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[P]
Bookends in Time

By localroger in Technology
Sat Feb 01, 2003 at 08:24:16 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

I was almost there at the beginning, and I was almost there at the end. By the most amazing coincidences I was near to the shuttle orbiter Columbia both in triumph and tragedy.


I am looking at a picture of a group photo of ten high school kids, a couple of guides, and two official looking men. The caption says:
The 1981 Air Force Science Fair Winners
The Pentagon, June 15, 1981
I am the fourth person from the right, the especially thin and geeky kid wearing the red jacket. I was 17 years old and planning to start college soon.

Each of us had won the Air Force's award in one of the ten major categories at the International Science and Engineering Fair. I was Physics. I hadn't won the fair's official First Award, but the Air Force judges must have thought my project on computer soft errors a bit more interesting than the two that beat me in general competition, one on the acoustics of violins and one on some X-ray crystallography thing I didn't understand.

After the photo-op with Air Force Secretary Verne Orr, the ten of us were shuttled around to see anything the Air Force might have to tempt a talented geek to join. We saw a hydrogen flouride laser puch holes in titanium sheet. We saw then state-of-the-art flight simulators that worked by guiding a TV camera across moulded rubber landscape. We walked around on top of the EMP Trestle, the world's largest wooden structure. We toured a model airplane shop to make any RC hobbyist drool, tooled up to make the targets for experimental laser weapon systems.

And toward the end we toured Cape Canaveral. Our hosts weren't sure we would be able to do it until the day before, but finally we were ushered past guards toting full-auto assault rifles into a vast, spotless work area. And there it was, the orbiter Columbia, two months back from its first mission in space. We were allowed to walk around under it and watch the workmen test the then-infamous tiles on its vast and rooflike bottom.

Here's a picture taken with a crappy instamatic camera.
An assembly on the ground -- A workman applying a tile

I was astonished by its bulk; the thing that looks like a lawn dart astride a Pringles can on TV is 122 feet long and weighs 180,000 pounds. I could scarcely imagine this huge thing being heaved aloft, accelerated to 18,000 miles per hour, and then guided back to a controlled landing.

At the time the shuttle program was very controversial, and much of the controversy surrounded those tiles I was walking around under. Dotting the bottom of the orbiter were thousands of stickers identifying tiles that had either passed or failed testing. Tiles were missing. Workmen were testing and re-applying tiles right in front of us. Assemblies that normally surround the engines had been unmounted and were being worked on at ground level, on stands.

Lots of people had seen the space shuttle, but the shuttle they had seen at fairs and exhibitions had been Enterprise, the test vehicle that never flew in space. This was Columbia, the first of its kind to fly as intended, to heave itself into Earth orbit and return more or less intact. It was a period when an embattled NASA would finally begin to redeem itself, a magic time to be in a magic place.

---

Twenty-two years passed. I would go to college, lose my scholarship by a hundredth of a grade point, ironically find work in a field where the weight and bulk of things is a central consideration.

---

Last Monday I drove to Houston, then Tuesday to the strange town of Nacogdoches, TX. I was there to install a computerized batching system in a plant that manufactures gaskets. When I took the job I thought gaskets like the O-rings in a faucet, but when I got there I found it was more like gaskets in oil well heads. I thought specifically of the similarly scaled gasket that had failed the shuttle orbiter Challenger in 1986. It was an enormous, noisy facility where anything not well protected would end up buried in carbon black and iron oxide, conductive dusts used as pigment in the batches I was controlling.

I drove back to Lake Charles Thursday, then home on Friday. I answered an e-mail from my customer about a serious problem which I'll probably have to call about on Monday.

On Saturday morning CNN reports that debris from the destroyed Columbia is raining down on Nacogdoches, TX. Later a debris trail stretching from Dallas to Alexandria, LA will emerge, but for the moment I am breathless, aghast. Later Palestine, TX will be added to the list; this is the only other town I have ever visited in the area, home to a prison which works a hog farm which uses a system I designed to label boxes of pork.

Bookends in time, separated by 22 years; I was there just after its triumphant first mission and just before its tragic final disintegration. Over the years I have sometimes thought of the Harlan Ellison story The Cheese Stands Alone, about a man who reads his own Fate only to find that the pinnacle moment of his life was a home run he hit in a Little League baseball game at the age of nine. I have often wondered if the science fair would mark a similar pinnacle for me.

By far the greatest highlight of one of the greatest highlights of my life was walking around under Columbia, experiencing her vastness and the meticulous care with which she was attended, the astonishing security with which she was guarded.

And now she is gone, along with her seven astronauts. I always suspected I might outlive her, but never that she would die like this.

And never that she would die so close to me.

God Speed, Columbia and your crew. You may be gone but this friend will remember you always.

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Poll
Most affected by?
o Apollo 0 3%
o Apollo 13 5%
o Challenger 55%
o Columbia 35%

Votes: 133
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Related Links
o picture
o Here's a picture taken with a crappy instamatic camera.
o An assembly on the ground
o A workman applying a tile
o Also by localroger


Display: Sort:
Bookends in Time | 149 comments (145 topical, 4 editorial, 1 hidden)
Nicely done (3.80 / 5) (#2)
by egg troll on Sat Feb 01, 2003 at 07:14:56 PM EST

Despite my loathing of all the shuttle-related diaries and stories, this one was poigniant and not overly dramatic. +1 from me.

He's a bondage fan, a gastronome, a sensualist
Unparalleled for sinister lasciviousness.

Hear, Hear! (3.50 / 2) (#5)
by CheeseburgerBrown on Sat Feb 01, 2003 at 08:12:32 PM EST

This has been the first shuttle story in the queue worth reading.

+1FP


The opinions expressed in the comments above are not those of the author; they have been rented for the occasion of this writing from a neutral third party.<
[ Parent ]
Fantastic! (4.00 / 7) (#3)
by pgrote on Sat Feb 01, 2003 at 07:21:34 PM EST

This is why I come to this site. Good writing, interesting and topical. Nice red jacket. :-) +1 FP.

+1 (2.00 / 6) (#7)
by Anon 17933 on Sat Feb 01, 2003 at 08:32:17 PM EST

Post it!

Wouldn't 16h years be better? (1.27 / 18) (#8)
by Fen on Sat Feb 01, 2003 at 08:45:16 PM EST

Doesn't that work so much better using hexadecimal? For instance, you can double it so easiliy, it's just 2Ch. Shift the bits. And wouldn't it be great to use hexadecimal metric? It's so elegant and beautiful to say things like 4.2ABC+8h m.
--Self.
Hey, I'm only 27h (nt) (none / 0) (#9)
by localroger on Sat Feb 01, 2003 at 08:47:34 PM EST


I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

Cool, I'm 18 again! (none / 0) (#69)
by meaningless pseudonym on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 11:03:56 AM EST

No, wait, I'm in the UK so I could drink but I had a bad time at university and wasn't really happy at school either but I like my job and friends now, erm, drat, happier being 24 :-)

[ Parent ]
I congratulate you... (5.00 / 2) (#16)
by Estanislao Martínez on Sat Feb 01, 2003 at 09:52:27 PM EST

...on your sublime sense of aesthetics.

--em
[ Parent ]

glad to know youre working for the man (1.38 / 65) (#11)
by turmeric on Sat Feb 01, 2003 at 09:18:34 PM EST

im sure all those people in prison on minor drug charges are really happy you built that computerized pork labeling system. especially the muslims and vegetarians. thank you localroger for contributing to society.

Oppose all progress! In the name of... (4.00 / 2) (#12)
by TurboThy on Sat Feb 01, 2003 at 09:20:16 PM EST

If he hadn't build it, they'd be labelling pork by hand. I really don't see how they would be happier doing that.
__
'Someone will sig this comment. They will. I know it.' [Egil Skallagrimson]
[ Parent ]
YES THERES ALWAYS AN EXCUSE ISNT THERE (1.60 / 15) (#13)
by turmeric on Sat Feb 01, 2003 at 09:22:20 PM EST

WHEN YOU COME OUT ON TOP. CONGRATS< YOU SOUND JUST LIKE A NAZI.

