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Comment The Price is Right! (Score 5, Insightful) 106 106

I've read all the gripes about the cost of $500,000 to preserve Armstrong's suit, the $200,000 stretch to get Carpenter's suit, and Smithsonian's $851M budget. Let's get the whole picture into our heads before we judge.

First, go to ALL of the Smithsonian museums on the National Mall and at Udvar Hazy. Not just the aerospace related ones, all of them. Keeping relics in a closet for decades is easy; restoring and keeping these relics for public display and appreciation while avoiding deterioration is hard, tedious, laborious work, and it requires the efforts of passionate specialists who understand the original fabrication methods and know the means for slowing degradation. That means researchers who have to understand everything about the history of a particular item, possibly a one-of-a-kind item. Protecting these items often means careful climate control for individual artefacts, sometimes storage in inert gases, etc.. When you go to the Smithsonian and look at the exhibits, look carefully for the technology that surrounds and protects these artefacts. It is not cheap. Restoring and maintaining America's cultural and technological relics for $851M per year? I'm surprised it is not more. Yeah, they are tax dollars, but for all the crap that is done with our tax dollars, I'd say restoring and protecting the relics of America's cultural and technological achievements is money well spent.

Second, these space suits were worn by the first humans to set foot on another world and the first American into space. Armstrong's small step is arguably one of the greatest achievements of humankind, not just of America. $500,000 for restoration and arrangement of long term protection and display of this suit does not seem unreasonable at all. Another $200,000 for Carpenter's suit, leveraging the effort applied for Armstrong's suit, again seems sensible. If they are smart they'll keep tacking on reach goals of $100,000 for additional suits. And this is a Kickstarter campaign - if people really think this is an egregious waste of money, they simply don't contribute. People who want their kids to see these relics and understand what goes into preserving these things understand the size of these monetary goals and contribute.

Comment France is a Major Exporter of Electricity (Score 4, Informative) 477 477

France is one of the world's biggest energy exporters, selling electricity to most of Western Europe. They aren't going to build too many more nuclear plants, but they sure as hell aren't going to be tearing down the ones the have already. They are going to run them as hard as they can as they add capacity with wind, solar, and hydro.

Yes, nuclear will be a smaller fraction of the portfolio, but total nuclear generation isn't going away any time soon. The wording of Hollande's "promise" was crafted to sound good to the anti-nuke crowd, but the folks in the power sector who can actually do fractional arithmetic know what the actual intent is.

Comment Re:There's no There there. (Score 5, Interesting) 248 248

The Moon is actually a harder test of habitat recycling. Mars has good amounts of CO2 which may be used for oxygen extraction (see the MOXIE experiment). Mars does have a minimal atmosphere (not a complete vacuum) and possibly easily accessible water ice resources.

If we can figure out how to live in orbit or on the Moon for long term, without resupply, then Mars should be a snap.

Note that they ARE working on a lot of self-sufficiency initiatives on the ISS - water recycling and such. Long term this is stuff that needs to be figured out cold for mankind to go anyplace in space. Similar initiatives on the Moon would allow use of the regolith and perhaps water ices for material needs.

We should not go to the moon every generation or so just for the glory of putting more prints in the lunar dust; we should use it as a boot camp to train to go to other, less hostile places in space.

Comment Slashdot No Longer For Geeks! (Score 0, Flamebait) 83 83

I'm going to get modded to Hades in a second by the Dice fanbois, but damn...why don't we just post some Beiber videos here and be done with it? I don't think ten Slashdot posters locked in a room with two sticks could reinvent fire.

Seeing viruses? Under any visible magnification, using whatever material as your lens, viruses are invisible. Unless transparent aluminium comes in the form of an electron microscope you're not going to see anything except for your willy, if you're lucky (where else would you be looking for viruses, hmm?).

Does anybody with a B.S. degree (not a BS degree, a B.S. degree) preview any of this crap before posting it?


The Even More Irate Engineer

Comment Re:Very clever (Score 2) 62 62

You know, you're correct in saying if they wings don't close, well then, you're proper fucked.

The parachute is for if they don't reopen, after shuttlecock mode has done it's job.

True, good point. Though, with a parachute, there needs to be some clear abort envelopes and interlocks in place to prevent parachute deployment at an inappropriate time.

Adding backup systems increases the complexity of the system as a whole, and can sometimes introduce more failure modes, actually decreasing the overall safety of the system. Having a simple system with no backup can actually be the safest arrangement. It depends on whether you want to gamble with an 0.01% chance of a completely unsurvivable failure with no backup, or have a 1% chance of failure, with a backup that might save you 99% of the time, but the backup system may itself cause a unrecoverable failure in 0.5% of the flights.

It's complex, requires a lot of engineering analysis, and personal feelings about safety can actually lead to the most unsafe solution.

Comment Re:Very clever (Score 2) 62 62

I would still like to see a redundant parachute in case of the the mechanical failure of the the wing folding mechanism.

A redundant parachute would be worthless. Deploying a parachute at supersonic speeds from an spacecraft will simply make confetti. The unfeathered spacecraft likely would be torn to pieces before it could slow down to speeds where a parachute might be effective, hence the problem.

The feathering mechanism, like many things in engineering, simply must work without fail as there is no plausible backup option. Failure of the feathering mechanism means likely loss of crew and vehicle.

Comment Melting the Sea Gulls (Score 1) 120 120

I can't wait to see the first test flight when a flock of sea gulls intercepts the beam, explode into flames, and their burnt carcasses rain down on the beach. The subsequent loss of thrust and fiery crash or range safety termination should also make for interesting viewing on YouTube.

Comment Re:Deorbiting (Score 1) 35 35

How do you deorbit a million tonnes of ore without blasting out a huge hole on earth.

You don't deorbit anything. That's the idea - get materials into space by using the materials that are already in space.

Asteroid mining isn't meant to provide raw materials for Earth.

Comment Re:don't look now (Score 2) 35 35

The cost of commodities in space is currently driven by the cost to put it on a rocket to put it into space. A kilogram of steel? $5000. A kilogram of water? $5000. A kilogram of oxygen? $5000.

If a company can mine asteroids and prepare usable materials (water, steel, etc.) in space, they can basically sell it all to customers for $4990 per kilogram. The alternative is for the customer to pay for a rocket to get it off of Earth at $5000 per kilogram.

Comment Now only if we could do that with real mail! (Score 4, Insightful) 114 114

Is there such a thing as a spam filter for regular (paper) junk mail?

It's like some perverse life cycle - my paper recycling gets picked up, made into paper, which is then made into junk mail, which is then delivered, and unceremoniously dumped into my paper recycling without being read.

Any program which runs right is obsolete.