Category Archives: Science And Society

Maximum Lifespan

We still don’t know the limit. As I often say, there is no law of physics that requires either senescence or mortality. Indefinite health and life is, in theory, a solvable problem.

[Afternoon update]

A commenter points out this recent article. Yes, I’ve discussed this with Gary, and it’s currently his focus, not space. Because none of us are getting any younger. BTW, the company name is pronounced “ocean,” I think. And yes, we should be trying to get Congress to tell the FDA to recognize aging as a disease to be treated, and not simply inevitable.

Harlan Ellison

RIP.

In addition to the books and short stories, he wrote some Twilight Zone episodes, and Star Trek.

JWST

We expected this yesterday, but here it is:

Following an Independent Review Board report on the James Webb Space Telescope project, NASA has announced a further delay to the telescope’s anticipated launch. Coming just three months after a year-long delay to 2020, NASA now says the telescope will not be ready to launch until 2021 at the earliest and that the project will breach its $8.8 billion USD cost cap.

The cited mismanagement at NG and NASA is just staggering. The new overrun is about the amount that it was supposed to cost, in total, originally. What a programmatic disaster.

[Update after noon]

Here’s the story from Jeff Foust.

[Update a while later]

[Thursday-morning update]

Here‘s Marina Koren’s take:

A wiring error caused workers to apply too much voltage to the spacecraft’s pressure transducers, severely damaging them. And during an acoustics test, which examines whether hardware can survive the loud sounds of launch, the fasteners designed to hold the sun shield together came loose. The incident scattered 70 bolts, and engineers scrambled to find them. They’re still looking for a few. “We’re really close to finding every one of the pieces,” Zerbuchen said.

These three errors alone resulted in a schedule delay of about 1.5 years and $600 million, Young said.

I think that’s about Northrop Grumman’s annual net income. If I were NASA, I’d tell them that if they ever want another NASA contract, they’ll eat it themselves.

[Update a while later]

Alex Witze has more, over at Nature.

The Risk Of Spaceflight

A new paper assessing spaceflight mortality. Not sure how useful it is, given the admitted paucity of data.

[Update a few minutes later]

When a Mars simulation goes wrong. Yes, we have a lot to learn before we go to other planets, and even then, people will die, often in terrible ways. Part of the answer is that we have to be more ambitious about how many we send. Six simply isn’t enough.