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Dwindling Media Coverage of America's Space Program

Updated on March 20, 2017
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Ms. Inglish offers 25+ years successful work history in Medicine; Health- and I/O Psychology; STEM courses, and Aerospace Education.

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US Shuttle Museum Pieces

US Space Shuttle Endeavour under the leadership of Mark Kelly and his crew launched for the last time on May 16, 2011 (STS-134). Many Americans do not know this.

America had only one shuttle left during Summer 2011: Atlantis. None of the historic retired US Space Shuttles were given for display to The National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright Patterson USAF Base in Fairborn, Ohio.

NASA at Houston also did not receive one. However, both facilities have a long history of developing the US Space Program, its personnel, and space craft components.

Recipients did include Kennedy Space Center Visitor's Complex in Florida (Atlantis); the California Science Center in LA (Endeavour ); the Smithsonian Institution flight-related annex in Virginia (Discovery ); and NYC's Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum (Enterprise prototype, non-functional). Challenger and Columbia were lost in explosions.

Did You Know?

US Space Shuttle Endeavor under leadership of ark Kelly and his crew launched for the last time on May 16, 2011 (STS-134). many people did not watch the launch on TV.

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What causes Americans to ignore NASA space program initiatives of the 2010s as well as the privatized projects launching from over a dozen spaceports in America? People increasingly not reading about and watching programming about space accomplishments in America.

In fact, many of the public do not believe that the US has any space programming at all. Why?

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Last ride.Sea and Space history of Endeavour.
Last ride.
Last ride. | Source
Sea and Space history of Endeavour.
Sea and Space history of Endeavour. | Source

Not Spending: Using the Lowest Bidder

The 1940s-50s vision of space exploration.
The 1940s-50s vision of space exploration. | Source

Space Tragedies

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Politics and low-bidding construction traditions have at times led to much waste of money, time, and human life in the US Space Program. Not all of this has been covered well by the media.

Lowest Bidder Parts

Many who were alive when Challenger exploded 73 seconds after lift-off will recall that the explosion was caused by a cheap rubber O-ring. This farce was echoed in the dialogue of the film K-19 (Liam Neeson, Harrison Ford) that covered the nuclear submarines of the Soviet Union in the 1960s and the tragedies that occurred on them.

One sub commander seethes, "They send me a 9-kopek part to do a 12-kopek job." (A kopek equaled roughly a penny USD at the time.)

In addition, depite commanders' requests, the nuclear power plant in the submarine had no back-up cooling system installed. Thus, it was not only America cutting corners. Moreover, the nuclear cores of those Soviet subs are at the bottom of a fjord at Leningrad, still leaking radiation into the North Sea today in 2011.

The USSR's deadly K-19. The sub was sent out many other times after the nuclear incident, but kept catching fire and killing people. Some rumors were that it was cursed.
The USSR's deadly K-19. The sub was sent out many other times after the nuclear incident, but kept catching fire and killing people. Some rumors were that it was cursed. | Source

Not Thinking

What killed the three American astronauts that burned and suffocated inside an un-launched Apollo capsule in 1967? -- It was the lack of a latch on the inside of the hatch.

The astronauts were locked in from the outside as an electrical wire ignited into flame and suffocating smoke. A lack of thinking ahead caused this disaster and Americans began to become disenchanted with outer space.

That 1967 team needed the sense of Apollo 13's man, Ken Mattingly, grounded for measles exposure, but still able to develop an emergency fire-up sequence - without a computer - that would allow his three friends in the spacecraft in the heavens to have enough fuel to return to earth.

Hero Ken Mattingly
Hero Ken Mattingly | Source

On Apollo 16 in 1972, Ken Mattingly employed the instruments on board the Service Module of the craft in a low orbit to map a band around Luna's equator both photographically and geochemically. He did this intensive work alone, while his two crew mates were walking on the lunar surface.

After the 1972 mission, Mattingly became an Astronaut Manager in Space Shuttle Development and NASA could use more people like him today. He flight tested Columbia in the summer of 1982 and commanded Discovery in 1985. Few Americans seem aware of all this.

