News and Commentary on Space
A distracting side-effect I’ve experienced from reading Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism is a newfound mental habit of playing Spot the Fascist Tendencies with everything I read.
“The Overview Effect,” a phrase coined in the book of the same name by space philosopher and writer Frank White. It refers to the experience of seeing firsthand the reality of the Earth in space, which is immediately understood to be a tiny, fragile ball of life, hanging in the void, shielded and nourished by a paper-thin atmosphere. From space, the astronauts tell us, national boundaries vanish, the conflicts that divide us become less important and the need to create a planetary society with the united will to protect this “pale blue dot” becomes both obvious and imperative.
Oh, I know they mean well, and are probably not likely to start strutting around in jackbooted spacesuits, pressing us all into the worship of a unified pan-human World-State or whatever. But it’s hard now to read such things without noticing the odor of mystical collectivism they emit. It’s also difficult to read things like this and not speculate on where such mysticism could easily lead — namely, regarding space as some sort of sacred wilderness to be preserved in perpetuity from intrusive human activities.
Personally I prefer rationalism and individualism as the basis for the permanent settlement of space.
On the other hand, I can’t fault them for wanting more people to go into space (even if we may disagree as to the why of it). At least they get that part right.
[via Clark Lindsay]
After a long, strange trip, Phoenix has landed near the Martian north pole.
The image from orbit of the lander descending under parachutes is pretty darned cool.
…is nonsense like this.
The system consists of four pods, located around the aft skirt on the Ares I First Stage. Early graphics of a system – that are bound to mature if accepted as the way forward – show each pod will have a fuel tank, an oxidizer tank, a pressurant tank, and seven thrusters.
The downside of this concept – which is a completely separate system than the roll control system on the interstage – is the addition of failure modes, which would hit Ares I’s LOC/M (Loss of Crew/Mission) numbers.
Also on the downside, the concept is a retro thrusting system (negative thrusting) – which would impact on Ares I’s performance figures.
Gee, ya think?
Firing small thrusters to help dampen out some of the shocks is a clever engineering solution, but not all clever solutions to problems are good…especially when they entirely miss the point. This “solution” brings to mind homework problems and exam questions I sometimes saw in college — it’s a solution to a problem so abstracted from any relevance to the larger system that, while it seems reasonable at the microscopic level of the problem at hand, it immediately becomes impractical or even absurd when all elements of the system are taken into account. If you imagine a plot of the axial oscillation of the vehicle as a (grossly simplified) sine wave, it makes sense that small inputs of the opposite sign at the peaks would reduce the amplitude of those peaks. But translating such a concept into hardware is where the absurdity comes in — here, the small opposing input isn’t just reducing the amplitude of the oscillation, it’s acting against the primary function of the larger system.
But the truly breathtaking information in the NSF post has to do with the payload impacts given for two of the proposed solutions (emphasis mine):
The wording is slightly ambiguous, and could just be an imprecise reference to the effects on the payload as seen from the first stage’s perspective. But if by “payload” is meant here “everything above the upper stage”, it’s simply incredible that these “solutions” even passed the laugh test. Cutting into the payload capability by 500-1500lbs, when the payload itself is already overweight (in large part due to the choice of launch vehicle), misses the point even worse than having thrusters aimed the wrong way.
When is NASA going to recognize the obvious?
ADDENDUM: I’m also curious about what this means:
Residual mass – only recently added – is classed as ‘Allocated 0 pounds (due to it being a new factor) – Estimated 2,687 pounds…’
Is this referring to residual propellants in the first and/or second stage? If so, does this really mean that the engineers failed to take into account something as fundamental as residual propellants in the design and performance analysis of Ares I? Wow.
It’s Algore Winter here in Colorado…you know, that late bit of winter weather that comes after spring has already started. This is the view off the back deck about ten minutes ago:
I think someone broke the global warming.
A young girl sets out to prove herself by resolving a long-forgotten mystery. But when she gets close to the truth, what she thought was a harmless adventure becomes a threat to the future of the independent commercial settlements on Mars.