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Could the US have got a crewed Mars Mission in the 80s?

uk 75

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We have discussed the pros and cons of Stephen Baxter's novel "Voyage" about a US crew landing on Mars in 1985. But could a mission like that have been done with the technology available to NASA?
 

Archibald

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Certainly. First, build the Shuttle-C : although hardly perfect by any mean, it provides a HLV.

And then start building the Mars ship. One external tank, filled to the brim, should be enough to send a decent expedition to Mars.

Maybe an habitat could be added, with an ACC - Aft Cargo Carrier. The neat thing would be that it would be partially radiation-shielded by the enormous tank.
Spacelab modules seems an obvious choice for the habitat.

Main problem are
- the lack of capsules for Earth return, because Apollo was long dead
- the Mars lander which has to be build from scratch.
- the lack of a viable LOX/LH2 engine
a) RL-10 are too small
b) J-2 is long dead
c) SSME was designed to start and work from the ground, not in space

Lot of re-inventing the wheel, but technically doable.

The huge problem is NASA itself. Two abysmal byproducts of its catastrophic 1980's shape
- STS-51L
- The 90-day-study in 1990 (their answer to Bush 41 request for a Mars shot)

1980's NASA was dysfunctional at so many levels, I wouldn't bet my life on them, as an astronaut...

As for the pretext... have the Soviets throw Reagan into panic, succeeding with Mars 4M and 5M.
Or Mars 4MN and 5MN.

IF the Soviets brought back Mars samples in the early 80's, Reagan should blow a fuse enough to forget SDI and return to a more peaceful space race...


(obviously, considering the catastrophic record of both Soviet Mars probes and N-1 rocket, that would be an enormous stretch...)
 

Michel Van

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Had go like in novel "Voyage" the USA could have landed a human on mars
but this would imply the death of Shuttle program, restart Saturn V, Apollo hardware production in early 1970s
with advance Skylab and Mars lander R&D during 1970s
and most needed the Soviet continue the Space Race by sending cosmonauts to Moon and Mars.

In a TL at Alternate History.Com
I play with that on Timeline, were Soviets manage to Land on Moon first !
and USA goes after that for manned Mars Program in 1980s...
 

uk 75

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I have somewhere an old Belgian BD graphic novel about a Mars Mission using the NASA two nuclear ship model but in looking for it I found this from the 90s
and this which seems to be similar to the mission faked in the movie "Capricorn One"
 

Dilandu

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Most likely no. In 1980s, USA still did not have much experience of long-therm manned spaceflights (at least not as much as USSR). The technical problems are not so crucial as lack of biological & medical data.
 

Dynoman

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Dynoman

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If the Soviets had been successful in landing a man on the Moon and then to have thrown the stick further and planned to be the first on another planet as opposed to a natural satellite, then the US may have been inclined to move ahead with a manned program, culminating in a manned landing on Mars in the 1980's. However, many technological, political, and economic issues still laid ahead that could have interrupted such plans. Unfortunately, these issues could have been overcome with a little time and a lot of money, but the will of the American people to pursue a Mars landing in the light of waning interest in the lunar landings made the argument more difficult.
Also, the threat of Soviet bases on the Moon appeared to be more of a reality when decisions were being made to go to the Moon, than the decisions being made in the late 1960's early 1970's to go to Mars when the concern of the Soviets going to Mars was significantly diminished (Soviets claimed their interest was always Earth orbit).
 

1635yankee

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The most likely path to success would require a) a pro-space president succeed Johnson (while Johnson was certainly not as pro-space as was Kennedy, Nixon bore significant responsibility for the absence of anything past Apollo 17) b) an active Soviet program to get a manned landing on Mars c) quite a lot of effort into developing a sufficiently-closed environmental control system to keep several human beings alive for at least two (and probably three) years with absolutely no chance of resupply.

The third is just technology, but it's technology that takes time, at least years, to qualify systems for that length of time. Getting dead astronauts (or cosmonauts) to Mars would benefit no one.
 