Not Checking

Does anyone remember a Space Station Mir construction incident? The two sides of one of the space station modules were built on different continents and did not fit together well in space. One nation used metric measures and one used English measures.

No one checked measurements between the two factories, despite the many engineers and technicians on the job.

How many times have such incidents occurred? Each one is wasteful and we hope the components were recycled.

Not Intervening

Space Shuttle Columbia incinerated over Texas on re-entry, because a large piece of Styrofoam pulled loose on launch and crashed with great speed into the hull, creating a small opening. Despite the large cost, another ship or two could have been deployed before Columbia re-entry, provided additional fuel, performed a space walk, and completed some sort of repair.

Alternatively, emergency services should have been made available and at the ready at the International Space Station in order to help any ship in space from any country. Should not a new facility in a new land have a first aid kit, so to speak?

Missions to space will always contain the possibility of error and tragedy, but some of this can be avoided. Every tragedy should have a thorough after-action evaluation and summary written, with plans for prevention in the future and these plans should be presented by the news outlets to the public. They should be sent directly to the R & D departments of privatized space flight companies as well.

Not Watching

Media coverage and public viewing habits and interest have changed from the 1960s to the 2010s, when it comes to Outer Space. Fifty years have brought about a slide from near-hysteria akin to teen girls screaming for The Beatles, to a state of near apathy toward Space Shuttle Retirement.

Space enthusiasts are far from the majority of the US population. Little coverage is given on broadcast television to the dwindling Space Program and a little more is offered on cable networks.

People can visit NASA.gov and view lift-off on Internet TV, but not many do so. The last launch of Atlantis may or may not be targeted more fully. A week of interviews and other coverage would be historic and a good move for Florida tourism as well.

In the 1960s, elementary school children were routinely herded into school lunchrooms to view each lift-off on a local television station. This no longer occurs, although some classrooms have Internet TV and access NASA programs.

Each launch made the Page One headline of local newspapers in the 1960s. That no longer occurs, either.

Not Caring About an Unstable Future

Aborted program.
Aborted program. | Source

There is more to be done is space. Space medicine is just beginning, with medicinal compounds that will combine only under low-gravity situations, and other advances. The study of aging is perfect for space, with its impact on bones and muscle as well as other body systems.

The American Space Program led to satellite communications that author and scientist Sir Arthur C. Clarke first developed and spoke of previously - and people laughed at him. A space programs could use more effective planning and better news coverage, and might listen to the intelligence within it. Several sci-fi authors with good ideas retired or quit NASA and other government contractors and became authors.

We should stop jamming money into a barrel of parts on a launch pad and igniting it and its humans along with it; and now that NASA is beginning to think preventively as a whole, the Space Shuttle Program is over. Privatized businesses sometimes run a tighter ship.

Past disasters spurred NASA to put preventive measures into place, but I think we can do better still. Newly devised computer simulations might pick up ptential problems in new space vehicles before they are constructed. Engineers should put their imaginations to work, looking for additional problems. Even at the end of perfect planning, ships will still fail and entire colonies in space die; but we'll have done our best to prevent that - and space crews, after all, go willingly into the universe. We will mourn our losses and move ahead.

I look forward to a new chapter in the US Space Program, if it is allowed to develop. Many hope that conspiracy theorists are incorrect in feeling that the UFO Phenomenon and the Space Program were solely distractions from Cold War activities, wound down quickly during a single generation after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Space continues to be vast and we continue to look for the land of Atlantis.

© 2011 Patty Inglish

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    • K9keystrokes profile image

      India Arnold 5 years ago from Northern, California

      I agree with the fact that the low bidding for construction of our space travel vehicles has caused for disastrous outcome on many flights. It's a shame that interest in the field has diminished over time. This is a great hub Patty, and an unusual topic; as always a delight to read your work.

      K9

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      OK. I'm a brand new hubber and am totally intimindated by the quality of this hub! This article could be in Newsweek or Time.

      But setting the bar high motivates me to up my game. Thanks for the challenge!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 5 years ago from North America

      Both your comments are very encouraging - you've made my day!!

