Wie wir von unserem Kollegen Ole Henningsen von SUFOI erfahren haben, wurde am frühen Abend des 17.11.2013 über Dänemark Richtung Norddeutschland eine helle Feuerkugel beobachtet welche in Kopenhagen und Silkeborg aufgezeichnet wurde.
17.11.2013 / 17.37 MEZ
Observations at large scales, such as panoramas of Martian landscapes, help researchers identify smaller-scale features of special interest for examination in more detail. Those smaller-scale observations may in turn reveal even finer-scale features for close-up examination. This concept of nested scales is illustrated here with images from the right Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA's Mars rover Curiosity that show the lower stratigraphy at "Yellowknife Bay" inside Gale Crater on Mars. These images were taken during the 137th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity's work on Mars (Dec. 24, 2012). The image at right covers an area about one foot (about 30 centimeters) across. The location of that image within the left-side image is indicated by the white box in the image. The white box in the right image indicates a smaller feature of interest that requires even higher spatial resolution.
This colorful scene is situated in the Noctis Labyrinthus region of Mars, perched high on the Tharsis rise in the upper reaches of the Valles Marineris canyon system.
Targeting the bright rimmed bedrock knobs, the image also captures the interaction of two distinct types of windblown sediments. Surrounding the bedrock knobs is a network of pale reddish ridges with a complex interlinked morphology. These pale ridges resemble the simpler “transverse aeolian ridges” (called TARs) that are common in the equatorial regions of Mars.
The TARs are still poorly understood, and are variously ascribed to dunes produced by reversing winds, coarse grained ripples, or indurated dust deposits. HiRISE observations of TARs have so far shown that these bedforms are stable over time, suggesting either that they form slowly over much longer time scales than the duration of MRO's mission, or that they formed in the past during periods of very different atmospheric conditions than the present.
Dark sand dunes comprise the second type of windblown sediment visible in this image. The dark sand dune seen just below the center of the cutout displays features that are common to active sand dunes observed by HiRISE elsewhere on Mars, including sets of small ripples crisscrossing the top of the dune. In many cases, it is the motion of these smaller ripples that drives the advance of Martian sand dunes. The dark dunes are made up of grains composed of iron-rich minerals derived from volcanic rocks on Mars, unlike the pale quartz-rich dunes typical of Earth.
This image clearly shows the dark sand situated on top of the pale TAR network, indicating that the sand dunes are younger than the TARs. Moreover, the fresh appearance of the sand dunes suggest that they are currently active, and may help shape the unusual TAR morphology by sandblasting the TARs in the present day environment.
The original image was acquired on Aug. 31, 2013, by the HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) instrument aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). HiRISE is operated by the University of Arizona, Tucson.
Molecular biologist and entrepreneur J. Craig Venter, left, and microbiologist Gerardo Toledo collect microbe samples at Mojave National Preserve. Venter is field-testing technology he says will revolutionize the search for extraterrestrial life.
MOJAVE NATIONAL PRESERVE — The sun is fading, the temperature is dropping and this desert party is just getting started.
They're prying open beer bottles and blasting rock music from an RV. Motorcycles rest on kickstands beside an ancient lava flow while revelers talk excitedly about alien worlds, teleportation and the creation of life.
It's a spectacle that easily could be part of Burning Man, but this gathering is even more mind-blowing than anything you might find at the New Age festival.
On this sun-blasted tract of sand 14 miles south of Baker, molecular biologist and entrepreneur J. Craig Venter is field-testing a technology that he says will revolutionize the search for extraterrestrial life.
Not only does Venter say his invention will detect and decode DNA hiding in otherworldly soil or water samples — proving once and for all that we are not alone in the universe — it will beam that information back to Earth and allow scientists to reconstruct living copies in a biosafety facility.
"We can re-create the Martians in a P-4 spacesuit lab, if necessary," the 67-year-old says matter-of-factly as he relaxes with his poodle, Darwin, in a luxury camper.
