Ships Named Enterprise

Image via Historic Spacecraft

The brilliant space Web site collectSPACE has a great article about the Smithsonian’s efforts to prepare Enterprise for flight.

OV-101, the original atmospheric-flight-test space shuttle orbiter, is currently on display at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center hangar. Since the Smithsonian has already laid claim to Discovery after the orbiter fleet is retired, the museum is going to relinquish Enterprise for display elsewhere, and is currently preparing her to be transported to that as-yet-undetermined location.

My vote for that as-yet-undetermined location, of course, is Huntsville.

First, I believe that the three available orbiters — Enterprise, Atlantis and Endeavour — should, as did the three remaining Saturn V rockets, go to the museums at the three NASA centers most associated with human space flight — Johnson, Kennedy and Marshall. I realize there are other worthy sites, and acknowledge my bias here, but I think those are the best places for them.

Now, to be sure, I wouldn’t turn away a flown orbiter if they really wanted to put one here. I initially considered Enterprise as a consolation prize; that the two remaining flown orbiters were more likely to end up somewhere else, but I’m beginning to think that Enterprise might be the best fit here on her own merits.

For one thing, Enterprise has history here. She came to Huntsville in 1978 for vibration studies in Marshall’s Dynamic Test Stand. See here, here, here and here. Columbia, at least, flew through Huntsville once, but Huntsville and Marshall don’t have the same relationship with any of the flown orbiters that we do with Enterprise.

And, in addition, she fits. Right now, we have “two” Saturn V rockets here, making us unique. One is just a model, standing vertically outside the museum. The other, the “real” one, is the Dynamic Test Vehicle, which was also used for vibration studies at the Dynamic Test Stand and then sent to Kennedy to test out the infrastructure there. In other words, it’s the Enterprise of Saturn Vs.

We also have one “orbiter” already, OV-098 Pathfinder, which is essentially a model, though that description fails to do justice to her role and history.

Enterprise, then, would complete the set. One model and one dynamic test article each for the Saturn V and the shuttle. My dream would be that we even display them the same — the 500F Saturn V and Enterprise both displayed horizontally in nice buildings, and Pathfinder and the Saturn V model both displayed vertically outside. (I’m not sure about the structural feasibility of putting Pathfinder on end, she’s had problems enough lying down, but as long as I’m thinking wishfully … )

So, contact your congressman today and tell them to send Enterprise to Huntsville! Or something!

The Devil Deals It Hard — A CDB Exegesis

So this morning, I’m driving to work, listening to a CD someone burned for me, and thus end up, as every good red-blooded American should every once in a while, listening again to The Devil Went Down to Georgia.

I’ve had some variation of conversation about this song a few times over the years, with those who find flaws in the logic behind the story. things like why Johnny is willing to bet his soul for a largely worthless fiddle, and how exactly he beats the Devil, among others.

Having listened to the song countless times, it’s my theory that the Devil doesn’t actually lose out, that things turned out exactly as he hoped. In my opinion, the golden fiddle is simply a loss leader.

(Now, I must insert here that my views might be contradictory to the song’s sequel, The Devil Comes Back To Georgia. In my opinion, however, this obviously derivative work is the Gnostic gospels of the Devil in Georgia, purely non-canonical and, at best, apocryphal.)

You’ll recall that this wasn’t just a lark for the Devil; he had a particular motivation — “he was in a bind ‘cos he was way behind; he was willin’ to make a deal.” The key thing to note here is that he was way behind. He doesn’t just need one soul, he needs many.

And if you’re trying to reach the masses, what you need is a good marketing campaign. You want to make people come to you. You need something to bring them in, or you need a good word-of-mouth campaign.

Say you’re Johnny. And on the one hand, you have the only thing you have of value — your immortal soul. And on the other hand, you have “this shiny fiddle made of gold.” OK, seriously? What value is that that you’re going to risk eternal damnation for it? I’m giving Johnny the benefit of the doubt that his thought process was more than simply, “Ooooh, shiny.”

For Johnny, the fiddle is, quite simply, bragging rights. He’s confident he’s “the best that’s ever been.” So, he figures, he beats the Devil, claims the fiddle, takes it home, and puts it up in the living room. “Say, Johnny, where’dja get that fancy golden fiddle there, huh?” “Well, funny you should ask that …”

But, see, that’s what the Devil’s counting on, too. You’ll note that the contest has no impartial arbiter. The Devil, who, I should point out, puts up a rather impressive performance himself, simply says, OK, you win, and lays the golden fiddle on the ground at Johnny’s feet. No protest, no defiance, simply graceful submission. Now, granted, there’s the honor code that demons have to live by, but even so …

Because the important part is what happens after the song ends there. Because you KNOW Johnny takes the fiddle home. And you KNOW he puts it on display. And you KNOW his friends come over and ask about it. And you KNOW the story of his great defeat of the Devil starts to spread.

And, people being people, you know they start thinking, well, “You know, if Johnny can beat the Devil …” And so the next thing you know, Georgians are actually coming to Old Scratch. He’s not even having to look them up. And then, it’s “Now, you play pretty good horseshoes, son, but give the Devil his due …” or “I’ll bet this chainsaw of gold against your soul” or “I bet you didn’t know it, but I’m a needle-pointer, too.”

And for the price of one worthless-to-him shiny fiddle, the Devil gets his due.

According to Charles Baudelaire, the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he doesn’t exist.

The second greatest was convincing Georgia he can’t play fiddle.