Hollywood And Mars

An interesting history.

[Monday-afternoon update]

Even the film-makers had doubts:

“If you had told me two years ago when we were walking into Fox to pitch the approach and what this movie would be, if you told me I’d be on the phone talking about how this is a big spectacle movie, I would have been delighted,” he tells Esquire. “At the time, we knew it was going to be expensive, but we thought it would be more niche than Ridley made it.” Nope.

What made The Martian unique also made it a difficult sell. It was not an action movie. The film’s star would spend his time farming potatoes harvested from his co-astronaut’s feces. The Rock would not show up to blow away aliens halfway through the second act. Mind would prevail over muscle. And that’s not easy to write for the masses.

I hope it will break some of the stereotypes, and make it easier to make these kinds of films.


Train Wrecks In Space

Thoughts from Wayne Hale (who I hope I’ll see tomorrow in Las Cruces) on how to avoid them:

I have a cheap seat view of the Orion/SLS development. My basic observation: those efforts are drowning in ‘process’. The biggest threat to their success is not technical; it is schedule and cost. If the design and development processes drag the projects out too far, Congress or a new Administration will throw up their hands and call a halt to the whole thing. They did once before; my intuition is that they will again unless something significant happens.

The secret of a good program – as a very senior spacecraft designer once told me – is knowing how much is enough and then not doing anything more.

Right now, inside NASA, we have trained our workforce to do it perfectly. And perfection is very costly and takes a long time. Over in the Commercial Crew Program, the senior leadership is making some progress in toning down the drive for perfection. It is a slow effort and uphill at all times. Over in the Exploration systems area, it all seems to be going the other way. Whatever anybody calls necessary for safety or improvement – without evaluating the real cost or schedule or other impact – seems to be adopted.

So I am guardedly optimistic about the commercial teams actually succeeding in flying humans in space in the next couple of years.
Not so much optimism for the exploration systems, drowning in ‘process’.

The sooner it’s canceled, the better, but I’m sure we’ll waste more billions on it before it happens.

The Recycling Religion

Thoughts from John Tierney:

I realize that true believers don’t need rational reasons for their religion, but it would be nice to see a little soul-searching in regard to some stats in the article: To offset the greenhouse impact of one passenger’s round-trip flight between New York and London, you’d have to recycle roughly 40,000 plastic bottles, assuming you fly coach. If you sit in the front of the plane, it’s more like 100,000 bottles — and you have to make sure not to rinse any of them with hot water, because that little extra energy could more than cancel out any greenhouse benefit of your labors.

They were told there would be no math.

El Faro

Why did it head into Joaquin?

It does seem like poor judgment. Back in ’98, a month after Patricia and I took a cruise on it (and a couple months before she started a job in Puerto Rico), the Fantome went down in Hurricane Mitch, with all hands (though they’d dropped off non-essential crew in Belize City). It was kind of shocking, because we just had met many of them. They were trying to take the ship out to sea, to keep it from getting battered in the harbor. But hurricane tracking wasn’t as good back then. They thought it was going to head toward the Yucatan, and so they headed southeast, but the storm took a turn and they went right into the heart of it.

Ironically, a Honduran woman who was washed out to sea in the flooding was rescued, after she was found holding on to some floating debris by aircraft patrols looking for debris or survivors from the ship. If it hadn’t gone down she probably would have died.

[Monday-morning update]

Sad, but not surprising news. The Coast Guard is declaring the ship sunk. That’s pretty much a foregone conclusion when you’re in a major hurricane with no propulsion.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!