Thursday, November 18, 2010

Remember to Clap When You Land

Glide in Landing by Peter Welleman
Flying an airplane, launching on a rocket or the space shuttle bears some injustice, almost mockery of the operator of the aircraft or spacecraft. Every student pilot and astronaut needs to face the irony, almost ugly truth - taking off is much easier than landing.

With a little guidance and reasonable weather almost anyone could take off, at least on the kind of airplane I'm learning to pilot - Cessna 172. Beyond taxing to the runway, adjusting the fuel-air mixture and lining up with the runway centerline, one applies full power, pulls the yoke at an airspeed of 55 knots and presto! The airplane is airborne. On a rocket inside a capsule or a shuttle? Well, once SRBs (Solid Rocket Boosters) are ignited (and that's initiated from outside the spacecraft), there isn't much to do apart from enjoying the Gs. Yes, I know that there's more to taking off with a small airplane, space shuttle and anything in between, but compared to what is required during landing that's easy as pie.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Boy Who Cried Wolf

Remember the story about the boy who repeatedly cried wolf when there was no wolf, so when there was actually a wolf no one believed him? Well, the more I listen to people who know a lot more than I do about NASA, prior manned space programs, space technology and yesteryear budgets, the more this story comes to mind, though between all the pros, cons and possible futures I can't decide is who is the boy, who is the wolf and who are the towns' people.

Congress recently passed the authorization bill to fund NASA for fiscal year 2011, which started on October first. The bill was a compromise between the initial road-map president Obama laid out in February and the program of record until recently, Constellation. Analysis of the original plan and the eventual bill are easy to find, for example on Space News.