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Comment Re:It will be interesting to see how good these ch (Score 1) 340

Well, I'd fully agree with idea that flying to space is pretty risky business. However, given the choice... Right now humanity has Soyuz and Schenzhou - so today really there is little choice, the devices are pretty similar. May be crewed Dragon will be safer - need to see how abort tests will go (that system on Soyuz saved life to Strekalov and Titov in 1983) and analyze how much powered landing may be screwed (can Soyuz-1 disaster with Komarov be avoided).

Comment Re:No, that means it is still being used (Score 1) 340

> Soyuz can't perform satellite capture or retrieval.

Salyut-7 once went silent - didn't respond to commands from the Earth, didn't perform some basic functions. Soyuz T-13 was sent, which captured that satellite, and the crew revived the station.

> Soyuz can only carry three people.

Not even that sometimes - but current modifications long since allow flying three people, that's right.

> Soyuz can suffers from communications blackout during reentry. (The Space shuttle never has a communications blackout reentry.)

Um, we won't consider that Columbia had a communication blackout during her last reentry. Soyuz, of course, has that by design.

It's inconvenient enough that the next spacecraft under design in Energia is claimed to have continuous communications.

Comment Re:It will be interesting to see how good these ch (Score 1) 340

Interestingly, avia-buses crash less frequently than avia-tricycles - so flying on a FAA-licensed commercial airliner is safer than on small twin-engine.

Not so with spacecrafts. I may argue that Soyuz changed more since it was designed - because each vehicle is manufactured for each flight. Shuttle vehicle is created once, and has more limitations to later upgrades. Timeline of crashes is very different for two vehicles - two for Soyuz when it was actively developed and two for Shuttle when it remained more frozen, because the vehicles are manufactured once, before some of them get destroyed. While they both had two catastrophes in about the same number of flights - and similar proportions of people were killed in relation to total number of people carried to space - I'd argue that the timeline of crashes favors Soyuz.

Comment Re:No, that means it is still being used (Score 2) 340

The point was that Soyuz and Shuttle approach safety from different angles - getting different results. NASA spent greater resources from beneficial historical standpoint, but was unwilling to change significantly later - that's why major design flaws remain unsolved - they are too expensive to solve. Soyuz managed to have a smaller problem space, and, while it flies within that space, and each vehicle is conservatively re-made using all accumulated experience, it's likely to become safer - because on each problem there is an opportunity to change. The fact that Soyuz last failed catastrophically 33 years ago makes you assume some lessons were learner right. Not so with Shuttle - one of big reasons to retire the fleet was the unwillingness to spend enough resources to have a good enough solution of learned safety problems. In other words, Soyuz is cheaper to fix, so it gets fixed and becomes safer - with more experience accumulated.

We remain to see what will happen when Soyuz will fly a significantly different mission - like Moon fly-by. May be the simplicity will help and no new failure modes will turn out to be critical. Or may be not.

Comment Re:No, that means it is still being used (Score 3, Interesting) 340

We're safely away from the original topic, so anything flies. Including Soyuz and Shuttle.

When you're talking about reliability of these two crafts, you may talk about "design reliability" or "device reliability". Which design is more reliable? Well, Shuttle has advantage of hindsight, some less drastic loads, and numerically - more flights accomplished. Soyuz has advantage of last death 33 years ago - and of design being constantly tweaked. I.e., Discovery and Atlantis were physically created in 1980-s, way before Challenger catastrophe, with knowledge available then. Granted, Shuttle had advantage of vastly more resources spent on design and overall architecture was created some 10 years after that for Soyuz. Yet Discovery and Atlantis had - not all, but many - designs frozen in 1980.

Of course, some other systems were constantly upgraded until the end of the program.

Soyuz also has some architectural decision unchangeable - e.g., infamous capsule diameter. Yet other things - including even small increases in that diameter in specific places to allow taller crew onboard - kept changing - they are still changing. Just like Shuttle, Soyuz had avionics upgrades. Unlike Shuttle - because Soyuz is more modular - Soyuz had changes in Orbital module (reflected in mass and size) and in Propulsion unit (e.g., unified fuel storage system). If we assume that Soyuz landing - for example - is simpler, has less failure modes than Shuttle - then it's easier to make it safer, everything else being equal, which of course it isn't.

