And So It Begins

V’ger is starting to go mad:

The first hint of a problem came on April 22, when engineers first spotted the data pattern change. Since then, they’ve been working to fix the glitch and began sending commands back to Voyager 2 on April 30.

Because Voyager 2 is so far from Earth, it takes 13 hours for a message to reach the spacecraft and another 13 hours for responses to come back to NASA’s Deep Space Network of listening antennas around the world.

I hate when that happens.

Where Is My Critique?

You know, the essay I wrote at The New Atlantis last summer has been up for many months now, and I have never seen anyone critique it, with the exception of an idiotic attempt by Mark Whittington. I’ve received nothing but praise for the most part (which is why I wish more people would read it). The editor has also told me that he received no letters to the editor objecting to it. Is anyone aware of a serious, informed critical review? If there are none, I suspect that one of the reasons why is that I circulated drafts of it among a lot of smart people in the process of writing it.

The reason I ask is because I’m in the process of working up a book proposal, and I want to hone it, if there are any serious and useful issues with it, because a lot of the book will be based on it. And of course, people will be reviewing drafts of the book as well.

[Saturday morning update]

I’m not looking for suggestions for improvement (I have no plans to rewrite it or republish anywhere else). I’m looking for things that people think I actually got wrong.

Too Late For Me

Arizona is going to end its speeding camera program. I didn’t even know they had one, until I got a notice in the mail a few days ago with a picture of me at the wheel, on my way back from Space Access in Phoenix last month. Seventy one in a sixty zone.

I wonder how hard these are to challenge? With conventional tickets, you can demand a trial, and to see the calibration records on the radar, and such, and often win. Of course, being out of state, that would be a PITA.

Some Sanity From Jay Barbree

He has a surprisingly (for him — considering what an Ares koolaid drinker he’s been over the past few years) calm and objective assessment of the state of the new plan. I don’t know whether he’s right or not, but it’s politically plausible, for the near term. If we have to waste a few billion continuing to pretend to develop an Ares-based heavy lifter for a few years to keep the Florida rice bowls full, I can live with that, as long as the orbital technology funding doesn’t get starved for it. I’m still hoping that eventually, and before we sink too much money in that money pit, we’ll realize that we don’t need it. As for lunar landings and bases, there’s also plenty of time to change peoples’ minds on that. Everything planned for the deep-space missions will support it, and all we’ll need is a lander (which Masten and Armadillo, not to mention Blue Origin, are developing prototypes of now). If a fueling depot is established at L-1, that’s a natural time to decide whether to use it as a staging point for lunar surface activities.

At The Edge Of Space

U-2 pilot Cholene Espinoza remembers her trips almost to space, on the fiftieth anniversary of the shoot-down of Francis Gary Powers:

Were the risks worth it? Absolutely. The advantage of having a human being in the pilot’s seat of a reconnaissance plane is overwhelming. A person can troubleshoot problems in mid-flight, with creativity that a computer lacks and a proximity to the problem that a remote-control pilot can never achieve. A pilot also has unique situational awareness: I’ve been on more than one mission in which I was able to distinguish promising details that a drone would have missed.

It was worth it personally, too. I’ll never forget the adrenaline surge of landing what was basically a multimillion-dollar jet-powered glider on its 12-inch tail wheel from a full stall while wearing a space suit. And I’ll always remember the peace of sitting alone on the quiet edge of space, out of radio contact for hours.

People would pay for that. Sounds like they would need better suits, though.

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!