Can it continue to work?
Note the implicit but not necessarily valid assumption — that in order to do space activities, you have to launch from your own soil. For instance, I’d bet that Kodiak would be happy to lease some real estate to them for high-inclination launches.
Has anyone actually ordered and received a copy yet?
Well, as you can see in comments, we have disparate results. One person has received it, one is going to next week, and one got a message that it’s a month away. So huh.
Jon Goff has an interesting blog post. Also, scroll through recent entries for a lot of useful speculation about utilizing Venerian resources. In many ways, Venus is a more interesting candidate for colonization than Mars is.
An asteroid has just hit the aerospace dinosaurs, in Europe, China, Russia, and here.
I didn’t expect the book to be available for purchase at Amazon for another couple weeks. This is the first thing in this project that happened ahead of schedule.
Working on e-versions now.
I’m glad they’re making progress, but I don’t understand why they want a hydrogen engine for a booster, particularly for suborbital. The exhaust velocities don’t match well, and you have a lot of handling and bulk-density issues.
I just (finally) gave final approval for printing. Unfortunately, it won’t show up at Amazon for three weeks or so, but still in time to get it under the tree. I just ordered a couple dozen to see how it comes out.
…and its uninspirational end:
…as this latest episode demonstrates, unaffordable programs like the SLS are not a highway to the solar system. They are a roadblock.
Another mission destroyed by the big-rocket myth.
The webcast has started, and they’re currently go for launch in about half an hour. It will take a while before they know if they’re successful, because they have to do a restart this time — it’s a mission requirement.
[Update a couple minutes later]
This is a little annoying. The webcast stalls every few seconds, and I have to hit pause/play to get it going again.
Thoughts on when the franchise died.
Frankly, I was never that big a fan. I thought it was highly overrated by a younger generation.
The idea that “failure is not an option” is a fantasy version of how non-engineers should motivate engineers. That sentiment was invented by a screenwriter, riffing on an after-the-fact observation about Apollo 13; no one said it at the time. (If you ever say it, wash your mouth out with soap. If anyone ever says it to you, run.) Even NASA’s vaunted moonshot, so often referred to as the best of government innovation, tested with dozens of unmanned missions first, several of which failed outright.
Failure is always an option. Engineers work as hard as they do because they understand the risk of failure. And for anything it might have meant in its screenplay version, here that sentiment means the opposite; the unnamed executives were saying “Addressing the possibility of failure is not an option.”
This is a point I make in the book. Which will be released (finally!) this week, in time for Christmas.
[Update a couple minutes later]
This is a good point as well:
It’s certainly true that Federal IT is chronically challenged by its own processes. But the biggest problem with Healthcare.gov was not timeline or budget. The biggest problem was that the site did not work, and the administration decided to launch it anyway.
This is not just a hiring problem, or a procurement problem. This is a management problem, and a cultural problem. The preferred method for implementing large technology projects in Washington is to write the plans up front, break them into increasingly detailed specifications, then build what the specifications call for. It’s often called the waterfall method, because on a timeline the project cascades from planning, at the top left of the chart, down to implementation, on the bottom right.
Like all organizational models, waterfall is mainly a theory of collaboration. By putting the most serious planning at the beginning, with subsequent work derived from the plan, the waterfall method amounts to a pledge by all parties not to learn anything while doing the actual work. Instead, waterfall insists that the participants will understand best how things should work before accumulating any real-world experience, and that planners will always know more than workers.
This is a perfect fit for a culture that communicates in the deontic language of legislation. It is also a dreadful way to make new technology. If there is no room for learning by doing, early mistakes will resist correction. If the people with real technical knowledge can’t deliver bad news up the chain, potential failures get embedded rather than uprooted as the work goes on.
This is also a crucial distinction between “new” space and old.
Joel Achenbach writes about “old” space versus new.
JFK just wasn’t that into you.
My space-related thoughts on the anniversary of the assassination, over at USA Today.
The latest installment. Lileks watches, so you don’t have to.
It would seem that the big-rocket fallacy has claimed another victim. SLS is not the key to opening the solar system — it is a roadblock.
Jon Goff has some thoughts on utilizing its resources.
[Update a while later]
For the record, I think that Venus is a much more interesting destination than Mars, but that’s because I don’t suffer from a desire to redescend into a gravity well. It has much more light for solar power, and as Jon points out, easy-to-harvest resources in the upper atmosphere. I think that habitats floating high in it could be nice places to live.
Joel Achenbach reports on Tito’s plans.
He wants to use Cygnus, but how does he propose to enter? Guess I have to read the paper. I think he’s crazy to stake the mission on an SLS flight.
[Update a few minutes later]
Jeff Foust has a more detailed description. I think it’s crazy to rely on unbuilt NASA hardware.
[Update a while later]
This makes so little sense that I am compelled to think that it is driven by politics. I smell Boeing/LM behind this.
If I were Tito, I’d be working with SpaceX to do the mission with a dual-heavy concept, and use Dragon, not Orion. I’d order a stretch Centaur from ULA, or use two of them. I’d also bypass OSC and go directly to Thales Alenia for a PCM. The changes needed are so extensive that it doesn’t make sense to start with a Cygnus.
