Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Altair IV: "Daylight Rover" Boeing (1990)

David S. F. Portree continues an outstanding history of false starts, this time one with which I have some familiarity. Vice President Dan Quayle, as head of the National Space Council in 1990 tried and mostly failed to further the National Space Initiative, a second attempt to rekindle political will, and Congress, to support something beyond the space shuttle. Beyond the obvious, by now, cost of each shuttle mission far exceeding expendable boosters by nearly a billion 1990 dollars, and Challenger in 1986, Hubble had finally been lofted into space on the mission the shuttle was constructed around. It's mirror flawed, NASA's bureaucracy had the hardened arteries typical of all institutions devoted, over time, more to self-continuity over "reason for being."

The distractions of Desert Storm and almost precisely the same hostile Congress of 1975, never impressed with NASA or space exploration, instead set the "snooze button," and the aimless pattern for damage control and the repositioning of missions "into the out years" some of which would last with careers that floated all the way until Columbia, the next "wake-up call" in 2003.

Still there were many faithful out here, lobbying for a return to the Moon even then. Quayle, whom even Al Gore told David Letterman "got a bad rap" for being perceived as bumbling and unintelligent, has one legacy still seen from that time, among other successes. NASA's blue "meatball" symbol, replaced by the post-modern "snake" lettering along the way, returned as the icon for America's consortium of science, for the triumphs and disasters, this time to stay.

That was Quayle's call.

"The Space Exploration Initiative (SEI), launched amid much fanfare by President George H. W. Bush on the 20th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing (July 20, 1989), enjoyed little political support. In May 1990, however, Congress agreed to provide $4.55 million to collect ideas for accomplishing SEI under the condition that NASA would issue no SEI-related contracts to industry before 1991 and would curtail its in-house SEI studies. The SEI Synthesis group, chaired by Gemini and Apollo astronaut Thomas Stafford, was appointed to screen and synthesize for the National Space Council the best aspects of the many proposals for carrying out SEI."

A recommended read HERE.

No comments: