Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Kings of the High Frontier...

One of the grandest days in human history since Yuri Gagarin had a rocket strapped to his ass passed quietly under our noses today: The first private orbital spacecraft was launched, completely overwhelmed in the news by some class-warfare-obsessed bolshevik in the White House making a concession speech to his groupies and, bang-bang-shoot-shoot!, the annual commemoration of Mark David Chapman's lousy marksmanship (poor Mark David Chapman; three feet to the right and he could have been a hero!)

30 comments:

Keads said...

Yes, I noted the successful launch! You DID have to look for it. I recommend the book "Angle of Attack" to see how far we have devolved.

Keads said...

Oh and the obligatory "Good news everyone!"

Anonymous said...

Well...it certainly is an amazing feat, slipping the surly bonds of earth...if not those of gov.

We know MSM's response; not so much that of Koman.

AT

phlegmfatale said...

Was that two Adam Ant references in one post? I squeed my pants.

The Infamous Oregon Lawhobbit said...

Do we get extra points for recognizing the literary reference in the post title?

Jim said...

Good on them, surely. What will happen when they loft someone's private spy satellite? So many interesting questions.

Jim

mc said...

Indeed overlooked and an enormous step. I wish I had ponied up a couple of hundred (300) to Bigelow to have him launch a personal object a while back during his "Fly Your Stuff" inflatable orbiter phase. Very cool. You could have cheaply launched up a pic of gramps or some other small item and watched it float around on a webcam for quite a long while.

http://www.bigelowaerospace.com/

P.S.--You folks are knowledgeable, on a side note, are significant numbers of folks having really big pain in the ass troubles with Firefox?

Außenseiter said...

I'm glad it worked okay. The unsuccessful early launches worried me.

@Jim

I think they wouldn't do anything 'naughty'. After all, it is a US based company, and accidents could happen. Such as someone's pet hamster eating crucial paperwork.

This is not generally known but most(2/3rds at least) of the space programme was about launching spy sats. The civilian program was, by size, only a small part.

Unfortunately, the true space programme (Project Orion) hasn't happened, and most likely never will, in this universe.

All of this mucking around with chemical rockets around earth's orbit may look impressive, but that's because no one has ever seen a working nuclear pulse propulsion spaceship in operation...

Sendarius said...

All of this mucking around with chemical rockets around earth's orbit may look impressive, but that's because no one has ever seen a working nuclear pulse propulsion spaceship in operation.

Larry Niven/Jerry Pournelle - Footfall (Project Michael)

"Eat hot gamma rays you foolish Centaurans!"

Astrononymous said...

If John Ross had written Unintended Consequences to be about private space launch vehicles, instead of firearms, the end product would have been Carl Bussjaeger's Net Assets.

staghounds said...

In ten thousand years, what events of our lifetimes might be considered at all significant?

I nominate the rockets. What else even comes close?

Außenseiter said...

@staghounds

I would say soul engineering might be considered more important.

Ability to move all the information that forms a mind to a different format, or to store, retrieve, modify it in any way needed will likely make a bigger impact.

Effective immortality, freedom of choice in thoughts(not a big deal to you, but you should ask a friend with OCD whether he wants to think that way)

Who knows, maybe the next few hundred years will even bring man the fabled universal constructor.

That would be an even bigger deal.

So far, I would rate nuclear energy higher than rocketry.

It frees us, partially from dependence on the sun(fossil fuels and renewable energies) and combined with breeder reactors allows very long term concentrated energy sources.

Tam said...

Außenseiter,

"I would say soul engineering might be considered more important."

He said "events of our lifetimes"; the event of which you are speaking has not occurred in your lifetime.

Stretch said...

Mark David Chapman's thoughts as he pulled the trigger: "Damn, the bitch moved!"

John Lennon's last thought: "Damn, the bitch moved."

Außenseiter said...

Huh. Sorry.

I blame lack of sleep. Nerves. I can't get enough exercise to calm them, and don't like to take sleeping pills.

But in my defense, I wrote "so far, I'd rate nuclear energy higher".

Pretty important, not only as a source of power..

Made war riskier, meaning there's more 'peace', at least among nuclear-armed nations.

Roberta X said...

At least so far. Chemical weapons and airplanes once made war "too terrible to wage." Not everyone agreed.

Nuke plants don't get us off this ball of mud. Nuke plants don't get us any new resources -- and nuke plants don't give the species a Plan B, either.

We're stuck on one world like a cockroach trapped in a corner or a mouse in a milk bottle. Don't you want OUT?

Anonymous said...

Now if they lofted Yoko into escape velocity that would be news worthy.

Gerry

Außenseiter said...

