Category Archives: Technology and Society

Gene Cernan

He never wanted to be the last man on the moon, and he almost certainly won’t be, but it’s a shame that he didn’t live to see the next man (or woman) kick up the regolith.

But he didn’t cover himself in glory, or make it more likely to happen, when he testified in ignorance against private spaceflight back in 2010 (the headline of the story is incorrect; they weren’t “defending spaceflight” — they were unwittingly attacking it). He was a hero of the Cold War, and should be honored for that, but his passing shouldn’t be an excuse for a new bout of misguided Apolloism from conservatives.

Return To Flight

I went to Manhattan Beach to watch the launch. It was a pretty bright day, so it got lost in the light fairly quickly, but the smoke column persisted for a while. I hope that some of the other upcoming Iridium flights are night or (better yet) dusk. Satellites haven’t deployed yet, but that’s all that remains for a total success, including the first successful landing in the Pacific (the attempt last year had a leg issue).

[Update a few minutes later]

And that’s a wrap:

[Update a while later]

Here’s the story from local reporter Sandy Mazza. I like this:

SpaceX officials said they now intend to launch every two weeks.

Make it so.

[Update a while later]

I’d forgotten, but this happened on the thirteenth anniversary of Bush’s announcement of the Vision for Space Exploration. How far we’ve come. Now, if we can only finally kill off the monster rocket.

[Later-afternoon update]

Here’s what I wrote at the time, blogging from a motel room in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, when we were househunting in south Florida. I think it holds up pretty well.

Artificial Hearts

The latest. I think it would be really weird to not have a heartbeat. I hope that they can further improve on the reciprocating ones, rather than continuous flow.

[Update a few minutes later]

Or is this the future? Printable organs will eliminate need for transplants and donors. Also the need for anti-rejection drugs.

Which reminds me: There was a silly article the other day on how self-driving cars will dry up the supply for organ donors. I have this crazy idea that there’s a better solution to the donor problem than relying on random traffic tragedies.

The Latest Progress Failure

The report has been released:

Members of the commission established that the most probable cause of the accident had been the disintegration of the oxidizer tank of the third stage as a result of the failure of the 11D55 engine, following the fire and disintegration of its oxidizer pump, Roskosmos said. The fire in the pump and its disintegration could be triggered by a possible injection of the foreign particles into the pump’s cavity or by violations during the assembly of the 11D55 engine, such as a wrong clearance between the pump’s shaft and its attachment sleeve, floating rings and impellers, leading to a possible loss of balance and vibration of the rotor.

Sounds like they still have serious QA issues, either in manufacture or processing. And it’s the same third stage that crew uses.

[Update a few minutes later]

Related: Bob Zimmerman writes (among other things, in a general analysis of the world launch industry) that 2016 was the worst year for the Russian launch industry in decades.