A Rocket to Nowhere

Taken on its own merits, the Shuttle gives the impression of a vehicle designed to be launched repeatedly to near-Earth orbit, tended by five to seven passengers with little concern for their personal safety, and requiring extravagant care and preparation before each flight, with an almost fetishistic emphasis on reuse. Clearly this primitive space plane must have been a sacred artifact, used in religious rituals to deliver sacrifice to a sky god.

As tempting as it is to picture a blood-spattered Canadarm flinging goat carcasses into the void, we know that the Shuttle is the fruit of what was supposed to be a rational decision making process. That so much about the vehicle design is bizarre and confused is the direct result of the Shuttle’s little-remembered role as a military vehicle during the Cold War. —Maciej CeglowskiA Rocket to Nowhere (Idle Words)

Great writing, even if the author sounds like he’s chummy with the tinfoil-hat conspiracy crowd.

Regarding the Canada-produced robot arm: I remember being amused when I was living in Canada, hearing news reports that went something like this: “The Canadarm launched safely into orbit today, and got right to work deploying a payload. A spokesman for Spar Aerospace, the Canadian company that manufactured the robot arm, said, ‘This is a wonderful thing that should make all Canadians proud.’ A Candian politician said, of the advanced Canadian technology currently in orbit, “It’s really amazing what we Canadians can do when we put our Canadian heads together.” A Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer paused while riding across Canada’s snow-covered northland, looked up at the stars, and wiped a tear from his Canadian eye, thinking about the wonderful Canadian things the Canadarm was doing up there in space. The Canadarm is scheduled to return to Flor– uh, return to Earth next Wednesday, along with the Space Shuttle Atlantis, if NASA doesn’t screw this one up, too.”

(Okay, okay, I’m exaggerating… but I really did encounter news leads that used passive verbs to describe the Canadarm being elevated to orbit by some unspecified, non-Canadian process.)