Tuesday, August 07, 2012

The LuLac Edition #2150, August 7th, 2012

Images from Mars. 


The other morning Mrs. LuLac and I stayed up after 1am eastern time to see the landing of the Mars probe Curiosity. It was something to see. Just a minute after the probe did its difficult landing, images of the planet beamed back to earth. Watching the NASA channel because we weren’t sure the cable news networks weren’t going to cover it and knowing full well the networks would never even think about it, I saw first hand the rows and rows of desks with young scientists and astronauts who made this happen. These were not your father’s flight crew. First off there were a few women in the mix. Second, the team did not have bow ties or white short sleeve shirts but rather powder blue polos. Mrs. LuLac pointed out that NASA even sprung for shirts tailored for women. It was a glorious event and got me thinking about America on Monday. 
My dad was born in 1914. When he came into the world, air flight was not yet a decade old. Yet in his lifetime, he saw the makeshift flights of the Wright Brothers become a major way of travel. And for that generation, it was a big deal. In researching the “Year In Review” news events for this blog, I can’t tell you the sheer number of photos I ran across from the 50s and 60s along with news articles which proclaimed “Mr. & Mrs. Smith of Kingston recently visited family in St. Louis for a wedding. The Smith’s flew on Allegheny Airlines and left from the airport in Avoca for their trip”. Air travel was a huge deal. My uncle Joe Pribula flew on a crew that helped win WWII. Although he rarely spoke of his exploits, the family knew he was constantly in the air. And in my father’s lifetime, man landed on the moon. In a span of 55 years, American ingenuity let my father see airplanes win a war, saw his neighbors and children fly to destinations domestic and international and saw men walking on the moon. In my lifetime, I witnessed the first men in space, the first woman to orbit the earth and a man walk in space. All of that and I wasn’t even out of grade school yet. I too saw a man land on the moon and return safely. In the 80s, long after the last man walked on the moon, (Gene Cernan in 1972) I saw the incredible power and might of the Space Shuttle. No longer were there celebrity astronauts but Americans we hardly heard of. Space travel had ceased to be a big deal. I saw a waning of public interest and funding that my father’s generation did not witness. I even saw a Democratic President severely cut back jobs in Florida. The space program was on the ropes. The “gee wiz” admiration of the world’s greatest generation was gone. It had given way to a culture of instant media gratification. Lack of wonder. Until Sunday night. The Mars landing of a space probe gave us all hope for the future. Even though many will not admit it, the unsexy side of the space program were all those experiments. Not many people realize that Teflon, cell phone innovations and things we take for granted came from the space program. The hope of the Mars landing is that we can determine where earth came from. We can explore `the terrain and get clues to how earth came to be but more importantly where it’s going. 
In 55 years, (1914-1969) American aviation got to the moon. 
In 58 years, (1954-2012) American aviation got us to Mars. No one in the world can match that record. 
Yet I wonder everyday how we can achieve these things with a partnership of business, science and government and not solve the most basic of our problems here at home. We can’t seem to figure out a health care plan without killing each other, we can’t compartmentalize our reactions to social differences (pitting a guy who sells chicken sandwiches against gay people!) and we can’t even figure out an equitable tax plan that will be fair to everyone. (There were people who got rich off the space program, but they didn’t bash the government that was funding parts of it). We all came to our space successes by working together. By not keeping score about who was up and who was down. We achieved because we knew the exploration of space was bigger than all of us. My father’s generation never bitched about the taxes spent on moon shots because it was about the future. Those men and women who cheered wildly when the “Curiosity” touched down went crazy. Some were very young but a few were my age and older. They will not live to see the rewards this mission can possibly bring. But yet, like me and Mrs. LuLac, we celebrated the achievement. We will not see the benefits of what they find on Mars in the next 50 years. But as Americans, we found ourselves excited at the prospect that this beaten down, partisan America can achieve this. It’s all about the vision, all about the future and not about our self gratification right now. We would be wise to remember that. 


I saw a few Facebook postings as well as heard some comments on talk radio today regarding the Mars landing. More than a few people wondered why the landing was not broadcast in prime time. Others wondered if the billions it cost was really worth it. Still others wondered what we were hiding doing it in the middle of the night. Okay, first off, this was not a bus ride from Avoca to Miners Mills! This was a delicate effort that could have gone wrong at any point in its landing. Plus the craft traveled 354 million miles to get to its destination. I repeat, 354 million miles! It also took them 8 months to get to the planet. It is ludicrous to suggest that perhaps the craft could be “slowed down” to accommodate a viewing audience in prime time. Science is well, an exact science. In this landing, there was no room for error. Everything was timed out precisely to the second. Science and space exploration are not entertainment for the masses. It is work. It is commitment. And for those who say that the 8 month digging and mining of soil samples will cost too much money with no big results, consider this. The budget for NASA is a half cent, a half cent on every government budget dollar. Again to paraphrase our friend the professor, “case dismissed!


At 7:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually the Professor says: "Class dismissed."
Not surprised that you can't even quote your own blog accurately.

At 7:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yonki... Yonki ... Yonki ... as to your comments as to why it was not on prime time, people questioning the cost. I'll tell you why. This country doesn't give a shit about ANYTHING any more!!!!! We've become so friggin numb it isn't even funny. I don't know why nothing short of an atomic bomb blast on the Washington D.C. front lawn, will get the American public excited. Personally, I think it's just another sign of the beginning of the end of this fair land.
Was it worth it? Jezuz H. ... you bet it was! Was it worth it to cross the Atlantic in the 1600's? Was it worth it to cross this land in a covered wagon to find new territory to expand and live a free life? You bet it was. Just look at the decline of any of the great civilizations of the past in the history of mankind, our time it coming. I can rant on this all day, but I'll wait and see if the good prof. has any additional enlightening comments.

At 10:32 AM, Blogger David Yonki said...

Actually the Professor says: "Class dismissed."
Not surprised that you can't even quote your own blog accurately.

At 8:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yonk: Great article. I've been following your site since you were on Topoc A on WYLN. I find your comments very interesting. I think it's hysterical that you even have a couple of haters. Keep doing what you do every day. Original thoughts from a unique perspective.

At 9:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's face it, no one is as thoughtful and creative a writer as if Mr. Yonki. You never know what you're going to get on his site in terms of the writing. It is structured to a fault but deliciously surprising in its content. Long time reader, first time poster.

At 11:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the truest things you point out Dave is that the space program is about the future. It is too bad that President Obama cut the budget, Romney refuses to talk about it, and the do nothing Congress of both parties, (house and senate) can't even pass one bill that will focus on tomorrow. The Mars landing was a glimmer, a very small glimmer of hope. I'm confident this entire project will be killed by the politicians of every stripe.

At 11:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Our space program has been OUTSOURCED!


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