[ Parent ]
Your schedule probably calls for a downer (nt) (4.62 / 8) (#15)
by localroger on Sat Feb 01, 2003 at 09:35:57 PM EST


I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

My witty comeback here (none / 0) (#59)
by TurboThy on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 07:19:26 AM EST

Why, I am a nazi.
__
'Someone will sig this comment. They will. I know it.' [Egil Skallagrimson]
[ Parent ]
THERE'S ALWAYS AN EXCUSE TOO (none / 0) (#118)
by Spendocrat on Mon Feb 03, 2003 at 03:57:31 AM EST

WHEN YOU COME OUT ON THE BOTTOM.

[ Parent ]
Thank you, Turmeric, for being you. (4.45 / 11) (#14)
by localroger on Sat Feb 01, 2003 at 09:34:46 PM EST

I do what I have to do. So do you. So we meet here on the field of honor and let our ideas get voted on, eh?

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

yes and i will win (2.72 / 11) (#32)
by turmeric on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 12:19:57 AM EST

because i am strong and you are weak and obedient.

[ Parent ]
You only wish... (1.20 / 5) (#36)
by localroger on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 12:30:30 AM EST

...that you were enough of a worm to interest me. Unfortunately for you I don't think you have a cunt, so you're disqualified at the outset.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

did they teach you that word at the air force? (2.33 / 6) (#43)
by turmeric on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 01:21:08 AM EST

maybe you should tell sally ride what you really think of women.

[ Parent ]
No, grammar school (1.50 / 2) (#61)
by localroger on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 09:15:49 AM EST

It's hard to deal with a pig on a pig's level without doing some oinking.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

oh i see. (1.00 / 1) (#66)
by turmeric on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 10:54:20 AM EST

since i was calling you cunt and pig, you need to do the same to me. brilliant logic there, fellow. too bad i did nothing of the sort, merely pointed out basic facts of life to you. the air force just loves people like you, btw, maybe you should sign up.

why is it that sappy bullshit always seems to cover over the most vile, misogynist hateful violent sociopath psychoses?

[ Parent ]

I'm sure you do see (1.00 / 1) (#70)
by localroger on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 11:11:52 AM EST

since i was calling you cunt and pig, you need to do the same to me

No, what you actually said was...

because i am strong and you are weak and obedient.

In a moment of weakness you got me to respond in kind. CongraTROLLations.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

Please, one of you... (5.00 / 4) (#73)
by skyknight on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 11:51:01 AM EST

Compare the other to Hitler, so we can invoke Godwin's Law and be done with this. :)

It's not much fun at the top. I envy the common people, their hearty meals and Bruce Springsteen and voting. --SIGNOR SPAGHETTI
[ Parent ]
everyone is strong whilst posting to K5 (5.00 / 2) (#100)
by ph0rk on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 07:12:29 PM EST

Its when you repeat yourself in public that it matters.

.
[ f o r k . s c h i z o i d . c o m ]
[ Parent ]

Oh boy... (none / 0) (#135)
by SPYvSPY on Mon Feb 03, 2003 at 03:35:47 PM EST

...are you ever going to be disappointed when you discover that your life amounts to a scattered contrail of self-denial and ungratefulness. Everyone's epiphany hurts down deep, particularly yours.
------------------------------------------------

By replying to this or any other comment in this thread, you assign an equal share of all worldwide copyright in such reply to each of the other readers of this site.
[ Parent ]

Some field of honour. That, and it's not relevant (4.00 / 2) (#37)
by Shovas on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 12:35:36 AM EST

If vegetarians or Muslims are in jail, they're there because they're receiving just punishment for their crimes. That may involve eating/supporting/working with meat. They may also be required to work with a system that violates their religion. Five bucks says any inmate can claim violation of their religion and be exempt from work of such nature.

These would have been the good arguments. Yours made no sense and was not too relevant. That's why I voted you 4 instead of the 7 fives you had been given. A solid rebuke was required, but your retort was not on the mark and did not meet the requirements for such a high moderation.

By the way, what field of honour is this? That was a pretty below-the-belt hit, I think. Taking it to the level of implying the voters of K5 warrant your ideas greater than Turmeric's? That's a pretty sad reply.
---
Join the petition: Rusty! Make dumped stories & discussion public!
---
Disagree? Post. Don't mod.
[ Parent ]
Parent comment was a troll (none / 0) (#60)
by localroger on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 09:13:12 AM EST

I gave it more of a reply than it deserved. The point could have been made in such a way that it would not have come off as a cheap attempt to score points, and if it had I would have given a more substantive reply.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

Poor you... (1.40 / 5) (#81)
by tkatchev on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 12:45:06 PM EST

Always abused by the mean, dirty trolls, aren't you?

This is how decisions are made in the real world.

Go back to your geek-induced virtual reality, where you can safely masturbate to fantasy pictures of Quake, without the fear of ever actually interacting with a real, living person in a meaningful way. Of course your comic books never talk back and never post "troll" messages.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

qwow, you really are stupid arent you (3.33 / 3) (#68)
by turmeric on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 10:58:36 AM EST

perhaps you should learn a bit about real life, that quite a large numebr of people, especially in texas, are in jail because the state is corrupt. 5 bucks says that american prisoners are making cheap goods that directly compete with real jobs, thus driving down our wages. 5 bucks says that american prisons are 'rapist factories' because of the use of sexual violence as a method of social control by wardens and etc. 5 bucks says that a mother of 3 children in jail for smoking an ounce of weed is not helping society at all, and in fact is just there because the state wants to seize her property and make money off her. 5 bucks says you havent spent more than 15 minutes of your pathetic geek obsessed life caring about any of this.

[ Parent ]
Why should he care about all this? (none / 0) (#78)
by tkatchev on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 12:36:51 PM EST

Dude, this is how the government works.

Come on, you act like you were born yesterday.

All these methods are simply the oil that keep the federal machine running smoothly.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Toking up or whatever, it's a crime. Deal. (1.00 / 1) (#88)
by Shovas on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 02:43:36 PM EST

Whether or not laws are ethically and logically correct, there's no excuse for breaking the law. I'm not referring to the extreme minority of the jail population who were put there because of a corrupt system. The point is, if you're in jail, you've most likely committed a crime and whatever you have to deal with in jail, that's what you're going to get for breaking the law.

Besides, the term for petty crimes should be less than 90 days. At least I would fully expect the jail time in Canada for such crimes to be pretty small and in very nice prisons, as opposed to maximum security locations.
---
Join the petition: Rusty! Make dumped stories & discussion public!
---
Disagree? Post. Don't mod.
[ Parent ]
please become a human being (5.00 / 1) (#101)
by turmeric on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 07:27:32 PM EST

intsed of a zombie

[ Parent ]
Physician, heal thyself (nt) (3.50 / 2) (#106)
by localroger on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 09:38:51 PM EST


I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

Elaborate? NT (none / 0) (#140)
by Shovas on Mon Feb 03, 2003 at 08:54:43 PM EST


---
Join the petition: Rusty! Make dumped stories & discussion public!
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[ Parent ]
Quite right (none / 0) (#122)
by Rogerborg on Mon Feb 03, 2003 at 06:54:41 AM EST

We should send those uppity niggers to the back of the busses again.

Or did you mean that there's no excuse for breaking laws that don't effect you, and which you happen to agree with?

