Lest we forget...

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Lest we forget...

Postby Kenneth Morgan » Fri Jan 27, 2012 9:11 am

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Kenneth Morgan
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Re: Lest we forget...

Postby Paul Kile » Fri Jan 27, 2012 10:33 am

Thank you, Kenneth, for posting this. I would have missed it also had you not reminded me.

I was one of those Baby Boomer kids that went totally ape over the space program. I was 14 at the time, and I remember exactly where I was when I heard what happened.

I was in a Civil Air Patrol meeting (Nassau Squadron 6, Freeport LI, NY), and right in the middle of an Aerospace class an officer yelled FALL IN! Everyone formed up in ranks in the armory hall, and they held us at attention for about 10 minutes, in complete silence. This was very unusual, since we normally only formed up in ranks at the beginning and end of the meeting.

Finally the Commander of the squadron came out and said our 3 astronauts were dead.

I find it admirable that rather than retreat licking our wounds, the Moon landing program continued and went off on schedule for the biggest event of the 20th Century. That was a fitting tribute to Grissom, White, and Chaffee.

Too bad Michelle Obama was only 5 years old when we landed on the Moon. If she had been a little older, maybe she wouldn't have said her husband's success in the *08 presidential race was the first time she was proud of the USA.
Cheers,
Paul Kile
My collection: http://www.dvdspot.com/member=PaulKile
Paul Kile
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Re: Lest we forget...

Postby Kenneth Morgan » Sat Jan 28, 2012 9:40 am

I was too young at the time to remember the Apollo 1 fire, but I do remember this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Shuttle_Challenger_disaster. I was at work when we at the office heard the news over the radio. Not having seen the video, I thought the crew might've been able to cut loose from the booster, or otherwise eject from the shuttle, like the system set up for earlier flights. Sadly, it was not to be.

On a side note, even with all the political pandering from all sides on the subject, I'm hoping it won't be too long before NASA gets back to doing manned flights again. I know it'll be a while, like the gap between Apollo/Soyuz and the shuttle program, but it'd be good to get back into the game.

Back on subject, to think Challenger went down one day after the anniversary of the Apollo 1 fire. Strange but true, indeed. If the Columbia disaster had happened on Jan. 29th, it'd be even more disturbing.
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Kenneth Morgan
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Re: Lest we forget...

Postby Paul Kile » Sat Jan 28, 2012 5:31 pm

Kenneth,
The Challenger disaster was even closer to home for me. Like you, I was at work when we got the news. At that time (and to this day), I was working for Aerojet in Sacramento in the EH&S department. We make solid and liquid fuel rocket propulsion systems. In fact, we made the Orbital Maneuvering System (OMS) engines for the Shuttle (those are the two smaller liquid fuel engines on the back end of the orbiter, just below the vertical tail). Our Redmond, Washington facility made all the small directional thrusters for the shuttle as well.

One of our admins came around to each office and said the shuttle had just blown up. A group of us went over to the Photo/Video Services building next door, where they had a TV with a decent signal (all we had was a training TV/VCR combo that couldn't get TV stations very well). By that time, one of the A/V guys had recorded a copy of the network broadcast showing the liftoff trajectory and explosion sequence, and put it on a continuous repeat. The words "go at throttle up" and "obviously a major malfunction" were burned into my brain that day.

I am reluctant to admit that the main thought that day around the plant was "I hope it wasn't our engines that screwed up". It turned out not to be ours, but the subsequent revelations of how much the engineers at Thiokol knew about the booster O-rings, and the political pressures to suppress their concerns and launch that day was truly frightening.

Your desire to return to manned spaceflight in this country - WORD. I was at Cape Canaveral two weeks after Obama cut the heart out of the Constellation program, and the somber mood extended all the way down to folks like supermarket checkers, who were as worried about their future just as much as the rocket scientists. I heard cutting that program resulted in the loss of around 5,000 NASA jobs. That didn't include the ripple effect on all the local businesses down there. Space flight is something the US does extremely well (despite the setbacks, our Shuttle program did a heck of a lot in 30 years). To have a President seem to want to turn his back on one of America's strengths, and on a program that is a role model for kids to take math and science and stay in school, I find this incomprehensible.

But off the soapbox...time to reflect on the bad days, but also on how we picked ourselves up and kept our eyes on the goal after each disaster. That is the true tribute to our fallen astronauts.
Cheers,
Paul
(My license plate holder reads: AEROJET - IT IS ROCKET SCIENCE!
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