However, they no longer really know how to make them there space rockets. So they looked in their archives for guidance. I mean: We the People already built this motherfucker, right? Let's just unroll the blueprints, make it lighter and meaner with microchip tech, give it fuel tanks and ethanol enough for a Mars Trip, and crank it till it goes. It'll be like a fuel-injected 64.5 Ford Mustang with power steering and a factory ipod interface and cupholders and airbags. Right?
It turns out -- this is so embarrassing -- we didn't really keep a lot of records of the technical doodads. Like, we kept some of the drawings of things and stuff, but not really any of the rationale for why, say, a certain valve might open at a certain level of atmospheric pressure. Or not. Or whatever. Lucky thing is, a lot of the Saturn rocket parts are still out there. We didn't have the foresight to demand that developers share their technology for posterity, but we did see to it that many of the actual parts wound up in high-end junkyards:
All this space detritus ended up here courtesy of a federal rule that required government contractors to return all their built hardware - or sell it for scrap. So Norton Sales made discarded space gear the centerpiece of its business. Their customers used to be mostly souvenir hunters and set decorators for science-fiction movies. But now, rocket scientists and engineers are calling, looking for pieces of the intricate rocket plumbing that haven't been made in four decades.So. We're reverse engineering, spying on our own past. It makes sense: after all, the president wants us to get back into that frame of mind, to situate ourselves in that Edenic space-race yesteryear when spying and the simplistic vilification of our enemies and solid-state engineering led us to the kind of symbolic victory everybody in the world could understand.
But, yeah: we didn't really write any of it down, because we were -- and are -- so committed to the idea that information and ideas and plans have to be somebody's property. Then, it would have been embarrassing to suggest that America's Best Minds simply pitch in on Apollo just because they were committed to the advancement of civilization or science! Pshaw! We knew then as we know now that people are motivated only by profit to build things of lasting value and usefulness. We knew then as we know now that only the "private sector" will provide us with the solutions we need to travel to Mars, to end our dependency on carbon-based fuels, to educate our young people. Look, the private sector has educated our young thinkers so well that they can meticulously reconstruct the most important parts of a 40-year-old rocket engine . . .
I'm posting, by the way, from a linux box (and this is partly all just another appeal to Helmut to put all of Phronesisaical under a Creative Commons license).