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Wayne Hale's NASA Blog: Old sailors never die, they just fade away

Status Report From: NASA Blogs
Posted: Thursday, October 30, 2008

During the Korean conflict, my dad was an airman in the US Navy flying on antisubmarine patrols over the Pacific ocean. In those days they flew P2V Neptune aircraft. Only a few of those old birds are still flying as water tankers in the war with forest fires every summer. The P2V's have all been replaced long ago with P-3 Orions and those planes are slated for replacement in the near future with something called a P-8 which may not even have a name yet.

But I digress. The point I was going to make is that there are a whole bunch of web pages, blogs, and other internet space taken up by veterans of these old naval squadrons. And they seem to agree on just one point: the P2V was the very best airplane ever built and the men that crewed her were the very manliest of men.

Now this may come as a shock to you since the P2V is not the most notable aircraft that you probably have never heard of. Never mind, it has to do with the folks who worked day in and day out in dangerous conditions on those old birds. However, if you look around on the internet you may find folks from other squadrons that flew other planes that happen to think that their plane was the best ever . . or ship . . . or tank . . .

So I imagine that from the old folks home I will be doing whatever is the equivalent of blogging in those days (maybe sooner than I think) about why the space shuttle was the best ever spacecraft.

But you know, something better may just come along. I really hope it does. Because we need to get past just low earth orbit. And we need to do it soon.

Flying the shuttle longer came up again today. I think you know where I stand on that. We need to move on because it is really past time to do so. And you know what? I am OK with that.

I am feeling very positive today because I have been in a two day meeting where the focus is on the moon; robotic missions in the near term, human sorties later, then outposts and settlements. And after that . . . Mars.

There are many ways to get there, lots of possible alternatives in the architecture. But we need to get there. And stay. And go on.

With all the excitement of the young people (and the young at heart people) at the lunar exploration meetings this week, I am sure we can do this. There is enough energy and creativity to see it through. Not just flags and footprints this time; going back to stay and work.

Last week I got to get up close and personal with the lunar lander competitors at Las Cruces airport. There is a lot of good innovation there and these amateurs may be the source of our best ideas for real lunar landers in the not-very-distant future.

I haven't looked, but I bet those guys have a web page too. And I bet their web page says they have the best spaceship ever.

If you are not part of this -- I mean of really doing something -- then you are missing out. Whether you are with NASA or Armadillo or SpaceX or Virgin, we are all really pursuing the same goal. Making dreams come true. Advancing the human spirit by moving human bodies further into the universe.

Its really great. These are the very best of times. You should be part of it too.

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