Dan W

Software Developer

Do The Other Things

Dec 29, 2011

I was watching "NASA's Greatest Missions" on TV over Christmas. There's this clip of a Kennedy speech they repeat:

We choose to go to the moon... we choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

What are the "Other things", apart from going to the moon? A quick search didn't bring up good answers. Yahoo Answers claimed the other things were Marilyn Monroe. Some forum posts argued it was a reference to an earlier part of the speech:

But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic? Why does Rice play Texas?

I'm not convinced. I then found an earlier speech that this could be a reference to:

I therefore ask the Congress, above and beyond the increases I have earlier requested for space activities, to provide the funds which are needed to meet the following national goals:

First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth

He goes on to give three more goals:

Secondly, an additional 23 million dollars, together with 7 million dollars already available, will accelerate development of the Rover nuclear rocket. This gives promise of some day providing a means for even more exciting and ambitious exploration of space, perhaps beyond the moon, perhaps to the very end of the solar system itself.

I haven't heard of Project Rover before. As wikipedia describes:

A nuclear engine was considered for some time as a replacement for the J-2 used on the S-II and S-IVB stages on the Saturn V and Saturn I rockets. Originally "drop-in" replacements were considered for higher performance, but a larger replacement for the S-IVB stage was later studied for missions to Mars and other high-load profiles, known as the S-N. Nuclear thermal space "tugs" were planned as part of the Space Transportation System to take payloads from a propellant depot in Low Earth Orbit to higher orbits, the Moon, and other planets."

Neat. But it didn't get anywhere.

Third, an additional 50 million dollars will make the most of our present leadership, by accelerating the use of space satellites for world-wide communications.

Fourth, an additional 75 million dollars--of which 53 million dollars is for the Weather Bureau--will help give us at the earliest possible time a satellite system for world-wide weather observation.

I wonder if satellite development would have progressed the same without this funding. It seems to have had more practical impact than flying to the moon. What if the satellites could have been funded without the moon trip? Or is the big audacious moon goal needed to sell the boring bits to the public?

Reminded me of this article on airport security:

Security theater, from this perspective, is an attempt to convey a message: “We are doing everything possible to protect you.” When 9/11 shattered the public’s confidence in flying, Slovic says, the handful of anti-terror measures that actually work—hardening the cockpit door, positive baggage matching, more-effective intelligence—would not have addressed the public’s dread, because the measures can’t really be seen. Relying on them would have been the equivalent of saying, “Have confidence in Uncle Sam,” when the problem was the very loss of confidence. So a certain amount of theater made sense.

Does that make the TSA our generations equivalent of going to the moon? The annual 8.1 billion USD budget seems comparable to the total 25.4 billion USD cost of Apollo.

As an aside in my searching I found out that Apollo reaching the moon was mentioned in a Star Trek episode broadcast in 1968, before it happened. I bet there's a whole branch of moon conspiracy theory material dedicated to that.