On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.
The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit.
The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.
"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs." --San Antonio Express-News
As it has been doing for the past half decade, NASA has now begun the process of issuing hints about a future announcement of more SLS launch delays, in order to prepare the public and neuter any possible negative news coverage.
The linked article above outlines in great detail the present status of SLS and the assembly of its core stage. The main decision the agency now faces is whether it will do what it calls an “SLS Green Run,” where they assemble that core stage on a test stand at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi and fire it for a full duration static test. Such a test is necessary to validate the engineering models that were used to build the rocket. Without it no one will know if they have modeled the design correctly, meaning that during the first real launch they might find the rocket does not perform as predicted and could even fail.
Doing this test however will guarantee that the first SLS launch, Artemis 1, will not occur in June 2020 as presently scheduled, and will likely be delayed for another year.
The Trump administration has already made it clear it will not take kindly to more SLS delays. It has also made it clear that it will consider already available commercial options, such as SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, if NASA cannot deliver SLS as promised.
This puts NASA in a quandary.
The only way the agency has any chance of meeting the June 2020 date for the Artemis 1 launch would be for it to cancel the Green Run and go straight to launch. To do this however carries the risk of a launch failure, which would certainly kill SLS for good.
If they do the Green Run and delay that first launch, however, the Trump administration might kill SLS anyway, since it will have once again failed to meet its schedule.
NASA’s solution? Dribble out stories, such as this one, hinting of further delays in order to soften the political blow, and make Trump and Congress more agreeable to those delays.
This has been NASA’s strategy since 2014, when it became clear that SLS would not be ready for launch in 2017. They dribbled out information hinting at a further delay, and then announced a one-year delay to 2018. And then repeated the same process in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. Each year they first hinted at more delays, as they are doing now in 2019, and when they were satisfied that the blow was sufficiently cushioned, then announced officially the further delays.
The problem with this dance is that it was patently clear as early as 2012 that the first SLS launch would not occur before 2020, at the very earliest.
The bottom line is that the entire SLS project has been very badly managed. It has cost too much, it has taken too long to build, and as designed it is unaffordable to use for future American manned spaceflight.
In fact, the linked article unintentionally describes SLS/Orion perfectly. The article is entitled “Waiting for Artemis 1 schedule update, official decision on SLS Green Run”, which could have been shortened to just “Waiting for Artemis 1” in homage to Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot, since both are about waiting for something that never arrives.
In Beckett’s play the waiting never ends. With SLS/Orion, we might be coming very close to the end, as in the end of SLS itself.
We are now in the third week of my annual July fund-raiser for Behind the Black. My deep thanks to everyone who has so far donated or subscribed. The response this year has been wonderful.
We are not done yet. This monthly fund-raiser is now half over, and I am hoping the second half will result in as many donations as the first half did. If it does, I will remain free to continue my writing as I see fit, unblemished by the efforts of others to squelch my perspective in this increasingly intolerant world.
This year's fund-raising drive is also significant in that it celebrates the 10th anniversary of this website's founding. It is hard to believe, but I have been doing this for a full decade, during which I have written more than 22,000 posts, of which more than 1,000 were essays and almost 2,600 were evening pauses.
Therefore, I hope you will please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.
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