Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Antique Roadshow: Shuttle Discovery

Well, the Shuttle Discovery finally made it up into orbit. A bird hit it and chunks of tile and other unknown parts fell off during the ascent. It did not even reach the planned altitude. NASA officials say one chunk may have been an eight-inch piece of tile. The crew needs to get outside and crawl underneath before they are certain they can safely make it back home. It all reminds me of a 1967 Buick Special I owned in 1979.

Did you know that construction of the 4.5 million pound Discovery began in 1979? It was only the third shuttle of a total of five off that assembly line. They finally finished building Discovery four years later, in 1983. It has been back in the shop for repairs every year since then. The Space Shuttle should have been retired years ago, like my Buick.

Let me put this in perspective. Do you know that the first few cars off the assembly line of any factory, anywhere, usually do not even start? That has always been true for any new model, not just the Yugo. Car manufacturers do not dare put those first cars on the road. They actually tear them apart not long after they are built. Now imagine that you are now riding one of the first models of something made back in 1979; a motorcycle, a car or even a plane. Are you willing to take it up to 100 mph? How about 7,500 mph? Could you feel confident about taking that machine for a few spins around the planet? Remember, you will need to seriously slam on the brakes and glide that old ship back through 50 miles of Earth's junk-filled atmosphere. What a risky gamble the US Space program has become!

Do you know if there is a serious problem with a tile they intend to park the shuttle at the International Space Station (another ancient piece of flotsam and jetsam) for repairs? Nothing a roll of duct tape and some plaster of paris cannot remedy, huh? Actually, if they cannot fix it properly, the astronauts/demolition derby drivers are stuck at the station until spare parts can be sent up via a much more reliable unmanned Russian craft. The Space Station is the most expensive and dangerous human habitation ever constructed. Do you wonder what it might be like to spend a few nights there? The plumbing doesn't work, the food is terrible and the air stinks. The Space Station is also near the point where it will come roaring back to Earth in a burning flash. Nice motel. Sounds like the Bates Motel.

Why all this risk? Let me guess, we need the Shuttle and the Station for expanding military operations into Earth's orbit and beyond? NASA says this is part of the objective to go to the Moon and reach Mars. Strangely, we have already sent manned spacecraft to the Moon and unmanned craft to Mars. It is a well-known fact that NASA is primarily a cover for conducting military operations in space. No other purpose can justify the incredible expense of manned space missions.

What about the cost of this huge bottle rocket? America is spending billions to build one house in space while millions of humans starve in Niger and Burkina Faso. The budget of this single shuttle mission could feed the starving masses in Central Africa for at least a year! Of course, one week's military operation costs in Iraq would cover the same costs of starving Africans, for several years. The U.S. Space Shuttle is a perfect example of how rich nations waste the world's precious resources while leaving children in the Third World to needlessly die premature deaths.

When the one million-piece Discovery comes gliding back through the atmosphere, as a slowly burning hulk, as it is designed to do, no wonder if it barely makes it safely to the ground. Discovery has already flown 30 previous space missions. Engineers admit the Space Shuttle design is obsolete. Many of the systems, including the onboard computers, make it a real antique in every sense. My '67 Buick Special was driven into the ground sometime in the early 1980's, after 270,000 miles and three engines. Then again, that Buick was not the 4th car off a new model line that only produced 6 working cars. The previous two working models off the Space Shuttle assembly line were the Challenger and the Columbia. We must learn from what happened to the scientists we risked on the last flights of those two vessels.

1 comment:

freeman? said...

"The U.S. Space Shuttle is a perfect example of how rich nations waste the world's precious resources while leaving children in the Third World to needlessly die premature deaths."

It is a perfect example of how the drive for empire wastes all precious resources. It does so at the cost of premature death and usurpation of all liberty and destruction of social values the world over, including the empire's own "Homeland."