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Comment Re:5 Year Plan (Score 1) 27

The big difference between the 1989 Plan and this one is that from the beginning this Plan is intended to incorporate the fact of some 40 national space programs (Ecuador and Kenya both have nascent space programs), and that the path to space is no longer a single plan but a herd - for lack of a better word - of different entities with different goals, motivations and theories, but some common goals. Many entities want a lunar outpost for various kinds of research, including research on requirements for a future permanent habitation. There is strong disagreement on almost every aspect of that project. Nobody can say for certain that the first outpost will done by one government, international group of governments, commercial entities, or a combination thereof.

But some things are obviously true. The project will require various items, including a reliable contained space with air and other necessities of life, protection from cosmic rays, a way to produce food and recycle wastes as soon as possible, communications, various tools and materials for construction, maintenance, research, etc., probably some robotics to do the initial construction before we send people - and of course, a launch system to get the packages to the location. I tend to include the economic, financial, and political requirements as well. All of these pieces can be defined with projected costs, development times, and other aspects including their second-order requirements (what technical capability must be ready to put robots on the Moon?). And then we can connect the pieces up in various ways as a precedence graph - somewhat simpler than what Google Maps does to figure out your best route - to determine one or more 'best' routes based on criteria of cost, time, difficulty, probability of failure, etc.

So that's the new Plan - a comprehensive online tool for generating precedence graphs based on the various relations between elements. If the Raptor methane engine is required for the Falcon Heavy, and the schedule for the Raptor gets pushed, then so also does Falcon Heavy, and thus all the planned flight schedules, and thus all of the business or government activities that depend on them. The 2015 ISP poster is just a snapshot, limited by space, time, resources, and a lack of information. In today's world of space development, there are many, many different significant projects and so many different 'critical paths' - but the common goal is to get us, and Earth Life, into space and off the planet.

Comment Re:No "rushin' " on this plan! (Score 1) 27

One of the biggest changes in focus between the old plan and the new one is the de-emphasis on "NASA does all". As the online version of the Plan evolves, this will continue to change. I can't say when the commercial space budget will exceed NASA's, but it will be happen if all goes well. This may be a terrible example, but it kinda fits - Thomas Jefferson sent Lewis and Clark to explore and map the Louisiana Purchase, and continue on to the Pacific Ocean, to learn what might be learned.
Per this article, Jefferson originally asked for $2500 from Congress, but ultimately the cost was closer to $50,000, a 20 to 1 cost overrun that outdoes any modern overrun.

Lewis and Clark took two years and were actually given up for dead. But today, I can drive approximately the same route in three days. The point is that IMHO we are on the cusp of the transition from pure government financed exploration to the first 'trappers and hunters' going out to see what they could make of an opportunity. So either NASA will become less and less important and cease exploring, or more likely, will continue to transition their activities in support of the next phase.

NASA has been doing some very cool things to support commercial space entities and save money in the process - despite the less-than-sane meanderings of congressional politics. A case in point - the President's Commercial Crew Program 2017 budget, presently in negotiations in Washington, is being cut by $300 million, necessitating that NASA spend $600 additional million to buy launch services from Russia and delaying a return to US manned launches by four years.

(According to this inflation calculator, that $50,000 was equivalent to $1,027,500 today.)

Comment Re:science fiction (Score 2) 27

I haven't looked into this recently. This is a good example why it's difficult to get traditional investment entities like VCs to invest in these highly speculative ventures - nobody really knows what's out there. Platinum is fun to talk about, but IMHO the markets for in-space re-fueling, satellite maintenance, possibly space tourism, a robotic lunar research facility (prototype self-constructing system), and similar more mundane aspects have higher near-term probabilities.

OTOH, platinum on Earth is extremely problematical. It's a horrible environmental mess, it's a horrible human mess with workers one step above slaves, direct mining takes huge amounts of ore to make a few grams of platinum. (I think more is produced as a by-product of copper smelting.) A high grade platinum source may be less than 0.5 ppm. 2010 production was 245 tonnes. Potential global demand at $10 per ounce may well be more than 1000 times that.

Part of the theoretical justification for platinum in asteroids is that, as a very dense metal, nearly all of it on Earth has sunk into the core. But many asteroids appear to be the remnants of proto-planets (proto-dwarf-planets?) that partially differentiated concentrating the heaviest elements toward their core, similarly to Earth, then were broken apart in collisions. We know that many asteroids are mostly nickel-iron (which in the long run will also be quite valuable as raw material for space manufacturing), and as such _should_ have platinum in veins, in solution with the iron, and/or in chunks from the deepest part of those cores.

