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Once Upon A Time NASA Told Tales Of Human Exploration

By Keith Cowing
NASA Watch
November 28, 2017
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Once Upon A Time NASA Told Tales Of Human Exploration

My Star Trek Episode at Everest
“In late April 2009 I found myself at Everest Base Camp for a month. I was living at 17,600 feet in Nepal 2 miles from China and 2 miles from the highest point on our planet. I was surrounded by the epic majesty of the Himalayas, a thousand people supporting several hundred Type A individuals with a shared intent to summit the mountain and stand in the jet stream. And all of this was enabled by the austere and noble Sherpa people. I was on a mission not unlike a space mission. My team mate was my long-time friend Scott Parazynski, an astronaut.
I could just stop there and what is in these sentences would be cool enough. This had all the makings of a Star Trek episode – and I knew it.”

Keith’s note: After posting the two items above, I had to toss this in. There is something about “being there” when it comes to exploration. May 2009. Everest Base Camp. It was -20F or so, I was sick with food poisoning which eventually led to some permanent physical damage that affects me to this day, at 17,600 feet breathing half the oxygen I was designed to breathe, while one friend was standing atop Everest above the sky, while another (who was supposed to be with us) was in his laundry room in New York – all linked by radio and satellite. Another mutual friend was in orbit fixing Hubble. This was one of those life-altering moments – and we all wanted to share it. We still do.
NASA used to have a lot of these moments. Now … not so many. That needs to change.
Maybe the new guy will fix that. Someone has to.

NASA Watch founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.

7 responses to “Once Upon A Time NASA Told Tales Of Human Exploration”

  1. ThomasLMatula says:

    Yes, NASA really needs to return to human exploration of the frontier. Robots are fine as scouts and the ISS is OK for research, but true exploration requires humans going forward to explore what is beyond the horizon, something that two generations of Americans have not experienced.

    I have strong hopes that the new Space Council will change that and return the risk taking spirit to NASA.

    • Paul451 says:

      People were bored with Apollo by Apollo 13, pre-disaster. The networks didn’t bother to do live crosses any more. People were bored with the Shuttle before NASA stopped painting the ET.

      The public doesn’t care about “exploration”. They’ll briefly watch novelty, until it isn’t novel.

      A few young nerdlings kept watching (and in the case of Apollo, becoming the next generation of engineers and researchers), but the average person doesn’t care. Trying to run a space program to appeal to the average person is doomed to (mutual) disappointment and failure. If you want to inspire, those nerdlings are the only viable audience, and they are inspired by Curiosity, New Horizons, Cassini… and SpaceX… as much as their predecessors were inspired by Apollo.

  2. muomega0 says:

    Flexible plans have drawn up in a sustainable architecture for chemical and EP tugs to cycle between L2 and ‘to Mars’, as they begin the initial stages of a sustainable interplanetary transportation system for both science and HSF including robotics based on reuse.

    Pre-positioned propellant enables faster science missions thru the solar system, demonstration of gas station technology, demonstration of long term crew health technology, as well as missions to many destinations to collect the data for the next generation, achieving a balance between operations and R&D.

    The IMLEO provides 2-4 LV providers stability to pursue the SOA and to certify them taking risks with dirt cheap payload: propellant. There is so much new work that plus ups are envisioned. When will the ‘dreamers’ see this change, if ever, with moore SLS?

    How do we reignite that spirit of innovation (22:56) to meet our biggest challenges?

  3. brobof says:

    Here’s a thought Keith: NASA already tells (anthromorphic) tales of robotic exploration
    Poor Spirit; The valiant Voyagers;…
    Perhaps future generations will avidly follow (virtually) a robotic attempt of avatars on Olympus Mons
    Brian Blessed applies

    • ThomasLMatula says:

      Perhaps that is the real answer to the Fermi Paradox, they turned the frontiers over to robots and were wiped out when the next big rock or solar flare hit the world they were huddled and hiding on.

  4. Donald Barker says:

    Keith. Awesome. I had a similar experience when climbing Aconcagua in Argentina in 2011. I had taken a ham radio and coordinated check-in times with the ISS crew. At base camp, as high as the tallest mountains in the state I grew up in, Colorado, I radioed in the blind and got a hold of Cady Coleman for a great 5 minute ground pass. Talking to the ISS from the heart of the Andes was great fun and inspiring for the people and guides in camp.