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Comment: Re:ISS is worth the dollars spent. (Score 1) 205

You could ask the same about football or Marvell movie adaptations. Mostly entertainment. The Mars rover entertains a different audience.

and I am equally unhappy about my money being used to subsidize those other things.

I spend more money on the untied way than I do in taxes, and I wouldn't have any issue with NASA if they had done anything I consider remotely useful in my lifetime. Going to the moon was useful because it was trailblazing. The space shuttle was supposed to be the first step in creating a space economy, but it failed because they couldn't make it cost effective. The new launch system looks to be more of the same. Meanwhile, private companies are starting to do what NASA either couldn't or wouldn't do: make space accessible to wider audiences... We'd be better served taking NASA's entire budget away and giving it to sir Richard Branson or Elon Musk.

Comment: Re:ISS is worth the dollars spent. (Score 1) 205

Including a smooth-running ISS, a mars rover that goes on and on and on and on and on, and a new launch system.

We cant get to that ISS without paying Russians for the ride (those same Russians we currently have sanctions against for their international behavior...)

That mars rover has produced some interesting information about mars, but in what way does that knowledge benefit me? In what way has anything to do with the mars rover benefited the average American? NASA could have done that 30 years ago. They could have and should have done it in '85 so what has the last 30 years bought us?

What new launch system? Last I heard they were a decade behind schedule and so far over budget as to make most government efforts look efficient by comparison. Even when they do finish it (in 5 years?), it will still not be significantly more cost effective than the last launch system (hopefully a little safer maybe, but I doubt it...)

After everything is said and done, the one thing we need NASA to do, is save the human race: Both by getting us off this rock, and by keeping other rocks from hitting us. We are no closer to either of those goals than we were in 1980, so I feel no particular inclination to keep on giving them any money. I don't care how much we spend on defense, as that does not pertain to this question. At least $200 out of my pocket went to NASA last year, and based on what I have seen from them, I do whatever is in my power to avoid giving them any more. I know I am not alone, as NASA every year faces an uphill battle to maintain their funding (and for good reason, they haven't earned a damn thing in the last 30 years).

Comment: Re:scheduling (Score 1) 205

Among other things, the Crew Survivability study discovered an unexpected failure mode in the titanium structures of the crew compartment.

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.

There's many people who want NASA to be doing *more* science, and much less of anything having to do with people in space

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?" That is not at all an unreasonable question, and one that basic research struggles with all the time. The idea that basic research has any intrinsic value is not at all obvious to anyone outside the scientific community (for whom science pays the bills, and provides interesting work. In short, not an objective crowd ).

You're off by at least twenty years and a second world war's worth of engineering investment.

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.

Comment: Re:ISS is worth the dollars spent. (Score 1) 205

but they already have done exceptionally well especially when compared to some military defense contractor

We can compare them to Enron too, or compare them to Jeffrey Dahmer. It proves nothing.

NASA peaked in '69, and it has been all downhill since then. Its long since past time for them to shit or get off the pot. Since they seem unwilling to produce, its time to cut them out and replace them with someone who can show results.

To be fair, a large part of the problem is political and legal. Our legal and political systems cant deal with / don't tolerate fatalities. Even the military is loosing their protections in this regard. It means that the politicians and the lawyers are actively preventing us from making forward progress because of the overwhelming backlash against "allowing" a fatality.

Comment: Re: Ground Control... (Score 4, Informative) 205

There has to be proof, in safety-critical processes

First: Why? everything in life is a risk. If you put out an add looking for volunteers for a mission that is almost 100% guaranteed to kill the volunteer, you will still get many thousands of times the number of volunteers as you need...

Second: There is no such thing as proof. the very concept is for mathematicians, politicians and idiots; none of whom deal in the real world. The real world is dangerous, and people are notoriously bad at planning for the unexpected. The amount of danger increases as a function of the energy involved, making spaceflight very dangerous by definition. The people involved accept that risk, but what good is installing 3 redundant hydraulic systems when a single fault in the leading edge of a wing severs all three... A better use of weight and cost would be two systems with armor... (Might have saved Columbia, or at least gotten the crew to a slow enough speed and low enough altitude that they could have survived breakup/bailout). Redundant systems have a demonstrated usefulness, but they fail completely when face with area effects, and yet, redundancy is used to "prove" low odds of failure, that simply do not pan out in reality. Fukushima was supposed to survive a one in a thousand years tsunami...

flight 232 had all three hydraulic system severed in what was supposed to be a 1 in a billion event...

Kegworth was a result of redundant engines being useless because the wrong engine got shut down...

"Proof" in mechanical systems is usually demonstrated through redundancy which only gets you so far: Not nearly as far as the engineers are taught...

Comment: scheduling (Score 1, Interesting) 205

"Life in space is so complicated that a lot of logistics have to be off-loaded to the ground if astronauts are to actually do anything substantive. Just building the schedule for the astronauts in orbit on the U.S. side of the station requires a full-time team of 50 staffers.