"Exterminate all rational thought." - W.S. Burroughs
[ Parent ]

Eh? (1.00 / 1) (#139)
by Shovas on Mon Feb 03, 2003 at 08:52:43 PM EST

If you want to break a law, you know the consequences. If you feel going to jail is worth making your point of a certain law, go nuts and break the law.
---
Join the petition: Rusty! Make dumped stories & discussion public!
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[ Parent ]
You want to fight the power? (none / 0) (#134)
by SPYvSPY on Mon Feb 03, 2003 at 03:29:15 PM EST

Then you need the power to fight. And bitchy-baby-brat-off-topic-power ain't where it's at.
------------------------------------------------

By replying to this or any other comment in this thread, you assign an equal share of all worldwide copyright in such reply to each of the other readers of this site.
[ Parent ]

vegetarians (2.75 / 4) (#21)
by ucblockhead on Sat Feb 01, 2003 at 10:40:51 PM EST

Speaking as a vegetarian, I wish there were more people like localroger and less people like you.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
speaking as a rich person (2.75 / 4) (#33)
by turmeric on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 12:20:32 AM EST

i wish you would tell the truth about your motives

[ Parent ]
If you are on the internet, you are rich as well (5.00 / 1) (#40)
by ucblockhead on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 01:09:05 AM EST

nt
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Sorry (5.00 / 3) (#22)
by CaptainSuperBoy on Sat Feb 01, 2003 at 10:56:13 PM EST

I'm sorry, I'm a consultant too. Wasn't aware that a far more noble calling would be to bust out the many vegetarian muslims who are in jail on minor drug charges. Sorry.

--
jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
[ Parent ]
they who sit by and do nothing .... (2.42 / 7) (#34)
by turmeric on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 12:21:05 AM EST

are as bad as george bush. -- ancient wisdom

[ Parent ]
Jesus Christ... (1.50 / 2) (#80)
by tkatchev on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 12:41:05 PM EST

God save us from the activists...

Are you Jewish, by any chance?

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

O, come on. (4.00 / 1) (#95)
by Noam Chompsky on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 04:00:33 PM EST

Are you expecting to ride into Heaven driving a big comfy couch?

'Activism', a politically poisoned word without a coherent defense (does the status quo arrange for itself without human activity?), distinguishes Christianity from religions that do not share its messianic sense of progress, which is the difference between accepting your mortal circumstances and changing them. Eastern religions, for example, have a concept of causality derived from karma. Within the universal karmic law there is an explanation for evil: people are rewarded or punished according to the way they have conducted themselves in a previous existence. Thus, it is not necessary to revolt against your present condition, because you have earned your misery in an earlier life. People of the Book do not argue in this way. Jesus declares of a man told he was born blind to expiate the sins of his parents: "Neither did this man sin, nor his parents."

God will not rescue the flesh from activism or anything else for that matter; every man must account for his own actions before God; and God alone will decide if he is saved. How God decides--well you of all people should know the algorithm is as remote from the exemplary kur0n's good vs. bad branching logic of computational theology as Heaven is from Woman.

--
Faster, liberalists, Parent ]

Thank you turmeric! (none / 0) (#42)
by necropolis5 on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 01:21:03 AM EST

So original, so powerful, so very potent.  Impressive work you're doing here.  Very effective and very beneficial to society at large.  I can see that your mission to save the world from law-abiding, meat-eaters is going well.

I am a vegetarian, not quite vegan, but close enough.  If I were in prison, I would=shit and would happily run the pork labelling machine if it meant someone wasn't going to bury their schlong or a shiv in my ass.


----
Some humans believe that consuming tiger penises will make them sex machines. Who's really the dumb animal?
[ Parent ]

and when you are on the outside (3.33 / 6) (#44)
by turmeric on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 01:22:37 AM EST

you would gladly ignore the system that causes prison rape to occur, rather you would merely 'save yourself'. how this selfishness follows from vegetarian ethics escapes me.

[ Parent ]
vegetarian ethics? reality is no veggie ideal (1.00 / 1) (#45)
by necropolis5 on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 01:28:14 AM EST

You seem to be an optimist, I am very much a pessimist.  I believe that it is not the system in which we live that is the problem, but the people giving this system life.  If these fine individuals you are referring to weren't raping each other in prison, they'd be out here steeling my car or raping that pretty little girl who was unfortunate enough to live down their street.

Localroger made a good post that was very nicely put together.  You came along and took some slanted, political angle.  


----
Some humans believe that consuming tiger penises will make them sex machines. Who's really the dumb animal?
[ Parent ]

slanted? (2.00 / 4) (#49)
by turmeric on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 01:38:42 AM EST

i take a picutre of the leaning tower of piza, hang it on the wall with a lser-guided bubble level, and you tell me my frame is slanted? if you were truly a pessimist you would not be a vegetarian. there is no need to lie.

[ Parent ]
Dude. (2.80 / 5) (#48)
by tkatchev on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 01:38:27 AM EST

The "system" you speak of is inside each of us.

Sadly, things like prison rape are simply one of the methods society uses to self-organize in extreme situations.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

oh ok, shrug shrug shrug (1.25 / 4) (#65)
by turmeric on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 10:51:42 AM EST

shrug shrug shrug GO TO HELL

[ Parent ]
OK then. (2.00 / 1) (#75)
by tkatchev on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 12:02:52 PM EST

Your point?

Get a job or find a hobby. I feel like you have all this extra energy you don't know where to apply.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

You're missing the point (none / 0) (#144)
by tekue on Tue Feb 04, 2003 at 10:45:09 AM EST

This is his hobby.
--
A society that puts equality ahead of freedom will end up with neither. -Milton Friedman
[ Parent ]
Minor drug charges. (2.20 / 5) (#46)
by tkatchev on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 01:34:58 AM EST

Don't use "minor drugs" and you won't get busted.

Sorry if this brilliant plan never occured to you.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

its better if you just become president (4.50 / 2) (#67)
by turmeric on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 10:55:36 AM EST

then you can use hard drugs and you wont get busted. also if you go to college you can smoke a lot of weed and not get busted.

[ Parent ]
Yes. (1.50 / 2) (#74)
by tkatchev on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 12:01:24 PM EST

Does that bother you?

It's how the world works.

In a similar vein, you could write an exhaustive complaint to the U.N. demanding that the laws of gravity be changed.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

yes it bothers me (3.00 / 2) (#114)
by turmeric on Mon Feb 03, 2003 at 12:20:49 AM EST

gravity is from god/the universe.

laws are from humans.

humans are not gods/the universe.

why dont you stop your barbarian elder worship.

[ Parent ]

Uh. (none / 0) (#123)
by tkatchev on Mon Feb 03, 2003 at 07:20:32 AM EST

This is stupid. You are incapable of changing human nature, sorry.

   -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
[ Parent ]

Most affected by (4.00 / 1) (#17)
by michaelp on Sat Feb 01, 2003 at 10:13:58 PM EST

Pathfinder, Hubble.

As far as Columbia, I started hearing Woody singing when I heard:

These mighty men labored by day and by night,
Matching their strength'gainst the river's wild flight,
Through rapids and falls they won the hard fight,
Roll on Columbia, roll on...


Don't ask me why. Then I thought of Fallen Angels. The reason for that was a bit clearer.

"The Angels fell. And rose again," someone said. "And by God we did it!"


"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

Pathfinder, Hubble (4.00 / 1) (#29)
by localroger on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 12:04:46 AM EST

Pathfinder was an unqualified success. In fact Pathfinder's success was one of the things that made Mars Polar Lander's failure so galling.

Hubble was a very qualified success. It was an abject failure until the spectacular repair mission.

The other missions I mentioned were, to put it politely, failures. There is a difference.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

Yes sir, well done. (4.00 / 3) (#24)
by Tezcatlipoca on Sat Feb 01, 2003 at 11:20:52 PM EST

We don't need yet another news coverage, that is why we have the BBC, Cnn and uncountable others.

We don't need idiotic conspiracy theories, USENET has become the cespol for that.

We don't need wild speculation, the crackpots will write their cynic books sooner than the time it takes to say Columbia.

What is needed in these cases is to put the human scale back in perspective, so many ask why this is receiving so much coverage, so many ask why this may be important, many others ask why these lifes are most important than others lost today (or more than the ones that will be lost in a few weeks time, thousends of anonymous lifes will be lost forever needesly).

