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An Old School NASA Engineer on "Our Sputnik Moment"
Over The Horizon ^ | 1/26/11 | Emile Husson

Posted on 01/27/2011 6:30:40 AM PST by SlowBoat407

In this post, I defer to my father, Charles Husson, who spent 30 years at NASA’s Langley Research Center as a systems engineer and program manager. From launching test payloads off Wallops Island, VA, in the late 1950′s to troubleshooting the Viking I Lander in the late 1970′s, and subsequently on loan to the Defense Department from NASA in the 80′s, he has been on the cutting edge of technology and has a unique view of how government and industry worked together to move this country into true “high-tech.”

He was particularly fired up about one comment Obama made during the State of the Union address, and I invited him to write his thoughts. The “Sputnik moment” will probably go down as one of the most unfortunate metaphors a president has chosen in an attempt to spur innovation, and one reason is given below.

A SPUTNIK MOMENT – Charles Husson

Using a “ Sputnik” moment to stimulate Americans and possibly Congress to “gird up their loins” and meet the great challenge ahead was a very bad and grossly incorrect metaphor. It was Washington’s fault that this country was unable to launch a satellite when they had the means – many months ahead of Sputnik.

That embarrassment was due to a United States government edict from President Eisenhower that said “no military vehicle would be used to launch a satellite into orbit”; hence, the government-ordered, failure-plagued program “The Vanguard” to build a “peaceful” launch vehicle was created.

Four months later, after numerous launch vehicle explosions on the pad and in mid-flight, Wehrner Von Braun was finally allowed to use a military launch vehicle to put Explorer I into orbit. The Explorer I satellite built by William Van Allen had been put on hold by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Had Washington not interfered, there would be no space race, as we were clearly ahead on orbital launch capability when Sputnik was launched. Their ignorance and misdirection of these facts is wordsmithing of highest caliber. They could teach us “How To Cheat at Cards Without Being Caught”.

This is another example of Washington’s misreading of the technical environment and what it takes to be technically successful. You can build high-speed train systems based on foreign technology, build alternate energy platforms based on foreign technology, and green the environment through foreign technology, but it will not solve the basic industrial R & D infrastructure problem instituted by the United States government in the 1970’s and imposed on its own manufacturing system.

I’ll have more to say on that, but for now it’s enough to know that we can get back on track in five years if the government will take a few simple steps.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Politics; Science
KEYWORDS: nasa; sputnik; technology; wtf

1 posted on 01/27/2011 6:30:44 AM PST by SlowBoat407
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To: SlowBoat407

In response to Sputnik Kennedy put up well defined goal - Send a man to the moon and return him safely to earth by the end of the decade.

That is called a specification.

Obama put up a nebulous smoke cloud - stimulate innovation.

That is called waving your hands around.


2 posted on 01/27/2011 6:37:31 AM PST by DManA
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To: SlowBoat407
I've heard speculation that our delay was intentional. We wanted to establish a precedent of free passage over other countries in space - essentially national sovereignty only goes to the edge of the atmosphere rather than all the way to infinity. We could do that by allowing a Soviet satellite to orbit above us without asserting our rights to the space above the US as we would if a Soviet aircraft crossed our airspace.

I don't know whether it is true or not, or just some rationalization after the first round of the space race.

3 posted on 01/27/2011 6:43:05 AM PST by KarlInOhio (Washington is finally rid of the Kennedies. Free at last, thank God almighty we are free at last.)
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To: DManA

Parenthetically, anyone my age remembers the another response to Sputnik - a million kids sticking tooth picks into Styrofoam balls and sprinkling them with glitter. Every Christmas tree that year had a Sputnik ornament proudly placed on it.


4 posted on 01/27/2011 6:43:25 AM PST by DManA
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To: DManA

The point of the article is, our first Sputnik moment was caused by government putting unnecessary restrictions on technology, just as they are today.


5 posted on 01/27/2011 6:44:04 AM PST by SlowBoat407 (Anyone can fib. It takes an intellectual to tell a really big lie.)
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To: DManA
Obama said we should "do stuff" -- perhaps more detail would have been helpful.
6 posted on 01/27/2011 6:45:07 AM PST by ClearCase_guy ("Borrowing a trillion is compassionate, cutting a billion is heartless." -- VDH)
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To: KarlInOhio
I've heard speculation that our delay was intentional. We wanted to establish a precedent of free passage over other countries in space - essentially national sovereignty only goes to the edge of the atmosphere rather than all the way to infinity. We could do that by allowing a Soviet satellite to orbit above us without asserting our rights to the space above the US as we would if a Soviet aircraft crossed our airspace.

I don't know whether it is true or not, or just some rationalization after the first round of the space race.

Sounds like a rationalization of running around with our fingers up our butts to me. I think precedent only applies to action, not inaction. I'm not a lawyer, though.

7 posted on 01/27/2011 6:46:45 AM PST by SlowBoat407 (Anyone can fib. It takes an intellectual to tell a really big lie.)
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To: SlowBoat407

Obama defines “Sputnik Moment” as opportunity to spend lots of money over a long period for very vague goals.


8 posted on 01/27/2011 6:46:51 AM PST by PGR88
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To: DManA
Obama put up a nebulous smoke cloud

Obama IS a nebulous smoke cloud.....
9 posted on 01/27/2011 6:49:32 AM PST by Eagle of Liberty (formally known as Kerretarded....I changed my name)
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To: SlowBoat407

Our “Sputnik moment” was the (near) collapse of Greece and Ireland.


10 posted on 01/27/2011 6:51:00 AM PST by Andy from Chapel Hill
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To: DManA; All
"In response to Sputnik Kennedy put up well defined goal - Send a man to the moon and return him safely to earth by the end of the decade."


11 posted on 01/27/2011 6:52:16 AM PST by musicman (Until I see the REAL Long Form Vault BC, he's just "PRES__ENT" Obama = Without "ID")
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To: DManA

Obama’s mentality is steeped in exploiting “victimization” to achieve the goal of equal outcome for all... problem is, this mentality is never innovative in anything but resentments and “get-even-with’m-isms”. His mental state (and those he seeks to exploit) never rises to the level of overcoming challenges to the physical universe, never soars to see what lies beyond, but stays steeped in pits of envy and itchings for what others enjoy by rights of their own hard work, innovation and free enterprise.


12 posted on 01/27/2011 6:52:56 AM PST by dps.inspect (the system is rigged...)
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To: SlowBoat407
I really think Obama meant to say "Dupnik Moment"...


13 posted on 01/27/2011 6:55:17 AM PST by Joe 6-pack (Que me amat, amet et canem meum)
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To: SlowBoat407

Our next ‘Sputnik Moment’ will be when a EMP is burst over our continent and it will be called a “WTF Moment”.


14 posted on 01/27/2011 7:01:39 AM PST by AU72
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To: musicman

I’m stealing this. I HOPE you don’t mind.


15 posted on 01/27/2011 7:02:44 AM PST by Eagle of Liberty (formally known as Kerretarded....I changed my name)
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To: SlowBoat407
Four months later, after numerous launch vehicle explosions on the pad and in mid-flight,...

Thanks for posting that. Many Americans, and FReepers too, are unaware of the frustrations we endured watching or reading about failure after failure. It was bad enought that adolescents had a joke about it.

Q. How do they count backwards at Cape Canaveral?

A. 5...4...3...2...1...Oh...$#@!, back to the drawing boards.

16 posted on 01/27/2011 7:11:25 AM PST by Roccus (Joe Biden.....America's only living brain donor.)
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To: KarlInOhio

I heard the same thing. If we launched first, the Russians were going to go to the UN and get a ban on orbits that violated space over other countries, namely Russia.


17 posted on 01/27/2011 7:13:50 AM PST by massgopguy (I owe everything to George Bailey)
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To: Roccus

Tom Wolfe covered this wonderfully in “The Right Stuff”.


18 posted on 01/27/2011 7:18:51 AM PST by SlowBoat407 (Anyone can fib. It takes an intellectual to tell a really big lie.)
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To: Eagle of Liberty

19 posted on 01/27/2011 7:24:28 AM PST by musicman (Until I see the REAL Long Form Vault BC, he's just "PRES__ENT" Obama = Without "ID")
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To: SlowBoat407

That “no science” statement by the Fearless Leader was totally wrong, ignorant and stupid. Whatta Zer0.


20 posted on 01/27/2011 7:32:25 AM PST by Paladin2
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To: SlowBoat407

Did he? It’s been ages since I read it and don’t remember. I do remember however, my Dad taping up the front page of the NY Daily News on a kitchen wall. It had a picture of the successful Juno launch. He was very proud of our achievement


21 posted on 01/27/2011 7:37:24 AM PST by Roccus (Joe Biden.....America's only living brain donor.)
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To: KarlInOhio
I've heard speculation that our delay was intentional. We wanted to establish a precedent of free passage over other countries in space - essentially national sovereignty only goes to the edge of the atmosphere rather than all the way to infinity. We could do that by allowing a Soviet satellite to orbit above us without asserting our rights to the space above the US as we would if a Soviet aircraft crossed our airspace.

I've read the same. Eisenhower was said to be privately delighted that the Soviets broke the ice on that. His public face was more somber.

22 posted on 01/27/2011 7:45:04 AM PST by decimon
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To: DManA
"Parenthetically, anyone my age remembers the another response to Sputnik - a million kids sticking tooth picks into Styrofoam balls and sprinkling them with glitter. Every Christmas tree that year had a Sputnik ornament proudly placed on it."

Interesting little personnel story. I was about 10 years old when Sputnik went up. My older brother was a ham radio operator and he found out what band it was broadcasting on. I recall him and I sitting in his bed room listening to it go BEEP --- BEEP --- BEEP as it passed over every 90 minutes or so. At night we would go out side and you could see it pass.

50 years later almost to the day on the anniversary of the Sputnik launch, I was having a satellite dish mounted on my roof so I could have 500 or what ever useless channels of TV at my command. I sat there and remembered listening to that BEEP -- BEEP --- BEEP on that old Heath Kit vacuum tube receiver and was kind of humbled at the technology advances in just my lifetime.

23 posted on 01/27/2011 7:48:09 AM PST by Ditto (Nov 2, 2010 -- Partial cleaning accomplished. More trash to remove in 2012)
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To: musicman

Zer0 IS our sputnik. A commie thing sent to soar in the heavens. The 2010 elections were America’s initial response.


24 posted on 01/27/2011 8:03:04 AM PST by Paladin2
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To: SlowBoat407

The Sputnik comments shows his mentality and values is not that of an American, but rather someone raised abroad.


25 posted on 01/27/2011 8:09:21 AM PST by MNDude
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To: DManA
Parenthetically, anyone my age remembers the another response to Sputnik - a million kids sticking tooth picks into Styrofoam balls and sprinkling them with glitter. Every Christmas tree that year had a Sputnik ornament proudly placed on it.

Maybe your family did, but my military family and our military neighbors who lived on Chanute AFB had no part of that!

26 posted on 01/27/2011 8:24:13 AM PST by notaliberal
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To: Paladin2

I agree!!


27 posted on 01/27/2011 8:52:54 AM PST by musicman (Until I see the REAL Long Form Vault BC, he's just "PRES__ENT" Obama = Without "ID")
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To: SlowBoat407

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-mZ9pKvCmk

One of the best Leslie Fish songs.


28 posted on 01/27/2011 11:44:20 AM PST by DBrow
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To: DManA
Every Christmas tree that year had a Sputnik ornament proudly placed on it.

I'll guar-on-tee that there wasn't one at my house.

29 posted on 01/27/2011 12:37:16 PM PST by Mike Darancette (The heresy of heresies was common sense - Orwell)
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