We should admit that Soyuz manufacturer has greater flexibility in changing Soyuz for next flight. For example, if a critical flaw - as it was after Soyuz-11 - is found, the next flight can be delayed and the craft substantially redesigned - as Soyuz-T was born. Not so with Shuttles - after Challenger NASA still had 3 units, which were substantially made the same, and couldn't recreate - or reassemble - them anew. In other words, we can argue that Shuttle reliability is more frozen when a Shuttle is assembled, while Soyuz is assembled for each flight - and for each flight there is an opportunity to learn from previous mistakes.

Not that it's only beneficial to Soyuz. Shuttle has the benefit of being tested in actual flight - the same craft flies again and again. Soyuz maker can't easily prevent problems related to a particular vehicle - since that vehicle flies only once - it only can learn from previous flights and improve the next one. But here we have more opportunities for iterations - that's perhaps why Soyuz last death was in 1971, and why Soyuz maker is so conservative with changing Soyuz today. Elon Musk is, in the eyes of Energia, a reckless cowboy calling for accidents to happen.

Suppose Shuttle would fly again. Can NASA learn enough from Columbia? Can it change Shuttle so that it won't suffer from falling ice? Reliably? Will it cause substantial redesign? May be, but Shuttle is unlikely to fly again. Now, Soyuz is still flying. Will it fly 20 more years? Will it get an unusual enough situation to critically fail - despite all precations and all history of redesigns? May be. We'll see.

Comment is EULA signature binding? (Score 1) 365

Can it be argued that for EULAs (and by induction for similar documents) there is no expectation of signing person reading all the document? That's clearly what routinely happens today; isn't it a criteria for this conclusion? Next, if there is no expectation that the document is read, how the person could be expected to follow the writing if he/she does not know the content? Doesn't therefore this renders the signature on EULAs - and, by induction, on other documents reading and understanding of which is not routinely done with the reasonable care and time required to fully understand it - void?

Can this be clearly stated in a court of law? This is "a little bit" uphill battle, but doesn't it at least sound reasonable, consequencies notwithstanding?


Submission + - Soyuz-ST launches from Kourou (space-travel.com)

avmich writes: Heralding the end of efforts starting at least in 2003, today the Soyuz-ST rocket carried the Fregat booster and two Galileo satellites to orbit from Kourou spaceport. Fregat performed successfully, and satellites are on their way to participate in the network providing, as some call it, the first non-military geo-navigational service.

Submission + - Senator Introduces Bill To Stop Warrantless GPS Tr 1

bs0d3 writes: Right now the police and FBI are using gps tracking devices, stingrays, and other tracking technologies... without a warrant. They can read your personal emails without a warrant, they can recall your phone call history, all without a warrant. These are clear violations of the fourth amendment but time and time again the courts are ruling that the fourth amendment doesn't protect people who use modern technology. That's why Senator Ron Wyden is acting now. This week Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mark Kirk (R-IL), and Jason Chaffetz (D-UT) announced a bill with bipartisan support. The bill: The Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance Act (GPS), provides sorely needed legal clarity for the use of electronically-obtained location data that can be used to track and log the location and movements of individual Americans. G.P.S. is supported by the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans for Tax Reform, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Center for Democracy and Technology, Constitution Project, and Electronic Frontier Foundation. The full text of the bill can be read here.

Comment Facts, weights and interpretations (Score 2) 255

No, not smoking at all :) and I hope you'll agree.

Remember, what I'm trying to say is "Yuri Gagarin's flight in April 1961 was approximately as far ahead of Alan Shepard's flight in May 1961 technologically and timewise, as Apollo-8 Moon orbital mission in December 1968 was ahead of - cancelled - Zond mission soon afterwards".

I don't think that's too far from the truth. Let's review your objections and see.

In Dec 1968... Soviets were considering a flyby because they couldn't go into lunar orbit. (And the manned flyby was delayed multiple times because of safety problems with the spacecraft.)

True, I agree - but similarly in April 1961 Americans were considering a suborbital flight because they couldn't go into orbit. And delays on the American side early in 1961 had similar nature.

They didn't have, and never successfully tested a craft that could go into lunar orbit. Both attempts to test it (both in 1969) failed when the booster failed. (By December 1968, Apollo had flown twice unmanned suborbital, once unmanned orbital, and once manned orbital.)