It may sound outrageous, but Venter's concept of biological teleportation has captured the attention of scientists at NASA's Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. Half a dozen Ames emissaries — experts in astrobiology, geology and planetary and environmental science — are on hand to assist in the field test.
The prospect of building a device that could land on Mars, or one of Saturn's moons, and analyze samples without having to return to Earth would save billions of dollars. It also would eliminate the potential risks of bringing home alien pathogens, said Ames Director Simon "Pete" Worden.
"The next mission to Mars will be in 2020," Worden said. "That mission may well have this [technology] on it."
The unforgiving Mojave Desert, with its shifting sand dunes and rugged fields of basalt, long has played the role of stand-in at Mars exploration rehearsals.
Such was the case when a team from NASA and the nonprofit J. Craig Venter Institute in San Diego and Rockville, Md., trudged through the desert last weekend, flipping over rocks in search of a bacteria with "super powers," as Ames planetary scientist Chris McKay put it.
Highly resistant to radiation and extreme temperatures, the cyanobacteria called Chroococcidiopsis is a green crud that covers the bottom of translucent quartz rocks.
Among other attributes, the stuff refuses to die when deprived of air and water.
Scientists believe this is the sort of extremeophile that may be hiding out on other worlds, so they plan to use it in their terrestrial test run.
"We're in love with this organism," McKay said. "It's the closest thing we have to Martians."
McKay, an ardent proponent of terraforming — the theoretical transformation of planets or moons into life-supporting worlds — said Chroococcidiopsis might one day prove useful in making Mars habitable for humans. If the oxygen-producing organism took root on the Red Planet, it might completely alter the climate and atmosphere in 100,000 years, McKay said.
But on this day, the game plan was to collect samples of the bacteria, prepare them for analysis and then load them into a genetic sequencer to determine the unique order of four repeating nucleotides, or chemical "letters," in the bacteria's genome.
Once that's accomplished, the cyanobacteria's DNA sequence will be uploaded to the cloud and then downloaded by scientists at Venter's for-profit company, Synthetic Genomics Inc.
In the Mojave, all this work is taking place in a massive trailer and requires a team of scientists. If it's ever used on Mars, the technology is going to have to be roboticized and shrunk to a fraction of its current volume.
"It needs to be the size of a shoe box," McKay says.
Venter has made his career by turning improbable ideas into reality.
He goaded government scientists into a historic race to decode the human genome, vastly accelerating the process with his technique of whole genome shotgun sequencing. While searching for undiscovered forms of life in the world's oceans, he analyzed seawater for strings of DNA and identified 1,800 new species of aquatic microbes.
In 2007, he successfully transplanted the genome of one species of bacteria into another. Three years later, he announced that he had built a DNA sequence in the lab and "booted it up" within a single cell of bacteria. This cell went on to reproduce a colony of cells that bore the same lab-formulated DNA.
When he published that feat in the journal Science, Venter said his team had created "synthetic life." Critics condemned him for "playing God." Others downplayed the achievement, saying he hadn't actually created life from scratch.
Venter, a devout atheist, dismisses the criticism from both factions.
"We're creating new life," Venter said. "Is that creating life? I'm not sure I really care. It's a semantic argument."
While the desert field experiment was a test for the unit that hypothetically would travel to Mars to send back data, Venter said a prototype of the receiving technology exists as well. That device, which downloads the DNA sequence and prints out the corresponding nucleic acids, will be available for sale in 2014.
This technology will have many uses on Earth, Venter said.
The U.S. government could use it to identify biological agents in the field — perhaps dropping a sequencing unit from a C-130 aircraft and allowing scientists to identify the organisms in the safety of their lab thousands of miles away. Health agencies could use it during viral epidemics.
Venter says the receiving unit ultimately will be the size of a computer printer. With it, consumers will be able to "download" vaccines and produce insulin, among other medicines.