RanulfC

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The most likely path to success would require a) a pro-space president succeed Johnson (while Johnson was certainly not as pro-space as was Kennedy, Nixon bore significant responsibility for the absence of anything past Apollo 17) b) an active Soviet program to get a manned landing on Mars c) quite a lot of effort into developing a sufficiently-closed environmental control system to keep several human beings alive for at least two (and probably three) years with absolutely no chance of resupply.

The third is just technology, but it's technology that takes time, at least years, to qualify systems for that length of time. Getting dead astronauts (or cosmonauts) to Mars would benefit no one.

Er, Johnson was MORE "pro-space" than Kennedy as he'd rather tied his star to that wagon in the late 50s while still in Congress. Kennedy was regretting and re-thinking his stance on the US's Lunar goal by 1962 and looking for a way to ramp things back. By the time Nixon got into the White House "going further" was already out of the question as Congress had begun "killing" Apollo in 1965 and Apollo 11's success nailed the coffin shut.

As for IF NASA could have done a Mars mission by 1980 the answer is likely "yes" if you qualify that somehow there is "Apollo Level" support and funding involved. Essentially (for some reason) everyone suddenly supports the IPP and they get everything they ask for and a bit more. America has always been pretty good at getting things done if they can throw enough money at any problems.

THE problem is you get such a changed 'landscape' in the background that prediction with any accuracy is really difficult at best.

Randy
 

Archibald

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I'm born in May 1982 so I missed Apollo by 13 to 10 years.

Von Braun 1969 plans had two major options related to budget and also to Mars - Earth perihelic oppositions happening over a 15 to 17 years cycle.
1971 had been such a year (bad luck) so +15 years led to 1986, which was back to back with another good one in 1988 - and then it started all over again to the splendid August 2003 one when the two planets were extremely close.

Rinse, repeat.

In the 1982 case, the Mars landing would have happened on August 15, 1982 - and thus I would have been a (big) toddler in a cradle.

In March 1986 (hello, Stephen Baxter - he picked that one for his novel) I would have been 4-years old, no rememberance either.
(although I remember being traumatized by Chernobyl and Challenger but some years after the facts).

Two fantastic links I like very much: Mars - Earth perihelic oppositions all across 20th century. This is a Godsend, not only because NASA, but also because of... H.G Wells, War of the worlds.

Wants to know when the agressive martians would have returned, post 1894 ? there you go !

Remarquably, one of these opposition happened late August 1939. And the next one: September 1956, at the dawn of the space age... and the day von Braun launched a Jupiter missile with a sand-ballasted stage 3 not to piss-off Ike (and the Soviets).



War of the worlds - the sequel !
Opposition Rt Asc Declin Diam Dist Int Magn Hohman vonPir
----------- ------- -------- ---- ----- --- ---- ------ ------

