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Comment: Re:Old technology (Score 1) 175

by Teancum (#47963391) Attached to: Washington DC To Return To Automatic Metro Trains

This is actually why I like to drive a manual transmission, because it keeps me awake longer on a long-haul drive. This was something originally pointed out to me by a bus driver, who noted that the bus company refused to put automatic transmissions into their buses at the time explicitly to keep the minds of the drivers engaged in the operation of the vehicle instead of other distractions. I also find that a manual transmission give me both a better feel of the road conditions, and more options to apply when operating the vehicle too. The tactile feel of the gears in the transmission through the gear shift can actually give you quite a bit of information that an experienced driver can incorporate into their driving habits, something I definitely find missing in an automatic transmission.

As for the Google cars, the scary thing is that they are currently driving on the roads right now. Supposedly they've already racked up several million miles of travel on public roads. They have moved well past the test track stage. The main issues right now are legal and social, not engineering, although I agree with you that I'm not convinced they are ready for prime time yet.

Comment: Re:selecting the electric car buyer (Score 1) 42

by Teancum (#47960811) Attached to: Wanxiang May Give 2012's Fisker Karma a Relaunch

Tesla has been able to build their supercharger stations that can charge up about a hundred miles or more worth of charge in less than an hour... where you can stop to eat lunch and have the car charge up while you are eating.... on a long drive. Basically drive for about 2-3 hours and take about an hour break. There are enough of these stations available that you can now drive across North America with this kind of driving pattern and Tesla is working on Europe.

As for the short commute, most people generally live within 50 miles of where they work. Of those who live further away, many of them even carpool or use mass transit.

For those who think golf carts powered by lead-acid batteries are the ideal of an electric automobile, your sentiment is pretty much spot on. Welcome to the 21st Century where you can buy an electric automobile that doesn't suck any more and uses Li-ion batteries for storage. If you don't like Tesla, you can always get the Nissan Leaf. Or if you don't like either, there are shops that will swap out internal combustion engines in nearly any other automobile and refit your car to an electric motor too.

Comment: Re:Old technology (Score 1) 175

by Teancum (#47960655) Attached to: Washington DC To Return To Automatic Metro Trains

I was mainly responding to the presumption that somehow self-driving automobiles are somehow technologically equivalent to automated trains. Doing stuff like Google is doing with self-driving cars is far more complex due to the need to evaluate your position on the road, varying kind of pavement, working in conjunction with other vehicles of multiple sizes that are also moving mere feet away, and requires that 3D spatial recognition that is not trivial to create a computational model to deal with potential situations that may arise when driving on a highway that lacks rails. A locomotive is far more simple of a computational model and 30 year old technology works just fine. Upgrading the technology is mainly doing something like replacing a suitcase size box of electronics with the equivalent of a Raspberry Pi.

I agree, going into manual operation is not going to be easy for an operator who hasn't been practicing routinely and trying to get the job done.

As for the 1mm travel on the throttle and other complications like that, I call that damn lousy engineering and poor user interface design. That such things exist in the real world is unfortunate, and sometimes equipment operators need to fight such issues because they get the equipment which is handed to them and simply try to do the best job they can.

Comment: Re:Old technology (Score 2) 175

by Teancum (#47956585) Attached to: Washington DC To Return To Automatic Metro Trains

The main controls on a train are to go forward and backward. Hardly something that needs advanced artificial intelligence and 3D spacial comprehension. It is basically a one dimensional problem when operating a train, and monitoring the rails to make sure that one dimension situation doesn't change into a 3D problem. Sure, there is monitoring the equipment on the train itself where the motors are far more complex, but even that has its limits and isn't too complicated.

Comment: Re:Some of the space tourists (Score 1) 47

by Teancum (#47956463) Attached to: Boeing To Take Space Tourists On Its CST-100 Spacecraft To the ISS

Everybody who has paid for their own trip to the ISS so far has gone through cosmonaut training at Star City (at least a six month training effort where they learn all of the sub-systems of the Soyuz spacecraft) and have become fully qualified astronauts in their own right. They usually have been involved with experiments done on the ISS as well, and usually bring up something to do. They are also responsible for performing "chores" while at the station.

About the only thing these "private astronauts" don't perform is an EVA to do repairs on the outside of the ISS.

I would imagine that when Boeing or SpaceX does the same thing, a similar kind of training is going to be required. If anything, because they are American companies needing to work with NASA a whole lot more, they will be required to be much more active in regards to NASA experiments (the previous astronauts were guests of the Russian Federation). The most certainly won't be merely floating in space and staring out windows.

Comment: Re:Public access (Score 1) 47

by Teancum (#47956427) Attached to: Boeing To Take Space Tourists On Its CST-100 Spacecraft To the ISS

NASA is only paying for the flight slots. Both Boeing and SpaceX plan on reusing their respective spacecraft, although for this particular CCtCAP contract I'm pretty sure they are supposed to be all brand-new vehicles.

The CST-100 is more like the Space Shuttle so far as it needs some refurbishment that takes a little bit of time, but it is still supposed to be just a couple of months turn around time from a landing to a new launch. SpaceX is aiming for "commercial aircraft" style of reuse where they want to relaunch the vehicle potentially within the same day it lands.

Even the Dragon spacecraft which is going up tomorrow (Sunday, Sept 21st) is merely sold for the mission, and SpaceX gets that vehicle to use for its own purposes. At the moment, SpaceX is using the opportunity to take the Dragon apart to study the engineering issues that have shown up on each mission, but that will soon end.

