Monday, October 15, 2012

Overheard in the Office...

TV Announcer: "NASA says that there could be real scientific value in Baumgartner's jump..."

Me: "Oh, shut up, NASA! Go play with your robots. You didn't have millions of people watching your YouTube feed* for your last Mars mission, and you know why? Nobody gives a $#!+ about robots."

*Well, and maybe they didn't have a live YouTube feed, either. I don't know. It was just a robot** anyway.

**Yeah, yeah, I know they perform valuable scientific research, but they don't get the world sitting at the edge of their seats... or digging for their wallet. Formula One or NASCAR wouldn't have five viewers and couldn't get sponsored by anybody bigger than Greasy Joe's Dixie Bar & Grill if the cars were radio-controlled.


Joseph said...

I honestly didn't see the attraction to this feat. I realize it was no small task to get a dood up that high in a balloon and have him fall out and land safely, it just seems to me to have been done like 40 years ago.

Yes, his attachments require a jock-strap the size of a wheel barrow, but besides that, he went 33% higher and fell faster...?

Armed Texan said...


The important point here is that he did it with private funding. That's cool. Imagine where we would be now if Chuck Yeagar had been sponsored by Maxwell House or Chock Full o' Nuts. There would have been a couple or twelve teams building capsules in a race to reach the moon and we might have made it there faster, cheaper (per single shot), and kept doing it as people kept thinking up new stunts to perform.


I have to disagree with you on the remote control NASCAR. Make the cars remote and remove all rules regarding contact and you have a winner.

Panamared said...

At this point in history the American People,seem to have become risk avers. That said, nobody can get overly invested in the safety and well-being of a robot.

perlhaqr said...

I dunno, Tam. A fair number of people tuned in for the crazypants landing they did to get that thar rover down onto Mars, with the rocket hovered crane thinggumie and all that.

ASM826 said...

Greasy Joe's Dixie Bar & Grill wouldn't give you a dime if there weren't drivers and personalities to care about.

Take the people out of it and it's as exciting a MIT robotics class project, I don't care how much money you have to spend.

RevolverRob said...

And while some folks might think the NASA rover is boring, I do not. The discovery of evidence of what is clearly once flowing rivers, on Mars, will trump Baumgartner's jump, forever. Because one was a cool stunt, and ONE confirms that there was water on the surface of Mars at some point in the past.

Tam said...


I would hope that anybody who reads this blog knows that I geek pretty hard over Mars rovers.

The Average Joe or Jane doesn't, though, at least not anymore. They've been watching robots on Mars since ABBA was still in the Top 40. They're ready for something new.

Joseph said...


Because one was a cool stunt, and ONE confirms that there was water on the surface of Mars at some point in the past.

Depends on what inspires you. It is far too easy for me to simply say "So what?" to the discovery of river beds on Mars. Exactly what does that do for us or inspire us to do? Sure, it helps us to understand what happened on Mars, but really, not much else. Now the technology that has had one robot on Mars roaming around for far longer than it should and one that is driving about lasering rocks like a boss, now that's applicable. Rivers once ran through here is pretty meh.

I guess as a child I had imagined we'd have people on the Moon semi-permanently or at least regularly and probably had boots on the Red Rock by now. NASA, by all counts, has been an utter disappointment to me and I see the only hope the privateers who'll exploit space for the resources.

I find it amusing, BTW, to listen to folks who rail against "EVIL!" energy exploration companies fawn over folks who want to land on asteroids and harvest precious metals.

Kristophr said...

NASA acts like a beaten spouse.

Every time the man in the Whitehouse changes, programs get shut down because they weren't invented here.

Only the folks running the cheap-assed robots have steady jobs.

Until NASA gets a modern Von Braun, that nobody has the supreme stupid to fire, will they stop trying to dwarf America's hearts and minds with this un-manned crap.

We need to pick a manned space system ( something on a single, and not a dangerous parallel stack like Shuttle ) and stick to it until we get some new tech that beats mere chemical rockets.

Kristophr said...

And don't even try to hand me a bunch of libertarian guff about private space ...

Spacex was asked about manned missions. They said they would be willing to man-rate their stack if they were given $2.5B by the gooberment, and a guaranteed contract for vehicles at $0.3B a pop.

The Russians send up rich twits because the seat would be filled with a weighted dummy anyway.

