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Comment Re:dumbification (Score 5, Informative) 223

In April 2008 a Soyuz made an uncontrolled reentry due to failure of the service module to separate during the de-orbit sequence. The cosmonauts survived due to the inherent ballistic stability and fail-safety of the design:

NASA has finally conceded that the safest place for the astronauts is on top of the launch stack, with abort rockets to escape a failing lower stage, and with no exposure to damage from falling debris. These factors plus the increased safety of ballistic reentry explain the return to capsules with the Constellation system.

Shuttle vs. Soyuz Reliability

Soyuz vs Shuttle

Comment dumbification (Score 5, Insightful) 223

The mainstream media once again lives up to its long history of mangling science stories.

The report cites 5 specific fatal aspects of the loss of Columbia: depressurization, extreme dynamic loads, separation of the crew from the vehicle, exposure to space, and ground impact. Implying that this really means inadequate restraint systems is a joke. No amount of safety hardware would permit surviving the breakup and uncontrolled re-entry of (pieces of) your spacecraft.

Due to NASA politics, the report omits a more accurate summary statement that the Shuttle is an inherently flawed and unsafe design when compared to ballistically stable capsules that can and do survive uncontrolled re-entry.

Comment not surprising (Score 1) 417

Though not a hardcore climber, I've summited numerous 14,000+ ft peaks in Colorado.

The fact that most Everest climbers die from altitude effects while descending is not surprising. Altitude sickness hits gradually and most of them realized they were ill (or their more lucid companions did) and were in the process of trying to get down when they died. At such heights oxygen deprivation kills you before you have time to freeze to death.

More than falling, exposure, altitude, or any other specific risk, "summit fever" is the single greatest danger of mountaineering. When people are fixated on summiting regardless of conditions (including physical exhaustion) they place themselves at an elevated and unnecessary risk of death. Everest expeditions involving gung-ho newbies who have paid large amounts of money for a single-shot attempt inevitably leads to a high death rate, since these sacrificial victims are both maniacally obsessed with reaching the top and incapable of objectively evaluating the situation.

Everest climbs should be limited to those who have proven high-altitude mountaineering experience. Guides who profit by leading inexperienced tourists into extreme danger should be villified, especially those who have the gall to come down unscathed while leaving behind the frozen corpses of their clients. They're the ones creating Everest's culture of death.

- Paul


Study Confirms Mobile Phones Distract Drivers 439

An anonymous reader notes a Reuters report of a study, published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, confirming that Mobile phone calls distract drivers far more than even the chattiest passenger, causing drivers to follow too closely and miss exits. California's ban on using a handheld cell phone while driving, which went into effect last summer, is looking less than fully effective. A handful of other states have instituted similar bans, but none has forbidden driving while talking on a cell phone at all. "Using a hands-free device does not make things better and the researchers believe they know why — passengers act as a second set of eyes, shutting up or sometimes even helping when they see the driver needs to make a maneuver."

Comment rest of your life = ~2 years (Score 1) 528

Buzz knew the odds were high of Apollo 11 being the end of his life. Someone traveling 400m km away from the nearest breathable atmosphere understands that completely. A Mars mission that budgets mass for a return capability gives up many years worth of resources. The immense expenditure of traveling to Mars make it insane just to spend a few days or weeks on the planet. The astronauts must be prepared to stay for a period that is well past their life expectancy given the many risks, even if theoretically they have can return.

The ultimate billionaire stunt: get a Soyuz TM, load a 1 year supply of ramen noodles and beer, use a satellite booster to shoot it trans-Mars and back. Live deep space podcasts!


Vista SP1 Update Locks Out Some Users 410

Echostorm writes with word that Windows Vista SP1, which began rolling out via Automatic Update, has left some users' machines unbootable. The update loops forever on "Configuring updates: Stage 3 of 3 — 0% complete. Do not turn off your computer." "Shutting down"... restart and loop. Echostorm notes having found traces of what sounds like the same bug in early beta releases of SP1. It's unclear how many users are affected. So far there is no word on a fix from Microsoft.

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