History: March 2016 Archives

NASA chief: Apollo engineers who criticize SLS don't grok modern rocketry, Ars Technica

"Bolden then reiterated that Kraft knew more than him about rockets, but he again qualified this praise: "I have the advantage of a team around me that he didn't have," he said. "You have to remember. Most of us forget. I have a very mature leadership team. When Dr. Kraft was in mission control, and when he led the Johnson Space Center, we went to the Moon. Most of the people were 20 years old. They didn't know anything."

Keith's note: Charlie Bolden clearly misses the irony within his insulting characterization about the younger NASA that sent humans to the Moon. If Bolden serves out the end of the current Administration's term he'll have been Administrator for 7 1/2 years - virtually the same distance between Mercury 3 and Apollo 11.

Orion has flown once - without a crew. SLS has yet to fly and its schedule often slips to the right faster than actual progress is made. Humans may finally fly on it in 2023 some 19 years after the Bush Administration originally initiated a return by American astronauts to the surface of the Moon. In the 1960s NASA went from zero human spaceflight capability to putting humans on the surface of the Moon in less than half that time.

I'll bet some of those 20 year old kids could teach Charlie Bolden and his "very mature leadership team" a thing or two.

John Newcomb

NASA Langley Engineer and Author John Newcomb Dies

"An engineer at NASA's Langley Research Center during the critical Apollo years and those that successfully landed Viking on Mars, John Foster Newcomb passed away March 10, 2016. In the early heady days of space exploration, Newcomb worked on the Lunar Orbiter Project which placed five Lunar Orbiters around the moon, a mission critical to the success of the Apollo Project. The Lunar Orbiters photographed and mapped the moon, giving researchers insight into the best potential landing sites for the crewed Apollo missions."

Keith's note: John Newcomb and I recently exchanged voicemails about his book but never managed to talk. I wanted to talk to him about his Lunar Orbiter experiences. He spoke at NASA HQ just last week - but NASA does not tell people about these events. Now he is gone. Dammit. I'm glad he was able to write this book and speak to people about it such that we know what it was like to do crazy things that no one has ever done before.

Janelle Monae Will Co-Star in a Movie About the Women Behind the Space Program, Gizmodo

"This is amazing. One of our favorite musicians, Janelle Monae is co-starring in a movie about the African American women who helped launch America into space, alongside Person of Interest's Taraji P. Henson. Hidden Figures comes out in January 2017, on Martin Luther King Day weekend, and it's based on a new book that comes out in September called Hidden Figures: The Story of the African-American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly. Henson is playing Katherine Johnson, Octavia Spencer is playing Dorothy Vaughan, and Monae is playing the youngest of the three, Mary Jackson. The film is being directed by Ted Melfi."

Keith's note: NASA PAO confirms that they have been involved in his project from its onset.

Keith's note: Nancy Reagan has died. Thus turns the final page from an era wherein space exploration was elevated as an aspirational goal for America as well as a cause to ponder our own mortality. Only after Columbia did we again dwell on such matters as a nation. When Nancy Reagan revealed her husband's Alzheimer's diagnosis she helped part a long-standing curtain of secrecy that covered an insidious disease. She was a tireless crusader for Alzheimer's research. To my younger readers Nancy Reagan is just a name and Alzheimer's is something that is not on their radar.

A favor, if you will. The next time you watch someone from NASA, the aerospace industry, or the space community in their 50s and 60s - and you notice that they seem tired, or annoyed, or frustrated as they talk about a large program of exploration that is not doing as well as it should (or talk about one that is doing well) consider that there way be something going on behind the scenes. Having a parent with Alzheimer's can rob you of the most prized parts of your own life. Trust me.

Just as many of us in my generation reach that point in their careers - careers for which their parents sacrificed so much - and would be most proud, there is often no one left inside the parent to be proud of their child. Many older veterans from NASA's history no longer appear in public or are quoted in print. There are many reasons why, but in my experience, Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia are at the top of the list.

I am not asking you to do anything - other than to appreciate that there is a silent scourge that stalks the space family - just as it stalks so many others. The only thing that lessens the loss and sorrow felt by those who support those who are affected is to soar higher and further - in our case, into space.



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This page is an archive of entries in the History category from March 2016.

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