I'm sorry, but that just flies in the face of reason. If its true, then NASA is doing something badly wrong. It should not take 50x as long to figure out what order to do things as it does to actually do them. I could understand a complex operation like a spacewalk taking 50 man hours to plan for a one hour project, but the majority of things that people do simply do not benefit from that extreme level of planning.

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...

If people want to continue NASA in any meaningful way, two decisions need to be made: First, what do we really want NASA to accomplish? (meaning we the people, NOT we the NASA), and how much will it really cost.

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. Everything else costs more than it is worth, and should be undertaken only if the costs can be partially subsidized by the engineering projects needed to achieve cheap space travel.

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. 35 years after Apollo, only a handfull of people have even been to the moon, and less than 100 individuals could afford to pay out of pocket to do so today, and even if they did, they would have to wait 10 years for someone to put together a dedicated mission.

NASA has failed in its primary responsibility to the American people: Make space travel commonplace.

Comment: Re:oh delicious irony (Score 4, Insightful) 465

by geoskd (#48588909) Attached to: Peru Indignant After Greenpeace Damages Ancient Nazca Site

Then please tell us how a rake would not work.

The surface consists of a hardened layer that has been darkened by weathering process'. The subsurface is a much lighter layer of sand that blows away easily, and is a different color from the hardened surface. Once damage has been inflicted on the surface, the sand beneath can blow away (and does with each storm) causing the damaged areas to spread over time. The only way to prevent this is not to cause the damage in the first place.

It should be noted that there is no wildlife in those areas of sufficient size to damage the surface, It is only through human intervention that damage can occur. If Greenpeace values its reputation, they will expel every idiot involved in this debacle and tell them don't come back.

Comment: Re:So close, so far (Score 1) 561

by geoskd (#48427345) Attached to: "Barbie: I Can Be a Computer Engineer" Pulled From Amazon

No-one is asking for special treatment to make women "more" than men, just to restore the balance, which by practically every metric shows that women are at a disadvantage in society, and especially the workplace, and double-especially in IT. We (feminists) want everyone to be equal, as we are equal, and that means highlighting these oft-overlooked degrading behaviours and circumstances which conspire to keep this gender difference around,

The fundamental problem is that equality will not be good enough to make women equal. I understand that sounds pretty self-conflicting, so let me explain.

The world works around a few basic principles that apply to almost all situations. The first of those is evolution and survival of the fittest. The root of this is that any action that gives an individual an advantage will ultimately be selectively bred for. It has made humans aggressive, and our societies have similarly evolved to favor aggressive people. Men, by historical chance happen to be the more aggressive half of the species.

Women end up taking a back seat (statistically speaking) because they are not as aggressive. We can change society to help address this imbalance, and make up for the existing discrepancy, by artificially selecting against aggression, but this may in fact be a fools errand. If the selective advantage of aggressive behavior is too great, attempting to eliminate that advantage, could potentially end up destroying society. If you breed out aggression, there is a strong possibility that you also breed out the single trait which makes us nearly unstoppable: Our drive to challenge and thoroughly destroy any competitive or existential threat. Those that have not bred out this trait then come in and mop us up, as our own species represents our greatest rivals.

At the end of the day, it looks as though we are making these societal changes to weed out and breed out aggression, but it is important to note that these changes in our society are being met with a certain degree of backlash from various religious groups, and also seems to be coinciding with an apparent decline in many facets of American society. The two are likely unrelated, but we have to consider the possibility that there is a causal relationship between the reduction in aggression and the decline of our high standard of living.

Comment: Re:What other word means the same? (Score 1, Interesting) 554

by geoskd (#48391391) Attached to: The Downside to Low Gas Prices

So if "consumer" connotes a livestock mentality, then what's a better word for "someone who buys a thing other than to use it to make other things that he can sell"?

There really isn't a better word for it, but it has negative connotations because the behavior is generally not rational. There are two kinds of consumption: Necessary and discretionary. No one talks about necessary consumption because it is a fact of life: Eating, place to sleep, clothes, etc... The other kind of consumption is not necessary to survival, but consists of luxuries. The purchase of luxuries is not rational, but rather an expression of personal enjoyment. Some discretionary consumption is more rational and socially acceptable than others. For example, buying a large wardrobe, or eating out at fancy restaurants are perfectly socially acceptable forms of discretionary spending. What is generally less socially acceptable consumption is the purchase of a gas guzzler, wearing offensive clothing, etc. While we wish to preserve the right to do these things, we wish to excise a tax on the behavior in order to discourage it, while at the same time helping to offset the cost to society of allowing these behaviors at all. At the end of the day, the individual right to operate a vehicle has a huge cost to society, is monumentally destructive to the environment, and should be discouraged in favor of public transportation and higher fuel efficiency wherever possible.

There is an old saying often attributed to Oliver Wendell Holmes JR, "My right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins." Operating a motor vehicle on public motorways is right on the line where everyones nose begins.

The first time, it's a KLUDGE! The second, a trick. Later, it's a well-established technique! -- Mike Broido, Intermetrics