1901 Feb 22 10h 26m +14d 32m 13.8 0.678 - -1.2 Nov 18 Dec 20
1903 Mar 29 12h 32m -00d 05m 14.8 0.640 765 -1.4 Jan 24 Dec 23
1905 May 8 15h 00m -16d 57m 17.3 0.543 771 -1.9 Feb 1 Mar 5
1907 Jul 6 19h 01m -27d 59m 22.7 0.411 789 -2.6 Apr 1 May 3
1909 Sep 24 00h 10m -04d 13m 23.8 0.392 811 -2.8 Jun 20 Jul 22
1911 Nov 25 03h 58m +21d 43m 18.0 0.517 792 -2.1 Aug 21 Sep 22
1914 Jan 5 07h 05m +26d 33m 15.1 0.625 772 -1.5 Oct 1 Nov 2
1916 Feb 10 09h 36m +19d 08m 14.0 0.675 766 -1.2 Nov 6 Dec 8
1918 Mar 15 11h 44m +05d 55m 14.0 0.662 764 -1.3 Dec 9 Jan 10
1920 Apr 21 13h 57m -10d 21m 15.8 0.588 768 -1.6 Jan 16 Feb 17
1922 Jun 10 17h 11m -25d 55m 20.1 0.462 780 -2.3 Mar 6 Apr 7
1924 Aug 23 22h 19m -17d 40m 25.1 0.373 805 -2.9 May 19 Jun 20
1926 Nov 4 02h 36m +14d 26m 20.2 0.465 803 -2.4 Jul 31 Sep 1
1928 Dec 21 05h 58m +26d 39m 15.8 0.589 778 -1.7 Sep 16 Oct 18
1931 Jan 27 08h 42m +22d 54m 14.0 0.663 767 -1.3 Oct 23 Nov 24
1933 Mar 1 10h 59m +11d 26m 14.0 0.675 764 -1.1 Nov 25 Dec 27
1935 Apr 6 13h 03m -03d 52m 15.1 0.624 766 -1.5 Dec 31 Feb 1
1937 May 19 15h 43m -20d 39m 18.0 0.515 774 -2.0 Feb 10 Mar 14
1939 Jul 23 20h 13m -26d 24m 24.1 0.389 795 -2.8 Apr 18 May 20
1941 Oct 10 01h 07m +03d 29m 22.7 0.414 810 -2.6 Jul 6 Aug 7
1943 Dec 5 04h 44m +24d 24m 17.3 0.545 786 -1.9 Aug 31 Oct 2
1946 Jan 14 07h 44m +25d 35m 14.8 0.641 771 -1.4 Oct 10 Nov 11
1948 Feb 17 10h 07m +16d 25m 13.8 0.678 764 -1.2 Nov 13 Dec 15
1950 Mar 23 12h 13m +02d 20m 14.4 0.651 765 -1.3 Dec 17 Jan 18
1952 May 1 14h 34m -14d 17m 16.6 0.564 770 -1.8 Jan 26 Feb 27
1954 Jun 24 18h 12m -27d 41m 21.6 0.433 784 -2.5 Mar 20 Apr 21
Onto the space age !
1956 Sep 10 23h 26m -10d 07m 24.8 0.379 809 -2.9 Jun 6 Jul 8
1958 Nov 16 03h 25m +19d 08m 19.1 0.494 797 -2.2 Aug 12 Sep 13
1960 Dec 30 06h 39m +26d 49m 15.5 0.610 775 -1.5 Sep 25 Oct 27
1963 Feb 4 09h 15m +20d 42m 14.0 0.671 766 -1.3 Oct 31 Dec 2
1965 Mar 9 11h 25m +08d 08m 14.0 0.669 764 -1.2 Dec 3 Jan 4
1967 Apr 15 13h 35m -07d 43m 15.5 0.605 767 -1.6 Jan 9 Feb 10
1969 May 31 16h 32m -23d 56m 19.4 0.486 777 -2.2 Feb 24 Mar 28
1971 Aug 10 21h 27m -22d 15m 24.8 0.376 801 -2.9 May 6 Jun 7
1973 Oct 25 02h 00m +10d 17m 21.2 0.441 807 -2.5 Jul 21 Aug 22
1975 Dec 15 05h 29m +26d 02m 16.2 0.570 781 -1.8 Sep 10 Oct 12
1978 Jan 21 08h 20m +24d 06m 14.4 0.654 768 -1.3 Oct 17 Nov 18
1980 Feb 25 10h 37m +13d 27m 13.8 0.677 765 -1.2 Nov 21 Dec 23
1982 Mar 31 12h 43m -01d 21m 14.8 0.637 765 -1.4 Dec 25 Jan 26
1984 May 11 15h 13m -18d 05m 17.3 0.537 772 -1.9 Feb 5 Mar 8
1986 Jul 10 19h 20m -27d 44m 23.0 0.406 790 -2.6 Apr 5 May 7
1988 Sep 28 00h 27m -02� 06m 23.8 0.396 811 -2.7 Jun 24 Jul 26
1990 Nov 27 04h 13m +22d 28m 18.0 0.523 790 -2.0 Aug 23 Sep 24
1993 Jan 7 07h 19m +26d 16m 14.8 0.628 772 -1.5 Oct 3 Nov 4
1995 Feb 12 09h 47m +18d 11m 13.8 0.676 766 -1.2 Nov 8 Dec 10
1997 Mar 17 11h 54m +04d 41m 14.0 0.661 764 -1.3 Dec 11 Jan 12
1999 Apr 24 14h 09m -11d 37m 16.2 0.583 768 -1.7 Jan 18 Feb 19
2001 Jun 13 17h 28m -26d 30m 20.5 0.456 781 -2.3 Mar 9 Apr 10
21st Century
2003 Aug 28 22h 38m -15d 48m 25.1 0.373 806 -2.9 May 24 Jun 25
2005 Nov 7 02h 51m +15d 53m 19.8 0.470 802 -2.6 Aug 3 Sep 4
2007 Dec 28 06h 12m +26d 46m 15.5 0.600 781 -1.6 Sep 23 Oct 25
2010 Jan 29 08h 54m +22d 09m 14.0 0.664 763 -1.3 Oct 25 Nov 26
2012 Mar 3 11h 52m +10d 17m 14.0 0.674 764 -1.2 Nov 28 Dec 30
2014 Apr 8 13h 14m -05d 08m 15.1 0.621 766 -1.5 Jan 2 Feb 3
2016 May 22 15h 58m -21d 39m 18.4 0.509 775 -2.1 Feb 10 Mar 13
2018 Jul 27 20h 33m -25d 30m 24.1 0.386 796 -2.8 Apr 22 May 24
2020 Oct 13 01h 22m +05d 26m 22.3 0.419 809 -2.6 Jul 9 Aug 10
SpaceX is coming !
2022 Dec 8 04h 59m +25d 00m 16.9 0.550 786 -1.9 Sep 3 Oct 5
2025 Jan 16 07h 56m +25d 07m 14.4 0.643 770 -1.4 Oct 12 Nov 13
2027 Feb 19 10h 18m +15d 23m 13.8 0.678 764 -1.2 Nov 15 Dec 17
2029 Mar 25 12h 23m +01d 04m 14.4 0.649 765 -1.3 Dec 19 Jan 20
2031 May 4 14h 46m -15d 29m 16.9 0.559 770 -1.8 Jan 28 Mar 1
2033 Jun 27 18h 30m -27d 50m 22.0 0.427 785 -2.5 Mar 23 Apr 24
2035 Sep 15 23h 43m -08d 01m 24.5 0.382 810 -2.8 Jun 11 Jul 13
 