The article to which I am responding addresses all the questions without being specific and without spelling all the answers for us.

Those that have seen the transborders, those that have met people that have been in space, those that know people that derive inspiration from space travel (even in its current limited and primitve form), those that have any dreams and ambitions in life understand what this article is all about (and why the many others posted were so lacking).

For the others, my pity, once in a while seriousness is fitting, once in a while the jokes and derision are better left for another time.


"Stay a while, I'm distraught but juiced on your nearness."- johnny

Yup (none / 0) (#84)
by phuzz on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 01:47:01 PM EST

Yeah, I expected to come to K5 and see what I've seen everywhere else, repepetion of news, mixed with shock.  Instead I get an article which says what I feel.  Thank you localroger.

[ Parent ]
Major setback (2.66 / 3) (#26)
by cheeze on Sat Feb 01, 2003 at 11:32:05 PM EST

I bet most of NASA is scaled back. This could be a turning point for space travel, and space exploration. I think NASA needs to take a step back and instead of using brute force (loads and loads of fuel) to beat gravity,they need to use something smarter. There technically should be no reason for a space vehicle to need to be moving at such high speeds to re-enter the atmosphere. Given the necessary fuel, the re-entry could be easy, slow, and reversable (in the event of a failure). What would happen if something like this exploded in the atmosphere?

I agree (none / 0) (#28)
by pr0digy on Sat Feb 01, 2003 at 11:42:23 PM EST

They need to start using/researching newer technologies, it seems like it could be much more safe and cost effective in the long run. How many shuttle flights have there been, I think around 120 ? 2 have blown up, so that's almost a 2% chance of dying... Not exactly the safest thing to be doing.

[ Parent ]
Sign me up (none / 0) (#72)
by trane on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 11:37:12 AM EST

I'll take those odds. It would be worth it just for the chance to get off this horrible crowded planet for a while.

[ Parent ]
I'll bet you'll find that (none / 0) (#97)
by damiam on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 05:20:07 PM EST

There are more people per cubic foot on the shuttle than there are on Earth.

[ Parent ]
Yeah. (none / 0) (#99)
by trane on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 06:04:03 PM EST

Guess I'm dreaming of the single-man scouting missions.

[ Parent ]
sign me up too (none / 0) (#94)
by z84976 on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 03:46:01 PM EST

2% chance of death? Compare that to the odds of dying an untimely death crossing a violent and cold ocean to an untamed land in crowded boats, by the thousands... like most of our forefathers did (whether to north america or elsewhere). We as a society (not just usa) need to get a grip and remember that the best things ARE worth risking life for.

[ Parent ]
Work smarter not harder... (2.00 / 1) (#41)
by doormat on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 01:15:16 AM EST

Agreed. You'd think that with all those spaceplanes people have been talking about for 10 year we'd have something done by now. Especially with all the computerized designs and everything. Boeing designed the 777 entirely on computer first. They could test everything about its designs, down to things like, "could a mechanic fit his hand in here to fix part xyz?"

Maybe its time to bring the designs and ideas X34 or whatever its called out of the garbage bin and start working on them. It took $2.1B to build columbia in 1970s dollars. Its going to take that in todays money to build an more reliable spaceplane.

|\
|/oormat

[ Parent ]

Kinetic Energy (5.00 / 3) (#47)
by Bad Harmony on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 01:35:03 AM EST

When the shuttle is in low-earth orbit, it has a huge amount of kinetic energy (100,000 kg at 7,757 m/s). It must shed about 2 trillion joules of energy before it lands on earth. Where does this energy go? Almost all of it is dissipated in the form of heat caused by atmospheric friction. The goal of the reentry maneuvers is to transfer the excess energy into the atmosphere at a controlled rate.

54º40' or Fight!
[ Parent ]

And it really is... (5.00 / 1) (#90)
by MyrddinE on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 03:16:35 PM EST

... the most efficient method. Controlled atmospheric reentry is where it's at. Why carry up tons of fuel just to stop the craft, when you can let wind resistance do your work for you?

That's not to say there may not be a better vehicle for reentry... I'm sure there are better designs than the space shuttle. But atmospheric braking is a very appropriate method for the problem.

[ Parent ]

From a local (4.33 / 9) (#27)
by El Volio on Sat Feb 01, 2003 at 11:42:17 PM EST

I woke this morning to what I thought was the sound of someone stomping on my roof. It ended after a thump or two, and I thought no more of it. Then I read my local newspaper online, and realized that that was no maintenance man — it was the sound of an explosion 40 miles above my head.

I spent the rest of the day on the couch, glued to my television, watching as my home and birthplace made the international news in a way I hope never to repeat.

Tonight, we ate dinner with my parents. The local highways have large signs that warn of construction, traffic jams, and the occasional missing child. On the trip to the other side of town, five of them said, "Call police to report Space Shuttle debris"

I hope to God that we don't go through another day like this. We will, though, and just like we did 17 years ago — and 19 years before that — we'll come out on the other side, a little saddened, but ready to take the next step and move ahead, never forgetting the memory of those who have preceded us in time but do not join us on the road ahead.

Aha (4.76 / 13) (#35)
by ucblockhead on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 12:22:26 AM EST

This is why I voted -1 on all those other shuttle stories...because I wanted to read one, like this, that actually said something.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
Excellent. (2.00 / 1) (#50)
by Uncle Alex on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 02:52:25 AM EST

I only wish I had a chance to be part of the voting to make this article FP. I was a few hours too late. Thanks.

Prophetic Usenet Post (1.33 / 36) (#51)
by Baldrson on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 02:54:18 AM EST

Just last week a shuttle disaster prophecy appeared on Usenet:

From: Jorge R. Frank (jrfrank@ibm-pc.borg)
Subject: Re: What's the most likely thing to cause another Challenger-like disaster?
Newsgroups: sci.space.shuttle, sci.space.tech
Date: 2003-01-25 13:30:11 PST

"James Anatidae" <parshall@citcom.net> wrote in news:b0tqan$o0c$2@news3.infoave.net:

> The rockets blowing up (ala 51-L), meteorite hit, loss of cabin
> pressure, break-up on reentry, crashing on the runway, or maybe
> something else? Any of you experts in here have an opinion?

NASA computes the current probability of losing a shuttle at 1 in 250. Out of that, the largest single risks are mechanical failure during ascent (1 in 500) and micrometeoroid/orbital debris strike (1 in 700), with all other causes combined accounting for the remainder.

The next round of SSME upgrades (Block III) will likely reduce the risk of ascent failure below that of micrometeoroids/orbital debris.
--
JRF

Reply-to address spam-proofed - to reply by E-mail, check "Organization" (I am not assimilated) and think one step ahead of IBM.

-------- Empty the Cities --------


spamming in the bold (3.33 / 3) (#52)
by Lode Runner on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 03:06:49 AM EST

just when I thought you couldn't sink any lower...

Here, have a goose-egg.

[ Parent ]

How is that spamming? (none / 0) (#62)
by pgrote on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 10:34:34 AM EST

Seriously, the bold thing I could have done without, but spamming? Did he post it multiple times?
Did you go to Google Groups and look? It's a legitimate post.

[ Parent ]
Don't encourage crapflooding (3.66 / 3) (#63)
by Lode Runner on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 10:45:03 AM EST

It's the second post in this discussion where a link would've sufficed. You did see his other longer post, right?



[ Parent ]

Google Censorship? (2.50 / 2) (#85)
by Baldrson on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 01:57:20 PM EST

Well Lode Runner/Street Layer/Medham,

Since Google has seen fit not to return my shuttle disaster scenarios from their Usenet archive search, it is rather difficult to put a link to a third-party archive of those scenarios. I have put up my own archives of my posts but these shuttle disaster scenarios had to be extracted from that. Since Google seems to be selective in its memory of who said what when, it was a good time to post a copy of these scenarios to another archive -- K5. Perhaps K5 will be selective in its memory as well, but as a precaution I also posted them to slashdot.

