Cory Doctorow offers a podcast with George Dyson that’s well worth your time, recalling among other things the remarkable days of Project Orion, in which Dyson’s father Freeman played so large a role. Note too that Dyson provided some documents from his own collection, now released for the first time and made available here. No surprises, but following the Orion story is a reminder of a day not so long ago when the outer planets were considered as viable an option for manned flight as the Moon. Let’s assume that one day they will be again.
Leonard David is out in Las Cruces for the Wirefly X Prize Cup, from which a live webcast has been in progress this morning. His weblog coverage is currently noting the apparent failure of Armadillo Aerospace in its attempt to win the NASA Lunar Lander Challenge. But whatever happens to the Armadillo venture, the Cup is a wonderful reawakening of the airshow spirit of the 1930s that inspired so much experimentation and drove aviation ever faster and farther. If you’re into space engineering, Las Cruces is the place to be. More on the Lunar Lander Challenge here.
Astronomer Phil Plait takes on Katie Couric in entertaining fashion, answering her recent assertions on what is supposed to be a news broadcast about the space program. Couric had opined that NASA’s budget request for $17 billion is way out of line, joining those who call for the money to be spent “…for medical research, social programs, and in finding solutions to poverty, hunger, and homelessness…”
“The irony is that the ability of Katie to appear to millions of people (well, fewer every day according to her ratings — oh, snap!) is due to the space program. Or does the term “satellite TV” mean something I’m missing? Maybe she could ask whoever the weatherman is on her show if (s)he thinks the space program is a waste of money.”
Centauri Dreams has many bones to pick with NASA’s budgetary problems — where is our commitment to science — but it’s good to see Couric challenged. It’s also sad to look at the trajectory CBS News has followed as it drives what was once a credible enterprise ever closer to tabloid territory.