Monday, February 8, 2010

End of an Era

This entry is not about ham radio. I live and work in a town that is scattered with remembrances of manned space flight. One of the local high schools has a 2 stage rocket in front of it. The other high school is named "Astronaut". Many of the grade schools hold names like Apollo or Challenger. We have parks with monuments to Mercury and Gemini.

If you look across the river from the hospital I work in, you can see the VAB the vehicle assembly building, where the shuttle is readied for launch.

The VAB is 525 ft tall. The Statue of Liberty is 305. The volume of the VAB is 129,428,000 cub ft. The volume of the Pentagon is 77,025,000 cu ft. The VAB equals 3.5 Empire State Buildings. It covers 8 acres. To paint the flag on the building required 6,000 gallons of paint. It is hardened to beyond a cat 4 hurricane, something greater than 140mph sustained winds

The Space center sits on a little jut of land called Merritt Island that sits next to the Atlantic:

You can see launch pad A and B next to the ocean I live out in the sticks in the upper left corner of this picture in a place called Turnbull and I work in Titusville a few miles south.

At a little past 4 this morning I witnessed the letter perfect liftoff of the last night launch of a manned space craft this country will likely ever perform, and it made me feel very very sad. The temperature was about about 45 F and 63 seconds after the candle was light, the tremendous wave of noise that is put off by the explosive power of such a device hit my house. Because of the cool temp the air was particularly dense and the rumble was very loud, and in that instant I realized I would hear that rumble only a couple more times until it would go silent likely forever. (63 sec*1100 ft per second at sea level =13 miles = the distance between me and the candle)

What started with Kennedy will end with Obama because there will be no political will to start up the program once it has closed. The energy barrier to reignite manned space flight will be too high. The thousands of trained technicians will disperse into the world, perhaps to places like China and India and Russia to man their space programs. The engineers and scientists will disperse as well and the whole superstructure of human capital will be laid to waste, and the expenditure of energy required to reignite manned space flight will never be expended. Other countries will take up the gauntlet, and other countries will reap the rewards, and yet another thing in which we presently lead the world will be no more. I think it's very short sighted.