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The Demise of America's Manned Space Transportation Program

Space Shuttle Endeavour (named after the ship of British Lt. James Cook) lifts off for the last time tomorrow (April 29). Atlantis flies next month, marking the end of the USA's manned space flight vehicle program for the foreseeable future. Henceforth, we will be hitching rides on Chinese and Russian craft that still land in the desert using parachutes.

Here are some stats on the Shuttle program.

Number of shuttles: 5 - Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis, Endeavour, Columbia; expected launches: 500; actual: 135; total flight time (as of Jan 2011): 1289 days; shuttles lost: 2 (Challenger, Columbia); total passengers: 836; failure rate: 1:67.5; fuel consumption rate: 660,000 lbs./min. solid, 45,000 gpm liquid hydrogen; 17,000 gpm LOX; time to orbit: 8.5 min.; orbital speed: 17, 500 mph; touchdown speed: 220 mph.

As with our oil drilling industry, politicians have chosen to trash our domestic space transportation industry and send that money to countries that yearn for our demise. We pass on cutting edge technology, lend money (which rarely gets repaid), and even pay for the privilege of losing hundreds of thousands of American jobs... and they will not be coming back anytime soon. In the last decade, technology export laws have been loosened to permit virtually all of our semiconductor processing technology - in particular GaAs and GaN - to go overseas, along with the high precision machinery and software that controls it. Silly us, we used to protect that information to retain an edge on profiting from our citizens' creativity and hard work. Pity all the former Communist industrial and military spies (in case you have forgotten, China and Russia are still proud Commie countries) who have been downsized because most of the information they used to steal is now handed over so that we can buy cheap electronics gadgetry. Many critical components and systems for military use are manufactured by those same unfriendlies.

The H-1B visa issue that dominated headlines in the 1990s and early 2000s has been effectively dealt with by seeing to it that there is no large demand for foreign engineers to come to the U.S. since now a large part of the work is being done in their native countries. Finally, those jobs can be filled by American citizens. Oh, wait, those jobs are gone now so nobody will be filling them. Not to worry, though, because McDonalds just hired 50,000 new employees.

At least we will soon benefit from all the Green jobs that are about to re-employ our people. Wind turbines and rechargeable batteries will save us. Think again. GE, who famously paid $0 of income taxes in the U.S. for 2010, is offshoring as much of its production as possible in order to keep costs down. The U.S. has less than 10% of the world's wind turbine manufacturing market, even with a lot of the parts being made overseas. The Government Motors (GM) Volt was originally going to use A123 Systems' batteries (in Mass.), but at the last moment GM decided to use LG (a fine Korean company). Campaign promises are made to reinvigorate jobs in America, and then after the election, we get sold out to the lobbyists that donated the most money. Do a Google search to find plenty of related news stories.

Alright, maybe we are not keeping the jobs here, but at least our water and soil are not contaminated by the pollutants of those evil manufacturing processes. 10% unemployment, 25% underemployment and all the people who have totally given up looking for a job are a small price to pay for a pristine environment. Just trade in your 8 mpg truck and buy a hybrid. Heck, everyone can afford that, or even a $40k Volt (a mere $32.5k with tax payer-funded rebate). That advice came from the top. Next time I will do a report on the pollution settling here that comes from across the Pacific.



Posted on 4/21/2011



These items are an archive of past Topical Smorgasbord items that have appeared on the RF Cafe homepage. In keeping with the "cafe" genre, these tidbits of information are truly a smorgasbord of topics. They all pertain to topics that are related to the general engineering and science theme of RF Cafe. Note: There is also a huge collection of my 'Factoids' (aka 'Kirt's Cogitations') that might interest you as well.

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