Not everyone agreed.
Nukes are several orders of magnitude more destructive..


Nuke plants don't get us off this ball of mud. Nuke plants don't get us any new resources -- and nuke plants don't give the species a Plan B, either.


And rockets can get us out? Or give us a plan B? The problem is not only getting into space, it's surviving in there. You need a whole technological civilization for perishables and spare parts, and you can't take it with you. That's the main problem.


With our current level of technology, there is no other place where we can survive but Earth. So, what's the point of fretting over being stuck here?

Maybe it'd be more constructive designing some kind of idiocy-eradicating virus to make Earth a better place to live. (Hmm. So, maybe one day someone'll figure out what genes cause more smarts. Maybe someone'll design a smartening retrovirus..)

And even if there was(for example, a Venus with an Earth-like biosphere), if it really came to a need for evacuation, something like Orion would be used for that. Chemical energy is just too weak.


The whole 'we have to escape the cradle' movement is like Romans worrying over freon from theoretical A/C's.

By the time there is significant industry in space, it'd be very possible to do away with the whole canned monkies business and move on to brains in a can or copies of brains running on computers.

Don't you want OUT?
Yeah. Who doesn't want out?
The only way out right now would be if someone figured out a low-energy way of getting somewhere with habitable biosphere. Very, very improbable.
You are better off wanting a pony, I guess.

Außenseiter said...

@Roberta X
Nukes are orders of magnitude more destructive than convetional and even chemical weapons. Only bio weapons come close, and I hope no one is insane enough to develop those.

Rockets don't give us a way out, and by themeselves they never will. Chemical energy, so far, isn't concentrated enough and afaik there's no way of improving it by tenfold or hundredfold....

Besides, the real problem with space isn't that it's hard to get there, it's that to survive there you need more tech than you can carry or produce there, in fact you need the products of specialized work of a whole civilization. That coupled with the cost of transport there's the problem.


Don't you want OUT?
Who doesn't want out? You can want anything you desire...

Anonymous said...

Instead of "the final frontier" we have a pathetic copy of 60's tech approved by NASA(whooopeeeWTF over!)and a freakin terminal dependence on fossil fuels. We should have built several hundred nuke plants back in the 1970's, instead we keep doing the SOS! Yes, the waste can be safely handled. Never mind, keep on grazing folks, they will pick another sheep to consume!

Anonymous said...

We've made lots of mistakes in the past that have come to haunt us.
I'd put 3 at the top.
JBJ getting us off the silver standard as well as the guns and bullets budgets that started our decline into bankruptcy.
Honorable mentions also go to JFK's (and assorted Germans)moon program that used expendable everything, built nothing lasting and led to a collection of a few rocks and then - nothing.
Also, Nixon's waste of a good energy crisis that could have given us energy self sufficiency by the turn of the century, instead of fueling the Saudi led Muslim Jihad.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing ain't it.

Tam said...

Außenseiter,

"I hope no one is insane enough to develop those."

Too late.

"Rockets don't give us a way out, and by themeselves they never will. Chemical energy, so far, isn't concentrated enough and afaik there's no way of improving it by tenfold or hundredfold...."

Yeah, gosh, what's this "Project Orion" thing you were talking about? I'm sure Roberta's never heard of that.

There are times, Außenseiter, that I wish I could buy you for what you were worth and sell you for what you thought you were worth, and that way I could retire and still have an assload of money left over to invest in Bigelow and Virgin Galactic...

Roberta X said...

I'm tempted not to reply....

Most of the Saturn boosters could have been recoverable; this was part of the initial design and could have been designed back in.

We could have gone for Big Dumb Boosters using proven tech for the heavy lifting and a smaller, less-fiddly shuttle for crew transport; NASA wanted Buck Rogers instead. They piddled away what is sill (AFAIK) the largest space station ever orbited in terms of usable enclosed volume.

Fossil fuel to orbit is pifflingly easy. Once you're there. you are half-way to the rest of the solar system.

The Outsider wrote: "Besides, the real problem with space isn't that it's hard to get there, it's that to survive there you need more tech than you can carry or produce there, in fact you need the products of specialized work of a whole civilization."
O Rly? And here I was thinking it was mostly off-the-shelf stuff. Go lookit the SpaceX manned capsule or a Soyuez. Better still, dig up a copy of John W. Campbell's The Moon Is Hell. Mostly, what you need (past what you have brung) is power and water and there's plenty of sun and plenty of ice on, for instance, the Moon.

"That coupled with the cost of transport there's the problem." It's only expensive 'cos all the hardware is bespoke. If they built jetliners the same way, only a handful of civilians could afford to fly.