One argument against asteroid platinum mining is the purported cost. However the negative cost estimates I've seen assume a full Earth->asteroid->Earth travel cycle, which is incorrect. If I were building a system, it would be launched once, then operated and maintained in space for 15 years at least. I would try to do as much refining at the asteroid as feasible, and return the concentrate or pure material to LEO (possibly via multiple intermediate steps), where it could be brought back piggy-backed on another return vehicle. Returning need not take anything like as much resources - fuel or anything - as launching. (A Falcon 9 launch involves about $300K of fuel but $10 million for the first stage hardware, used once.)

Some of the numbers and discussion here.

Comment Re:science fiction (Score 1) 27

There are two copies actively engaged. The one that AFAIK is farthest ahead is Planetary Resources. I think their investors include James Cameron and Tom Hanks. :) I quote from their page on Asteroid Composition:

"One of Planetary Resources targets is an X-type asteroid, and may have more platinum that has ever been mined on Earth to date."

I recall that the head of PR was asked if bringing so much platinum back to Earth would crash the market, and he said he expected it. He thought they could make money at $10 to $100 per ounce (the present price is around $1300 per ounce). Platinum is especially interesting because it is a hugely useful industrial metal but its application has been minimal because of the cost. The catalytic converter in your care probably has an infinitesimal amount of Platinum. If it were cheaper, it could even be used to build catalytic converters for coal fired power plants! So this one item could improve industrial efficiencies and reduce pollution, improving the standard of living on Earth.

PR's first testbed launch is in space now - Arkyd testbed platform launched in July. They're still developing the technology.

PR is also looking strongly at the H2O market. Water in space is valuable as the raw material to make hydrogen for rocket engines. SInce the cost of shipping from Earth is presently on the order of $20,000 per pound, retrieving it in space from the Moon or an asteroid could be very profitable, and would reduce costs.

There is a communications satellite owned by IntelSat that failed some time ago. It was determined that the cause of the failure was that a thermal blanket popped loose on one end, probably due to a fastener failure, and draped across the solar panels. So that $150 million satellite has been moved to a 'graveyard' parking orbit. But if a small robotic satellite could get to it, pull the blanket back away and stick it down with some glue or something, that satellite would be ready to go. That's a trip worth at least $10 million.

These are just a few examples.

Comment Re:What's with all the awkward systemd command nam (Score 2) 498

And java conventions of long method camel case names are regarded as silly in other languages, descriptive short methods are very possible

user = User.getUserByGuidBecauseImAJavaTwat(gid)

And that makes sense to you? I don't recognize the language, but my guess it's one dot away from creating a user "user=User(guid=gid)". And if guid is a member variable, why are you assigning a value to it? Looks to me like you have some unnamed (...) function, does that imply "find"? Why? Go to your nearest CS school and 9 out of 10 pupils will figure out the purporse on the first function on the first try. You'd be lucky if 2 of 10 managed to guess the second. You're the kind of idiot which means people need 3-6 months of bootup time just to get into the head of the fucker who wrote the code.

I hate writing long variable and function names. I hate reading short variable and function names. And I've been back and forth, but here's my refined opinion: If you can't tell WTF the code is doing at a glance and want to add a micro-comment like "// find user", it's too obtuse. If you're trying to write a whole comment in the name like "getUserThatIsSomethingSomethingForWhateverBeforeThisAfterThat()", call it "getUser()" and write a damn comment. If it's ambigious, it's fine to start small and extend like if you used to have getUser() now you have getUserByGuid() and getUserByName().

As for the get/set prefix, I prefer the simpler user.guid() over user.getGuid() as it's really more a property than a function, you're just abstracting the implementation from the interface. Also you basically don't get any autocomplete before the 4th letter and it's not going to be consistent anyway, for true/false conditions you typically use "isSomething()". In this particularly case for a function I'd much rather call it "findUserByGuid()" though indicating it's a search on a set, not simply returning a value. Likewise if you have a class where you set numbers a and b and calculate the GCD, I'd much rather call the function calculateGcd() than getGcd() to point out that this function does the work. It gets a little ambiguous at times with "returnAddress()" the property vs "returnShipment()" the function where I sometimes reconsider that "getReturnAddress()" would be clearer but in 99% of the cases it's fine.

Comment Re:science fiction (Score 3, Interesting) 27

To Dani's comment, I'll just add that, the day that an asteroid assay is done and proves that the thing is actually more than 1% platinum, or any other of the many proposed ways to make space economically interesting proves out, the land rush will be on. Private investment by institutions today is difficult because many of the business models are speculative, the terrain is unknown, the payout time frame of 10-20 years is way too long for VCs, who want to get paid in five or less. As soon as somebody shows that their business is more than a pipe dream, things will happen fast. But already the angel investors are working about a dozen deals per year in space-related startups. Many of these are for small companies that are already profitable or cash flow positive but don't have the cash to go to the next step. I look forward to when the majority of launches to LEO and beyond are for private commercial purposes.

