“Approaching the end of Apollo, my frustration often surfaced. No one in America seemed to care that we were giving up, surrendering the future of the next generation of young people with stars in their eyes. .
. . How I wished John F. Kennedy were still alive, challenging us to dare and to dream. I feel the same way today; the boldness and scope of his vision is not to be found today in our space program and in our nation. .
. . Entering the twenty-first century, we have an unimaginable array of technology and a generation of young Americans schooled in these technologies. With our powerful economy, we can do anything we set our mind to do. Yet we stand with our feet firmly planted on the ground when we could be exploring the universe. Three decades ago.
. . Americans placed six flags on the Moon. Today we no longer try for new and bold space achievements; instead we celebrate the anniversaries of the past. .
. . Our work is unfinished” – Gene Kranz, Failure Is Not An OptionThere’s a certain something about science which is part of its appeal to me and to many others. Call it a willingness to dream, if you will.
Sometimes a dream may be amusing, as with the molecular creations (dodecahedrane, cubane, superphane, basketane, and of course buckminsterfullerene) described in Designing the Molecular World by Philip Ball. Sometimes a dream may be visionary and bold, as with the dream to finally understand the physics that underlies our world. There’s definitely something interesting about the fact that the fundamental particles of the universe can be drawn in a chart on a T-shirt, or that the equations behind classical electromagnetism can be scribbled on a scrap of paper. For some 400 years, scientists have dared to dream that they can understand and explore the universe, ever since Galileo peered into the night skies with a simple telescope. I read a large amount of books and magazines; in addition to the science books that fill my bookshelf, I subscribe to Scientific American and Discover and several other scientific magazines. They all are, in some way, connected with the dreams of science, whether it be the dreams of the past (scientific history) or dreams about the future of science.
How excited I was when I saw the March 2000 issue of Scientific American, which at the top had the words “Special Report: Sending Humans to Mars”! How incredibly nifty. However, I was considerly less enthusiastic when I actually read the articles inside. In the article “How to Go to Mars”, George Musser and Mark Alpert mention, “In all the proposals for sending humans to Mars, the crucial first step is launching the spacecraft into a low Earth orbit (200 to 500 kilometers up). The basic problem is that any manned craft using present-day propulsion technologies will need a huge supply of propellant to get to Mars and hence will be extremely heavy: at least 130 metric tons and possibly twice that much”. That’s fine. No one ever said that attaining dreams was easy.
But I was absolutely shocked when I looked at the chart on the following page. This chart is one of the most dismal and saddening things I’ve ever seen. It’s a horizontal bar chart divided into two parts: an upper one labeled “Existing Launch Vehicles” and a lower one labeled “Proposed Launch Vehicles”; the bars in each part are different colors to emphasize which vehicles currently exist and which are proposed. The horizontal scale reads “Lift Capacity (metric tons to low Earth orbit)” and goes from 0 to 100. Yes, that’s rather distressing already.
The existing launch vehicles, the Titan 4B and the Space Shuttle, we are told by this chart, can lift 22 and 23 metric tons, respectively. The proposed launch vehicles, the Delta 4 Heavy, the VentureStar, and the Magnum, can lift 23, 25, and 80 metric tons, respectively. The Magnum’s bar is obviously emphasized, being almost four times longer than the diminutive bars above it. Wow. 80 metric tons to low Earth orbit.
The caption to the side, reads, “Current launch vehicles cannot meet the needs of a human mission to Mars. Boosting a 130-ton Mars craft into low Earth .