"We hope to sell a lot of these machines," he says.
Venter's chutzpah is matched by his larger-than-life personality.
Venter was awarded a National Medal of Science in 2009 by President Obama. He maintains an expensive collection of automobiles, motorcycles and art — not to mention the 95-foot lab yacht Sorcerer II.
At the Mojave test site, buttoned-down NASA scientists watched with amusement as Venter's entourage began to arrive, stylishly late.
First, a tour-bus-sized RV rolled in, provoking investigation by park authorities. Venter arrived in a pickup truck towing a trailer loaded with adventure bikes, luggage, beer, a bottle of aged scotch and copies of his new book, "Life at the Speed of Light: From the Double Helix to the Dawn of Digital Life."
As Venter stepped from the truck with his wife and publicist, Heather Kowalski, he was surrounded by Venter Institute scientists who scrambled to greet "the boss."
Because it would take 26 hours for the field lab's sequencer to decode the Mojave desert samples, Venter brought the motorcycles to help pass the time. That's how he encountered the weekend's first glitch: His BMW R1200 GS Adventure would not start.
As daylight faded and the scientists wrapped up their day's work, Venter cranked up music, sent for pizzas in Baker, and kicked off an impromptu party. The main topic of conversation: life elsewhere in the universe.
"They sent Curiosity to the last place on Mars where they would find life," complained one scientist, cocktail in hand
"And it has a tiny drill," lamented another.
Venter, who toted a growler of craft beer, said the key to finding evidence of life on Mars would be digging deep into the planet, perhaps as deep as a kilometer or more, where water may exist.
"I would not bet on finding any microbes on or near the surface of Mars," he said.
But why stop with the Red Planet? A biological transporter should be sent to the Saturnian moons Titan or Enceladus, one expert argued. Enceladus is thought to have liquid water beneath its frozen surface, and it spews ice into space. That ice ultimately becomes part of Saturn's rings.
As a dozen or so scientists discussed the hunt for ET, some found it difficult to maintain balance. Was it the alcohol? No, the RV had begun tilting under their collective weight.
"Everybody move to the other side!" somebody bellowed. They did.
"I could think of a lot more interesting places to go than Mars," Venter said, barely missing a beat as the conversation continued.
Data from the Kepler space telescope suggest that every fifth star in our galaxy has a planet that might hold liquid water — a key ingredient for life. That means billions of planets in the Milky Way have the potential to be inhabited by living organisms, scientists say.
In the face of such odds, Venter said, he's astounded that some people dismiss the idea of life beyond Earth.
Venter shook his head.
"And people think I have a big ego," he said.
Quelle: Los Angeles Times
NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) embarked on a “target of opportunity” flight recently that included study of Comet ISON. The lengthy mission was SOFIA's second opportunity to capture data on a comet, having previously studied Comet Hartley 2 in 2010. For the Comet ISON observations, the target was predicted to be – and was -- very faint.
The observatory’s flight path saw NASA’s highly modified 747SP that carries a high-tech German-built 2.5 meter infrared telescope depart its home base at Palmdale, Calif., the evening of Oct. 24, 2013. It then flew east to Colorado, turned northeast and passed over the Canadian township of Pickle Lake, Ontario, then headed west over Medicine Hat, Alberta, where the observatory turned south and continued flying toward the United States. The comet ISON observations began south of the Canadian border, above the border of Idaho and Montana while SOFIA was flying at 43,000 feet altitude. The entire non-stop flight took nearly 10 hours to complete.
Comet ISON, a pristine chunk of primordial material from the Oort Cloud, recently entered the inner solar system for the first time and is heading toward a close encounter with the sun. On Nov. 28, 2013, Thanksgiving Day, Comet ISON will reach perihelion – the orbital point of closest approach to the sun -- passing within 730,000 miles of the sun. The comet was discovered in September 2012, by researchers Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonk using the International Scientific Optical Network’s (ISON) 0.4-meter (16-inch) telescope. It was then named in honor of the institution.
