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Orion Shall Rise

Somebody at NASA has a sense of humor, I guess. "I hope" might be more like it. "Orion" is Name of New Moonship,Astronaut Lets Slip.

Why is this funny? Project Orion was the name of a breathtaking plan to kickstart--you should pardon the expression--the US space program by launching really big payloads 'n' cargoes into space. How, pray tell?


It was really a very cool idea. Take a mechanism sort of like one that dispenses cans out of an old-style soda machine, by rolling them down a chute to fall out the bottom. Instead of soda cans, load nukes. Roll them out as needed in such a way that they fall behind the spaceship.

The bottom of the ship consists of a big-ass plate with springs on top. Think of the control room at Cheyenne Mountain but upside down. Nuke goes "boom" under the plate, pushing on it. Um, forcefully. Springs absorb the energy so cargo and (especially) passengers do not turn immediately into strawberry jam. Plate, springs, cargo et all absorb this blast energy and go zing! in an upwardly direction. Repeat as necessary until desired velocity acquired.

There were some technical details but that's the gist. The idea was perfectly workable--they were up to testing payloads about the size of an oil drum, fueled with conventional TNT of course, and they flew like bats outta hell-- but wound up being abandoned in the late '60s or thereabouts. Reason for abandonment are debated but the official one is the passage of the treaty outlawing atmospheric detonations of nuclear bombs. (The fact that this would not profit the US aerospace industry is politely never mentioned.)

But there you have it. Orion returns! It's a cool name even though I don't really suspect they're planning to ride to the moon on radioactive exhaust.

No, of course I don't. Stop lookin at me that way.

I just read too much sigh fie is all.

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