What's Bob doin in a California newspaper?
An article about Bob's quest to make a tethered space walk a requirement to graduate high school.
From the http://www.dailybulletin.com/
And Mike Rappaport's California Dreamin' column on July 6, 2000
original link directly to frame of article:
http://www.dailybulletin.com/cgi-bin/LiveIQue.acgi$rec=68046?columns --broken 7/31/2007
Published Thursday, July 6, 2000
With all the talk these days about better educating our children, Bobby Williams has a requirement he would like to add for high-school graduation.
Walking in space.
"Every human being who has gone into orbit says it his changed them spiritually," said Williams, who teaches computer science at Clinton Community College in upstate New York. "Want to stop children killing children? Send them into orbit. Let them look creation in the eye and let them see that our differences are our strength."
To that end, Williams says he'd like to see a tethered spacewalk made a requirement for graduating from high school.
It's a fascinating idea - I'm sure there are many parents in this country who at one time or another have wanted to send their kids into orbit - but the logistics of it baffle me.
With millions of high school seniors graduating every year, I would think we would need a fleet of space shuttles operating around the clock. Even in these days of surpluses, that doesn't sound feasible.
So I called Williams and asked him how he would execute this plan.
"You don't need shuttles," he said. "We have the technology now for electromagnetic anti-gravity pads. All you would have to do is build two zero-gravity chambers at sea level and float them up there."
"This technology is highly feasible," he said. "I know there are flying saucers using electromagnetic anti-gravity."
I don't know if I believe in flying saucers, but I like the idea of two sea-level chambers - say one in Florida and one in California - lifting high-school seniors into space.
But I wasn't going to take Williams' word for it, so I asked my favorite expert on the space program - my rocket-scientist wife Nicole - if the technology exists.
"I've certainly never heard of it," she said.
Even if Williams' plan isn't feasible, his heart is in the right place. He says "it is past time humanity returned to the stars, to stay, no matter what," and I couldn't agree more.
Among the real tragedies of the last 30 years is the fact that we went to the moon, came back and then turned our back on manned space exploration. The last time anyone ventured farther out than Earth orbit was December 1972, when Eugene Cernan, Ronald Evans and Harrison Schmitt went to the moon on Apollo 17.
Some folks said the money we were spending on space should be spent to clean up our slums. Others said once we'd beaten the Russians to the moon there wasn't any point in doing more.
They were both wrong.
For thousands of years, exploring the unknown has been one of man's primal desires, whether it was Christopher Columbus setting foot in the New World in 1492, Balboa glimpsing the Pacific Ocean in 1513 or Neil Armstrong walking on the moon in 1969.
That's why we need to go to Mars - and soon.
We're learning more and more about our planetary neighbor, but few discoveries were more exciting than the fact that there may actually be water in some parts of Mars.
In a time of spiritual blandness, I can't think of anything that would excite people's imagination as much as an interplanetary mission.
I know the argument that unmanned missions yield more concrete results. My wife works on the Cassini mission to Saturn, the last of NASA's big-ticket items, and we're definitely eagerly awaiting July 4, 2004, when the spacecraft is scheduled to enter the Saturnian system.
But I'd be willing to bet that nine out of 10 Americans have no idea what Cassini is or where it's going.
A manned mission would be different.
Sure, it would be more expensive. Going to Mars might cost $50 billion to 100 billion, but with estimated surpluses of as much as $4 trillion over the next decade, I doubt we'd even miss one or two percent of it.
We probably couldn't send high-school seniors, but we could certainly give them - and everyone else - something to excite their imaginations in ways nothing on Earth can.
Even walking in space.
q Mike Rappaport's California Dreamin' column runs Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. Mike can be reached at (909) 483-8556 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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