Principal investigator Diane Wooden of NASA's Ames Research Center, who had proposed that Comet ISON be studied at three infrared wavelengths – 11.1, 19.7, and 31.5 microns, was aboard the Oct. 24 SOFIA flight. Two of those wavelengths, 19.7 and 31.5 microns, cannot be seen from Earth-based telescopes because water vapor in Earth’s atmosphere blocks infrared energy from reaching the ground. The 31.5-micron wavelength was detected simultaneously with the 11.1 and 19.7-micron images.
The 11.1-micron wavelength allows the SOFIA observations to be tied to ground-based measurements with the Subaru Telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawaii, and the Great Canary Telescope on the island of La Palma, in Spain’s Canary Islands. Currently, there are no space-borne telescopes operating at wavelengths longer than 4.5 microns, making SOFIA the only telescope able to see these limited wavelengths.
Wooden, who made more than 75 flights on SOFIA’s predecessor, the Kuiper Airborne Observatory, is working with a diverse team that will combine its numerous observations to better understand the composition of Comet ISON. Her observations aboard SOFIA were to measure the thermal emission from small and large dust grains in the coma of Comet ISON by measuring the mid-infrared wavelengths with the Faint Object InfraRed CAmera for the SOFIA Telescope (FORCAST) instrument. FORCAST collects infrared photons at wavelengths between five- and 40-microns.
“The long wavelength photometry, only possible from SOFIA, will allow us to measure the thermal emission from larger grains, which cannot be seen in scattered light at visible wavelengths,” said Wooden. “Compared with smaller submicron grains, larger grains have cooler temperatures and emit at longer wavelengths.
"Only the FORCAST instrument on SOFIA can obtain the longer wavelength photometry measurements that sample the thermal emission of the larger grains," she explained. "By modeling the FORCAST photometry, we can constrain the grain size distribution and the dust mass. The mass and loss rate of the dust are one of the fundamental characterizations of a comet.”
“When we got onto the comet leg of the flight, we clearly saw the extended coma in the fine guiding camera but not in the wide-angle camera,” Wooden said. “We acquired images at 11.1 microns and immediately saw the comet was faint. We then shifted to the 19.7-micron filter, where the comet was expected to be brighter.
"Soon we could see the comet was about as weak at 19.7 microns as it was 11.1 microns, consistent with the expectations of a typical grain-size distribution, Wooden continued. "If the 19.7-micron images had a stronger signal, that would have meant there were more, larger grains.
Wooden said these measurements are important because they serve as constraints or upper limits on the flux of thermal emissions from larger dust grains in the coma.
"Studying the dust’s thermal emission from SOFIA enables us to derive the grain size, its distribution, and the mass of the amount of dust coming from the comet," she said. "This is a critical complement to studying the gases that are released, and thereby contributes significantly to understanding the origins of comets.
“We learned that the comet is dust-poor not only for small grains, as already known by the weak scattered light at visible wavelengths, but also for larger grains detectable at these mid-IR wavelengths from SOFIA,” Wooden concluded.
Gen. William L. Shelton addresses Air Force Association members Nov. 21, 2013 during the Pacific Air & Space Symposium in Los Angeles, Calif., Shelton discussed the importance of space and cyberspace operations and the foundational capability they provide to our nation and joint military forces. Shelton is the commander of Air Force Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Carlin Leslie/Released)
Air Force News Service
11/22/2013 - LOS ANGELES -- There are increased threats to the Air Force's space and cyber capabilities, said an Air Force senior leader during Air Force Association's 2013 Pacific Air & Space Symposium, Nov. 21.
Gen. William L. Shelton, the commander of Air Force Space Command, discussed the heavily contested space and cyberspace arenas during the symposium in Los Angeles, Calif.
The cyber and space arenas have made significant strides during the Air Force's lifespan. The first desktop computers the Air Force employed were originally used just for word processing. Slowly, the Air Force began to network those computers together, creating the network we now use daily.
