Category Archives: Technology and Society

WhiteKnightTwo

Took off a few minutes ago in Mojave. Looks like a powered flight attempt, if the weather cooperates (there’s a front coming in, that’s supposed to bring us some much-needed Halloween rain this evening).

[Update a few minutes later]

Here’s the story from Alan Boyle.

[Update at 10:26]

[Update a few minutes later]

Alan Stern just tweeted, after I asked if they had chutes, that they are (or were) on chute.

[Update a few minutes later]

Still no update, but as Charles Lurio just emailed, “Statement forthcoming” is always a bad sign.

[Update at 11 AM]

OK, some confusion about whether or not pilots bailed, but reports on police scanner of a downed aircraft, and Bakersfield reports sending Kern County fire equipment north of Mojave.

[Update at 11:23]

One pilot reported dead, news conference at 2 PM PDT. They’re covering it at NASASpaceflight.

[Update a few minutes later]

Doug Messier is back in Internet range, and reporting that he saw it light, then stop, then relight, then got lost in clouds. Saw it blow up in the air, came down in pieces. Went to crash site with debris field, saw a body in a seat.

[Update, just before press conference in Mojave]

Streaming at NBC.

Failure Is Always An Option

SciAm has a list of all the recent launch failures.

Note that for the past three and a half years, every single one (including last night’s) was built in Russia or the Ukraine. And the last two American ones (not counting last night’s) were both Orbital (separation problem on Taurus). Prior to that, the last American one was the Falcon 1 test program, which should really count, since it was in fact a test program. Orbital has no experience with liquid propulsion, which is why they outsourced it to Ukraine. That appears to have been a mistake.

[Update a while later]

Orbital’s stock is down 17% this morning.

[Update a while later, just before Atlas V launch]

Eric Berger’s thoughts on the implications. I agree that it’s not that big a deal, but I hope it accelerates and end to our reliance on Russian hardware.

Interstellar

A light-on-spoilers review.

[Tuesday-morning update]

Uh-oh:

Christopher Nolan’s epic new sci-fi film Interstellar has received measured acclaim from critics, who have praised its ambitious scale and effects but were less convinced about the story.

That was the problem with Gravity, too.

[Bumped]

A Boat In The Box

They just scrubbed the Antares launch of Cygnus to ISS, because the range was red due to a boat downrange. Am I the only person who thinks that this rule is stupid, and needs to be revised? As I said on Twitter, I don’t care if there’s an armada of boats in the box, as long as someone is flying a banner “AT OWN RISK.” Holding up a flight over this is insane. It’s the kind of hypercaution that keeps us from making more rapid progress in space.

Financial Planning For Life Extension

An interview with Joel Garreau. Not sure I agree with this:

Boomer octogenarians in 2030 have “too many hard miles on their chassis” to fully benefit, but younger people may have trouble imagining the onetime prevalence of sickness and death.

I won’t be quite that old, but I think that there’s a good possibility that even for octo/nonoganerians there will be potential reversal of damage, and rejuvenation by then. And current government policies based on Scenario 1 (i.e., pretty much business as usual) are doomed to bankruptcy.

Baumgartner’s Skydiving Record

has been broken already. It’s inevitable that people are going to want to do this from a hundred kilometers.

[Update a while later]

Here’s the press release:

Roswell, NM – Oct. 24, 2014 – Following the record-breaking 135,908-foot space dive accomplished by Google’s Alan Eustace and the Paragon StratEx team, World View Enterprises, the commercial balloon spaceflight company, has acquired the technology from this history-making project. The acquisition will advance the company’s mission to pioneer a new frontier at the edge of space for travel and research.

“We’d like to congratulate Paragon Space Development Corporation® and its StratEx team along with Alan Eustace and all involved on their exceptional work,” said Taber MacCallum, World View’s chief technology officer, and Paragon’s founding CEO and CTO. “Without the efforts of these companies and Alan’s dedication, the project would not have been possible. World View is proud to carry the StratEx technology into the future by leveraging the incredible experience gained into a new era of space flights.”

For StratEx, Eustace was lifted to his peak altitude of 135,908 feet via high-altitude balloon, the same ballooning system that World View will employ to launch sailing-like journeys to the edge of space. While World View’s voyagers will ascend within a luxuriously engineered pressurized capsule, Eustace was kept safe from the elements in a self-contained space suit system designed with the goal of allowing manned exploration of the stratosphere above 100,000 feet. Paragon, which specializes in extreme environmental control systems, initiated the project with Eustace and worked with him to develop, build and manage the system used during the incredible space dive.