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royabulgaf

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We went to the Moon and settled the rock vs green cheese debate forever. The Soviets lost interest, and the Viet Nam war (remember that?) was getting way serious. Money was tight, and interesting and useful stuff ould be done in low earth orbit.
Now, astronomers were aware that the Martian "canals" were an optical illusion, but it still held on in public consciousness. However, the Mariner data and Mariner 9 photos showed a desolate landscape, more lunar than earthlike. Literally, it "move along, nothing to see here"
 

Archibald

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Mariner 4 July 1965 was indeed a major crushing blow.
There is a famous picture of LBJ meeting NASA and looking at Mariner photos of Mars. The NASA guys are proud of Mariner first - but LBJ looks pissed off...
 

uk 75

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As someone who was 13 when the Apollo 11 crew walked on the Moon I do recall how quickly everyone lost interest in the Apollo flights. After Apollo13 the coverage became pretty routine even on TV.
Someone at the time said they had nt found any water, so that seemed to be a downer as was the fear of prolongued exposure to radiation.
Mars looked like a coffee coloured version of the Moon in the Viking photos.
The Shuttle took a long time coming. In the meantime Skylab and Apollo/Soyuz made little or no public impact.
The Cold War got steadily nastier and the Shuttle was often shown as a satellite delivery truck. Or a satellite snatcher.
The only portrayal that made some impact was the Bond Movie Moonraker with its clumsy space station and US Space Marines.
The 70s focussed on the triumphs of the unmanned space probes as against the 60s wasteful manned missions.
 

