Sometime last week, I came across this call to action against negative nerd stereotypes. My first thought was, “Oh, I’m going to have to do this.” My second thought was “Oh, I’m going to have to do this for a lot of things.”
So this is the first part of (tentatively) a five-part trilogy. Today: NASA. I know you’ve heard it all, here and elsewhere. I know it’s easy to be positive about space exploration, although a lot of people can get pretty tetchy over manned vs. unmanned spaceflight, and the necessity of one or the other.
I’ve already written (once or twice) about the ideological aspects of space travel that made me fall in love in the first place, so today I’m going to try to do something different. On top of seeing the shuttle launch this summer, I just watched Apollo 13 and viewed last Saturday’s GRAIL launch, both of which got me thinking about the different propulsion systems NASA has used over the years. Limiting myself to just the shuttle program, Apollo, and GRAIL, we have:
The Saturn V
Might well be my favorite to see launch — it’s so slow, Atlas-like, as if it’s somehow aware of the weight on its shoulders. The Wikipedia article confirms that it’s still “the tallest, heaviest and most powerful rocket ever brought to operational status,” and that it “holds the record for the heaviest launch vehicle payload,” with over 7.5 million pounds of thrust. All together, there were 13 Saturn V launches, with zero loss of crew or payload.
That is one snazzy machine, and the one I’ve been physically closest to.
Like apes to an obelisk. Astounding.
Of course, reading the Wikipedia entry gives a pretty interesting picture of the history of the program. (I know that some things are just plain complicated, and this may be one of them — nonetheless, I cannot read the name of Wernher von Braun without hearing this Tom Lehrer song.)