Keeping up with the ever-evolving cyber domain, Shelton discussed the command's number one cyber priority, the Air Force Network Migration.
"What we have done is adopted a defense in-depth strategy, which starts with collapsing down the network as part of the Air Force Network Migration," Shelton said. "This is the initial step into a Joint Information Environment for the Air Force."
Keeping up with the rapidly evolving space and cyber threats, AFSPC is training their Airmen to higher standards and requiring higher advanced training and education. According to Shelton, this is designed to enhance the Air Force's capabilities and standards.
Like cyber, there is no shortage of threats in the space domain. "We know for a fact that adversaries are very actively working on counter space threats, trying to take away our space capabilities that they know we are dependent on," Shelton said. "We are also concerned about the debris problem in orbit around Earth."
There is an estimated 500,000 objects in orbit that are one centimeter in size or greater. To track the abundance of objects, space operators are using radar sensors, which allow them to track approximately 23,000 of these objects.
During his remarks, Shelton mentioned the importance of situational awareness in space. According to the general, space situational awareness gives the Air Force the ability to see and understand threats on Earth and in space, allowing the Air Force to operate successfully in multiple domains.
Looking to the future, Shelton said, he feels confident that the Air Force will efficiently utilize resources to carry out the mission.
"We are the pros in this business," Shelton said. "We are working hard to provide the required capability for our warfighter that is affordable and resilient."
Wernher von Braun (von links), der US-Präsident John F. Kennedy und der Vizepräsident Lyndon B. Johnson unterhalten sich in dem Montagewerk einer Saturn-Rakete in Huntsville.
It's been half a century since a young president was cut down by a deranged communist assassin, and a little longer than that since humans first flew into space. The two events are indelibly linked in the minds of most, because the assassinated president, John F. Kennedy, is properly credited with setting the U.S. on the course that would, a little over half a decade after his untimely death, end in Americans walking on the moon.
There is a lot of mythology and alternate-history speculation on the course of history had he served out two terms. Would he have gotten as embroiled in Vietnam as his successor? Would the "Great Society" programs have been created? Would there have been follow on to Apollo that resulted in lunar bases and Mars missions in the seventies and eighties?
It was always assumed that the president had a deep and abiding interest in space, on the basis of the lofty words of his speech at Rice University in 1962 defending the moon initiative:
Man, in his quest for knowledge and progress, is determined and cannot be deterred. The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind in the race for space. Those who came before us made certain that this country rode the first waves of the industrial revolutions, the first waves of modern invention, and the first wave of nuclear power, and this generation does not intend to founder in the backwash of the coming age of space. We mean to be a part of it–we mean to lead it. For the eyes of the world now look into space, to the moon and to the planets beyond, and we have vowed that we shall not see it governed by a hostile flag of conquest, but by a banner of freedom and peace.
But ironically, his ostensible vision of sending men to the moon and back within a decade likely only survived because he himself did not. He was in reality quite ambivalent, and even apathetic about space. In the late fifties, he and his brother Robert ridiculed the vision of MIT professor and aerospace pioneer Charles Stark Draper at dinner with him.
His own science advisor, Jerome Wiesner, according to The Atlantic, said that it was the area that the president understood the least. The announcement of the lunar goal in May of 1961 was not a result of a desire to see humanity conquer the heavens so much as a political response to the Soviets being first to send a man into space, and to distract from the recent Bay of Pigs fiasco, a failed CIA operation to overthrow the Castro regime in Cuba that had been planned during the Eisenhower administration. In a meeting with his advisors in 1962 a couple of months after the Rice speech, he bluntly told them, including NASA administrator James Webb, that he "wasn't that interested in space." In fact, before his death in November of 1963, he had been giving serious consideration to ending the race, and negotiating with the Soviets to do a joint mission, to reduce its horrific costs (at its peak in the mid-sixties, Apollo was consuming 4% of the federal budget).
