somewhat unexpected win for Lockheed, the Pentagon’s largest contractor. The other competitor, Northrop Grumman, was considered the front-runner because along with its subcontractor, Boeing Co., it has been involved with all of the country’s manned space programs. Lockheed also has had a long history with NASA, though not entirely positive, and not predominantly with manned vehicles.

The company builds the shuttle’s external fuel tank and, in a joint venture with Boeing known as the United Space Alliance, took over day-to-day management of the shuttle program in 1996. But it was blamed for the 1999 disappearance of the Mars Climate Orbiter, which vanished into space or burned up in the Mars atmosphere after Lockheed engineers incorrectly programmed it using English rather than metric units. When the Genesis space capsule crashed in 2004, NASA said it was because of errors in designs prepared by the company. Lockheed’s earlier effort to build a shuttle replacement—the X-33 “space plane”—was canceled in 2001 after it ran into technological and cost problems.

- More on the story at WAPO ...


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Posted by The Skipper   United States  on 09/01/2006 at 07:34 AM   
Filed Under: • Science-Technology •  
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Not that very many people ever read this far down, but this blog was the creation of Allan Kelly and his friend Vilmar. Vilmar moved on to his own blog some time ago, and Allan ran this place alone until his sudden and unexpected death partway through 2006. We all miss him. A lot. Even though he is gone this site will always still be more than a little bit his. We who are left to carry on the BMEWS tradition owe him a great debt of gratitude, and we hope to be able to pay that back by following his last advice to us all:
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Oh, and here's some kind of visitor flag counter thingy. Hey, all the cool blogs have one, so I should too. The Visitors Online thingy up at the top doesn't count anything, but it looks neat. It had better, since I paid actual money for it.
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