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Why it was Inappropriate for NASA to name a Space Shuttle "Enterprise."

Republibot 3.0's picture

Since last week's piece on how the Shuttles got their names, I've taken some flack (Mostly through Email) about whether or not it was inappropriate for NASA to name a shuttle after the Starship Enterprise. Most of this has revolved around two points: 1) It wasn't a real shuttle anyway, just a glider, so who cares? and 2) Trek has inspired people to become scientists and astronauts and blah blah blah blah. Here's my take on both of those:

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REALSPACE: So how did the shuttles get their names?

Republibot 3.0's picture

I'll be the first to admit this is fairly trivial, but since we no longer have a manned space program, and we don't have any plans for one, and we're grounded for at least a decade, and the Russians and Chinese have moved ahead of us in the space race, what else have we got to do but talk about trivia?

Something we've never really talked about is how the Shuttles got their names. I mean, we all know they're named after seagoing exploratory vessels, (Somewhat pretentiously since the shuttles clearly aren't exploring, nor were they intended to), but how did they end up with that convention?

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The Perils Of Learning Science From Goofy TV Shows And Movies

Republibot 3.0's picture

Alien invasions make for great stories, but they don't make one lick of common sense. People hear about D-Day, and they think, "Wow, spacemen could do that! Or we could do that to a spaceman planet! In space!" But invading another world isn't like hopping a plane and jumping out, there's enormous energies involved, carefully calculated math, long travel times. If you've got the energy to travel across the stars, frankly, you don't *need* anything Earth could offer you, not even as raw resources.

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REALSPACE: Bigelow Aerospace's Inflatable Space Stations

Republibot 3.0's picture

Bigelow Aerospace is a company that has been interested in space stations for quite a while now. Back in Space-X days, they started pitching a pretty clever idea for large stations launched on small rockets. Last year they issued a brochure (!) explaining the basic concept. Check it out:

http://images.spaceref.com/news/2011/bigelow.chrtz.isdc.pdf

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REALSPACE: What's in a name, anyway?

Republibot 3.0's picture

The following is a chronological list of the names actually used for spacecraft in the 50 years we've been sending people into space. I've limited myself to *real* spacecraft that actually flew and held people, and space stations. The list counts only *class* names ("Soyuz, Apollo," etc) and actual *real* names ("Freedom 7, Columbia") that were used, not callsigns, and nothing for vehicles that didn't carry people. I've included space stations. I don't feel the need to do "Vostok 5, Vostok 6, Vostok 7," and so on, so "Vostok" is all you get in those situations.

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REALSPACE: Don't let the SLS fool you, the Luddites are still winning their war to kill the space program.

John Many Jars's picture

I once, quite inadvertently, got a reader removed from use at my child’s school. It seemed to have been written by the same “lunched out” hippies that in the nineteen-seventies, who decided that because they were against the Vietnam War, and it’s killing on an industrial scale, they were against any other form of technology backed by the government, including space exploration.

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Iran in Space: Why it Doesn’t Matter Much.

Republibot 3.0's picture

Back in February 2009, Iran really joined the Spacefaring club, after several years of lying about it. This provoked a storm of outrage, pride, recriminations, and fear, which is pretty much the case whenever anyone does anything these days. Some people - liberals, too - have maintained that we (or the UN) should go in and shut down their space program, because Iran can’t be trusted to have access to space.

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REALSPACE: Not content merely to suck on their own time, NASA forces suckiness on others

Republibot 3.0's picture

My mom worked for NASA in its glory days well over a generation ago. It was an heroic agency in a tumultuous time, one of the few things all Americans could get behind and feel proud of. In the 80s/90s, it just became another bloated bureaucratic bore. Over the last decade, the agency tried fitfully to make itself relevant again, and believe you me, that was in dire need.

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