Most Read: National

Live Discussions

There are no discussions scheduled today.

Martha Stewarts' tips for the holidays

Martha Stewarts' tips for the holidays

Chat transcripts

Martha Stewart joined a special Home Front chat to help make your holidays a good thing.

Weekly schedule, past shows

ACHENBLOG
Posted at 03:42 PM ET, 07/05/2011

Space shuttle: some physics of spaceflight

Why do I keep writing about space? Maybe because I grew up with it. I believed. We would live on other planets. This would happen in our lifetimes, it was obvious, we were in the Space Age. The universe beckoned. What would an 8-year-old kid in 1969 think about our coverage of the retiring space shuttle in 2011? Would he be disappointed that we hadn’t made it to Mars? Or would he be dazzled by the images sent back by Pathfinder and Spirit and Opportunity and the Mars Global Surveyor, not to mention, farther out in the solar system, Voyager and Galileo and Cassini?

And he’d think this is pretty cool.

We’ve done pretty well, actually. There are hundreds of satellites in orbit, not least of which is the Hubble, which has obtained some nice images, don’t you think?

In any case, I’m peeking through some of my old coverage. Here’s a big overview that ran a few years back in the Post magazine. There’s a quote here from the Columbia Accident Investigation report that describes the central challenge of going into space. Such trips are often characterized these days as “routine,” but I don’t think so:

“There is great risk in placing human beings atop a machine that stores and then burns millions of pounds of dangerous propellants. Equally risky is having humans then ride the machine back to Earth while it dissipates the orbital speed by converting the energy into heat, much like a meteor entering Earth’s atmosphere.”

That sounds dangerous to me. Space reporters and TV talkers, keep this in mind the next few days when you discuss the final mission of Atlantis.

And here’s a more recent piece when I first realized how much we were going to miss the shuttle.

Good NASA pic of moons of Saturn.

Weingarten, meanwhile, has posted from the TropicFan site a piece of my juvenalia. It’s about the performance artist Mark Pauline. It’s too long and not exactly informationally dense. But not terrible for a punk kid.

By  |  03:42 PM ET, 07/05/2011

 
Read what others are saying
     

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company