Hit the Books: How NASA Survived the Reagan Era into the Dark Ages

Americans celebrated this week Successful delivery of NASA’s Tenacity vehicle to me Its destination is on Mars, Ushering in a new era of interplanetary exploration. However, when it comes to researching the solar system around us, the United States doesn’t always lead from the front. During the Reagan administration, for example, the agency saw its budget cut in favor of building weapons before the anticipated Cold War confrontation with the Soviet Union, as we see in this excerpt from David W. Brown’s recent work, the mission.

Mission cover

Harper Collins

From the book The Letter: Or: How a disciple of Karl Sagan, a former motocross racer, Congressman of the Texas Tea Party, the world’s worst typewriter salesman, a resident of the California mountains, an anonymous NASA employee, went to the war with Mars, survived the rebellion in Saturn, the strikes dealt with Washington, and they stole a flight on an Alabama lunar rocket to send a space robot to Jupiter in search of the second Garden of Eden at the bottom of a strange ocean inside an icy world called Europe (true story) © 2021 David W. Brown. From the Custom House, a collection of books from William Morrow / HarperCollins Publishers. Reprinted with permission.

For planetary scientists, the Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan years of the past were like the Dark Ages, the monks who leaned in pockets on the embers of civilization. For a strong decade that began in late 1978, NASA did not launch any planetary science missions, and by and large the only space science data returning to Earth came from Voyager 1 and 2 of the most distant planets in the solar system, as it would get three weeks of data. Then three to five years of silence – hardly enough to sustain an entire field of scientific research. Voyager’s findings in Jupiter fueled the desire of the interested planetary science community to return there, but that required Reagan to fund the Galileo spacecraft – something his administration worked hard to avoid when he took office in 1981. The new president believed he had a mandate to cut non-defense spending And he’d been following, and if you weren’t building bombs or battleships or Black Hawk helicopters, your budget was ready to take – and they did. While top NASA performed well overall, that money was largely directed to the space shuttle program, which has become something of a flying statue of liberty in the public’s imagination. In any case, the shuttle had military applications, including deploying spy satellites and, on paper at least, stealing satellites from foreign governments. However, thieves on the supply side would still get their pressure from the agency, and that means science. Before the ink dries on new presidential paper, the White House told NASA that Galileo, the Hubble Space Telescope and the International Polar Solar Mission of the US Space Agency and European Space Agency to study the sun could hold two cards (for now). In this way, the Solar Pole has disappeared. The Europeans invested more than a hundred million dollars in them, and America thanked them for the trouble by withdrawing without warning, leaving the Europeans in a state of anger. The carnage continued with the VOIR spacecraft, the orbiting imaging radar Venus: evaporated. This repeal, too, ended badly. If abandoning Solar Polar was an uninvited lust forced upon America’s allies abroad, then the abolition of the Venus was in the least A rude gesture that suggests the same to home planetary scientists.

But that Galileo’s mission – how it upset and upset the White House. How did the administration want to kill this brutality of half a billion dollars! This expedition to Jupiter. . . We Were I was just there With voyager! Why did we even talk about this? So OMB customizes the Galileo system in its interim agency plan. For that twin Voyager spacecraft: What exactly was there to learn about the planets past Saturn, anyway? Uranus! Neptune! Does it matter I mean, come on! Just issue the shutdown command, and we can also turn off the demon-born Deep Space network as well, those gigantic twenty-story wireless dishes that are required to talk to them. That’s two hundred and 22 million dollars saved overnight. Between Galileo and Voyager, we can cut costs by half a billion.

To save what was to become even to strangers a sinking ship, the audience began to participate. In one case, Stan Kent, a California engineer, created what he called the Viking Fund – a special scroll effort to cover costs relative to the downlink time of the deep space network of Viking 1, the last surviving spacecraft on the surface of Mars. Donate Now to Feed a Hungry Robot – Send checks to 3033 Moore Park Ave. # 27, San Jose, CA 95128. The Viking program was once the pinnacle of NASA’s space science, the agency’s most ambitious endeavor since the Apollo program, and, upon conception, a possible prelude to Apollo’s apparent heir: human missions to Mars.