As former Paragon executives, World View founders Taber MacCallum and Jane Poynter played integral roles in the success of StratEx. MacCallum served as CEO and CTO of Paragon and played a key role in the development of the StratEx program, then transitioned to the critical role of chief safety officer, working with the team to ensure Eustace’s wellbeing. MacCallum will leverage this experience from the successful StratEx dive in his role as the chief technology officer for World View. Jane Poynter, World View’s CEO, served as the president and chairwoman of Paragon throughout the development of the StratEx program.

The patent-pending technology developed for StratEx has been acquired by World View for future space travel and research flights, adding depth to World View’s systems for launch, recovery, communications, ballooning, tracking, mission control, avionics and aerodynamics, among others.

World View will have Voyagers floating peacefully to the edge of space for a one-to-two-hour space cruise within a luxury capsule complete with bar and lavatory, which is transported by a parafoil and high-altitude balloon. Guests will enjoy 360-degree vistas of the world’s most spectacular panorama, marveling at the beauty of the Earth below, watching the sun slowly rise above the curvature of our planet suspended in a vast, black and infinite universe. They can even share the experience in real-time with loved ones thanks to in-flight Internet access.

Individuals who wish to be a pioneer in this exciting new era of space exploration can reserve their World View flight with a $5,000 deposit; the remaining $70,000 is due six months prior to their flight. Visit us to reserve.

In addition to offering breathtaking experiences for Voyagers, the capabilities being developed by World View will offer unprecedented and affordable access to the near-space environment for educators, researchers, private companies and government agencies alike.

World View has a number of strategic partners in this endeavor. Paragon Space Development Corporation® has decades of experience developing life support and space-related technologies. Paragon is leading the design and development of the World View space capsule. United Parachute Technologies, Performance Designs and MMIST, all leaders in pioneering parachute technology, are providing expertise and support for the development of the flight system’s airborne guidance unit and innovative parafoil.

About World View

Offering a gentle, comfortable, and life-changing travel experience to the edge of space for private citizens; and affordable access to a range of near-space commercialization opportunities for researchers, private companies and government agencies, World View is pioneering a new era of discovery at the edge of space. Available today for unmanned commercial opportunities with an altitude threshold of 130,000 feet, and currently taking reservations for manned flights and private tours, World View is creating unprecedented access to the near-space environment. Watch the World View experience here. For more information, visit http://www.worldviewexperience.com. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for real-time updates.

ABOUT PARAGON

Paragon Space Development Corporation® is a premier provider of environmental control components and systems for extreme and hazardous environments. As an industry leader in designing and manufacturing of thermal control and life support systems, Paragon provides solutions for its customer’s most challenging extreme environment protection needs in space, on Earth, in water and underground. Founded in 1993, Paragon is a small business headquartered in Tucson, Arizona. For more information on Paragon please click here.

Maybe I just hadn’t been paying attention, but this is the first that I’d heard they were planning to do this. It had nowhere near the hype that Red Bull did with Baumgartner. Of course, the latter was about branding, so it makes sense that they’d give it a lot of publicity.

Peter Thiel And Global Warming

Why he’s skeptical:

“Whenever you can’t have a debate, I often think that’s evidence that there’s a problem,” Thiel said on The Glenn Beck Program. “When people use the word ‘science,’ it’s often a tell, like in poker, that you’re bluffing. It’s like we have ‘social science’ and we have ‘political science,’ [but] we don’t call it ‘physical science’ or ‘chemical science.’ We just call them physics and chemistry because we know they’re right.”

Thiel said no one will be upset if you ask questions about the periodic table, because it is actually science. But referring to man-made climate change as “science” tells you “that people are exaggerating and they’re bluffing a little bit,” Thiel said.

“The weather has not been getting warmer for the last 15 years. The hockey stick that Al Gore predicted in the early 2000s on the climate has not happened,” he remarked. “And I think as this monolithic culture breaks down, you can have more debates.”

Yes.

Bootstrapping A Solar-System Civilization

There was an interesting blog post at OSTP last week:

Have ideas for massless exploration and bootstrapping a Solar System civilization? Send your ideas for how the Administration, the private sector, philanthropists, the research community, and storytellers can further these goals at massless@ostp.gov.

Needless to say, I don’t expect this to go anywhere with the current Congressional committees.

China’s Big Gamble In Space

A brief history of their program, from Joan Johnson-Freese.

I’d note that as long as they follow the Soviets/Russians lead in tech, they won’t be doing anything big. Like the voyages of Zheng He, it seems to be more about prestige than expansion. If and when SpaceX starts to reuse their launchers, that will set the new bar for space activity.