So it is quite possible, and even likely, that had Kennedy lived, what many view as one of his signature achievements, if not indeed the one — sending America to the moon — would not have happened. After his assassination, the program survived partly as a jobs program in politically important states and districts, and partly as a tribute to the fallen president. Amidst the race riots burning many cities and the rising costs of Vietnam his successor, Lyndon Johnson, actually started to end production on the program, many months before the first moon landing. Kennedy himself might have done so sooner. Apollo continued for another five years, with six moon landings, purely on the momentum of such a momentous project.
Kennedy's legacy in space is a NASA human-spaceflight program that has been rudderless for half a century, because its purpose was never articulated in terms that would justify the massive amounts of money expended on it. Had the goal actually been to open up the high frontier to humanity, an America operating on its traditional values of individualism and entrepreneurship would have gone to work on it much sooner, and much more effectively, than the centralized state-socialist bureaucracy that we established to beat the Soviets' state-socialist bureaucracy to the moon. With the recent success of SpaceX and others, we are in fact starting to see this happen, half a century late.
But for NASA, that drift continues, as the myths laid down so long ago continue to prevail in the Congressional committees responsible for funding NASA (unsurprisingly, such committees are largely run by people with NASA centers and contractors in their states and districts). Stuck in the Apollo mindset, they think that NASA's job is not to open a frontier, but to build big rockets, while starving the agency of funding for the technologies and hardware needed to actually send humans beyond low earth orbit. And perhaps unironically, it's probably not an outcome that would have upset the late president at all.
Rand Simberg, an aerospace engineer and a consultant in space commercialization and tourism, blogs at Transterrestrial Musings. He is an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute and about to publish a book on our irrational approach to safety in space.
Der Direktor des U.S. Space Flight Centers Wernher von Braun (rechts) begleitet den US-amerikanischen Praesidenten John F. Kennedy bei einer Besichtigung des Redstone-Arsenals in Huntsville, Alabama.
Quelle: USA Today
President John F. Kennedy's decision to commit the United States to "landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth" within a single decade, with only rudimentary ideas about how to do it and almost no space experience, was by today's standards an unimaginably daring -- and expensive -- gamble.
America won the bet, successfully carrying out six lunar landing missions between 1969 and 1972, leaving 12 sets of footprints on the moon's airless surface and returning 842 pounds of lunar rock and soil for detailed laboratory analysis.
The Apollo moon program cost U.S. taxpayers a staggering $25.4 billion, which translates to around $159 billion in 2012 dollars, according to John Logsdon, author of "John F. Kennedy and the Race to the Moon."
|Six days before a tragic trip to Dallas, President Kennedy tours Cape Canaveral on Nov. 16, 1963, visiting launch complex 37 where a powerful Saturn 1 rocket awaited launch. (Credit: Cecil Stoughton/White House/John F, Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum)|
That's roughly how much it cost for construction of NASA field centers, the precursor two-man Gemini program, development of the huge Saturn 5 rocket and the lunar landers and command modules that carried U.S. astronauts to and from the moon.
With 50 years of hindsight, one can question the wisdom of Apollo, whether it was worth the high cost and even whether NASA was ever in a real "space race" with the Soviet Union.
But few challenge the sheer majesty of Kennedy's bold vision or how it will be remembered.
The historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr. believed "the 20th century will be remembered, when all else is forgotten, as the century when man burst his terrestrial bounds."
Joan Johnson-Freese, a professor at the Naval War College and an expert on the Chinese space program, said Apollo "will forever be symbolic of the greatness of America."
"I mean we stepped off the planet," she told CBS News. "That's pretty big. Neil Armstrong ... has a place in history that no one else will ever have, and he was a one-of-a kind, first person to step on another celestial body. And I think that's the kind of thing that makes you endure in the history books."