Here I'm not sure what you're talking about. If you mean N1 rocket, then it was tested not 2, but 4 times - all unsuccessfully. If you mean Soyuz spacecraft, then - before December 1968 - it was flown manned twice, first time (April 1967) it was Komarov catastrophe, second time (October 1968) it was Beregovoi's unsuccessful flight. In addition to that many unmanned flights both of Soyuz and Zond happened before December 1968. For example, Zond 5 and 6 both flew around the Moon and came back intact - in September and November of 1968.

So, Russians were very close to ability to send a crew to a lunar fly-by mission. Not to Moon orbit, of course, but definitely to a fly-by.

They [Russians] didn't have a functional lunar lander - it's first unmanned test wasn't until November 1970. (By December 1968 the LM had flown once unmanned orbital.)

We're talking about comparison of American Moon orbital mission with Soviet Moon fly-by mission. Lunar landers don't matter that much here. They matter, of course, if we would compare the ultimate goal of Moon landing - and then the difference will be much bigger - but the difference was gradually accumulating.

They didn't have proven booster that could boost the spacecraft (that never did reach orbit) and the lunar lander (which never flew manned either) to the Moon. The first launch attempt wasn't until 1969 - and it was a failure. (By December 1968 the Saturn V had flown twice unmanned.)

Right, but again, we're talking about Moon orbital and Moon fly-by missions vs. Earth orbital and Earth suborbital missions. Russians didn't need N-1 to fly Zond, neither Americans needed Atlas to fly Freedom 7.

Overall potential of a program was definitely bigger for American one, but it didn't manifested itself yet by December 1968. Future events showed that delay accumulated, but it wasn't a given in December 1968.

In 1961, the US was only weeks behind - in 1968 the Soviets were years behind.

If you, as I do, compare Gagarin's flight with Shepard's - then I agree that US were weeks behind, but then I maintain that Russians were not that behind in their Moon fly-by flight after Apollo-8 flight.

If you compare Gagarin's first orbital flight with Glenn's first orbital flight, then US certainly was some serious months behind in April 1961.

The Soviets not only weren't even not close in December 1968, the were very nearly not even in the race at all. Between divisive internal politics and a very late start, they'd hobbled themselves right out of the gate. Their lag and defeat was so decisive that for decades their official line was that they hadn't succeeded because they hadn't even tried. (I.E. if at first you don't succeed, destroy all evidence that you even tried.)

Agree. The total expenditures on manned Moon program are estimated as 25 bln in America and about 4 bln in USSR - and in space industry the buying power of rouble was, by account of, e.g., Chertok, roughly equal of buying power of dollar. So, yes, USSR didn't provide nearly similar funding.

In 1961, America was working on getting close to Russian abilities and eventually to overcome them. This lead to successful landing in 1969, and Soviet manned Moon program was closed only in 1974 - 5 years after the first Moon landing, Soviets didn't achieve that, so we can say that by 1974 the American lead was at least 5 years. But in 1968, Russians were lagging more and more to Americans, and that lag was only growing, until the project got cancelled. So, very different dynamics there. Still, there was a period where the capabilities were similar, and regarding first flights to the Moon - even different in requirement - it was, in my opinion, around the end of 1968.

Comment Re:Hypotheticals... (Score 2) 255

I would argue against big advantage of Americans in Moon race. Similarly, if some events happened another way, the outcome could be very different.

Interestingly enough, Alan Shepard flew to suborbital trajectory a few days after Gagarin flew to orbit. Soviets were really close to fly around the Moon in a Zond, but after Apollo-8 did not just that, but also made some 10 circles around the Moon, Soviet bosses decided there is no point to fly on just a fly-by trajectory. I guess, Soviets were about that much behind Americans by the December of 1968, as Americans were behind Soviets by the April of 1961.

Comment anything could happen then (Score 1) 255

Americans had Man In Space Soonest - MISS program, to get to space first. It was already fast-paced, and should some opportunities arise earlier, some other might not happen instead. NASA wasn't delaying the flight for no reason.

Similarly, Soviets had flight after flight testing hardware, sending dogs and devices and keeping an eye on Americans. Should intelligence hint on earlier possible American launch, Korolev might move the day of the first flight to an earlier date.

In short, it was unlikely to happen - the lead in rockets and overall activity was rather big at the time. America should have started earlier. This is further supported by subsequent events - next few years Soviets lead in terms of flight time, number of flights, important firsts.

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