It says a lot about the optimism of the era that this could even be offered as a prize.
It says a lot more about the fucking beancounters that so little has happened on the matter in the past fifty damn years.
My mother won a ticket to the Moon. This is meant literally, not as a euphemism nor an idiomatic exaggeration. It was an actual, physical passenger ticket issued at the height of Apollo fever in 1969, officially valid and certifiable as genuine as such a thing could be, and my Mum owned it. I was five years old when I first …
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy defines the marketing division of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation as "a bunch of mindless jerks who'll be the first against the wall when the revolution comes," with a footnote to the effect that the editors would welcome applications from anyone interested in taking over the post of robotics correspondent.
Curiously enough, an edition of the Encyclopedia Galactica that had the good fortune to fall through a time warp from a thousand years in the future defined the marketing division of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation as "a bunch of mindless jerks who were the first against the wall when the revolution came."
... a bunch of mindless jerks who'll be the first against the wall when the revolution comes ...
Quite so ...
And we're still waiting.
But bear in mind that although these utterly despicable abortions of nature should eventually get their due, we must also realise that they are not autonomous in their actions: they respond to a boss, who in turn responds to a manager, who in turn responds to a deputy director, who in turn responds to another director, who in turn responds to the board, who in turn responds to ...
I'm sure you get where it goes.
In the end, it's nothing but shameless corporate greed.
PS: lovely article Dabbs.
The reason the revolution has never happened is because every time we're ready to go, some new asshat joins the club of "people who will be first against the wall". In order to make them all fit, we are obliged to postpone the festivities in order to build an extension.
As others have pointed out, he actually lost about the Harrier.
HOWEVER, I do know of a case that happened in a small town in Louisiana a long time ago (early 1930's). My mother was there and told me about it. A local car dealer said on the radio something like "You can have this car for a thousand potatoes." Of course he meant "dollars," but that's not what he said.
A farmer took 1,000 potatoes to the dealership and asked for the car. The dealer refused. The farmer sued him in local court. The judge ruled that he'd offered the car for "1000 potatoes," so that was the price of the car, and he had to accept the 1,000 potatoes as full payment. The farmer got the car. The dealer got the thousand potatoes. (Hey, at least it wasn't three hundredweight of dung or a dead Indian.)
Hoover promised free airline tickets to customers who purchased more than £100 worth of products, the offer was for two round-trip tickets to destinations in Europe, which proved highly successful in clearing the surplus.
As few customers actually used the vouchers, Hoover expanded the offer to include destinations in the United States.
At this point the consumer response increased enormously, as Hoover was offering around £600 of airline tickets for an outlay of just £100. Customers opted to purchase the cheapest product that was enough to satisfy the £100 requirement.
Thanks to the disconnect with Marketing, Advertising & Production departments & seeing sales soar, extended the offer, their factory switched to seven-day working and hired additional employees to meet the demand for the cheapest qualifying vacuum cleaner.
Ultimately the £30m in extra sales the promotion attracted was exceeded by the £50m it cost to pay for the airline seats as well as to settle the legal claims of those (the majority) who did not receive tickets & a number of Hoover executives were sacked for their parts in the fiasco (Lost their Royal warrant in the process).
It's quite obvious that the prize was never really anything more than a place on the waiting list, but even that is quite sweet in itself, and, your mum aside, good publicity for Pan Am, who, if the name were doing anything other than running a railway nowadays, would, I am sure, have genuinely planned to have started operating such a service eventually.
However, as they warned, the actual ticket price was likely to be "out of this world", so quite possibly your mum might not have been able to afford the flight when her number on the list reached the top!
Maybe Mark Shuttleworth might want the place in the queue, but it's possibly now much more likely that Elon Musk would be the one to be selling flights rather than Pan Am.
And politicans who decided that the money that would have been spent on moonbases would be better spent on pork-barrel shenanigans that would (hopefully) ensure their re-election..
Earth-bound wastefulness aside, IIRC, the main reason for the winding up of the Moon program wasn't just that the money could be sepnt elsewhere, but that it was sucking up so much money, all those "elsewhere"s were getting a bit fidgety from under-funding. The Moon program was a massive dick-waving competition between the US and USSR, calculated to engender national pride at great expense (the great expense was part of the showing-off). Once it had achieved it's goal (essentially nationalist publicity), the politicians pretty much had no choice but to cancel it, because driving your country into recession because of a vanity project is never a good way to get re-elected - and it was a vanity project, because once the tecnhical and scientific advancements had been achieved, there really was little benefit in putting people up there, other than proving it could be done.
It's all a great shame really, but I do believe that actual genuine reasons to want to go to the Moon are now emerging, such as abundance of 3He for when we can finally get working fusion power stations (maybe only 40 years off now?), and the fact that it gets you a good way out of the Earth's gravity well, so makes sense as a place to launch deep-space missions from that can't be done from Earth orbit. There's all sorts of genuine sciency reasons to do those, as well as industrial ones such as putative asteroid mining for useful metals. These are the things that will eventually put a manned base on the Moon, not governments, and certainly not politicians.
Once it had achieved it's goal (essentially nationalist publicity), the politicians pretty much had no choice but to cancel it,
That's pretty debatable. I think it was Robert Heinlein -hardly a spendaholic liberal - who first wrote about the plethora of technological advances that came from, or were spun off by, the US space program.
Arguably much of the tech industry wouldn't exist as we know it without the space race, and equally arguably when it was abandoned a significant amount of incredibly important research and development died with it.
The problem, as always, is that so many people don't understand or appreciate the phenomenal leap that technology took in the 1960s. In many ways it went from zero to 100 mph in a handful of years. Nothing in subsequent decades has matched that pace, with the possible exception of the commercialization of the Internet.
The biggest barrier to truly visionary action comes from two groups : those who can't see utility beyond the next quarterly result, and those who are unable or unwilling to believe that an ongoing investment today is worthwhile because it might deliver significant returns years or decades from now.
As annoying a Musk or Branson might be, they at least have that vision, as do the Chinese, Indians, and a half a dozen other countries. While the US (and possibly Russia) debate endlessly whether it's worthwhile to fund space resesrch, the new kids on the block will be in orbit, or on the Moon, or on Mars, and will reap the benefits of their own technological revolutions.
> but that it was sucking up so much money, all those "elsewhere"s were getting a bit
> fidgety from under-funding.
Have you ever looked at what NASA's budget is, and was? Relative to what the military budget is? And was?
LMGTFY: In 1969, NASA spent a little under $4B. US military spending that year was $438B.
And in 2018 NASA got about $20B and the military got just under $700B.
I personally wouldn't be pointing at NASA spending as the reason for anything else being underfunded.
One of the funnier examples of the disparity between the budgets is the replacement for Hubble.
The Hubble is one of the most successful NASA missions, lots of data etc. I expect most people have heard of it.
The National Surveillance Office built three better telescopes, launched two into orbit, and then never used them. So they donated them to NASA*. Unused.
The waste from abandoned military projects is better than all the funding allocated for pure science.
* in government speak that means pay for the launch, hardware and maintenance costs, but it's all accounting at that point ayway
They didn't launch them - the scopes are in storage. Also, they aren't complete:
'"They’re “space qualified,” as NASA puts it, but they’re a long way from being functioning space telescopes. They have no instruments — there are no cameras, for example. More than that, they lack a funded mission and all that entails, such as a scientific program, support staff, data analysis and office space. They will remain in storage while NASA mulls its options.' (Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/nasa-gets-military-spy-telescopes-for-astronomy/2012/06/04/gJQAsT6UDV_story.html?utm_term=.795aae0547e8)
The US Navy has 10 Carrier Strike Groups.
Depending on how you do the maths, each CSG (depending on composition) consists of $20-30Bn worth of capital equipment and costs ~$2.5Bn/yr in running costs (crew, fuel, maintenance, etc).
So the Navy spends more on it's Carrier Groups (>$20Bn) alone each year than NASA's Annual Budget.
This is before they pay for:
* Submarine Operations
* Littoral-class/Coastal Operations
* Expeditionary Strike Groups
Oh, and did I mention? There are 9 ESGs - which are the amphibious warfare groups, each carrying a mini-aircraft carrier for Harriers and F35Bs as well as USMC Amphibious Transport Docks and Dock Landing Ships (LPDs and LSDs).
Each ESG is basically what the Royal Navy would have considered a Carrier Strike Group in the Harrier era. The US has nine of them, plus the 10 "big" carriers for CATOBAR aircraft.
And that's just the Navy - never mind the Air Force or Army!
The US could quite comfortably ditch a couple of ESGs and CSGs. No one would notice, it wouldn't affect national security and would free up several $Bn/yr that could be spent on pure science. Or socialised healthcare, or social welfare, or fixing their borked education system.
" These are the things that will eventually put a manned base on the Moon, not governments, and certainly not politicians."
Even at this stage of advanced capitalism, no. Sorry. It's still governments or alliances of governments that are going to drive these things.
It sucks, but the only way we're currently able to collect and allocate resources on this scale and duration is through government.
The main thing that SpaceX or players like it change is the economics of various stages of the process. Not many companies do rocketery, thus the players get to charge more for less. Many more cases like this, companies being created to make a better or cheaper product. Perfect space for private enterprise.
But building and establishing a settlement off earth? Let me know when the private sector runs something like the ISS. Moonbases and off world mining are another big leap forward. Assuming that the technology exists for robot extracting and refining, then we'll be using that all over Earth first.
Space exploration is a very high level of government spending. You've got to be covering a lot of other stuff first, notably infrastructure and education. Without those, no rockets.
Most of our modern technologies come from government funded research and development. Governments are only motivated to do this when they face an existential threat. Without the second world war, we might not have jet engines on the scale we do now. We could have had jets in the thirties, no technical impediement, and the theory was all there. Hell, the RAF could have been flying jets by 1938, if the same funding had been put in place.
Same thing for rockets. Or computers. Or micro computers. Or nuclear power. Or the internet. Or TOR.
If it's useful for government, it might get done. And all the useful things developed along the way to make that happen, society gains the benefit.
The Moon Landing is described as comparable with Columbus, but a better comparison would be with the Viking expedition to Vinland - the one that died out, and it took several hundred years to build on the lost knowledge to kick-start the voyage that truely started trans-Atlantic expansion. We've had our Vinland, we now need our Columbus - hopefully without the conquistadors and slavery.
You need significantly more delta-V to reach any of those than you do LEO though. 9.4Km/s minimum (ignoring engineering issues like drag) to reach LEO, add another 4-ish on top if you want any of the earth-moon Lagrange points. If you're going to be shuttling crew up and down for years while you build the thing, that's a big issue. It's why the ISS is in such a low orbit: The cost savings in crew change and resupply runs easily make up for needing to occasionally give it a nudge to compensate for atmospheric drag.
Not to mention that regardless of how much the "neatness" of "stationary" Lagrange points might appeal to the human brain, I don't really see the fundamental difference (for, say, construction purposes) compared to the nearest Earth orbit with rare enough atmosphere to not require boosting during the lifetime of your project. Unless the capability to depart either towards the Earth or the Moon with minimal energy requirements (or staying immobile in the Earth-Moon frame) is somehow really important to you, Lagrange points don't do all that much...
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And the amazing thing is that the complaint letters got properly answered. The high 'cost' in those days of making a complaint - complete with neat typing - seems to have allowed companies to take them seriously. Nowadays online forms or dashing off a complaint email, aren't so likely to get a serious response.
This is why, when my complaint is basically just feedback, I use the webform or email. If I have a real complaint where I actually want some action or compensation, a proper written or printed letter sent by Royal Mail is the only way to go. They almost always result in a useful outcome.
I do similarly.
When something seems like it is going to be a saga, I keep a written log of dates, times, who I spoke to, what they said, what I said etc, as when push comes to shove and the inevitable complaint letter is written, a clear history of events is difficult to argue with.
short steep track up a mountainside - and a very fast train
MagLev turned up to 11 - AKA a rail gun. And you'd want a slightly longer track since accelerating up to orbital escape speed isn't something you want to do in a very short distance unless you don't mind delivering people as Pink Goo(TM)..
Oh, I can think of any number of potential candidates for a rail gun moonshot who wouldn't upset me too much if they arrived as Pink Goo, whether or not trademarked. A handful of presidents, several CEOs and a sprinkling (see what I did there) of other politicians.
And if someone could arrange a zipwire to the Moon I'd he happy to see Blowjob test it first, while waving two Union flags.
Actually that's been proposed. Arguments as to feasibility and utility are unresolved.
Essentially, the idea is that the first stage of a typical launcher expends 1/2 its fuel getting to Mach 1, IIRC 70%-80% getting to Max Q. This of course varies.
So a Maglev that goes up a mountain could replace mist of the first stage, taking the vehicle to 18000 feet or higher and Mach 2 or Mach 3. This could provide most of the first stage lift, at the cost of a bit of electricity.
There are complications. The second stage would have to be a bit bigger. The handoff at the end of the Maglev could be complicated. The Maglev is very long. If there is a carrier, you need a way to decelerate it. Most notably, you need a mountain, it needs to be just west of an ocean, and the launch direction is fixed - you can only launch in one direction.
Equatorial launches would be the most useful. Candidates include the Andes of Ecuador - but most of South America is downrange; and Mount Kilimanjaro - but it is "holy" and not quite on the ocean. No doubt there are others.
Wasn't for manned flight obviously, but that was the gist of what later became Project Babylon, the famous Iraqi "super gun." The original plan of the designer was to fire satellites in to orbit using the gun built up the side of a mountain.
Yes, my dad's office was down the hall from where they had one of the prototype projectiles on display. They had the 16" gun for testing the propellants, etc, just across the border from us. 4 or 5 miles away, it would still rattle the windows when they fired it. My first summer job was working grounds crew at the facility.
Some windy words this morning: To fizzle, originally, was to break wind silently. The petard you may be hoisted by was a small explosive that made a loud bang: it’s from the Latin ‘pedere’, to fart. A bloviator is a speaker full of empty or inflated rhetoric: a blower of hot air.
Not sure if one needs to ingest too much Pu-240 for this to occur.
Not to be a pedantic nerd, but...
240Pu isn't the isotope used in bombs, it's half-life is too short, and more importantly, it's neutron-capture cross-section for fission is much much smaller, which (I think) means the critical mass is much much bigger. You're probably thinking of 239Pu.
If you ate any measurable amount of plutonium, you'd be dead long before you got anywhere near the amount needed to go pop. It is apparently very, very, chemically poisonous (according to wikipedia, it's LD-50 in dogs is about a tenth than of hydrogen cyanide - e.g. ten times as poisonous...)
My brother says he did receive a ticket of his own and that it's knocking about somewhere in his desk at home. He also says: "Last month a researcher on the Kent Messenger sent me an e-mail asking if I was the former seven-year-old who had won it. I presume it was for one of those "On This Day..." side columns? "
I've got First Flight card #1062. I've had it since 1969 when I signed up for a moon flight at the Montreal Exposition. I like to take it out now and then and sigh heavily, then put it away for another few years.
Incidentally, and not related, I also have a "I Ate Just One" gold medal from Lay's Potato Chips. I would happily eat their potato chips on a flight to the moon.
Going on a tangent, thanks to the video embedded at the end... Why the hell the version of Evangelion uploaded to Netflix don't feature the (many, many, and rather good) versions of Fly me to the Moon, as outro music?
Wasn't it anime commentator Gigguk thatt said something like "You had ONE job, Netflix..."
(not that this week has turned out to be a happy one for us anime fans, with what happened ay Kyoto Animation)
I experienced similar when going through my mother's things after her passing a few years ago. On the one hand, losing a parent is always difficult. On the other, finding treasures from your childhood or even ones you never knew about is both heartwarming and somewhat of a balm to ease the pain of loss.
So how much would a pre-sales ticket to the moon cost ? Now that we have people buying tickets for an orbital flight, can anyone make a reasonable guess ? And when it might be fulfilled ?
And how much would have had to have been invested 50 years ago to be worth that much now ?
I bet it's not an insane amount (though, multiplied by 60,000, it would be a fair bit)
Slight correction: In the newspaper cutting and subsequent letters the cinema is definitely an ABC outlet, not a Rank Organization gong-banger. So calling it the "Odeon", a typical Rank name up until the merger some years later, is incorrect. I can verify that "2001 A Space Odyssey" appeared in my hometown at the ABC (it may have still been the "Elite" at the time) which had been upgraded to Cinerama in time for "How the West was Won".
Nothing of which saved my teenage self from experiencing utter bafflement at the end of the film.
Of course the ABC, like its soon-to-be-stablemate down the road, underwent the transitions peculiar to the 70's and beyond, multiplexing, apoplexing, deconsecration, bingoing, nightclubbing, and ultimately available-for-leasing.
Reminds me of when my Mum joined the Planetary Society, and because of her donations, got her name inscribed on a space craft that went on a mission - I don't remember which. I will also always get that warm fuzzy feeling each time I find my Major Astro club card. We kids were enamored with all things space and science back then - too bad folks still don't do that; there would be more science graduates in this old world if there were!!