Marcia Smith, editor of Space Policy Online, an expert on Russian space operations and a veteran NASA analyst, agreed, saying Apollo will long be remembered "as a highlight of the 20th century, the first steps of humankind off of Earth. I do consider it a watershed event in human exploration."
"If we continue to move off the planet and become a multi-planet species as people like (entrepreneur) Elon Musk would like to see, then that's going to really be the beginning of something," she said in an interview. "Even if we don't, if a hundred years from now we've taken the ancient China approach and just decided to give it all up, it will still be viewed as a tremendous technological, and I would say, socially transforming feat.
"I don't want to overstate the case for what it meant in terms of how people view our planet -- the 'pale blue dot' and all the other stuff people talk about -- but I do think that there is an element of truth to that, and I think we view our planet differently having seen it with human eyes from the moon."
But does that alone make Apollo worth the high cost?
"I think it depends on what happens in the next few centuries," Logsdon said in an interview. "If it were a one-shot venture (and) 200 years from now we haven't gone back to the moon, we haven't gone into deep space -- and I think that's a real possibility -- then I think the assessment by Schlesinger is over blown.
"If it's like the Vikings making the initial foray to the shores of North America and then another 200 or 300 years before Europeans came to stay, then it will be viewed as like the Viking voyages, as a first step in a long-term historical movement."
If humanity eventually becomes a multi-planet species, "if we move off of this planet at some point in the future, then Kennedy will have started it," Logsdon said.
But many argue Kennedy's gamble created an unsustainable space program that left NASA rudderless after the agency won the space race. By setting a clear deadline and couching the endeavor in terms of a Cold War space race with the Soviet Union, Kennedy made no provision for post-Apollo space initiatives.
In that sense, Apollo was a one-shot program that could not be sustained once the race was won. But that wasn't Kennedy's concern when he went "all in" on Apollo.
"He never thought about it," Logsdon said. "It's another way he was not a visionary. He didn't think, as (then NASA Administrator James) Webb did, that he was building the capability for a long-term, expanding space program. I don't think he ever thought one way or the other about that.
"It was not only custom-built hardware, but defining it as a race. Once you win the race, there's no need to keep racing. And so yes, I think Apollo was a phenomenon of the '60s, it was remarkable for those of us who got to see it happen, it was a great thing. But it was not sustainable at all."
Former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin doesn't blame that on Kennedy.
"Many people have said, well, Apollo was a dead end, Apollo was a flag and footprints," Griffin said. "I don't agree that is the case, but to the extent that that argument can even be made the fault is, in my view, with those who failed to follow up, failed to consolidate the gains of Apollo rather than the program itself."
Griffin agreed that setting up the Apollo program as a "race" with a clearly defined timetable "does contain those seeds of potential (for) its destruction, but I don't see that as inevitable. I see that as a choice that was made."
"The pattern of behavior that you cite, that when you have an urgent national goal and you win, it sort of automatically causes people to say OK, now we can do something else, I'm saying yes, I agree, that is a pattern of human behavior. I personally think that is a rather destructive pattern of behavior, but I would point out it's not inevitable."
In any case, given that Apollo was set up as a race with the Soviet Union, it's worth considering who, or what, NASA was actually racing against. The Soviet Union did not have a declared moon program until 1964, well after Kennedy's assassination.
But Kennedy and his advisors did not know that at the time, which makes the decision even more astonishing by today's political standards.
"The Soviets did not have a human lunar program at the time," Smith said. "They were, of course, sending robotic probes to the moon, they were the first ones to do that, but they did not start (a) manned lunar landing program until '64. Throughout Kennedy's lifetime, America was racing against itself."
But that doesn't mean it wasn't a race worth running.
Discussing Apollo and how it will be remembered in his 2010 look at Kennedy's decision to go to the moon, Logsdon writes that "Apollo was a product of a particular moment in time. Apollo is also a piece of lasting human history. Its most important significance may well be simply.
Bolide über der Ukraine, 19.11.2013