Space, UFOs and Me.
December 3, 2012
My 1st impressions of space began with Science Fiction B-Movies of the 1950's. What seemed would be an endless production of them would intermingle with news clips of Unidentified Flying Objects and wars springing up around the world. There was also the rocket development movies like the X-15 rocket plane. My Catholic family was huge and I was the last of them to be born. I was 10th. My parents had died early and my oldest brother was sent to Korea during that war. The next in line and those that followed were the scroungers that provided for my family. We ate a lot of day old bread, government cheese and nonfat dry milk. My brothers and sisters raised me in a world of comic books, magazines, and local theaters. Then along came a 1950 something National Geographic magazine that spoke of a green Mars with lush vegetations and possibilities of life. My mind wandered through the pages and I wondered what the Martians would be like. It seemed our manifest destiny would be to venture into space and meet those aliens. Perhaps I would get the chance to meet the ones that flew the ten UFOs over the White House in the year that I was born, 1952. That manifest destiny turned into reality with President John F. Kennedy and his dedication to a United States Space Program to put a man on the moon. The lists of advancements from it are endless. It came at a time in our history that made sense of it all for me and that we were advancing into the 21st Century. Astronaut Gus Grissom was a favorite during the Gemini Missions. President Kennedy's assassination was crushing as was the deaths of Chaffee, White and & Grissom. At least, President Kennedy's space program lived on and it became our own. The Apollo Missions had their finest moment when we stepped upon the moon. I remember an Australian newspaper that read; "The Yanks did it!" The world united behind us for this moment and during Apollo 13 with it's successful failure, safely returning home. Also our own, was the high tech employment that sprung up during the missions and the sciences from it. We mployed the best and the brightest from all over the world. These sciences directly benefitted us all. The Saturn V rocket systems capable of carrying men to the moon was our building block into space, or so I thought. Sadly, it was a building block that was traded so that we could sell Pepsi in China by then President Nixon and Henry Kissinger. President Nixon then slashed the NASA Programs, our greatest scientific budget, employer of scientists, technicians and the best source of information of the known Universe. He laid off 247,000 people directly related to the space programs and NASA. What type of lunacy is this? I was in the USAF when I voted against President Richard Nixon. He and I didn't share the same interests, except of course, his efforts in ending the Viet Nam War. The space sciences persisted despite his efforts to end them. Those people who formed the basis for our space advancements had followed their dreams to form other space programs in other countries. The world now shares President John F. Kennedy's vision and to quote Battle Star Galactica, "So say we all!" So with those cuts came a movie by Stanley Kubric; "2001: A Space Odyssey" and it lightened the disappointments of slashed budgets, cut programs and war. It also fueled the next generation of space enthusiasts. Yayaaa! It seems Hollywood would again give us the impetus for spacefaring. As budgets were slashed these international agencies rose from the ashes while the space program in the United States slowed to a shuttle program, (space truck) and some fledgling robotic missions. Our space budget stood at less than 1% of our annual budget and the science that emerged was amazing! (Why do we cut successful programs anyway?) Robotic missions and their success stood out. The Mariner Missions let me know there were no Amazon women on Venus and no reptiles would return to Earth., Viking 1 landed on Mars and my illusions of it were replaced with cold hard facts of a desolate planet. Tests came back positive for life on Mars that were argued into oblivion. Mars remained an enigma after so many had failed to land there. The Voyager mission refilled my fascination with other worlds and the bazaar places we would find. The "Grand Tour Planetary Alignment" that propelled Voyager out into the Universe for us to see seemed a divine hand coming into play in spite of ourselves. What wondrous places are out there! These little satellites were playing a symphony for the world to hear but it seemed they would be dashed once again. During President Reagan's budgetary slashes and record deficit spending he cut our space missions further and our beloved Challenger blew up taking with it those brave souls. It was apparent we were pointing our missiles down again instead of into space. (Who votes for these guys?) Other missions succeeded and Galileo pictures landed on my desktop computer. During Reagan's years I passed around petitions to endorse a joint NASA effort and the European Space Agency & ASA for the Cassini Huygens mission. I was rewarded with images of of Saturns's moon, Titan. Raw images rolled onto my television set and computer. Mars missions always remained a favorite and by now I was a member of the Original Planetary Society. I later joined the Mars Underground and believe to this day the importance of a manned colonization of it. The robotic landers continue to my joy and one of them, the Phoenix Lander has my name included with list of members of the Planetary Society. Spirit and Opportunity lasted amazingly beyond their scheduled operation. The Rotelli Noodle, the methane discovery by the MRO, the "Blueberries" and the riverbeds are waiting for review. It seems the vote is still out on life on Mars and December 3, 2012 will change history thanks to the robotic science laboratory, Curioslity. I just know it! So what do I want from the space program? More and more and more. I would like shielding developed for radiation deflection or capture on long space missions. (I have ideas for this.) I would like faster spaceships. I believe that by terraforming Mars and Venus, we can learn the sciences of global warming on our own planet without Earth being part of the experiment. I believe we should pursue life and it origins. If Transpermia scattered microbial life throughout the universe, what is it's source? I think we should mine asteroids and use those assets floating in space to make space ports and stations. I believe we should seed life from Earth onto every available planet. Let us cool down Venus and make a sister Earth. Let us warm Mars and open a tourist trap at the Mars Face. (Just kidding) Our Earth is a finite and fragile place. One rock from the middle of nowhere could end it. As we expand our footprints into the heavens, we reduce the risk of mass extinction. We expand our knowledge and we improve our lives. We adapt and move byond the confines of Earth. Perhaps one day we may push Enceladus into Mars to make it like Earth is scale and size. We can build worlds from that which was given us. Why aren't we? I would rather study craters on Mars than to make them in the Middle East.
An asteroid or comet headed for Earth is the only large-scale natural disaster we can prevent. Working together to fund our Shoemaker NEO Grants for astronomers, we can help save the world.