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Comment Re:Big Data (Score 2) 439

Actually this is not correct. The Russians developed the Mig-31 Foxhound specifically to counter both our long range bombers and our high-speed reconnaissance aircraft such as the SR-71. Satellites are predictable (as their orbits are easily able to be calculated) so having the "surprise" capability of an SR-71 flight is not the same as having satellite coverage. Same reason we have the AF X-37B among other things that have not yet come out of the black. But as for nothing being able to touch the SR-71 (and don't get me wrong - it was decades ahead of its time and to this day is still an amazing aircraft):

Links: and

Quote: "These deficiencies were settled when a more advanced MiG-25 development, the MiG-31, entered in service in the 1980s: the Foxhound was armed with a missile very similar to the US AIM-54 Phoenix, the R-33 (AA-9 Amos as reported by NATO designation). This weapon was ideal not only for shooting down the American bombers, but also to intercept and destroy fast reconnaissance aircraft, such as the SR-71.

This statement was dramatically confirmed in Paul Crickmore’s book Lockheed Blackbird: Beyond The Secret Missions.

In this book one of the first Foxhound pilots, Captain Mikhail Myagkiy, who had been scrambled with its MiG-31 several times to intercept the US super-fast spy plane, explains how he was able to lock on a Blackbird on Jan. 31, 1986:

“The scheme for intercepting the SR-71 was computed down to the last second, and the MiGs had to launch exactly 16 minutes after the initial alert. () They alerted us for an intercept at 11.00. They sounded the alarm with a shrill bell and then confirmed it with a loudspeaker. The appearance of an SR-71 was always accompanied by nervousness. Everyone began to talk in frenzied voices, to scurry about, and react to the situation with excessive emotion.” Myagkiy and its Weapons System Officer (WSO) were able to achieve a SR-71 lock on at 52,000 feet and at a distance of 120 Km from the target. The Foxhound climbed at 65,676 feet where the crew had the Blackbird in sight and according to Myagkiy: “Had the spy plane violated Soviet airspace, a live missile launch would have been carried out. There was no practically chance the aircraft could avoid an R-33 missile.”

After this interception Blackbirds reportedly began to fly their reconnaissance missions from outside the borders of the Soviet Union.

But the MiG-31s intercepted the SR-71 at least another time. On Sept. 3, 2012 an article written by Rakesh Krishman Simha for explains how the Foxhound was able to stop Blackbirds spy missions over Soviet Union on Jun. 3, 1986. That day, no less than six MiG-31s “intercepted” an SR-71 over the Barents Sea by performing a coordinated interception that subjected the Blackbird to a possible all angle air-to-air missiles attack. Apparently, after this interception, no SR-71 flew a reconnaissance missions over the Soviet Union and few years later the Blackbird was retired to be replaced with the satellites. Even if claiming that the MiG-31 was one of the causes of the SR-71 retirement is a bit far fetched, it is safe to say that towards the end of the career of the legendary spyplane, Russians proved to have developed tactics that could put the Blackbird at risk."

Comment Re:Popularity of space stuff based on replies (Score 1) 75

I think there are at least two competing issues - the first is that, in large part, space has become "boring" for many, for lack of a better word. We've spent years and years circling in LEO with shuttle and ISS, without much "wow factor" to show for it. There is a certain pessimism that comes with relying on a space agency that has its priorities shifted with each and every administration change (and my post history here certainly reflects that, as I often comment on space-related articles and not many others). Since Apollo, there has not really been a mission that has captivated the masses nearly as much. Sure, we have the efforts of SpaceX and SpaceShip One and others in the private sector, but there's nothing truly inspiring about that, at least, not yet. Resupply to the ISS just isn't sexy. I think Chris Hadfield did an absolutely excellent job of trying to bring the ISS some much-needed publicity and popularity with his various experiments and clips from the ISS, and that was a great idea and a great start. Going to the moon? Going to Mars? Now you'd grab people's attention and maybe even inspire renewed interest in the sciences and the space program (whether public or privately funded). But the Voyagers can only leave the solar system so many times before the general reaction becomes "Meh, this again?" Curiosity can only drill into so many rocks on Mars before the average person starts to lose interest.

The second is that, for a post such as this, there's not much that can necessarily be added by most - just the concept that you could fit almost four Earths into that hexagonal storm is lost on or incomprehensible to many. Not necessarily in the /. crowd, but in the public at large. Aside from pretty desktop wallpapers, there aren't many folks that are equipped to comment about or discuss images such as this in any real analytical or technical detail.

Comment No moon for you! Come back, 50 years! (Score 1) 238

On July 20, 1969, man took his first footsteps on the moon. They were carried there aboard the Saturn V, the most powerful rocket ever built, a record which stands to this day. It was the culmination of a challenge set forth by John F. Kennedy in his landmark speech on September 12, 1962: "We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."

Why the history lesson? President Obama's 2011-2012 budget effectively ends the U.S. manned spaceflight program by cancelling Ares/Constellation/Orion and providing for no successor (the designed-only-on-paper SLS does not count). The shuttle is currently being retired to various museums around the country. We will remain at the mercy of the Russians to launch U.S. astronauts into orbit to the ISS, unless/until SpaceX manages to accomplish a series of safe launches. While some may argue that NASA received a nominal budget increase, they also have no real program and no real goal. And we all know how well such plans work in successive presidential administrations.