-------- Empty the Cities --------


[ Parent ]

You stupid fuck (4.00 / 1) (#89)
by eleftheroi on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 03:10:22 PM EST

Here's yer damn link.

[ Parent ]
Poor Try (2.50 / 2) (#96)
by Baldrson on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 04:43:48 PM EST

"My" shuttle disaster scenarios were the ones I posted in 1988.

-------- Empty the Cities --------


[ Parent ]

Hey! (none / 0) (#55)
by leviramsey on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 05:15:47 AM EST

"James Anatidae" <parshall@citcom.net> wrote in news:b0tqan$o0c$2@news3.infoave.net:

I remember that guy from some of the Usenet groups I frequent...



[ Parent ]
Compassion (4.75 / 4) (#54)
by subversion on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 04:34:54 AM EST

Compassion should never be under-rated.  Thank you for expressing the emotions many of us feel.

I wasn't born when Columbia first flew.

6 months ago, I was close enough to Columbia to touch it.  And now it's gone.  Thank you for understanding, and in doing so communicating it.

I watched the news from 1200 miles distance, but that can never change the memory of being 12 inches away.

Rest well, Columbia and your crew.  You will be missed.


If you disagree, reply, don't moderate.

Objects (3.66 / 9) (#56)
by Quixato on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 05:24:12 AM EST

As much as I feel for the crew and the families of the crew, I think I feel a much greater pang for the loss of the actual shuttle itself (much as you do it seems). It seems strange and almost wrong to attach such emotional signifigance to an object that humanity constructed over the crew that piloted it, but the engineering marvel that it was is unique amonst all of our collective creations. Perhaps it's also the symbolism of unfettered space access and all the progress and future possibilities that the space shuttle program represents that makes it so important to me. I am a true believer; I feel with most certainty that man's destiny lies in the stars, and the space shuttle program and each of it's wonderful shuttles embody our current drive to explore the universe around us.

Such loss! Can we ever recover? In 15 years we've lost two out of five shuttles to disasters, and we've only reached a quarter of their expected life. These are not good odds. Some people here predicted that this signifies the end of the space program as we know it, and perhaps they're right. Perhaps though, we could use this reflection period to really evaluate our methods for getting humanity to the stars. Perhaps it's time to invest our emotions and dreams in a new venture, something different and ambitious, something that is untried but could reap so much more reward. I believe that unless some new material or propulsion technology comes along we should invest in the space elevator, because the possible gains more than make up for the minimum cost gambles.

But then again, that's just me, and I'm not even an American, so what say do I have in anything? I could sure help you guys with a nice robotic arm though...

"People are like smarties - all different colours on the outside, but exactly the same on the inside." - Me
"Learn to question, question to learn." - Sl8r

Sorry (3.33 / 3) (#57)
by Quixato on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 05:31:58 AM EST

Sorry for trying to push my agenda. I didn't mean to ride that in on the coattails of your personal story, but I can't get the thought out of my head that now is the perfect time to change and take a fresh look at the system. Besides, how much discussion can we really have centered around your personal experience with the shuttle? I suppose those of us that have been near it could share their stories, but as I have only ever been close enough to one to recognize it's shape on the launch pad, I don't have anything else to contribute.

"People are like smarties - all different colours on the outside, but exactly the same on the inside." - Me
"Learn to question, question to learn." - Sl8r
[ Parent ]

I personally don't have a problem w/this (4.00 / 1) (#71)
by localroger on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 11:15:51 AM EST

The problem is the crapflooder who posted two entire articles when links would have sufficed, thus hogging the bulk of the page for his agenda. Your observation is reasonable, original, and relevant.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

So... (none / 0) (#77)
by Quixato on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 12:35:49 PM EST

What are your predictions about the future of the space program? Where do you think the events of yesterday will lead us?

"People are like smarties - all different colours on the outside, but exactly the same on the inside." - Me
"Learn to question, question to learn." - Sl8r
[ Parent ]

Realistically... (5.00 / 8) (#87)
by localroger on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 02:19:18 PM EST

I'm not very optimistic.

The Shuttle was originally conceived as a workhorse, backbone vehicle which would form a fleet capable of sustaining a launch every two weeks. But it was so expensive we only got four workable ships, and one replacement after the Challenger.

Meanwhile we threw away a very workable system that was capable of reaching the Moon and of putting 160,000 lb of payload (not vehicle, but payload) in orbit. Perhaps because space is so expensive to reach in the first place NASA has never sought to realize economies of scale, instead starting each project on a new blank sheet of paper so as to maximize all efficiencies.

But if we had kept building Apollo boosters we would have a fully debugged, reliable system that could have put the entire ISS as it now exists up in a couple of launches. The Shuttle rockets are much more efficient but also much more expensive, so that reusing them is a necessity; F5's were simpler, and could be mass-produced. Kerosene isn't as efficient as H2 but it's much cheaper. A Saturn launch vehicle with modern avionics and engineering tweaked with modern design tools would be a marvelous workhorse.

But we threw it all away.

Just as NASA seems intent on throwing everything we learned from the Shuttles away, and starting over with some gee-whiz thingy at the edge of material science whose name starts with an X. What we need are cheap reliable boosters for reaching LEO. Saturn for launch and a much smaller, cheaper, simpler reusable vehicle (perhaps without the tank and solid-fuel boosters) would make sense for getting crew back and forth without throwing away the expensive life support infrastructure.

Meanwhile, the Russians have been building the same booster and capsule for 20 or more years. They have made their mistakes and figured out how to build them right and build them cheap, which is why Progress capsules are such a critical part of the ISS supply chain. We can't refit and relaunch Shuttles nearly as fast, even if ours is the bigger lifter needed for getting the big components into orbit.

Unfortunately Big Dumb Boosters aren't as "sexy" as cutting-edge fantasy space car systems. Nobody is willing to make the case that it is cheaper to keep throwing away cheap engines than to build efficient engines so close to the limits of material science that every successful launch is a small miracle.

The fact is that space vehicles are subjected to extremes of vibration, temperature, and stress and that our understanding of how this ages certain materials (especially those newfangled high-tech materials) is not good. It makes sense to build a new one for each launch, if you can do it cheap enough. And when you look at the total costs of a Shuttle mission, it's hard to believe it could have beaten a mature Saturn program in dollars per orbital pound.

After 20 years we have learned enough about building Shuttles to perhaps build a fleet that is stronger, cheaper, and even more efficient based on the lessons we learned. But instead NASA is focused on a new generation fantasy space car, which will come with its own new problems that have to be worked out from scratch. When all along what we have needed has been a space dump truck -- something simple, cheap, mature, and disposable.

So if we are lucky we might keep ISS in operation and keep sending little robots off to the planets. Right now I'd say the smart money would be to buy a share of Russia's launch system to keep it going. If they fold up operations then nobody in the world will have a high-volume path to orbit, until perhaps the Chinese get their system online.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

Disposable vs Reusable (5.00 / 1) (#92)
by Quixato on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 03:30:36 PM EST

While my hippy earth loving heart rages at the thought of making rocket after rocket and then just throwing them away, I can't help but think that you may have a point. I think the problems with the space shuttle really come down to it's engineering complexity, and percentage wise, how much of that is due solely to the fact that it's meant to be reusable?

Also, how many more defects can work themselves into a system that's being mass manufactured? Would quality control and safety issues become more of a concern? Would there be a greater chance of loss of life on such a proposed system? I wish I had the motivation to actually look at some numbers, and see what the cost would actually be.

"People are like smarties - all different colours on the outside, but exactly the same on the inside." - Me
"Learn to question, question to learn." - Sl8r
[ Parent ]

A case for just that; (none / 0) (#124)
by subversion on Mon Feb 03, 2003 at 09:33:50 AM EST

In an article entitled "A Rocket A Day Keeps The High Costs Away", Jim Walker makes just that argument.  

http://www.astronautix.com/articles/arosaway.htm  (warning, popunders may appear).

