Author Topic: What were the greatest decisions/accomplishments in US space history?  (Read 9587 times)

Online Hog

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I just read the US and Russian worse decision threads.  Obviously hind sight is always 20/20, and we need to learn from our mistakes to avoid repeating them in the future, but I would like to concentrate on a more positive note.

What do you believe were the greatest decisions and accomplishments in US space history?
Paul

Offline gospacex

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Moon landing.

Ironically, this is not the most important accomplishments by US space program. That one is in the future: creation of _inexpensive_ space launch methods.

Offline Jim

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That one is in the future: creation of _inexpensive_ space launch methods.

Not given that it will happen
« Last Edit: 12/11/2013 07:45 pm by Jim »

Offline USFdon

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Development of hydrolox upperstages

Offline breadfan

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I'd have to say Voyager. Aside from the science, think of the PR value when it gets announced that it left the solar system every couple of years  ;)

Offline savuporo

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X-15 and maybe DC-X. In addtiton to multiple planetary probes - although i have to say Hyugens so far has been the most mindboggling - oh wait, thats ESA : )
Orion - the first and only manned not-too-deep-space craft

Offline edkyle99

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What do you believe were the greatest decisions and accomplishments in US space history?
Obviously, President John F. Kennedy's decision to land astronauts on the Moon by the end of the 1960s was number one.  He made a sudden political decision for which NASA had not planned.  He saw to the funding too, which was just as important as the decision, if not more important.  The result was a major landmark in human history.

Number two is harder.  The Low/Kraft/Mueller/Webb decision to send Apollo 8 to the Moon?  The decision by someone somewhere to fund Rocketdyne's crazy 1,000,000 pound thrust engine idea in 1955, more than a dozen years before F-1 actually flew?  The decisions to start Thor-Agena/Corona, and to keep it going even after 12 consecutive initial failures?  Abe Silverstein's leadership on liquid hydrogen? 

Or, how about Silverstein's decision to cancel Juno IV?  Juno what you ask?  Juno IV, the U.S. Army/JPL launch vehicle contracted for development by ARPA and handed to NASA in 1958.  JPL was developing new liquid engines and upper stages to create a line of orbital launch vehicles to expand on the highly successful Explorer collaboration.  Silverstein cancelled it as soon as he got his hands on it, leaving JPL with no rocket work, which had been the Lab's bread and butter.  That's a big decision right there.  Remember, these were the guys who got the U.S. into orbit!  The consequences?  JPL shifted to robotic spacecraft.  Ranger, Mariner, Voyager, Viking, and so on right up to today's rovers on Mars. 

 - Ed Kyle

« Last Edit: 12/11/2013 10:18 pm by edkyle99 »

Offline bkellysky

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I like:
Putting a radiation detector on Explorer I and finding radiation belts around the Earth.
Geostationary satellites (ok, Arthur Clarke's British, but it's too good to pass up and I think USA was first)
Going for the moon on the first manned launch of the Saturn V on Apollo 8
Voyager becoming the Grand Tour of the outer planets
GPS satellites, especially after higher sensitivity is opened to civilians after USA runs out of military-grade receivers
bob




Offline Melt Run

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To fix the Hubble. As a single instrument it has brought us more information about our universe then any other.

Offline TomH

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Best Decisions:

1. Kennedy deciding to pursue moon landing. Ed, though it was rather quick, it was not impulsive. He discussed it at length with advisors and carefully weighed all the pros and cons and whether it could be done.

2. Hubble repair.

Accomplishments:

1. 7-20-69 We came in peace for all mankind.

2. Hubble

3. Mars Rovers

4. Galileo and Cassini

5. Voyager Program

Offline Melt Run

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Best Decisions:

1. Kennedy deciding to pursue moon landing. Ed, though it was rather quick, it was not impulsive. He discussed it at length with advisors and carefully weighed all the pros and cons and whether it could be done.

2. Hubble repair.

Accomplishments:

1. 7-20-69 We came in peace for all mankind.

2. Hubble

3. Mars Rovers

4. Galileo and Cassini

5. Voyager Program
I agree with this list. I think I might toss in some of the NRO sats that we don't know a great deal about (or if we do we can' say). In many ways they are in a class of there own but have had a major impact on life as we know it (for better or worse).

Online Hog

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Excellent responses, your answers lead to others discoveries. Awesome. Keep em coming, any and all opines welcome.
Paul

Offline Steven Pietrobon

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The greatest decision was Kennedy deciding to go to the Moon.

The greatest achievement was actually doing it!
Akin's Laws of Spacecraft Design #1:  Engineering is done with numbers.  Analysis without numbers is only an opinion.

Offline MrTim

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A bit obscure, but important:

Eisenhower's slow-walk of the first American satellite launch. Counter-intuitive perhaps on a site for space flight enthusiasts, but very important.

Eisenhower was not worried that the US aerospace and electronics industries were lagging; he knew better. He also knew there was no real "missile gap" and he had concerns about the continued utility and safety of ongoing spy plane operations. By simply being patient and allowing the Soviet Union to put up Sputnik first when Von Braun's team could have beaten it, and then not protesting as it passed over the US, Eisenhower left it to the Soviets to establish the international legal precedent that there was an upper limit to any nation's airspace. Having established that point by orbiting Sputnik, which passed over nearly every nation, the Soviets would have no credibility to complain either directly to the US or before any international body like the UN when anybody else orbited payloads over their territory. This suited the former general Eisenhower just fine (even though it hurt his vice president's future campaign) because he never had to defend any later spy satellite overflights. It also meant that there were never any international fights over the right of any nation to have a weather or comm sat "over" any other nation and nobody has to pay/negotiate for overflight rights/permissions from a myriad of nations before a space launch.

