The following letters are in response to the November 2011 In the Loop column, “Houston, we have company,” discussing international space exploration.
Human needs are top priority
One aspect overlooked in the recent editorial about space was the fact that the international committee comprising the International Space Station (ISS) did not invite China to join them. You also mention that we are financially capable of matching China's space endeavors, but I question that as well. Most of Europe is reeling under the pressure of going bankrupt, while the U.S. has gone into trillion dollars of deficit with no end in sight on how to control it.
We need to take a hard look at the priorities you mention, as there are thousands of improvement projects that need to be addressed right here on our beautiful planet Earth. We need to think of the species called “The Human Being” and address the related issues and needs first, such as drought and water scarcity, flood control measures, homelessness, the need for alternative energy sources, and global warming.
The shuttle program was great, but its time had come. We should have been proactive in putting an alternate program in place, and now we are playing catch-up. That is sad.
Syed M. Kadri
Hitchhiking with Russians
I worked on the Mercury and Gemini spacecraft back in the 1960s with McDonnell Douglas — at that time, it was McDonnell Aircraft — and they were excellent programs. Some younger engineers don't realize that McDonnell built these first one and two-man spacecraft here in the St. Louis area. In fact, Mercury was the first spacecraft that took a man into space. In addition, though the idea of U.S. astronauts hitching rides with the Russians doesn't sit well with me, I believe that the ISS is a worthwhile venture.
We are training a new design engineer, and were referring back to a number of useful articles in an old issue of Motion System Design — specifically, from the 2002 Motion System Handbook printed by Penton. Is a newer edition available, and is there any way to get PDFs of the handbook?
[There are tentative plans to publish an updated digital version of the Motion System Handbook: Stay tuned. — Ed.]
Long live LORAN
The following letter is in response to the In the Loop column, “Location deactivation,” discussing the discontinuation of the U.S. LORAN radio-tower-based GPS system.
I'm behind on my magazine reading. I recently came across your story about LORAN. Some years ago, I read about military navigators not being trained in the use of the sextant. The enemy can corrupt your GPS signals or knock out your LORAN transmitters, but the stars are hard to take out. What does it cost to keep those LORAN transmitters going versus the GPS system?
I just did some work for the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers on my Hendey lathe — a piece of machinery that turned 100 years old a few months back. Just because it's old doesn't mean it can't be used. And so it is with LORAN.
I think, if anything, NASA has a PR problem. What is the current mission of NASA? For someone like me, who keeps an eye on the aerospace industry for work, due to my status as a member of the military, and as a hobby, I really don't know what its mission or role is now that the shuttle program is gone. If China wants to go to the moon, let them. That's old news for us. We need an objective and long-term goal that not only serves our interests, but also gets the public excited about space again. Hello Mars?