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Comment: Re:I think its gonna be a long long time (Score 1) 68

There's perhaps an even more compelling argument why the atmosphere is good for us if we intend to land on Mars AND launch again: ISRU and the Sabatier reaction could be a huge win. If you plan to spend a few months on the surface, you can generate a ton of methalox fuel using the local atmosphere and only half a ton of water.

If the process works that is... that is, the machinery to manufacture the fuel has never been tested beyond the crudest laboratory bench level. There's a whole host of known unknowns between the laboratory bench and a working prototype on Mars. Let alone a fully operational unit that can be trusted with human lives.

Comment: Re:I think its gonna be a long long time (Score 1) 68

That article is from 2007. Since then a Sky Crane was used to land the 1 ton Curiosity rover on Mars.

Which means we've upped the current limit to around 6% of the fifteen ton weight of the Apollo LM. Which in turn means we're still far, far short of the weight of any plausible manned Mars landing vehicle.
 

Worst case would be the humans don't land close enough to the supplies to be able to survive long-term, in which case Plan B is to explore similar to how the Apollo Lunar program did, and head back after several days.

Even a short stay lander is going to way around 45 tons - three times the weight of the Apollo LM weight we don't know don't how to land now.

Comment: Re:scheduling (Score 1) 193

Actually the "faulty" part was the roller bearing for the bay doors, and it should be noted that the part was being used so far outside its design parameters at the time of failure that the analysis provides no useful information.

Actually, it does - because titanium is, and will be for a long time, a major structural material for spacecraft.
 

none of whom are paying the bills. The people paying the bills are largely indifferent to the science, and only want to know "whats in it for us?"

Yeah, much of the vox populi are largely indifferent to the science - but they're also largely indifferent to the idea of man in space too.
 

I'm not off at all, and space flight had the cold war which saw the USA alone spending many times what the entirety of world war II cost the entire world.

Yes, you are off, way off. And if space flight has the Cold War - that was it's WWI.

Comment: Old news (Score 2) 193

Almost anyone you talk with about the value of the Space Station eventually starts talking about Mars. When they do, it's clear that we don't yet have a very grown-up space program. The folks we send to space still don't have any real autonomy, because no one was imagining having to "practice" autonomy when the station was designed and built.

That's old news to anyone actually paying attention. It was highlighted as a problem as far back as the Skylab SL-3 and SL-4 missions. In an email exchange with NASA scientists working with the Flashline Research Station back in 2002 (or so) I outlined the need to streamline communications and transfer some of the decision making and planning authority from the (simulated) mission control to the station commander and from the station commander to his subordinates. Unsurprisingly, the NASA study ended up reaching the opposite conclusion - the existing system worked,and there was no need to even seriously try any other system. That, ultimately, is why they don't have any real autonomy or practice having real autonomy.

Comment: Re:scheduling (Score 3, Insightful) 193

A good example of the over-thinking that NASA does is the Columbia Crew survivability report. Many tens of thousands of hours were spent on the analysis that concluded the same thing that just about anyone could have stated after 30 seconds of deliberation: There were many different factors involved in supersonic re-entry, most of which are fatal, and there is no known technology that could have saved the crew from any significant portion of those factors. Yet NASA felt it necessary to spend millions on that part of the investigation...

And here you aptly demonstrate what "just about anyone" in their cluelessness doesn't grasp - there's a vast gulf between a thirty second conclusion, and actual analysis. Among other things, the Crew Survivability study discovered an unexpected failure mode in the titanium structures of the crew compartment.
 

I can virtually guarantee that no one cares if NASA achieves any more science. What people want NASA to be achieving is the engineering of going into space and staying there.

I can completely guarantee you have no clue what you're talking about. The man-vs-machine debate is one of the loudest, deepest, and bitterest debates there is when it comes to space travel and exploration. There's many people who want NASA to be doing *more* science, and much less of anything having to do with people in space.
 

Given the progression of human engineering expression, space travel should be accessible to a significant minority of the worlds population. 35 years after the wright brothers, the entire upper middle class could afford to fly.

You're off by at least twenty years and a second world war's worth of engineering investment. You also fail to note that air travel has an economic function (in connecting existing destinations and enabling economic activity) - while space travel is largely a money pit.

Comment: Re:FFS just keep the Warthog (Score 1) 260

I don't think the great-grandparent grasps the degree of specialization the various sub-components of and individuals in the services have.

It's more that I don't see how the Army can have the level of generalisation enough to have an air corps, and an engineering corps, but somehow running their own A-10 division is suddenly out of scope. The division seems arbitrary.

Like I said... you don't grasp the level of specialization. Army engineers (which isn't the same thing as the Corps of Engineers) are specialists in battlefield engineering. The aviation corps (like the tank corps) is specialized to Army needs (and isn't quite the same thing as the TAC air groups of the USAF and USN).

As far as the A-10 goes, yes, the division is somewhat arbitrary and dates back to the Key West Agreement (and subsequent updates) that split the various roles and missions of the armed services up to prevent duplication. Any system is going to have edge cases, and the A-10 is one of them.

Comment: Re:FFS just keep the Warthog (Score 3, Insightful) 260

Seriously, though, as long as the combined size is about the same and the respective size of the service branches (or "specialty branches") stays the same, all you will have done is to (slightly) rearrange the deck chairs.

Indeed. And your warfare specialists will still be specialists... an infantryman will still be an infantryman, and you'll still need differently trained techs to work on the gas turbines in a tank or on the gas turbines of a tin can or a cruiser. A land based pilot still won't be a carrier based aviator. Etc... etc... You *might* save little bit on the aviation side by only having one school for some of the subsystems on the JSF, or only one basic electronics school, but that's about it.

I don't think the great-grandparent grasps the degree of specialization the various sub-components of and individuals in the services have.

Comment: Re:Hitting 36 years old (Score 1) 519

by DerekLyons (#48678565) Attached to: Paul Graham: Let the Other 95% of Great Programmers In

That's a lie for good programmers, for mediocre ones, it might be true.

And, NAICT, it only applies to "tech industry" jobs. Every time I see a picture of a team working the Shuttle software, or the flight control software for a major civil airframe, etc... etc... it's older programmers. The "kids" are the minority.

Comment: Re:Haven't you heard of lock-in? (Score 1) 6

More generally, MS has always pursued a http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First-mover_advantage#Second-mover_advantage strategy.
Unfortunately, mobile devices seem to have higher switching costs.
For example, my 'droid device has a full Navigon suite. If Apple wants my business, they have to convince me to eat that sunk cost.

If you have a procedure with 10 parameters, you probably missed some.

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