    • Cagsil profile image

      Cagsil 5 years ago from USA or America

      Very nicely written Patty. I would agree that Space does have it's place and the opportunity to make further advancements is included. It's a shame more isn't being done to improve the quality of life of people, but it's not a complete surprise that the NASA programs would end. Currently, the global economy won't tolerate the waste of funds on Space Exploration, because those resources are or could be used in some other fashion. Thumbs up! :)

    • BRIAN SLATER profile image

      Brian Slater 5 years ago from Nottingham Uk

      Nice one Patty, as a follower of the space program since I was knee high, the launches and developments during the space race kept me glued to the chair. I feel quite sad that America's program is coming to an end. Voted up.

    • profile image

      sync life 5 years ago

      Great stuff. there is an AstroPhysicist in our house, will pass it on for him to read. He'll enjoy this:)

    • PETER LUMETTA profile image

      PETER LUMETTA 5 years ago from KENAI, ALAKSA

      Patty another superb article. And your very right, now is the time for more space flight because of the blobal economy and population problems not to mention food shortages. We need to expand our base and make more room or suffer the consequences. The planet will not be able to sustain the billions, we need some alternatives. Hope we have enough time and money, I want my progeny to walk on Mars. thanks for a good one, Peter

    • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

      Susan Haze 5 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Nicely done Patty. It is an awful thing that people have died for the want of spending a feww pennies more. I am looking forward to seeing what happens now with our Space future.

    • Sylvia's Thoughts profile image

      Sylvia Van Peebles 5 years ago from Southern California

      Loved this hub! We should be much farther along than we are. Unfortunately we seem more interested in dumb stuff. We are so enamored of celebrities and rappers. Kids don't want to grow up to be astronauts anymore. That is such a loss for America.

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

      Hi, I have loved anything and everything to do with the Space program since it started, and I look forward to see what's coming up next. It is such a shame that people no longer take notice of it. I think a lot of it is that these days children have so much given to them, and technology at hand that anything like the shuttle going into Space is boring! how on earth has it come to that? back in the old days everything was so simple, the Space program was a thrilling and amazing thing to watch. Loved this hub! cheers nell

    • Steve Lensman profile image

      Steve Lensman 5 years ago from London, England

      Excellent hub. To be truthful I'm bored of the Space Shuttle. I was hoping there'd be at least one manned mission to Mars in my lifetime or at least one more trip to the moon. Oh well.

    • Jo_Goldsmith11 profile image

      Jo_Goldsmith11 5 years ago

      This was an excellent detail and thought provoking hub. I am really impressed. I wish we could get the money back to explore the heavens like we use to.

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

      Thank you for such a splendid hub. You put in so many interesting facts. I enjoyed reading it.

    • stars439 profile image

      stars439 5 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      Wonderful Hub. Very nice interesting photos. Thank you for sharing. God Bless You.

    • Glenn Stok profile image

      Glenn Stok 5 years ago from Long Island, NY

      Patty, This is definitely a timely Hub with both the HubMob and the Space Shuttle on their last voyage, so to say. I remember some of the things you mentioned and I enjoyed refreshing my memory about the things I had forgotten. You did a great job in putting all this together in a complete review of the history of the various Space Shuttles.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image
      Author

      Patty Inglish 5 years ago from North America

      Thanks for all the comments about the Historic Shuttle Program here in America!

      I've been fortunate in the past to find histories of the space program written just after the moon landing, by news columnists, and astronauts. Probably, someone will release a many-volumed set of books about the US Space Shuttles. If WPAFB in Dayton OH is working on one, it will be top notch. They are constructing another huge building to house more of America's historic space vehicles. Their book store has remarkable materials.

      The last shuttle launch in June is going to be packed with visitors. Maybe I should try to go anyway.

    • susannah42 profile image

      susannah42 5 years ago from Florida

      This is very well written. I always follow the space program. Sad that it's ending.

    • Support Med. profile image

      Support Med. 5 years ago from Michigan

      Thanks for sharing this. I am hoping that somehow America will regain space exploration. We have come too far to stop now. Matters not to me whether anyone would live in space or not - the knowledge gained from the explorations is so valuable in many ways. v/r

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