I'll see your nuke plants, and raise you solar-power orbiters, beaming microwave power back to earthbound rectennas. Inefficient as hell but so what? The ultimate source is free and nobody is picketing the Sun.

Why huddle in the blue-glowing mud?

og said...

"I nominate the rockets. What else even comes close?"

Internet porn.

Anonymous said...

Good idea X but no one had the tech or the intestinal fortitude to go that route many years ago and what are the microwaves going to do to the environment(snark)? So here we sit held captive by hydrocarbons and have pissed away more wealth than either a "real" solar powered or nuclear alternative would have required. Just saying that we ain't "boldly going anywhere" and haven't been since the early 60's. No, I was not involved then. I was involved for 30 years after the mid 70s.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 8:30 pm:

We had both the tech and the bold to put man on Mars by the late '70s. My Dad was working on a nuclear steam engine propulsion system for a manned mission to Mars when Apollo was canceled. The specific impulse of that engine was near twice the Isp of the Shuttle main engines, AND it had high thrust. Thank the 60's generation of hippie environmentalists for destroying the nuke industry and any chance we'd ever have of using them again in space. It's a miracle they didn't get Vgers I and II canceled for their SNAP reactors. That nuclear steam engine would have been able to push all the way out, and most of the way back, shortening the transit time to near three months.

The only wealth we've pissed away is the knowledge we've lost when we wind down a space program and have to start all over again training another generation of engineers how not to blow things up, how not to make very large holes in the ground where none previously existed, and how not to fry, blind, suffocate, incinerate, and squash the people we want to send out there.

Boxstockracer

Außenseiter said...

@Tam
You say solar power orbiter, I say microwave death cannon. For anything capable of beaming hundreds of megawatts of power down
to an array could do nasty stuff if re-targeted elsewhere.
Even if other nations would be willing to allow that , there's the issue of cost. Without a space elevator or very, very cheap launch prices.. I doubt it'd ever pay for itself. Makes probably less sense than carpeting Sahara and other deserts with solar plants.
Huh?
You'd likely have to sell a gun or two after such a deal to break even. So, keep buying the lottery tickets.

@RobertaX
"That coupled with the cost of transport there's the problem." It's only expensive 'cos all the hardware is bespoke. If they built jetliners the same way, only a handful of civilians could afford to fly.

Jetliners(airlines more precisely. ) are subsidized, produced en-masse and still prohibitively expensive, and most people can afford to fly only rarely(and far fewer would be able to fly if there was less debt accumulation). They also serve a purpose.
So far, there's no reason to live in space or produce stuff there.
You'd be better off investing the resources into developing better technologies down here.

Mostly, what you need (past what you have brung) is power and water and there's plenty of sun and plenty of ice on, for instance, the Moon.

And WTH would you be doing on the moon? Even though regolith does have interesting metals in it, to make anything out of them would require a whole factory complex and some gigawatts of power source. And no bootstrapping is not possible.
Now, take those two together and you get a Mt.Everest sized mountain of explosives that'd be needed to get the stuff there.

The only wealth we've pissed away is the knowledge we've lost when we wind down a space program and have to start all over again training another generation of engineers

The fossil fuel infrastracture(coal fired plants,etc) was created by wealth that could've gone towards a nuclear based one..
@Boxstockracer
Wasn't so much hippie enviromentalists, it was US state department and the ban on atmospheric testing they agreed on with Soviets and others.
And the fact that US gov't and public wasn't interested in space exploration. It was a space race, a a pointless flashy spectacle. (Now, if the idea were to tinker with jets, scramjets and rockets to build a SSTO spaceplane capable of putting 20 tonnes to LEO and then assembling the moon-ship there, that'd be something else)
That's why it petered out once you beat the Russians.
Rockets today fly more reliably than back in the 1950's and 60's. No superheavy rockets, but there's no need for those.

Tam said...

"So, keep buying the lottery tickets."

Sorry, I don't pay the Stupid Tax. ;)

(Although I applaud the idea of a purely voluntary tax on the innumerate!)

staghounds said...

Nuclear energy is my second choice, although it actually predates my life and space travel barely doesn't.

Ten thousand years is a loooong time. By then, assuming we're still here, we will be other places too and Yuri Gagarin will be like Columbus.

World War II will be not even a footnote.

Anonymous said...

I will eat a bit of the proverbial "crow" here. After talking with some of my old coworkers, it appears that SpaceX may really have a bit of the old "right stuff" and not nearly as bogged down in the NASA quicksand as I thought. They actually found and fixed a problem that would have delayed a shuttle launch for weeks in a couple of days. Mea culpa. We still should be getting at least half our power from nukes! I will only repent so much!