Between 1965 and 1976, NASA maintained a steady series of complex Mars investigations. Mariner 4, a flight in 1965, was humankind’s first successful encounter with the Red Planet. Mariners 6 and 7 followed four years later, closely photographing the disk of Mars in full, and these two images, grouped together, revealed a true rotating planet – just like Earth. In 1971, Mariner 9 was the first spacecraft to enter orbit around another planet, mapping Mars with high accuracy and capturing dust storms and weather patterns. Like the dash lines in Genesis, every spacecraft in succession has made Mars a real world like ours. By the time the Vikings landing craft left the launch pads at Cape Canaveral in 1975, there was no hope for the alien civilizations that existed, but somehow the plants and animals were still on the table. And the question – the ultimate question – has remained the same that has fueled imagination and stirred scientists for centuries: What did Martian wildlife look like?

The US space program has always walked unabated towards Mars. Before Eagle It landed – before even the first ship – Cosmo, Tyco, or Astro – before SputnikEven before NASA itself was formed – there was Mars Project, A speculative fiction work by Werner von Braun, a German rocket scientist who moved to the United States immediately after World War II. There was just no thought experiment or fictional flight – no ray guns, no dish – the plot was a thin crust above How to Do It, and the author was the person most likely to make it happen. Von Braun Books Mars Project In 1948, after completing the rebuilding of the V-2 missile for its new American hosts, it was a ballistic missile that he helped develop during the war. The book was later stripped of its imaginative elements and reused as a nine-page article in the April 30, 1954 issue Collier Weekly, Then one of the most popular and prestigious magazines in the United States. The first serious study of how to get to Mars, the von Braun plan involved a space station and a fleet of reusable rockets and shuttles, and required a crew of seventy to stay on Mars for more than an Earth year. Upon arrival, astronauts (well, “astronauts” –astronauts Not yet invented) into orbit and exploring suitable preparation sites for a human bridgehead. (Robotic exploration was not discussed because digital programmable robots have not yet been invented, either.)

For von Braun, Mars was always the plan, the moon was just an intermediate point, and fourteen years later, when Armstrong jumped from that lower rung of the moon landing ladder, it was Von Braun’s Saturn V rocket that got him there. (IPhone Braun) was the director of NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, de facto “father of the US space program”, and was a celebrity. He had appeared several times years ago on a 1950s TV show called Disneyland– Hosted by Walt himself – he sold 40 million Americans the idea of ​​powerful and reliable rockets, moon rounds, and Mars colonies. When the shows were broadcast, Yuri Gagarin was still a mysterious pilot in the Soviet Air Force, and Alan Shepard was a test pilot for Maryland. To the extent that Americans were aware of America’s space ambitions, von Braun was selling the Mars missions with Walt Disney. He’s been working for this for a very long time.

So it came as no surprise that two weeks after the American silicone sole pressed the prints in New Moon dust, von Braun climbed into Spiro Agnew’s office and slapped the vice president’s desk the next natural limit for American exploration: the Red Planet. The fifty-page presentation – the ultimate plan to make humanity multi-planetary – represents the culmination of von Braun’s life work. His recipe included many of the items he proposed decades ago: rockets, shuttles, a station – and even a nuclear powered spacecraft.

Unfortunately for von Braun, the dominant forces in Congress and the White House quickly came to see the Apollo program as a goal, not, as he had hoped, an early milestone of something much bigger. You didn’t build the Hoover Dam and then … build more Hoover Dams down the river, politicians said. We set a goal, and God did it. Why even NASA? The White House asked loudly. By Apollo 15 in 1971, polls estimated public support for space spending at around 23 percent, with sixty-six percent saying spending was too high. There would be no national political price tag for closing Cape Canaveral entirely. Really, what were we doing there?

However, the sequence of the von Braun space missions culminating in Mars exploration has defined NASA so much that they are nearly interconnected in the system. Nixon, who had no interest in the space program but even had no interest in being the one to finish the program, only enjoyed the space shuttle element as being viable because 1. it had spy satellite applications and 2. It could be a big construction project in Palmdale, California, while keeping his term in his column during the upcoming presidential campaign. So it was the California-made space shuttle that stole satellites! NASA lived to fly another day.

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