30 years, where did they go...
July 20, 2006 9:45 AM   Subscribe

On July 20, 1976 something really cool was accomplished.
posted by Heywood Mogroot (24 comments total)
 
It's amazing to consider what NASA was capable of doing when it had the will power (and tons of money from Congress) - especially in the face of having computers with the computational power of today's graphing calculators.
posted by thewittyname at 9:52 AM on July 20, 2006


NASA must like the 20th of July.
posted by fandango_matt at 9:53 AM on July 20, 2006


Not to harsh on the coolness of the Viking landers, but they weren't the first probe to successfully land on another planet as the link says.
posted by Johnny Assay at 9:57 AM on July 20, 2006


Wow, I thought Spirit and Opportunity were the first ground missions to Mars. Oops!

Touring the Kennedy Space Center both amazes me and makes me incredibly sad. We were a titanic power at one time, able to undertake the most immense projects in the history of humankind, almost from petty cash.

We are a pale shadow of what we once were.
posted by Malor at 10:02 AM on July 20, 2006



I just learned something that perhaps I had forgotten. I was going to correct the post and say it landed on July 4th. Obviously my teenage years were wasted because the landing was delayed until the 20th of July so as to find a smoother place to land.

Thanks for the reminder about the landing...
posted by fluffycreature at 10:02 AM on July 20, 2006


It's amazing to consider what NASA was capable of doing when it had the will power (and tons of money from Congress)

The Vikings cost about a billion dollars, total. The MER program (Sprit/Opportunity) has cost about 850 million so far. Please explain to me how NASA no longer has the will power and also how NASA's budget affected MER. I'd argue that they're doing just fine.
posted by Plutor at 10:04 AM on July 20, 2006


Wow, I thought Spirit and Opportunity were the first ground missions to Mars.

They weren't even the first remote-controlled rovers on Mars.
posted by Plutor at 10:05 AM on July 20, 2006


I was going to correct the post and say it landed on July 4th.

The Pathfinder lander got to Mars on the 4th; you may have been thinking of that.
posted by interrobang at 10:05 AM on July 20, 2006


NASA only does what the "people" ask of it. In the last 30 years, we've been so apathetic about space travel and exploration that NASA's been treading water.

Makes me sick.
posted by JWright at 10:10 AM on July 20, 2006


NASA does it's job incredibly well - it's not their fault that the universe turned out to be a dull radioactive wasteland.
posted by slatternus at 10:15 AM on July 20, 2006


Click on the video link and check out the awesome '70s geekwear and (facial) hairstyles. Scientists is kool.
posted by turducken at 10:18 AM on July 20, 2006


There's a Starbucks on that spot now, right?
posted by jonmc at 10:26 AM on July 20, 2006


NASA only does what the "people" ask of it.

If NASA did what NASA thought was best for science, there wouldn't be nearly so much money wasted on sending sightseers into space, but then it wouldn't impress the grown fanboys whose taxes pay for the programs.

NASA should pretend it sends people into space, just to get the funding. It could "train" and publicize crews and then send them on quiet vacations during secretly unmanned flights.
posted by pracowity at 10:43 AM on July 20, 2006


My dad worked for NASA for thirty years (he worked on Viking) and this is what he was saying the last few years -- before he quit in disgust (over Pathfinder) and went to TRW.

It isn't money, according to him, it's government interference in things it doesn't understand. They had much less money in the good old days, but they had freedom to determine what projects would best advance human knowledge, and the best way to do them. For example, NASA was required to use certain outside contractors for spacecraft parts -- despite having the ability to build them in-house. Supposedly a cost-cutting measure (more likely the contractor's lobbying), these parts would often not be made to the precision NASA required, and have to be re-machined, re-machined again. Or, too often, as in the case of the Pathfinder lander, and the Hubble telescope, projects are just thrown up in the sky with faulty parts.

My dad designed the test systems for Pathfinder, and he said that all the problems Pathfinder turned out to have on Mars, it had on the Pasadena test-bed. When he fought the decision to launch a malfunctioning spacecraft, they told him that he was mired in old ways of thinking -- that NASA was now cheaper, faster, and better, and he needed to get with the program.

That's when he said, "fuck this." (verbatim) and quit.
posted by Methylviolet at 10:47 AM on July 20, 2006 [5 favorites]


For me, the the most exciting thing about the Viking missions was the biological experiments. The results suggested the possibility of life in the soil, but are generally disregarded because, as an old biology prof of mine explained, there was no evidence of evolution, and thus a chemical explanation was more likely.
posted by gsteff at 10:52 AM on July 20, 2006


Yeah, cool if you're a nerd.


Ah, jus' kiddin'.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:53 AM on July 20, 2006


Very cool.
Thirty years isn't that long considering it takes about 2 years just to fly there, and considering how many times we've been back since.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:07 AM on July 20, 2006


it wouldn't impress the grown fanboys

This plus Methylviolet's comment is the best summation of the problem I've seen so far. Most people either seem to not support NASA or to support it wholly wrongheadedly. But far be it for any of us to, you know, actually defer to expertise.
posted by dreamsign at 12:07 PM on July 20, 2006


No opinions about the fact Johny Assay pointed out ?

NASA just ignores the accomplishments made by the russians ?
posted by Pendragon at 1:18 PM on July 20, 2006


NASA must like the 20th of July.

Yeah, that's my birthday. Isn't it nice of them? I always thought so.
posted by First Post at 1:34 PM on July 20, 2006


Methylviolet

Your dad's my hero.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:37 PM on July 20, 2006 [1 favorite]


Assay and Pendragon

Why do you hate America?
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:38 PM on July 20, 2006


M-A-R-S Bitches!
posted by robot at 2:16 PM on July 20, 2006


Methylviolet
You (and your father) summed it up nicely: to much subsidation of government subcontractors. It reduces quality, increases costs, hell they may as well have subcontracted to India, which as I understand it, has cost more money in the end due to having to 'take back that work' because the subcontractors couldn't do the job right.
The government's argued against a socialist system, yet practices it for government contractors, farmers and large corporations as well as the military, what's wrong with letting the rest of the country's citizens in on this little bonanza as well?
Oh yeah. . . bloated inefficiency, corruption and incompetence.

Regardless, the people at JPL and NASA have done much with little and deserve our respect and admiration for it. And our understanding and sympathy when those projects they've worked on for years and sunk their lives into don't work properly several million miles away.

Instead they wrongfully get kicked in the teeth and scorned by 'nameless numberheadmen' (oh, they should have done it on budget/I coulda brought it in under cost, blah, blah, blah (words of a *former* girlfriend).

Here's to all the real heroes at JPL and NASA.
And to our congresscritters:

No Bucks, No Buck Rogers!
posted by mk1gti at 10:09 PM on July 20, 2006


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