Saturday, November 3, 2007

Kudos and Some Questions.

Whether a daring-do or a hyped up exercise in obfuscating the Emperor's week of misfortune, today's spacewalking team deserves our praise. The positives are that the flight and ground team was able to prepare an unscripted spacewalk of major complexity (astronauts, tools, robotics, anomaly responses, etc.) in just a few days time. They executed flawlessly and restored the damaged solar panel to nearly full operating capacity. Now on to the flawed joint on the other side.

The success of today's efforts, however, continues to beg a few questions. First, if such a task could be choreographed in such a short period of time with acceptable risk, why do we spend so much time, and therefore taxpayer dollars, preparing for the more mundane tasks? Perhaps we are being just a little too conservative?

The second question is the big one. If such operations can be undertaken in short order with great success, why are our astronauts so afraid of doing more operations like that in space? If we did, we could actually launch smaller packages on existing rockets, putting the investment into the vehicles that will open access to the solar system. Instead of buying Ares-1 and Ares-5, we could fly on Atlas and Delta, continuously improving their reliability in the meantime, assemble our merchant fleet on orbit, and get on with exploration today, instead of 2020.

Of course, we all know the answer to that. Sen. Shelby is more immediately interested in keeping his own job than he is in seeing this country reassume a leadership position in space. Maybe he already goes out often for Chinese food?

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