I’d love to run this multi-stage question past Cecil, but I don’t know how to ask it intelligently. Maybe somebody here can make some sense of it.
I got to thinking about this after a friend and I were talking about Star Trek, and the topic of discussion became how a real military agency charged with exploring the galaxy would operate. What bugged me is that in Star Trek the captains seemed to spend all of their time on the bridge sitting in a big chair in the middle of the room without much in the way of controls at hand and not really actually doing anything most of the time, when there wasn’t a battle to direct or diplomacy to conduct. That didn’t seem right, but honestly neither of us couldn’t say what real ship captains actually do on their bridges.
So, Question First Stage: What do real ship captains actually do all day?
So then I thought, well, what about real astronauts? I read a great deal about space travel, and there are often references to mission commanders. However, none of them seem to do any actual commanding. This may be due to constant contact with ground control, and the fact of missions have been so thoroughly planned out in advance, but the most dramatic calls I can remember any commander ever making were both made by Neil Armstrong; The first when he chose to go to abort procedure and activate re-entry thrusters to stabilize the capsule on his Gemini mission, and the second during the final approach on his moon landing when he decided the landing site was obstructed, overrode the radar guidance, and manually manuevered to a new landing site with only seconds to spare. Neither of these actions involved commanding anybody; they were essentially acts of piloting. I can’t remember any mention of any STS commander commanding anybody in over 100 missions. Additionally, what of the other commonly referred to astronaut ‘ranks’?
So, Question Second Stage: Do astronaut (or cosmonaut) commanders actually command anything? Or are they just pilots? Does a ‘mission specialist’ outrank a ‘payload specialist’? Or does everbody answer only to the ground?
Confusion about the meanings of ranks in space quickly leads to confusion about the meanings of ranks everywhere. Is a NASA commander anything on the ground? Is a U.S. Air Force Captain anything in space? Is a British Naval Lieutenant anything in Wyoming? I thought NASA was a civilian organization- so how is it even possible for people in NASA to have ranks? My father served in the Golani Brigade of the IDF, during the War of Attrition. I know that doesn’t entitle him to veteran benefits in America, but why do people still look at me funny if I call him a veteran?
So, Question Third Stage: Is there any universal value to ranks given within military organizations? Or any fundamental requirement for giving such ranks? In short, can my friends and I form a people’s militia and declare my dog Rear Admiral?
If anybody can get these questions off the ground, I would appreciate it. Otherwise, do you think they’re worthy of sending in?