If you listen with an open mind, you can learn a lot from people who disagree with you. Even questioning the fundamentals from time to time is a good exercise to make sure we are on the right track and not on the proverbial bus trip to
I really resonated with the comment by Joe Fitzgerald of
Joe thinks space exploration is a long way from Ma & Pa Ingalls setting out across the
Some time back I had a great conversation with Mike Griffin where he pointed out that we are at the earliest stages of space exploration, and likened our times to the era of the Viking longboats. Those crude ships were just barely enough to get across the stormy
In the 1850’s there was a proposal to build dirigibles to transport folks from the east coast to the
Ma & Pa Ingalls will have to wait for a few more improvements in technology before we can get off the planet at anything like regular people prices. But I don’t think that we should give us seafaring just because all we have is a Viking longboat. We just have more impetus to build a better boat.
Point well taken, Joe; your comment certainly made me think.
Friday I had a “dissenting opinion” from a well respected source. Bob Thompson who was the first Space Shuttle Program Manager from 1974 to 1981 gave me a call. Bob is a man of vast talents who was responsible for building the Skylab space station before he was handed the near-impossible job to build the first reusable spacecraft. He is singularly proud of his accomplishment, as he should be.
Bob’s treatise was simple; we have got enough to do to master near earth space – low earth orbit to geosync – to keep us busy and learning for the next 30 to 50 years. His proposal is to keep doing what we have been doing and put any thoughts of going back to the moon or on to other places off until a later date. I cannot do his argument justice here but it was fascinating to hear someone who is so completely counter to the prevailing conventional wisdom. It always makes me more thoughtful when the fundamentals are examined in a well considered way.
As a byproduct of this conversation I got a great recounting of the early days of Skylab and how many of the fundamental engineering tradeoffs were made in early Shuttle design. Extraordinarily educational. Lots to think about. I hope Bob and I get to debate this one some more.
After a weekend’s worth of thought, I am still, as they say, disinclined to acquiesce to Bob’s opinion. A longer explanation is worthwhile but I am running out of time and space today. That will be a blog post for a future date.
Keep thinking and we’ll keep talking; all the while working toward the future.
Meanwhile, I’ve got to go help bail out the longboat a little bit . . . .