Friday, April 29, 2022

Lost In Space

Your tax dollars at work. 

Image by nini kvaratskhelia from Pixabay 

This is a weekly column consisting of letters to my perspicacious progeny. I write letters to my grandkids — the Stickies — eventual selves to advise them and haunt them after they've become grups and/or I'm deleted. Best perused on a screen large enough for even your parents to see and navigate easily.   

Trigger Warning: This column is rated SSC — Sexy Seasoned Citizens — Perusal by kids, callowyutes, or grups may result in a debilitating meltdown.  

Featuring Dana: Hallucination, guest star, and charming literary device  

"If you are in a spaceship that is traveling at the speed of light, and you turn on the headlights, does anything happen?" -Steven Wright

Dear (eventual) Grandstickies and Great-Grandstickies (and Gentlereaders),

Remember NASA? Well, they're in the news again and trying to get the most powerful rocket ever built off the ground so personkind can once again walk on the moon, perhaps even Mars... eventually.  

{The people that invented Tang, right?}

Those of us, well, many of us of a certain age (there were, and are, no shortage of Citizens of the Republic opposed to spending money on space exploration) fondly remember watching Neil Armstrong taking "one small step for (a?) man, one giant leap for mankind" on the surface of the moon. However, nobody has walked on the moon since 1972.  

{What's that (a?) about?}

Long story. Anyway, NASA — for those of you too old to remember, too young to care, or too busy to notice, NASA, a.k.a. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration — is the government entity that managed to get Mr. Armstrong to the moon. On 5/25/61 President John F. Kennedy asked Congress for the money to put Americans on the moon before the end of the decade. Neil Armstrong went for a walk on 7/20/69. 

{What was the hurry?}

The "space race" was one of the battles of the Cold War 1. America used to be able to get at least some things done relatively quickly. Compare that to California's effort, with a bunch o' billions tossed in by The Fedrl Gummit, to build a high-speed rail line from L.A. to San Francisco. They've been at it since 2008; a radically dumb downed version is (currently) scheduled to be completed by 2033.

NASA is still very much with us, but like the old gray mare, it ain't what it used to be. 

Until Tony Stark (Elon Musk) built his rocket ship we were completely dependent on the Russians to shuttle our astronauts/scientists to and from the International Space Station. The tickets are even more expensive than those for a Strolling Bones concert.

NASA's been building the most powerful rocket ever built — to return personkind to the moon, and theoretically, take a stroll on Mars — since 2011. 

The ship was supposed to be ready by 2016. It's currently being tested and NASA hopes to launch a return trip to the Moon in June but without any spoons. It will be an unpersoned flight that orbits the Moon, but doesn't land, and then returns home. 

{Doesn't that make it the ultimate drone? Now that's a kit I'd buy.}

Better start saving up then. The original estimate of $2,000,000,000 per flight is now $4,000,000,000 per flight for a rocket that can only be used once. NASA's spent about $23,000,000,000 on this project, so far, and will probably be looking to recover some of its investment, like any well-run government agency.   

And it doesn't come with a lunar module, the part that will actually land on the moon. Building that has been handed off to SpaceX, Mr. Musk's company. Or not.

Although SpaceX got the contract by beating out the likes of Boeing and Blue Origin, NASA recently announced that it will be seeking bids for someone to build a second lander, while simultaneously expanding Tony Stark's contract.

{This is a goof, right? You made that last part up.}   

Nuh-uh. Follow the link or do your own research. 

The good(?) news is that NASA hopes that someone will be walking on the Moon as early as 2025, the culmination of a 13-year-long project. However, please note it only took them eight years, half a century ago, using computers that were less powerful than the phone in your pocket.

Which brings us to Bill Nelson. 

{It does?}   

Clarence William Nelson, who will be 80 years old next September, has been running NASA for the last year or so. Mr. Nelson, a professional politician since the last time someone walked on the Moon, is highly qualified for the job. 

He grew up near Cape Canaveral and was the second sitting member of Congress to fly in space on the space shuttle Columbia, 35 years ago. Before getting his current job, he served on the NASA Advisory Council for a couple of years, one of 12 committees that meets 3 times a year and offers advice to NASA.

Former Senator Nelson was confirmed by unanimous consent (without a vote) by his former colleagues. 

In other news, Elon Musk, asked if he is worried about NASA getting to Mars before he does while eating lunch, started laughing, and choked on a sandwich. An unknown hero administered the Heimlich maneuver and tragedy was averted. 

{Now I know you made all that up!}

Only the part about Tony Stark Elon Musk's close encounter with a sandwich.

Poppa loves you,
Have an OK day

P.S. 4/19/22, "NASA’s huge 'Mega Moon rocket' is being removed from its launchpad and sent for repairs after failing three fuel tests in two weeks. Following the failures, NASA has said that the rocket’s slated June launch window will be 'challenging' to meet."

Scroll down to share this column/access oldies. If you enjoy my work, and no advertising, please consider buying me a coffee via PayPal/credit-debit card.    

Feel free to comment and set me straight on Cranky's Facebook page. I post my latest columns on Saturdays, other things other days. Cranky don't tweet.