It basically makes a case for being willing to put forth a proposition for mass-manufactured rockets (a rocket a day) that are not intended (at least, at first) to do more than carry hardware to orbit cheaply.  At first, failure rates would probably limit it to easily replacable hardware (cheap commsats, perhaps, or simple astronomy hardware) but eventually when the system shook down and became reliable, expensive hardware or even human launch would be doable.


If you disagree, reply, don't moderate.
[ Parent ]

Shuttle Program (none / 0) (#149)
by ckaminski on Thu Feb 06, 2003 at 12:16:53 PM EST

While I applaud the shuttle program, and truly love all it's incarnations, including poor ole forgotten Pathfinder and Enterprise, we have to realize that this shuttle is a research article.  It was the first attempt at a reusable vehicle, and let's face it, it was a poor result, stemming from conflicting goals, and a misconception about what the space market really needs today.  The system just wasn't adaptable.  When NASA stopped allowing the Centaur upper stage to be carried on the shuttle, it prevented the shuttle from being used as a satellite deployment tool.  And let's face it, we have rockets now that can do much better than the Shuttle/Centaur combination.  

We need a new launch system built on the lessons of the old, with the technology of today.

[ Parent ]

NPR: APUs a Likely Cause (1.00 / 18) (#58)
by Baldrson on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 05:46:07 AM EST

As predicted 15 years ago the Auxilliary Power Units (APUs) are a the most likely culprit according to National Public Radio.

-------- Empty the Cities --------


Bzzt. Wrong answer. (4.00 / 1) (#128)
by porkchop_d_clown on Mon Feb 03, 2003 at 10:01:24 AM EST

They're looking at everything from a tire exploding in a wheel well to a critical loss of tiles. The APUs are not major suspect right now.


--
"Your article (and I use that term losely) is just a ad-hominem filled rant from a right-wing extremist loony." - Psycho Les


[ Parent ]
First rate.Thank you for an excellent article.[NT] (3.00 / 1) (#64)
by limbic on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 10:48:09 AM EST



Shuttle should have powered decent (2.62 / 8) (#76)
by dollyknot on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 12:16:55 PM EST

There is lot of fuel in space, its called water. So what I propose is we find the nearest ice asteroid and in a controlled way nudge it into earth orbit. Park it near the ISS. Suddenly humanity is on the route of being able to sustain life in space. They managed to actually land one spacecraft on a comet, what is wrong with landing some ion rockets on an ice asteroid.

There is one vast difference between us and all the other species, that being the degree to which we adapt our surrounds to our needs. Most other species evolve adaptations to the environment that surrounds them, we have turned this equation on its head and have evolved the ability to change the environment to an extrordinary degree.  In evolving the ability to change the environment we have slowly but surely evolved the ability to create an environment.

I believe the creation of biospheres off of the earth, is the emergent effect of our evolution, our history and in some ways our religions.

There is only one way to pay true homage to the astronaughts that have died and that is to make their dream come true.

 Peter
They call it an elephant's trunk, whereas it is in fact an elephant's nose - a nose by any other name would smell as sweetly.

Don't be silly (5.00 / 2) (#79)
by Zealot on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 12:37:11 PM EST

Well, the nearest ice asteroids are likely in the asteroid belt (or even a passing comet.) Slowing one down to move it into earth's orbit would take a phenomenal amount of energy, which we'd either have to take there (with chemical propulsion that'd probably take more energy than we'd ever gain) or you dump a solar-powered ion drive on it, and let it find it's own way here. Which'd take a long time.

Not to mention that I wouldn't be too keen on those feet/m types at NASA trying to steer an armageddon-size lump into earth orbit. One of those cost / benefit analyses; possibly remote chance of asteroid killing untold millions on earth vs quantifiable risk of loss of volunteer astronauts and hardware. Hmmm. I think there are better whacky projects for the near future.

[ Parent ]

spaceflight was once silly (none / 0) (#82)
by dollyknot on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 01:01:34 PM EST

Everything is silly that has never been done. If it were not silly everybody would be doing it wouldn't they. Why does the asteroid have to be armaggedon sized? Just so you can win the argument? There is water in space, are you saying it is silly to utilize it, or just that it is impossible to do so?   Is it mathematically impossible? Or just politically?  
They call it an elephant's trunk, whereas it is in fact an elephant's nose - a nose by any other name would smell as sweetly.
[ Parent ]
some would say spaceflight still is silly (none / 0) (#83)
by Zealot on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 01:35:29 PM EST

and I can see their point, although personally I think it's marginally worth it. And I meant silly from an economic and political perspective.

And any asteroid over a few tens of meters has the potential to be armaggedon sized if you're unlucky enough to hit somewhere inhabited at orbital speeds. (I believe the Tunguska object is thought to have been ~50-100m diameter) And considering the fuss people kick up about teeny tiny RTGs being launched I suspect the average politician would prefer to spend the money on a Teacher-in-space program.

But, most of all, I'd rather see a fleet of ion powered robot probes dispersed around the solar system than gigabuck sci-fi engineering projects.

[ Parent ]

How do you know what is silly and what is not? (4.00 / 1) (#91)
by dollyknot on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 03:18:46 PM EST

and I can see their point, although personally I think it's marginally worth it.

Why do you think so? There is no profit in space , which is why it has not been colonised already. Or so they think. I'll bet if you were around before they actually achieved space flight, you would have been saying it was very silly, your sort usually do.

And I meant silly from an economic and political perspective.

What is not silly from an economic and political perspective? Six billion mouths to feed, sounds rather silly to me. Global warming sounds incredibly silly and when it comes to daftness, who can beat the idea that the purpose of our lives, is but to fill our wallets and empty our bollux, and walk around with our noses in the air saying how clever we are.

The ancient Greeks had it right when they said there are two kinds of people, epicureans and stoics. Epicureans think life is about pleasure and sensuality nothing more, so after millions of years of evolution, thousands of years of history all we can come up with is, sensory gratification as to a reason for existance.

Stoics think life is about striving and sometimes suffering, about going beyond, sometimes sacificing, but always being willing to push the envelope and do the undoable. But however some of us have feet of clay.

And any asteroid over a few tens of meters has the potential to be armaggedon sized if you're unlucky enough to hit somewhere inhabited at orbital speeds. (I believe the Tunguska object is thought to have been ~50-100m diameter) And considering the fuss people kick up about teeny tiny RTGs being launched I suspect the average politician would prefer to spend the money on a Teacher-in-space program.

Developing the mathematics and then the technology to control the movement of asteroids in space, will make it less likely that a Tunguska type event will happen again. The nice thing about an ion drive is you would be able to apply a constant pressure.

But, most of all, I'd rather see a fleet of ion powered robot probes dispersed around the solar system than gigabuck sci-fi engineering projects.

It sounds like all you care about is money. I thought the voyager probe's way of reaching jupiter was a fantastic demonstration of orbital mechanics. If they had listened to you they would not have done it, after all when it was launched from the earth to orbit venus then come back and reorbit the earth, before zooming off in the wide blue yonder. What if they got the sums wrong? It might have hit the earth!
They call it an elephant's trunk, whereas it is in fact an elephant's nose - a nose by any other name would smell as sweetly.
[ Parent ]

Last comment (1.25 / 4) (#103)
by Zealot on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 07:46:47 PM EST

If you find those aspects of the world silly (which I agree thay are,) then I'd say you were more of an absurdist than a stoic.

And upon further thought, you're probably right about the orbital mechanics being fairly predictable - and I hope you can work out the flaws in your asinine comparison to the voyager profile (which was, incidentally, the ultimate cheap way to reach Jupiter) for yourself.

And I bet you've never walked away from an argument in your life. Your sort usually haven't.

[ Parent ]

Reply to last comment (2.50 / 2) (#105)
by dollyknot on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 08:46:09 PM EST

Ahem

If you find those aspects of the world silly (which I agree thay are,) then I'd say you were more of an absurdist than a stoic.