Comment: Re:Public access (Score 1) 47

by Teancum (#47956403) Attached to: Boeing To Take Space Tourists On Its CST-100 Spacecraft To the ISS

None the less, they are real spacecraft that have life support systems which have been operating as if they could be occupied. One of them had some biological specimens (I think some insects) and it was definitely pressurized in the interior volume, not to mention that Bigelow has gained the experience of operating these modules over a long period of time.

Bigelow Aerospace is currently slated to send up a vehicle next year on a Falcon 9, and supposedly a Falcon Heavy has also been sold but not on the manifest right now. With the current launch rate that SpaceX has been pounding out lately, this seems pretty likely to happen unless it is Bigelow who isn't ready.

Comment: Re:Canada & Quebec (Score 1) 471

by Teancum (#47946127) Attached to: Scotland Votes No To Independence

I suppose it is sort of like the never ending battle over what to do with Puerto Rico in the USA. Does it become a state? Become independent? Remain in its current weird "organized unincorporated territory" status?

In that case though, the people of Puerto Rico are simply too laid back to want to bother pushing the issue, and the rest of America doesn't care. Even the fact that most of the seats to Congress from Puerto Rico would likely be Democrat hasn't even remotely influenced its admission status.

Comment: Re:Translation... (Score 1) 198

by Teancum (#47933655) Attached to: WSJ Reports Boeing To Beat SpaceX For Manned Taxi To ISS

I apologize. I've been battling too many people on Reddit lately, and sometimes that carries over to here on Slashdot, even though I've largely faded away from here.

BTW, this particular tweet is VERY interesting:

https://twitter.com/TheLurioReport/status/512292169840099329

If there is any substance here, this story could could a whole lot more interesting. The Lurio Report, unlike Mr. Pasztor, is usually pretty accurate with these things too. Even more interesting is this tweet:

https://twitter.com/TheLurioReport/status/512293986602848256

I guess that explains the layoff notices that Boeing sent out earlier to comply with the WARN Act.

Comment: Re:Translation...and I'm a Guest, not a Coward.... (Score 1) 198

by Teancum (#47928001) Attached to: WSJ Reports Boeing To Beat SpaceX For Manned Taxi To ISS

In the press conference that was held after the announcement, the NASA PR rep actually mentioned "other competitive crewed spaceflight operators" could be considered in the future. In other words, SNC is not completely out of the picture. Indeed they will still be funded for CCiCAP as they complete the final milestones under the current agreements... SNC just missed the big funding and actual spaceflight missions which SpaceX and Boeing are now being funded for with CCtCAP.

Comment: Re:Translation... (Score 1) 198

by Teancum (#47923707) Attached to: WSJ Reports Boeing To Beat SpaceX For Manned Taxi To ISS

Except for the nit-picky fact that they've said nothing of the sort.

On the contrary, they even prepared the lay-off notices to most of the staff working on the CST-100:

http://www.spacenews.com/article/civil-space/40931boeing-preparing-layoff-notices-in-case-of-commercial-crew-loss

It was a prudent business move none the less, but Boeing certainly didn't seem ready to compete in general commercial spaceflight endeavors. Now that they've won the award, I guess all of that paperwork gets burned, which should be a relief to those working on the CST-100.

Comment: Re:Translation... (Score 1) 198

by Teancum (#47923585) Attached to: WSJ Reports Boeing To Beat SpaceX For Manned Taxi To ISS

And the award to the biggest asshole on slashdot goes to businessnerd, who can't tell time to see that I posted before the official announcement. Not only that, but besides the raw "Boeing and SpaceX got the award", Mr. Pasztor got nearly everything else in the article flat out wrong.

It should also be pointed out that NASA has yet to select a "prime contractor", if any is to be selected at all.

Comment: Re:Translation... (Score 2) 198

by Teancum (#47917897) Attached to: WSJ Reports Boeing To Beat SpaceX For Manned Taxi To ISS

Slow down there..... you don't know who has received what, if there is even a "prime contractor", or what is going to happen. Assuming that Mr. Pasztor is 100% accurate (his previous record of accuracy in reporting about the space industry suggests strongly otherwise), it would still be pretty good for SpaceX. Although I would say it is just at the beginning of the fireworks as whatever deal actually comes from this announcement today (4 PM EDT according to NASA) is going to be reviewed by congressional committees in the future and may even change. It will still remain competitive between the companies in the future and I can see the down selected company getting business in the future from NASA if they continue development and independently get passengers into space.

The interesting thing is that Blue Origin is rumored to be potentially purchased or some sort of stock swap with Boeing with a merger. The future of Boeing and whatever they are going to do in the future will be interesting, and I think Boeing is going to feel the pinch to be competitive. Both SpaceX and Sierra Nevada have promised that they will continue with development of their vehicles even if they don't get selected, which I hope is not a criteria being used for selecting Boeing if this proves to be true.

Comment: Re:Translation... (Score 4, Interesting) 198

by Teancum (#47917733) Attached to: WSJ Reports Boeing To Beat SpaceX For Manned Taxi To ISS

Boeing paid off Andy Pasztor to write this hit piece. Basically it is being done, I would guess, to push up stock prices so somebody else can make a bunch of money shorting the stock afterward or something silly like that. This "reporter" has rarely been right and deserves to be embarrassed if everything he says fails to happen.

BTW, I agree with you in regards to Dreamchaser. It is a good enough vehicle that the ESA is even looking at using it, and Sierra Nevada is already on record saying they will continue the development of this vehicle even without additional development money from NASA. Indeed the only company that has said they will stop any further development if their vehicle isn't selected is Boeing.

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