I was not born in time to see the first moon landing, and it appears I will be long dead before another American lands on the moon, or Mars, or anywhere else in the solar system. How is it that the United States is willing to concede that for years to come, and possibly decades, we've simply given up on manned spaceflight? In 1969 we could land on the moon - and in 2012 we've just lost the ability or the will to do it? Ares I and Ares V may not have been the perfect answer, but at least we were still on track to have manned access to space. Maybe once the Chinese or the Russians start colonizing the moon, or traveling to Mars, the U.S. will see the error of its ways - and by then it will be too little, too late. We will be the ones trying to play catchup, having relinquished our lead in all things related to manned space exploration. Case in point - a large part of the cost of Ares I was attempting to reverse engineer Saturn parts, because while we have the blueprints, and we have production parts and samples, the reasons WHY parts were designed the way they were has been lost - the engineers are long dead, or retired. Things such as why valves had certain diameters, or why pipes had certain bend radii - all lost to dust and history. And now the cycle is again set to repeat with the retirement of the shuttle with no replacement on the horizon.

The ultimate future of mankind is off this rock. All of humanity's eggs cannot live forever in this fragile little basket we call Earth. And circling the Earth in LEO at the mercy of another country's launch schedule is not progress, but madness.

Comment Re:Um, why? (Score 5, Insightful) 288

Here's a good answer. At the moment, all of humanity's eggs are in one, and some might argue very fragile, basket. We're exactly one extinction level event away from going the way of the dinosaurs. I agree that another "boots and flags" mission is fairly pointless. But setting up a long-term viable colony on the moon, or Mars, such that the human race has a chance at surviving even if some catastrophe was to happen to Earth, seems like a pretty decent idea. If Shoemaker-Levy 9 had Earth in its crosshairs instead of Jupiter - we had absolutely no chance of stopping it. And, if you want to go out out on an even longer timescale - the sun isn't going to be here forever. Of course, hopefully by that time we will be well past the point of using chemical rockets, etc. But, babysteps... get off this rock first.

Comment Meet "The Resistance" (Score 5, Funny) 647

This article by Jeffrey Goldberg is both sad, hilarious, and informative. "We have to search up your thighs and between your legs until we meet resistance," he explained. "Resistance?" I asked. "Your testicles," he explained. "That's funny," I said, "because 'The Resistance' is the actual name I've given to my testicles."

Comment Re:Not the Pioneer Anomaly (Score 5, Informative) 89

The Planetary Society has an interesting FAQ on this subject:

Also explains why it is seen with Pioneer 10 and 11 and not Voyager 1 or 2 or other more "modern" spacecraft.

From the FAQ: The Pioneers are spin-stabilized spacecraft. The Voyagers are three-axis stabilized craft that fire thrusters to maintain their orientation in space or to slew around and point their instruments. Those thruster firings would introduce uncertainties in the tracking data that would overwhelm any effect as small as that occurring with Pioneer. This difference in the way the spacecraft are stabilized actually is one of the reasons the Pioneer data are so important and unique. Most current spacecraft are three-axis stabilized, not spin stabilized.

Comment Manned Earth to Mars = Radiation Overdose (Score 1) 177

18 months is currently too long for a manned Mars mission, much less anything slower and therefore longer.

Quote: Mars will be even tougher, these models suggest. Some scenarios call for missions that would last 18 months or more. "Right now there's no design solution to stay within safety limits for such a Mars mission," Cucinotta says. "Putting enough radiation shielding around a spacecraft would make it far too heavy to launch, so we need to find better lightweight shielding materials, and we probably need to develop medical techniques to counteract damage to cells caused by cosmic rays." He notes that one of the biggest obstacles to progress in this area is "uncertainty in the types of cell damage deep cosmic ray exposure can cause. We still have a lot to learn."


Comment Apollo chute test failed too (Score 5, Informative) 163

January 11, 1968

A Parachute Test Vehicle (PTV) test failed at El Centro, Calif. The PTV was released from a B-52 aircraft at 15,240 meters and the drogue chute programmer was actuated by a static line connected to the aircraft. One drogue chute appeared to fail upon deployment, followed by failure of the second drogue seven seconds later. Disreefing of these drogues normally occurred at 8 seconds after deployment with disconnect at deployment at plus 18 seconds. The main chute programmer deployed and was effective for only 14 out of the expected 40 seconds' duration. This action was followed by normal deployment of one main parachute, which failed, followed by the second main parachute as programmed after four-tenths of a second, which also failed. The main chute failure was observed from the ground and the emergency parachute system deployment was commanded but also failed because of high dynamic pressure, allowing the PTV to impact and be destroyed. Investigation was under way and MSC personnel were en route to El Centro and Northrop-Ventura to determine the cause and to effect a solution. TWX, George M. Low, MSC, to NASA Hq., Attn: Apollo Program Director, Jan. 11, 1968.


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