Today’s Tidbits: October 13, 2017

Today’s Tidbits: October 13, 2017

Here are our tidbits for today, October 13, 2017: space launches for night owls; dueling Washington Post op-eds on sending people to the Moon or Mars; and the Onion weighs in, too.  Be sure to check our website for feature stories, and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

Two Rescheduled Launches On Tap for Early Saturday Morning EDT

For all the night owls (EDT) out there, if you’re up in the middle of the night you can watch two rescheduled launches.

First is the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V launch of the National Reconnaissance Office’s NROL-52 satellite from Cape Canaveral, FL.  This is the fourth try. The first two were scrubbed due to weather; the third for a technical glitch with the rocket’s telemetry.  The fourth try is at 3:31 am EDT Saturday (in about 5 hours), but weather may interfere again.  There is only a 40% chance of “go” for weather.  If it’s delayed a day, the weather forecast is 60% go.  ULA will webcast the launch beginming at 3:00 am EDT at

Second is the rescheduled launch of Russia’s Progress MS-07 cargo spacecraft headed to the International Space Station (ISS).  It was supposed to launch on Thursday, but for unannounced reasons the engines did not ignite in the last minute of the countdown.  The launch profile was intended to demonstrate a new, shorter route to the ISS requiring only two orbits — about 3.5 hours.  Because the positions of the ISS and the launch site (Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan) have shifted, if the launch takes place as currently planned at 4:47 am Saturday EDT, it will have to take the two-day 34-orbit trajectory to get there.  NASA TV [] will cover the launch beginning at 4:15 am EDT.

Dueling Op-Eds on the Value of Sending Humans to the Moon or Mars

On October 6, the day after the National Space Council’s first meeting, Washington Post columnist David Von Drehle wrote a biting commentary on why “The Mission to Mars is One Stupid Leap For Mankind.” []  He ends by saying: “The vast and murderous universe has conspired to maroon the human race — but what a wonderful island we’re on. Rather than go in search of dust bowls to die in, let us send our robot eyes and ears to explore the lifeless seas of space, marveling at their findings while giving thanks that we’re not with them.”

Today, Lockheed Martin’s Marillyn Hewson punched back [].  She is the Chairman, President and CEO of Lockheed Martin, which not only builds many of the robotic probes Von Drehle favors, but is also intimately involved in human space exploration as the prime contractor for NASA’s Orion crew spacecraft designed to take people to, yes, the Moon and Mars. Human spaceflight advocates will recognize Hewson’s arguments on why robots can’t replace having humans on site at distant worlds, that it’s worth the risk and cost (and NASA’s budget is a tiny fraction of U.S. spending), and we do these things because they are hard.

The “robots only” versus “robots AND humans” debate has been going on since the 1960s.  And so it goes…

The Onion Weighs in Too

On the lighter side, the Onion, a satirical newsletter, weighed in on the topic of humans moving out to other planets in its own unique way — an interview with an imaginary planet “terrified” at the prospect of becoming a target for human settlement.

It’s a bit over the top, as satire often is, but it’s good for a laugh, especially on Friday the 13th. []





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