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Ex Astra, Scientis

31 January 2012

Banners usually indicate the presence of science.

On Sunday, my wife and I went to Downtown Dallas to see one of the prototypes of the new Orion space capsule. It was a very cool experience, and I was surprised (in a good way) to see the number of people who turned out to gawk along with us at the next generation of space exploration.

I’m a big proponent of NASA’s mission. I think that understanding our solar system, pushing beyond it, and exploring what’s out there is the path to us evolving as a species. And I’m quite excited about the new Orion capsule, which of course doesn’t look new at all.

We, too, added graffiti to a billion-dollar piece of hardware.

My wife Lisa commented (rightly so) that the thing looks like the space capsules from the 1960s. Now, we’ve been watching a lot of Mad Men lately, but she’s 100% right. And there’s a reason for that — the design works. The Russians never went to the shuttle concept, because they went ahead and perfected the much more economical rocket-and-capsule design. It’s been working rather well for them, and us moving back to it is a step in the right direction… for now.

I do have to admit, though, I miss the concept of space planes. Not the shuttle, though that did spark my childhood interest in space exploration — the research that was going on about the same time as the original Gemini missions to develop a plane that would climb high into the atmosphere, then break into space, then land like a normal plane (without booster rockets or external fuel tanks). It was scrapped when the capsule program pulled ahead, because we were, at the time, all about getting up into space as quickly as possible.

So while I like the retro-future design of the Orion capsule, and was tickled pink to see it… I hope we’ll one day revisit the space plane idea. And then I hope someone gives me one to play around with.

What about you, folks? What’s your opinion on the future of space exploration? Anything you’re excited about? Think it’s a bad idea? Let me know.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. 31 January 2012 1408

    Looks a tonne like the Apollo capsules. I posted pics of Orion and Apollo so people could see how similar when I was at KSC….

    • 31 January 2012 1524

      I like the retro-future design and all, but I suspect it was more a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

      • 1 February 2012 1201

        Yeah, they didn’t lose 1/3 of the Apollo fleet, after all…..

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