The only real customer for man-rated vehicles is the government right now. It ain't cheap enough yet to reach the DC-3 stage.

Cormac said...

This space-jump was amazing for a few reasons.

It gives the space-tourism industry a whole new demographic in the "flying demon adrenaline junkie" crowd, dreaming of skydiving from space!

If the ISS gets hit by some space junk, or just falls apart, the sardines within now have a contingency plan! (seriously, this is an exciting application).

As a proof-of concept experiment, you could definitely do worse.

Anonymous said...

Isn't NASA's new function to make all nicey-nice with Arab or Islamic folks?

PS - what does that have to do with space?


NotClauswitz said...

Robots? Pbhtt. I have an iRoomba robot that vacuums my carpet. "Let Robots do the Work"
The Austrian jumped first because he was afraid the French might out-do him.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Arab camel races have increased or decreased in popularity after they went to robot jockeys.

Don said...


Couple things:

1. I watched the Curiosity landing live, too. I realize fewer people did that, but those people were passionate. It was a cult hit.

2. I was wearing my "Dare Mighty Things" Curiosity t-shirt when I watched Baumgartner jump. I saw them as similar in audacity and boldness, if not personal courage.

3. You don't have to like Curiosity if you're there to see whether Houdini finally dies this time, but robotic exploration works. Don't any of you shoot Glocks or M&Ps instead of Pythons and Hi-Powers? Why?
Because they just work, even if they fall a little short in the romance department.

4. If it doesn't make sense to send a robot to Mars to find out whether it used to have surface water, then how could it make sense to send humans to do that job? Again, robotic exploration works.

5. Finally . . . . I've been a little dismayed to see so many people trying to cast this stunt as a fight between NASA and Red Bull. That's not how the people actually doing the work seemed to view it, so why is everybody chanting "FIGHT!" at them? If they want to get along and do cool stuff, let 'em.

David said...

Cormac: The ISS is about 250 miles high and moving about 17K mph, Baumgartner was about 25 miles high and moving about 0 mph when he open the door and jumped. He accelerated to around 830 mph then air resistance quickly slowed him down again.

Jumping from the ISS, even if you were able to let it fall to down to near the 25 mile height your speed would still be high enough that I think your initial deceleration and the aerothermal heating would pretty much ruin your day.

Remember what happened to Columbia when some of that upper atmosphere got inside of it at reentry speeds? What happens when you open the door to the ISS to jump?

However, that doesn't change the fact that we can still learn a lot from this event. It was a good step to take, it was cool as hell to watch, and it makes me glad that there are guys out there willing to do stuff like this.

ToddG said...

More people went to see Total Recall than watched Mars rover coverage by how many orders of magnitude? I'd guess three (+/- 1).

RC Cars on the Mars has been done. People like to watch people. People care about people. No one sits on the edge of his seat wondering if a $5B robot burns up in the atmosphere. I mean, OK, not "no one" but no one normal...

The current administration doesn't seem terribly interested in creating grand effort behind which every American might march and cheer, unless it's himself.

Windy Wilson said...

RC formula one would have the same following as RC boats on that lake in Los Angeles. A bunch of old coots and coots in training.
This stunt reminds me of the Mobile Infantry insertion of Starship Troopers, even though the technology right now is about as advanced as the first stunt flyers in 1910 and the first parachute jumpers in 1914.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but Mr. Baumgartner's jump was the most exciting thing I've seen on tv since shuttle Columbia's first flight.


Kristophr said...


Robots have done the recon.

It's time to send people. And to repeatedly bitch-slap the Nixons and Obamas of this country until they learn to shut the fuck up about NASA.

Anonymous said...

Cormac said:

"If the ISS gets hit by some space junk, or just falls apart, the sardines within now have a contingency plan! (seriously, this is an exciting application).

and David said:

"Remember what happened to Columbia when some of that upper atmosphere got inside of it at reentry speeds? What happens when you open the door to the ISS to jump?"

Ummm . . . No, . . . and Nothing.

The ISS is in orbit. You step out of the ISS, and you are in orbit. And unless you have a retro rocket pack with a not-insignificant amount of fuel in it to rid you of all the delta-V (velocity) that keeps you in orbit, that is exactly where you will remain. Forever and ever. No retro-rocket, no re-entry. End of.