Hood

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I think the public craze for space was over after Apollo 11, it was waning anyway and as the environmental movement got going that seemed to take away the glow. There was little mass impact of space on everyday life then, the odd Transatlantic telephone call or fuzzy TV images was hardly exciting after the promises of Dan Dare a decade earlier.

Look at Nigel Kneale's script for the Quatermass written in 1972, the US-Soviet space mission depicted in the first episode pre-dated the real Apollo-Soyuz missions but in the script Professor Quatermass roundly condemns it as a monstrous charade to mock the world. Filming for BBC began in 1973 with the space station scenes but soon stopped as they got cold feet. ITV picked up the project and filmed the series in 1978. Set in the near future the series was brought up to date with the Space Shuttle heavily featuring (it would not make its first flight until 1981, 2 years after the series aired on British TV). Moonraker was actually filmed at the same time as Quatermass in the summer of 1978 so at least in Britain there was a strong cultural draw to the Space Shuttle programme.

Arguably the Space Shuttle did much to reignite space consciousness in the public and the dream of manned space flight, so Quatermass straddles those two schools of public engagement (backlash at Apollo and dreams of Shuttle). Sadly the Challenger disaster marred that, it brought back the dangerous realities of spaceflight to the public.
 

Archibald

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I think the public craze for space was over after Apollo 11, it was waning anyway and as the environmental movement got going that seemed to take away the glow. There was little mass impact of space on everyday life then, the odd Transatlantic telephone call or fuzzy TV images was hardly exciting after the promises of Dan Dare a decade earlier.
NASA really screwed up enormously with COLOR TV for early Apollos

- Apollo 11 "what, color TV ? not a priority !"

- Apollo 12 Alan Bean "Honey, I screwed the color TV camera, pointing it at the Sun"

- Apollo 13 "Houston, we have a problem"

Apollo 14 at least got it but by February 1971 Apollo was already toast in the eye of Joe six-pack...
 
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Archibald

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Why is the anchorwoman clothed like Austin Powers ?
 

Hood

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The BBC introduced Europe's first colour TV broadcast on 1 July 1967 on BBC2 (Wimbledon of course, the first colour sport series was snooker, rugby league was another early sporting event shown and the first colour advert later in 1969 was Bird's Eye peas - it was all about the green!I).
BBC1 and ITV followed suit on 15 November 1969. These broadcasts could be received in London Weekend Television/Thames region, ATV (Midlands), Granada (North-West) and Yorkshire TV regions (about half the population but only 200,000 colour sets had been brought at that time).
ITV in colour didn't reach Scotland until 13 December 1969 (Central region), South Wales on 6 April 1970 and Northern Ireland on 14 September 1970.
Apparently sales of colour TVs in Britain didn't outstrip black and white ones until 1976.

The 1970 World Cup final in Mexico was the first live colour sporting event to be transmitted via satellite to Europe. Its strange to think that most of the iconic late 1960s British series that were made in colour that we love today (The Prisoner, Thunderbirds, The Avengers etc.) were actually never enjoyed in colour when they were broadcast by most people. Historians tend to deal in trends but for many in Britain modernity was slow in coming, many houses still had outside loos and no proper bathrooms and half of all houesholds in 1969 didn't even have a refrigerator, let alone worrying about the travails of ELDO!
So for most Britons most of the Apollo landings would have been black and white regardless but the space age had brought them (well to almost a million Brits) footie in colour.
 

royabulgaf

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Hood, you're really on to something. I know we here in MAGAland were really excited about the shuttle, with weekly flights projected and an expected cost of $45/lb to near earth orbit in modern dollars. We were either the victim of a con job or gross incompetence. To launch a manned mission to Mars and back would require the full cooperation of pretty much advanced economy. I mean real, substantial cost sharing. I'm talking hundreds of billions of dollars. Look how the F-35 coalition has its strains. Take a country like say, Finland. They're expected to kick in, say $5 billion. Now this is just walking around money for the US government, but this would be a substantial investment for Finland. They're going to want as much of that as politica lly possible spent in-country. They are also going to want more out of this than a Finnish flag painted on the side of Ares 1. And what does the Finn
 

royabulgaf

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And what does the Finnish government say when the space agency comes back an d says "we're going to need another $5 billion from you?" Multiply this by about 40.
 