So Tito and Taber MacCallum had a phone call with the press afterwards, and said that they couldn’t make the case close commercially, that the solutions didn’t have the margins they wanted. Question: Did they ask ULA if they could demo orbital fueling within three years? Of course, Boeing/Lockmart would never let ULA do that, which is why it would be good for the space industry to force a divestiture. You have a commercial space company that’s hamstrung by its cost-plus-contractor parents.
Obviously, I disagree.
It’s not surprising at all that it would see it as a potential area to reduce the deficit (see page 74). The entire NASA budget is an option for that, in fact, as is the entire federal budget, really. But it points out how completely out to sea we are on why we’re doing it. Note the underlying assumption.
This option would terminate NASA’s human space exploration and space operations programs, except for those necessary to meet space communications needs (such as communication with the Hubble Space Telescope). The agency’s science and aeronautics programs and robotic space missions would continue. Eliminating those human space programs would save $73 billion between 2015 and 2023, the Congressional Budget Office estimates.
The main argument for this option is that increased capabilities in electronics and information technology have
generally reduced the need for humans to fly space missions. The scientific instruments used to gather knowledge in space rely much less (or not at all) on nearby humans to operate them. NASA and other federal agencies have increasingly adopted that approach in their activities on Earth, using robots to perform missions
without putting humans in harm’s way. For example, NASA has been using remotely piloted vehicles to track
hurricanes over the Atlantic Ocean at much longer distances than those for which tracking aircraft are conventionally piloted.
Eliminating humans from spaceflights would avoid risk to human life and would decrease the cost of space exploration by reducing the weight and complexity of the vehicles needed for the missions. (Unlike instruments, humans need water, air, food, space to move around in, and rest.) In addition, by replacing people with instruments, the missions could be made one way—return would be necessary only when the mission required it, such as to collect samples for further analysis—thus eliminating the cost, weight, and complexity of return and reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere.
A major argument against this option is that eliminating human spaceflight from the orbits near Earth would end
the technical progress necessary to prepare for human missions to Mars (even though those missions are at least
decades away). Moreover, if, in the future, robotic missions proved too limiting, then human space efforts
would have to be restarted. Another argument against this option is that there may be some scientific advantage
to having humans at the International Space Station to conduct experiments in microgravity that could not be
carried out in other, less costly, ways. (However, the International Space Station is currently scheduled to be
retired in 2020, postponed from an earlier decommissioning in 2015.) [Emphasis added]
There are multiple flawed assumptions in this analysis. First that the only purpose of sending humans into space is about science. Second, that it is about exploration. Third, that Mars is the goal.
If we aren’t going to develop and settle space, there is no point in sending people there, or hazarding their lives. But we never have that discussion.
Seemed to be a link problem. Hope it’s fixed now, sorry.
“Ray” over at the Vision Restoration blog writes about the ridiculous discussion last week on SLS/Orion:
This past week rewarded us with a panel discussion Removing the Barriers to Deep Space Exploration. The subject of the panel turned out to be the SLS heavy lift rocket and the Orion spacecraft. Surprisingly, in spite of the title of the panel, the discussion was not about cancelling SLS and Orion to allow funding to go to the robotic precursor missions, exploration technology development, and affordable space infrastructure needed for actual deep space exploration that have largely been squashed by the SLS/Orion pair. In fact, the discussion really didn’t seem to be about barriers to deep space exploration at all. Instead, it seemed like a snugglefest of love for the expensive capsule and even more wildly expensive rocket.
I weary of even writing about it any more, it’s so unutterably absurd.
Eric Berger explains why human spaceflight is such a mess.
These aerospace execs are living in some kind of alternate reality. Or at least pretending to, to placate the Congressional porkers.
Jon Goff has some thoughts.
I’d note, though, that Bigelow prefers the adjective “expandable,” rather than “inflatable.”
A trailer for what looks to be a very frightening movie.
The moon is not Antarctica.
Many of the “rocks have rights” crowd would like it to be, though. One of the problems with the Outer Space Treaty was that it was modeled on the Antarctic Treaty.
[Update a few minutes later]
Oh, Paul, please:
With launch costs of thousands of dollars per pound (and unlikely to come down significantly for the foreseeable future)
They are likely to come down to hundreds, or tens of dollars per pound within a decade, now that we have some actual competition and innovation happening in the industry.
The latest installment. Lileks watches so you don’t have to. Also brings the funny.
It’s available on Youtube now.
[Update a couple minutes later]
Here’s one of the brilliant comments over there:
he just sounds like a typical neo con who would prefer to send cheap chinese labor into space rather than waste money on returning white men to their families.
same type who wants more young americans to die for israel.
This is a sign of a broken brain.
BTW, fun fact. That picture of the book? It’s virtual, created by PJTV. It doesn’t yet exist in physical form, but it should next week, and it should look exactly like that.
In which I talk about the book, which should be for sale in the next week or so (I’ve been having a nightmare experience with the printer, which I hope is almost behind me).
The scientific orthodoxy said that a Chelyabinsk-size event ought to happen every 140 years or so, but Brown saw several such events in the historical record.
Famously, a large object exploded over the Tunguska region of Siberia in 1908. But there have been less-heralded impacts, including one on Aug. 3, 1963, when an asteroid created a powerful airburst off the coast of South Africa.
“Any one of these taken separately I think you can dismiss as a one-off. But now when we look at it as a whole, over a hundred years, we see these large impactors more frequently than we would expect,” said Brown, whose paper appeared in Nature.
But our response, and actions to become a space-faring civilization, remains pathetic.