Submission + - Wired has a story on the Integrated Space Plan's 100 year view of space planning->

garyebickford writes: Wired Magazine has posted an article about the new 2015 version of the Integrated Space Plan, updated 14 years after the last version and descended directly from the original 1989 version. The original one was printed in the thousands, distributed by Rockwell, and appeared on walls throughout the space industry. One even hung behind the NASA administrator's desk. The new one is prettier, great for dorm room walls and classrooms, and Integrated Space Analytics, the company behind it, promises to expand their website into an up-to-date, live interactive tool. This is a great new beginning after over 30 years.
Link to Original Source

Comment Re:History repeats. (Score 1) 80

However, it was about a bunch of actors thrown into a situation their characters on a long-canceled TV show should be in, who eventually figured out how to use their own abilities to win.

Well, you could do it as a fly-on-the-wall backstage mockumentary (a la 30 Rock/The Office/Parks & Rec/Muppets:TNG), set during the run of the original show.

You're welcome. I'll just make my exit now.

Comment Re:Great experience (Score 1) 179

Google knows my location due to my use of Google Maps

Google receives the map tile requests, etc., but if location history is turned off nothing about it is stored. I have no idea what your cell provider may store, though.

Again, I actually like the location history. I find it convenient to be able to look back and see where I was at a particular date and time. But it's under your control.

Comment Re:Great experience (Score 1) 179

I really have no concern about sharing it with Google, because no one is ever going to see it.

Well, an individual person doesn't need to see it. If they're willing to use searches to send people job offers and ads, what else can they automate?

They can also remind you when it's time to leave for an appointment, and that you have a coupon you can use at the store you just entered, and that your wife's birthday is coming up, and much, much more... but only with your permission. If you don't want it, turn it off and delete the data. Google provides the tools.

And what happens when Google has a breech or a bad setting. Remember when Google signed people up for G+,. and a lot of private data got exposed.

I think you're thinking about Buzz, not Google+. That was bad; Buzz auto-friended contacts, exposing relationships. The fact that that's the worst thing that's happened, and that happened before all of the internal privacy review policies were put in place is pretty indicative, IMO.

As for a breach... nothing is impossible, but I spent 15 years as a security consultant to US corporations, mostly banks, and Google has dramatically better security systems than anyone I ever saw. I'm not worried about my data at Google.

However, if you are I highly recommend going to your Google account dashboard and deleting whatever information there you're concerned about.

Comment Re:Time Management (Score 1) 179

but bored in their current job?

I'd expect a self motivated worker to already be looking for a new one.

Bah. There are different kinds of people. Some will search out a better job, but many of the more introverted sorts won't. It doesn't mean they're not motivated, just that they're not comfortable with interviewing. A lot of top-performing software engineers are very introverted.

easier to teach brilliant problem solvers some time management skills

That's an optinion that not many employers share. Companys that take it upon themselves to teach basic skills tend to hire people without them. And then everyone suffers, because everyone is expected to help out the special snowflakes.

There are no "special snowflakes" at Google. Google gives people time and resources to address their shortcomings, and it's expected that everyone be helpful, but if you can't pull your weight for whatever reason, it'll come out. Your peers will tell you that you need to manage your time better, and your manager will expect you to make use of the internal resources available to improve. It's even fine if you take time away from your job to do what's needed to improve... but if you don't, you'll eventually be gone. It's not like learning to manage your time is hard. If you're capable of solving hard computer science problems, you can learn that, too.

In practice, it's really not a problem. If you find smart people and keep them challenged (or enable them to keep themselves challenged), and give them feedback on how they can do better, it works.

Comment Re:Goodbye Redhat, keep making the same mistake.. (Score 1) 159

So Ubuntu got volume, are they making any money? Nobody can tell, since they're a black box private company but Red Hat got 7300 employees, $1.5 billion in revenue and turned a $178 million profit last year so they're making money. That's why Red Hat dropped RHL, it was a money sink with no end and no signs of improvement. Who cares if Ubuntu got 100000 installations making $0? I'd probably use Ubuntu over CentOS for an unsupported server too, but if I wanted support I'd probably go Red Hat. Without knowing how many of the Ubuntu servers have a support contract it's not an apples-to-apples comparison. Unless you think profit is decided by popular vote.

If mathematically you end up with the wrong answer, try multiplying by the page number.