Why I hate Richard Nixon

There are many reasons to dislike Richard Melhouse Nixon.  But I don’t hate him for stealing Social Security funds to pay for the police action in Vietnam, even though that inspired presidents following him to do the same, causing the problems with the program we now face.  And I don’t hate Nixon for ramping up the involvement by the U.S. in a backwater nation like Vietnam, leading to the deaths of over 50,000 Americans.  And I don’t hate Nixon for the Watergate fiasco, and the damage to the presidency it caused.

No, the reason that I hate Nixon is because he destroyed the United States manned space exploration program.  As early as 1967, engineers at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration were contemplating building a reusable spacecraft.  They had come up with a vehicle which would be completely reusable, much safer to fly than the rockets being used by the Apollo program, and capable of landing on a runway.  It was fairly small, meant only for taking people into space and bringing them back.  But it would totally transform manned space exploration, by eliminating the vertical take-offs that were so dangerous.

Instead of using a rocket to lift the spacecraft, the engineers wanted to use a wing, which would be piloted, and which would fly back to the launch site and land.  The wing would carry the spacecraft to an altitude of about 40,000 feet, where the spacecraft would light up its rockets and fly off the back of the wing.  The spacecraft would fly up to about 180 miles above the Earth, and then meet a cargo ship that had been launched previously.  Only cargo would be launched straight up on rockets, people would fly into space on wings.

Then Richard M. Nixon decided that the space program was too expensive, and he told NASA that it could only have one type of launch vehicle.  Public sentiment had become very negative about throwing away a big rocket every mission, so NASA decided to use the concept that the engineers had been developing, but increase its size.  Then, NASA found out that the National Reconnaissance Office wanted to put satellites the size of boxcars in orbit, which meant that the spacecraft would have to be much bigger.  Using a wing to launch such a large spacecraft was impossible, so they would have to continue using rockets taking off straight up.

This is how the strange looking space shuttle came about, and why it was so expensive to use.  Even though the engineers made the shuttle work, it was still very fragile.  Management refusing to listen to the engineers resulted in two space shuttles, and their crews, being lost.  If Nixon had not been so obsessed with winning in Vietnam, we might have had a space vehicle which would have been inexpensive to use, and which would have been ready early enough to capitalize on the Moon landings.

Tricky Dick WAS a crook, and the biggest thing that he stole was the future of the American manned space program.  Thanks to him, we got stuck in Low Earth Orbit.   Thanks to Nixon, we lost our sense of direction in space, which has led to the complete inability to launch people into orbit.  Tricky Dick set us back at least 50, and maybe as much as 100 years.  That is why I hate Richard M. Nixon.

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