You still have not answered my question as to what you think isn't silly in terms of human endevours

And upon further thought, you're probably right about the orbital mechanics being fairly predictable - and I hope you can work out the flaws in your asinine comparison to the voyager profile (which was, incidentally, the ultimate cheap way to reach Jupiter) for yourself.

Why asinine? I was merely pointing out that if we get the math right, we can do some amazing things.

And I bet you've never walked away from an argument in your life. Your sort usually haven't.

You started it by calling my idea silly, I think that makes you argumentative and trollish. I take note in your diatribe, you talk of cost benefit analysis. This is pointy headed talk, accountants talk like this, people who know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.
They call it an elephant's trunk, whereas it is in fact an elephant's nose - a nose by any other name would smell as sweetly.
[ Parent ]

Excellent analysis (none / 0) (#121)
by Rogerborg on Mon Feb 03, 2003 at 06:48:13 AM EST

However, as a counter: yes, it's hard, so that's precisely why we should be trying it.

"Exterminate all rational thought." - W.S. Burroughs
[ Parent ]

How about the moon or mars? (none / 0) (#93)
by z84976 on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 03:38:31 PM EST

They both supposedly have phenomenal amounts of water on/under their polar surfaces. And we've actually proven that we can get to both places. Mars might be a pain to use due to distance, but I can't imagine it would be more practical to go to an asteroid and try to return with fuel than to go to the moon and do the same. Using the moon as a starting point for longer missions is just the coolest thing I can think of for the near future... but then again, perhaps once we've figured how to do it, why not send a fuel making machine (such as ones proposed for mars) to an asteroid out there somewhere and LEAVE it, so that if we're ever in the neighborhood on our way out, we can stop by and fill up?

[ Parent ]
NEAR (none / 0) (#98)
by Merk00 on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 05:58:41 PM EST

NEAR didn't so much land on Eros as it did crash into it. It also was never designed to do it.

------
"At FIRST we see a world where science and technology are celebrated, where kids think science is cool and dream of becoming science and technology heroes."
- FIRST Mission
[ Parent ]

Water as fuel? (4.00 / 1) (#141)
by Verax on Mon Feb 03, 2003 at 10:13:01 PM EST

There is lot of fuel in space, its called water.

Actually, there's whole oceans of water down here on earth, but they are not used as fuel in any meaningful way. You've got it backward; hydrogen is a fuel, and you can burn it with oxygen, and get a whole lot of useful energy, but water is the end result. Now you may suggest separating the hydrogen and oxygen in water to get fuel again. But the catch is that it takes the same amount of energy to separate them (well, plus some more energy because, to paraphrase thermodynamics, there's no such thing as a free lunch.).

So, If you've got that much energy lying around to begin with, why not just use it instead of messing with water? Perhaps you'd suggest using solar power to do the separating? It takes one hell of a lot of sunshine to separate out a very tiny amount of hydrogen and oxygen from water. If you run the numbers, you'll see that they don't add up in favor of your plan.

Or am I missing something here? I have made several assumptions, so please forgive me if that's not what you were advocating.



----------------------------------------------
"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
Photosynthesis (none / 0) (#145)
by dollyknot on Tue Feb 04, 2003 at 11:19:56 AM EST

I came across an article in new scientist a couple of years ago, it will be in the new scientist archive if you want to dig through. They still do not understand how photosynthesis works. This means it is still a miracle. Basically a leaf is seperating oxygen from hydrogen which is why plants give off oxygen. Life still knows more than we do. IIRC current efficiency with photoelectric cells is around twenty percent. What efficency does a plant achieve using sunlight to break the atomic bonds between hydrogen and oxygen.

Yes is was rather silly of me to think of water as energy. Energy is petrol isn't it. You obtain energy by burning things or exploding them. Making energy by growing things is old hat. What an old fashioned concept, rather silly if you ask me. A right mess plants are, for a start they don't grow in neat tidy rows. Go into your nearest forest and take a look around. A right mess, higgledy piggledy, terrible, have you noticed that all the trees have wonky branches, they look like they have been dragged through a hedge back woulds. How kind of human beings to tidy the place up. Nice straight roads, lovely square buildings. And lots of nice shiny machines. We are intelligent right?
They call it an elephant's trunk, whereas it is in fact an elephant's nose - a nose by any other name would smell as sweetly.
[ Parent ]

Photosynthesis (4.00 / 1) (#147)
by Verax on Tue Feb 04, 2003 at 08:31:44 PM EST

They still do not understand how photosynthesis works. This means it is still a miracle.

I thought that (at least) a fair bit of it is understood. But I don't think that diminishes the miracoulousness of it all. I find that I often have even more appreciation for somthing cool once I understand it, or understand it more than I used to. All that sub-microscopic clockwork amazes me. Not just that it works, but that it can be coded up in DNA, copied, and reconstructed. "Here is how you can be dropped in some dirt, and unfold into a factory that can make use of the energy available in sunlight." All that expressed in a string of amino acids. Very, very cool.



----------------------------------------------
"It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish." -- Mother Teresa of Calcutta
[ Parent ]
I was almost here, at the beginning. (3.00 / 2) (#102)
by Falkkin on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 07:43:50 PM EST

"I was almost there at the beginning..."

I also have always felt a special attachment to Columbia, for I too was "almost here" at the beginning: my mom was in labor when Columbia launched for the first time on April 12, 1981.  I have a copy of the Minneapolis Tribune from the day I was born; the launch of Columbia was the cover story.  I'll probably dig out it next time I go home.

My thoughts go out to the brave astronauts who put their lives on the line in the pursuit of scientific achievement.
--
All portions of this document authored by myself are hereby released into the public domain.
View a copy of the public domain dedication at creativecommons.org.

My Hope (4.00 / 4) (#107)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 10:04:17 PM EST

They ditch the shuttle (or mothball it for later use as an orbit only (one more takeoff, no more landings) vehicle) and build the damn space elevator already.

Tim
"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."

Switch (none / 1) (#108)
by Zapata on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 10:08:28 PM EST

I was running a Space Program, with the Shuttle, and then it was like "beep, beep beep beep, beeep!" and it was gone. And I was like "Eeh?" It devoured my Space Program. It was a really good Space Program. And then I had to start it again, and it wasn't as good.

It's kind of...  a bummer.

www.saturnV.com/switch.

"If you ain't got a camel, you ain't Shiite."


[ Parent ]
No Saturn V either! (none / 0) (#109)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 10:13:15 PM EST

There is something so inelegant about busting loose from gravity's surly bonds by burning up a tank of fuel bigger than your spacecraft.

Tim
"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
[ Parent ]

Efficiency. (none / 1) (#110)
by Zapata on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 10:23:25 PM EST

Gun aren't very elegant, either, but they're efficient and reliable. Go with what works.

Shuttle - 14
Apollo - 3

Shuttle - ?
Apollo - Moon.

"If you ain't got a camel, you ain't Shiite."


[ Parent ]
We should be able to build a much better shuttle (none / 0) (#127)
by porkchop_d_clown on Mon Feb 03, 2003 at 10:00:05 AM EST

With 25 years of experience under our belts (Jeez, has it been that long?)

Atlantis is already a much lighter, more adaptable vehicle than Columbia was but Atlantis is still 15 years old!

A new shuttle program, one with air breathers for a more gentle re-entry, one that separates the heavy-lift of large cargo (put it on a Titan, it's cheaper!) from the easy transfer of passengers, would be the best possible outcome of this tragedy.


--
"Your article (and I use that term losely) is just a ad-hominem filled rant from a right-wing extremist loony." - Psycho Les


[ Parent ]
we can't (none / 0) (#132)
by ucblockhead on Mon Feb 03, 2003 at 12:26:06 PM EST

We don't have the technology to build a space elevator yet...not even close.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
Money (none / 0) (#133)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Mon Feb 03, 2003 at 02:30:45 PM EST

If we put in as much money as was spent on shuttle development we might get that technology with the quickness.

