Category Archives: Technology and Society

A Long, But Interesting Video

Thoughts on Artemis.

Here’s the problem: Ignoring the politics that have driven much of the architecture decisions, NASA is trying to do Apollo again, without the budget or schedule driver. When he cites the document “What Made Apollo A Success,” it begs the question of what the definition of success is. Obviously, it was successful in terms of the program objectives: to get a man (or men) to the Moon and return them safely to the Earth within a decade. But it was a complete failure in terms of opening space to humanity, which is why we haven’t been back in over half a century.

He says to remain mission focused, but that’s the problem. We have to end the “mission” mentality. We have to create a transportation infrastructure that makes getting back to the Moon, to other points in cislunar space, and beyond, routine. The fact that we’re not attempting to do so is why Artemis, as currently conceived, will prove as unsustainable as Apollo was.

I would also disagree with his recommendation that we train “pilots” on a simulator where their ass is on the line, as Neil did. We are in an age in which humans cannot fly these machines as well as they can fly themselves, and we’re going to have to test them and build in resiliency and redundancy to the point at which we can trust them to get us where we want to go with an acceptable level of risk.

Living And Dying In 3/4 Time

Thoughts on aging, from Glenn Reynolds.

I’m a few years older, but I view things similarly. I, too, have noticed more of my cohorts shuffling off this mortal coil (e.g., Chuck Lauer two or three years ago, and Mark Hopkins a year or so ago, though he had clearly been in poor health for a while).

I hope I have more than another twenty healthy years, but I obviously can’t count on it. And I don’t really know what “retirement” means, other than being able to do what I want to do, as opposed to what I wouldn’t voluntarily do if someone else wasn’t paying me to do it. I don’t golf, or have any hobbies, really, and I want to stay involved in space in what (despite my having lived through Apollo) is rapidly becoming the most exciting period of my life for that industry. I am still trying to make interesting things happen, and generate enough income from it for us to travel and enjoy life more while we have our health.

Last Week’s Starship Test

Eric Berger judges it a huge success.

I’m sure they learned a hell of a lot from it, which is the purpose of a test flight. The only failed test is one from which you learn nothing.

Per some of the stupid comments, the notion that Elon is a white supremacist is lunacy, but there is a lot of lunacy in the world these days.

[Update a while later]

More thoughts from Eric, a couple hours after the first column: ” I no longer have any regrets about missing Apollo. I am thrilled to be alive at this very moment in human history.”

I would trade having missed Apollo to be twenty years younger, but it’s not an option. Fortunately, I’ve also almost made it to the the point at which I may be able to live a lot longer, and see a lot more happen.

On The Road Again

We’re driving to Colorado for Thanksgiving, so not much posting before Wednesday. Meanwhile, if you have a subscription, I’m quoted in the Sunday edition of the Times of London. The subject is the race between Jeff’s tortoise and Elon’s hare.

[Update a while later, before hitting the road]

This is the quote from me: “‘It appears Bezos is finally getting serious,’ said Rand Simberg, a space industry consultant. ‘To this point, Blue Origin has looked more like a hobby. Jeff saw himself as the turtle to Elon’s hare — never realising that Elon was really the Duracell Bunny.'”

I actually said “Energizer,” but whatev.

Tomorrow’s Test Flight

What NASA wants to see.

[Saturday-morning update]

From my X feed:

Successes today: 1) Successful hot-stage separation 2) Got second stage close to planned suborbital trajectory 3) (And really important for next flight) water-deluge system seems to have protected the pad, so nothing preventing next attempt except fixing whatever caused failures

OK, a fourth success today: There seemed to be no engine failures on either stage right up until both were lost, so they’ve gotten over that hump, especially with the 33 Raptors on the booster. Huge success in terms of data gathered for further improvements in hardware/ops.

Question: Why would an FTS be triggered at that altitude/range? What’s the hazard to the ground? This is in fact the first I’d heard that the second stage even had an FTS.4551

Maybe because it was designed to enter intact, and they were concerned it would be an uncontrolled entry and hit someone downrange. I sure hope they’ll take that FTS off for operational flights with valuable cargo (including humans). Aircraft don’t have one.