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and this which seems to be similar to the mission faked in the movie "Capricorn One"
Now to be fair to NASA within the universe of that film, the reason for faking it was finding out too late that the life-support system had a fatal flaw. So rather than lose face and scrub the mission, they decided to wing it in the studio... until the point where the capsule burned up and the astronauts were of course still alive - at which point exposure absolutely meant the loss of NASA's reputation and their professional careers. It was never intended as a hoax from the start. It had always been their intention to go to Mars.
 

Archibald

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Surely the life-support was botched... those idiots wanted to use a Lunar Module as Mars lander :p

(incidentally, the way Capricorn One movie makers got the mockup for a movie that poured tons of shit on NASA, is so weird, it is barely believable).


During a sequence in the middle of the film the astronauts are shown with a lunar module (standing in as a Mars lander) and there’s also an Apollo command module visible in some shots. The lunar module featured prominently in the film’s trailer. For years, articles about the film questioned whether or not NASA provided any equipment for a movie that clearly painted the agency in a bad light. NASA officials reportedly denied that they had provided any assistance.

But an amusing article by film historian Frederick C. Szebin, “The Making of Capricorn One,” explains what happened, and makes clear that the film did indeed use some leftover Apollo equipment loaned by NASA. The article is printed in the current issue of Filmfax magazine, but has apparently been available online for a decade at the website mania.com (in a somewhat difficult to read format).

Szebin interviewed Capricorn One’s producer Paul Lazarus, who had previously produced Michael Crichton’s Westworld and a 1976 sequel, Futureworld, which had involved some NASA cooperation. Lazarus got involved because he was friends with Peter Hyams, who wrote the initial Capricorn One script, and who wanted to direct the movie. Hyams had recently directed an embarrassing flop, and both men worried that Hyams’ career was over. Capricorn One proved to be the movie that saved it, because Hyams brought it in on-budget and it made a decent amount at the box office. According to film historian Szebin:

The key to getting such a film made within the budget available was to have NASA’s cooperation, a situation Lazarus had enjoyed on Futureworld. A stunt-heavy picture, Capricorn One could only gain from the space administration’s assistance, but the very nature of the story—NASA killing its own to keep a secret—caused Lazarus to despair of any further help from the organization.

This is a highly unlikely film to get NASA cooperation, because they are the bad guys in the movie,” says Lazarus. “But I called my contact at the NASA Clear Lake facility [i.e. the Johnson Space Center], and he said he would have to see a script. I said to Peter, ‘We’re dead.’ I sent the script and my contact said, ‘Oh, it’s a good story! We’ll be happy to give you our prototype landing module.’ We didn’t have to build any of that! It came up from Orange County, California. In a sense, it’s tax-payer paid for, but anybody who’s been around the government knows that if it’s not something they like, you’re not going to get cooperation.”

“We had untold savings, not to mention authenticity, to get those capsules and other materials from NASA,” Lazarus continues. “Much after the fact, I said to someone at NASA, ‘How could you possibly have approved that script?’ He said, ‘If it had gone to Washington, you would have been finished, but because we liked working with you on Futureworld, I took it upon myself to give cooperation.’ I said, ‘We’re really grateful and surprised.’ He said, ‘I thought you might be.’”
 

pathology_doc

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LOL. Back in the day when people at NASA had initiative and could get stuff done on their own authority. Somewhere in there, that last A in the acronym came to rule the roost.
 
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