Category Archives: Space

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.

[Update a while later]

“It appears we are condemned to forego the human exploration of the solar system until the full measure of the first generation of space explorers has passed.” It didn’t have to be, and some of that generation, including Cernan (and Walt Cunningham), didn’t help.

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.

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.

Geoengineering, Space Tech, And Societal Risk

Some interesting thoughts from Oliver Morton (who I unfortunately missed having lunch with in London last week, maybe next time):

AI worries people more, but geoengineering seems pretty well placed in second place. (Incidentally, what’s up with space as the top societal risk enhancer? If AI takes the laurels in terms of economy, geopolitics and tech, how come space outdoes it in the exacerbation of societal risks? A mystery for another time…)

Indeed. I have some ideas, and that some it arises from ignorance and too much bad SF in television and movies, but I’ll let the commenters have at it.