When Eisenhower launched NASA and started project Mercury there was little need to worry about the legalities of overflights. Everything every nation has done in space since has been made easier by this simple patient act of the old general. Without this precedent, there's no telling how many international lawyers would be required before any space mission  ::)

For accomplishment, I choose a tie between the moon landing and the first flight of Columbia. The moon landing is obvious and iconic as a signpost in human history, but that first shuttle flight for its boldness (first flight of a radical new stack manned) and its incredible technical accomplishments (from design, to materials, aerodynamics, energy management, etc) is still mind-blowing. Sadly, I doubt I'll live to see anything as impressive attempted again.

Offline Lars_J

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Got a source for those assertions, MrTim? Because otherwise it al sounds a wee bit much like a "it was all part of the plan" way of explaining away a loss.

Offline MrTim

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Lars_J,

No, I was not just daydreaming re Eisenhower/Sputnik. I have read more than one document about this and actually presumed others here (some of whom are surely bigger history buffs than I) were aware of it; I believe you can find details in the National Archives. I have simply read far too much of this stuff over the years and cannot recall which morsels came from which documents (If I'd recalled when I posted I would have cited)

To be clear, I do not believe Eisenhower knew specifics about Sputnik, but I have indeed read about Eisenhower's deliberate decision to not race to be first to orbit a satellite and to let the soviets set the precedent (and no, I did not read it on some foil-hats and flying saucers website).

Remember that the U.S. government and the Soviets were both working on launch vehicles, and Eisenhower's science advisers were already talking about spy satellites as a replacement for spy planes. At the time, Eisenhower was heavily dependent upon spy planes overflying the Soviet Union, just as he'd used aerial recon products to inform his decisions in WWII, and these overflights were the reason he was not worried about a "missile gap". Further, recall that by international tradition/law, spy flights were a form of espionage and Eisenhower was quite aware of the risks the pilots were taking on each flight; downed pilots could be considered spys (and be executed) rather than POWs and as the Gary Powers incident would later show, could start rather than solve international incidents. I'm not a huge Eisenhower fan and I've long been amused by his apparent views of the utility of space; he seems to have simultaneously (rightly) seen the great value of space as a place for military observation, scientific instruments, etc and yet completely missed the thing Kennedy instinctively, and famously, grasped: the potential inspiration and global PR benefits on putting man in space.

If I recall where I read any of this I shall try to remember to return to this thread and re-post.


Offline Lars_J

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Ok, I'm not saying you are necessarily wrong. But I'm interested in reading more about it if you can find a reference.

Offline ChrisWilson68

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No, I was not just daydreaming re Eisenhower/Sputnik. I have read more than one document about this and actually presumed others here (some of whom are surely bigger history buffs than I) were aware of it; I believe you can find details in the National Archives. I have simply read far too much of this stuff over the years and cannot recall which morsels came from which documents (If I'd recalled when I posted I would have cited)

So far, you're not very convincing.  You have given a version of events around Sputnik that is at odds with every account I've read before.  You don't have any source to cite.  Even worse, you refer to primary sources in the National Archives.  That would seem to indicate there are no books or articles that have been written supporting your theory, which brings up the question of why such secondary sources don't exist.  There's lots of interest in the events surrounding Sputnik, so lots of historians have surely researched it.  Why didn't any of them come to the same conclusions you did?  Or, if one or more of them did, why are you mentioning the National Archives instead?


Offline savuporo

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So far, you're not very convincing.  You have given a version of events around Sputnik that is at odds with every account I've read before.

( im not a history buff, just a quick google search .. )

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/space/sputnik-impact-on-america.html
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2276/1
http://www.historyandtheheadlines.abc-clio.com/contentpages/ContentPage.aspx?entryId=1153200&currentSection=1130229&productid=4

It is not widely known even now that one of the reasons President Dwight D. Eisenhower and those around him did not react with alarm over Sputnik going into space ahead of an American satellite was that Eisenhower welcomed the launch to help establish the principle of "freedom of space" ( the idea that outer space belonged to everyone, thereby allowing satellite flights over foreign countries )

http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4105/introduction.htm
Fred I. Greenstein demonstrated the fact in The Hidden-Hand Presidency: Eisenhower as Leader (New York: Basic Books, 1982). He argued that Eisenhower worked behind the scenes while giving the appearance of inaction, and in most instances his indirect approach to leadership was highly effective. This has been extended to Eisenhower's space program in R. Cargill Hall, "Eisenhower, Open Skies, and Freedom of Space," IAA-92-0184, paper delivered on 2 September 1992 to the International Astronautical Federation, Washington, D.C.

https://www.academia.edu/341772/The_Historical_Dimension_of_Space_Exploration_Reflections_and_Possibilities
Most important, Eisenhower established the right of international overflight with satellites, making possible the free use of reconnaissance spacecraft in future years. From the perspective of the Eisenhower administration,which was committed to development of an orbital re-connaissance capability as a national defense initiative,an international agreement to ban satellites from overfly-ing national borders without the individual nation's per-mission was unacceptable. The tantalizing possibilityexists that perhaps a part of the space policy of the 1950 was predicated on allowing the Soviet Union to orbita satellite first.
« Last Edit: 12/28/2013 07:34 am by savuporo »
Orion - the first and only manned not-too-deep-space craft

Offline ChrisWilson68

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Thanks for the references!

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