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Comment Bose quality (Score 2, Interesting) 275

True story: An elderly gentleman walked into an electronics store in Toronto looking to buy speakers. The salesman showed him a couple of different models. The customer pointed at another set on the shelves and asked about them. The salesman said "Oh, those are Bose, they're crap." The customer was Amar Bose.

Comment Re:Shoestring budget (Score 3, Insightful) 40

Sorry, your facts are reversed. NASA's budget is $17 billion. China's space budget is $1.3 billion. Russia's space budget is $2.4 billion.

For eight times the money, the US manages to reach approximate parity with the Russians. This is the result of the badly designed Space Shuttle program which over its lifetime has cost $1.5 billion per launch.

Looking forward, SpaceX is on track to cut US launch costs by a factor of ten. That will make the US the #1 place to launch rockets -- for the first time since the 1970s.

Comment Re:Spy plane makes no sense (Score 5, Interesting) 55

I agree completely that the X-37 makes no apparent sense. The only argument I can come up with is that returning is just a nice side effect of its real purpose: inclination changes. Chaning altitude and period and phase is all relatively easy with onboard thrusters (and X-37 has an orbital maneuvering engine almost as big as the Space Shuttle's). But the amount of thurst needed to change oribal inclination from, say equatorial to ISS, is vast. I calculated it recently as being equivalent to the delta-v provided by an earth to LEO launch.

What X-37 might be capable of is dipping into the atmosphere, banking, then thrusting back up to orbit. That's exactly what the Air Force's previous space plane was designed to do, the Dyna-soar. Once one has this capability, returning from orbit to a runway landing is a freebie since you already have the wings.

The recently concluded X-37 test flight did not show an inclination change. But look for it on a future flight. This would allow extreme flexability in imaging enemy action at completely unpredictable times.

Comment Atmosphere (Score 5, Interesting) 140

Docking of course is just the first step. One also needs agreement on the atmosphere. American spacecraft (Apollo, Skylab) used 100% oxygen at 5 psi. Soviet spacecraft (Soyuz, Salut, Mir) used 20% oxygen 80% nitrogen at 14.7 psi. Neither side could change this easilly. Thus even though Apollo and Soyuz were able to physically dock in 1975, they had to use an airlock between the two spacecraft. Otherwise the cosmonauts would have gotten the bends from decompression and Apollo could have ruptured from overpressure.

Fortunately this is no longer much of an issue. As a result of the Apollo 1 fire and the deaths of Grissom, White and Chaffee, American spacecraft (starting with the Space Shuttle) adopted the Soviet approach.

Submission + - Open Source Space Docking System (

FTL writes: "Engineers from the US, Russia, Japan, Canada and Europe have come together to publish an International Docking Standard for spaceships. Currently the space station has three different types of incompatible docking ports, and the Chinese are developing their own. Standardizing on one type would permit interoperability and facilitate emergency rescues."

Submission + - Serious window damage to Atlantis (

FTL writes: "While in orbit a metal knob floated between a window and the dashboard of Atlantis. Once back on Earth, the shuttle contracted, wedging the knob firmly in place and damaging the window. Initial attempts to free the knob have failed and engineers may need six months to disassemble that section of the orbiter. Given that the shuttle program will probably end next year anyway, such a delay might mean scrapping Atlantis early rather than repairing it. Efforts to remove the knob using less invasive techniques continue."

Comment Tough calls (Score 3, Interesting) 317

Even in a battlefield devoid of both enemy and non-combatants, when to shoot or not can be extremely difficult. Consider the case (which occurred in Iraq) where one group of soldiers are fired upon by another group from the same side. Yes, that's a tragic blue-on-blue action. But the interesting question is what should the soldiers on the receiving end do? Assuming communications aren't working, do they:
a) Sit back and get slaughtered.
b) Fire back and take out the aggressors.
One consideration is the size of the forces involved. Another consideration is the importance of the missions each side is involved in.

Making a robot handle these cases would be interesting.


Submission + - Russian ploar submarine video faked

billlion writes: According to The Guardian (Sat 11 August, p3), and The Guradian Online the videos shown by the state-controlled Russian TV channel Rossiya of the Russian submarines (MIR 1 and 2) planting a flag on the sea bed at the North pole were faked, and included shots from the James Cameron film "Titanic". The scam was spotted by a 13 year old Finnish boy Waltteri Seretin.

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