Besides - it would be an ELEVATOR TO SPACE like the end of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. AN ELEVATOR TO SPACE.

Tim
"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
[ Parent ]

'fraid not (4.00 / 1) (#137)
by ucblockhead on Mon Feb 03, 2003 at 07:31:18 PM EST

We could no more build a space elevator than Thomas Edison could have built a space shuttle. Money isn't the problem. The problem is that the technology that would be required is far in advance of anything we could do.
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
There are plans... (none / 0) (#138)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Mon Feb 03, 2003 at 08:10:03 PM EST

The only big technological barrier is finding a way to get carbon nanotubes to make a cable that long. This is no giant tower to space, it's a big cable that the elevator climbs up.

If we got in a competition with the Chinese to build one like we were in a competition with the Russians to get to the moon it would get done.

Tim
"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
[ Parent ]

Only barrier? (none / 0) (#142)
by ucblockhead on Mon Feb 03, 2003 at 11:11:35 PM EST

Heh...you aren't serious, are you?
-----------------------
This is k5. We're all tools - duxup
[ Parent ]
There's engineering problems (none / 0) (#143)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Tue Feb 04, 2003 at 12:44:25 AM EST

But I don't see it needing anything else besides the cable material itself that is beyond our ability to build today.

Tim
"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
[ Parent ]

Construction techniques (4.00 / 1) (#148)
by ckaminski on Thu Feb 06, 2003 at 12:02:15 PM EST

We have no skill in building on-orbit structures from parts.  We assemble all the shit on the ground, fold it up, and expand it in place once bolted onto the superstructure.  We need to learn how to build things from many parts in space.  Ideally, the ISS was the place to test this out.

Also, we have NO experience working with large structures like this.  When we can build a SINGLE strand of nanotube 10' in diameter from NY to LA, then I would say that we would have a snowball's chance in hell at building a space elevator.

No one seems to realize that in order to get a space elevator, we NEED a robust reusable rocket launch system.  We NEED experience assembling giant things on-orbit.  We need less bulky space-suits.  We need better orbital maneuvering systems, and space tugs.

Good luck assembling your cable on the ground and tossing it out into space like a whip.  Not gonna be able to do it with, you guessed it, ROCKETS.

-Chris

[ Parent ]

Fascinating Link (4.87 / 8) (#111)
by joecool12321 on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 10:42:16 PM EST

Here's a thread of people talking about the space shuttle, watching it fly by, and then realizing they're seeing it break up:  http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/833885/posts

Wow. (none / 1) (#112)
by Zapata on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 10:53:45 PM EST

That sort of brought it all home again. Thanks for the link.

"If you ain't got a camel, you ain't Shiite."


[ Parent ]
differance of opinions (3.33 / 3) (#113)
by auraslip on Sun Feb 02, 2003 at 11:27:34 PM EST

I was pretty saddened by the events. My girlfreind asked me why I was so sad. I said something about space being the last hope for mankind. She replied that the last hope is the second green revoloution. That money wasted on the space program could be used to fuel a second agriculutre revoloution, and that armageddon is not very likley in any form.
For how shitty and wastefull NASA has done, they are the only ones that have done anything.

Maybe I don't really think it's the last hope for mankinds survial, but as a way to leave this planet and the problems it has to the people that created the problems.
And thats why it was sad.
or maybe that the space shuttle is just fucking cool.
124

Second Agricultural Revolution? (none / 0) (#115)
by TheOnlyCoolTim on Mon Feb 03, 2003 at 01:20:11 AM EST

I thought we already had that a bit after the Renaissance...

We generally have enough food to feed the world right now, the problem is governments...

Tim
"We are trapped in the belly of this horrible machine, and the machine is bleeding to death."
[ Parent ]

Food (none / 0) (#117)
by Ranieri on Mon Feb 03, 2003 at 03:12:25 AM EST

We generally have enough food to feed the world right now

We still have the tiny problem of getting it from where the people are so fat it's a major health risk to where people are dying from starvation, though.
--
Taste cold steel, feeble cannon restraint rope!
[ Parent ]

The sad thing is, (none / 0) (#120)
by TuringTest2002 on Mon Feb 03, 2003 at 06:11:41 AM EST

food is mainly produced right where people are dying from starvation. See Brasil.

[ Parent ]
same same (5.00 / 1) (#119)
by fhotg on Mon Feb 03, 2003 at 05:04:22 AM EST

I felt extremely saddened too and had similar thoughts about the why. I guess not because I'm really putting realistic hope into space travel as something saving the world or so. Quite the opposite. It's the last and only field left, where humankind is throwing together the best skills available to push boundaries. Where idealist obejectives still play a role and things are done and selected to be done because they are cool and not because there is money in it. Compare to the pittyful state of biotech here. I like to see ISS not as the the way to survive by moving into space, but as a powerful symbol of human achievement to be reached by a cooperating community of everybody who can.
~~~
Gitarren für die Mädchen -- Champagner für die Jungs

[ Parent ]
What do we need a second agro revolution for? (5.00 / 1) (#126)
by porkchop_d_clown on Mon Feb 03, 2003 at 09:56:28 AM EST

The world already produces more food than we need. The problem of starvation is one of politics, not biology.


--
"Your article (and I use that term losely) is just a ad-hominem filled rant from a right-wing extremist loony." - Psycho Les


[ Parent ]
yes, but... (none / 0) (#146)
by jnemo131 on Tue Feb 04, 2003 at 05:59:27 PM EST

yes, obviously we have plenty of food, and politics are the problem, but those aren't going to be resolved anytime soon, so by creating environments where people who are starving can grow enough food, then we will solve the hunger problem, not by just creating more.

"I heard the droning in the shrine of the sea-monkey"
-The Pixies
[ Parent ]
I'm afraid this thing brought out what I hate (3.50 / 4) (#125)
by porkchop_d_clown on Mon Feb 03, 2003 at 09:55:29 AM EST

in Americans.

Yeah, the space shuttle broke up. Yeah, seven people died. Yeah, it makes me sad.

But god damn - is that any reason to interview the Cmndr Husband's choir director??? (This was on NPR, this morning)

The families and coworkers of the shuttle crew have a right to grieve with some level of dignity and goddamn privacy, don't they?

If a camera crew had showed up at my father's funeral, I'd probably still be in prison for assault....

The worst part is you can't even tune it out - every news outlet in the USA is now on "all shuttle all the time" mode and unless my truck starts getting shortwave, I can't tune in the BBC world service.


--
"Your article (and I use that term losely) is just a ad-hominem filled rant from a right-wing extremist loony." - Psycho Les


You think we (none / 0) (#129)
by starsky on Mon Feb 03, 2003 at 10:42:19 AM EST

don't have this shit on UK tv 24/7 too?

[ Parent ]
CNN (none / 0) (#130)
by Ron Harwood on Mon Feb 03, 2003 at 11:43:02 AM EST

...feels the need to fill the vacuum of information with a tedious amount of trivial information...

I've never understood it... and purposely have not watched any tv coverage of the shuttle explosion.

Yes, it's sad.  Yes, people died.  It was an accident, during a known risky event.  Move on.
BlackNova Traders - Tradewars for the web
[ Parent ]

CNN Sucks (none / 0) (#131)
by Netbard on Mon Feb 03, 2003 at 12:15:28 PM EST

Hell. CNN fills any space of time with tedious amounts of non-trivial information. I was watching their coverage on Saturday morning, waiting for the 1pm press conference. And then promptly switched to ABC when I realized that CNN was going to use the majority of the screen for (A) replaying the footage of the shuttle exploding and (B) making bullet points of his speech. The actual speaker was reduced to something like 1/4 of the screen.

[ Parent ]
Move on? (none / 0) (#136)
by drx on Mon Feb 03, 2003 at 05:18:00 PM EST

Move on.
Now there are even Zombie and Mummy in space!

[ Parent ]
Bookends in Time | 149 comments (145 topical, 4 editorial, 1 hidden)
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