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Comment Re:What about "unauthorized producers"? (Score 1) 213

This is an under-appreciated point, especially with regards to HDCP, where the HD alliance is run by a group of content producers who have collaborated to effectively force all content producers to use their system. Consumers won't buy hardware unless it plays existing content, and manufacturers can't make hardware that plays HDCP-protected content unless they meet all of the HDCP requirements, which means no one can't effectively support non-HDCP HD content, which means other HD content producers have to work within that license-encumbered system. It's not a total lock-in, but there are unreasonable negative effects on the consumer in addition to producers, such as the analog sunset, that has made it contractually impossible to fully support some common older formats like component video.

Comment Re:No education or occupation (Score 1) 169

He possess hacking programs, that means he is a terrorist. What kind of 'severe disruptions' did he cause that cost 500,000 USD?

If he disrupted servers used by NASA to provide data to their employees, it could easily reach that. For example, the Planetary Data System servers are the normal point of access for thousands of researchers around the country working with raw data from NASA space probes. Take that off line for a day and you've disrupted quite a lot of work. Similar if you take down a technical data server that suppliers need to access detailed requirements or coordinated design data like CAD models of a system a supplier needs to make a subsystem interface with.

Comment Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is too (Score 1) 188

He actually has a PhD in civil engineering (transportation emphasis) from the Iran University of Science and Technology. I'm not sure if he ever actually worked in the field. His biography lists some administrative positions, then he taught for a while, was appointed a provincial governor, and eventually mayor of Tehran. I shouldn't have been as surprised as I was when I first learned Ahmadinejad was a civil engineer. After all, I know quite a few uncivil civil engineers.

Comment Re:HDR? (Score 1) 287

You're probably the first person I've run into who can describe what's going on in such images well enough to convince me that you understand it. I was going to try to explain it myself until I saw your post. The comparison of local contrast to proper brightness mapping is much more concise than anything I would have come up with.

Comment Presentation versus Research Paper (Score 1) 206

I see nothing dysfunctional about this.

They don't want to release the data they spent the last several years developing a system to collect until they have a chance to study it and write the first papers from it. In the meantime, there's nothing preventing them from talking in general terms about the sorts of things they're finding. Saying there appears to be 400 earth-sized candidates isn't going to allow anyone to beat them to getting credit for analyzing the data.

Comment Spain doesn't get 41% from wind (Score 1) 506

According to the CIA World Factbook, Spain uses about 276 billion kW-hr per year. According to Wikipedia, wind in Spain generated 36 billion kW-hr in 2009, which is growing at around 10% per year.

That's 13%, which although I don't read Spanish competently, I think is what your link says. It's still one of the highest shares of any nation, but definitely not 41%.

I'm sure you got that 41% number from a recent story about during a time of unusually strong winds and the low demand period at night, wind made up 41% of the generation for a couple hours.

Spain can handle this because huge regional overcapacity like the Pacific NW does, they don't have a large fraction generated by dams that are required by the EPA to keep flow rate through the turbines at minimum levels for salmon protection, and around half of their generating capacity is from natural gas, which can quickly adjust output to meet changes in supply or demand.

At the same time, they pay on average about twice what we do in the US, partially because wind and gas are expensive.

Submission + - NASA Returning to the Moon with First Lunar Launch (

epedersen writes: NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter launched at 5:32 p.m. EDT Thursday aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The satellite will relay more information about the lunar environment than any other previous mission to the moon. The orbiter, known as LRO, separated from the Atlas V rocket carrying it and a companion mission, the Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite, or LCROSS, and immediately began powering up the components necessary to control the spacecraft. The flight operations team established communication with LRO and commanded the successful deployment of the solar array at 7:40 p.m. The operations team continues to check out the spacecraft subsystems and prepare for the first mid-course correction maneuver. NASA scientists expect to establish communications with LCROSS about four hours after launch, at approximately 9:30 p.m.

Submission + - STS-119 Launches into Space...Finally (

Iddo Genuth writes: "After several delays, including twice over the past week, the space shuttle Discovery has finally been launched into space. The spacecraft took off at precisely 7:43 p.m. EDT, embarking on the STS-119 mission, which will provide the International Space Station (ISS) with the fourth and final set of solar arrays. The shuttle will also deliver to the ISS its newest crew member — Japan's Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Koichi Wakata, who will replace flight engineer Sandra Magnus at the station."

Comment Re:"again"? (Score 1) 98

Ahh...good thought, but not the case here.

This area isn't chilled down until fuel loading begins, and I believe that is just done by sending LH2, or possibly a brief helium purge, through at low volumes for a while...I think only 30 minutes. Then they just pumping it in at full volume until its full. I guess that's slow enough that thermal stresses aren't an issue, and contraction is dealt with in the design. The main concern is boiloff, but the thermal mass of the fuel is far greater than that of the tank, and the fuel is kept topped off until just a few seconds before launch. At the time when fueling begins, there's no access to the external tank, so I know for certain that no retorquing is done then.

Comment Re:"again"? (Score 1) 98

Maybe it has something to do with cooldown times for components exposed to liquid hydrogen at -423 F.

According to a Mission Management Team memo (not officially published, but there happen to be a couple outlets good at getting details), it's torquing issue. Here's the specific quote I was referencing:

In the reinstallation of the flight seal, there is a 30 hour retorque requirement, that pushes us to a Monday launch. The team is looking to examine if there is some wiggle room in the 30 hr torque requirement, then we could potentially get a Sunday launch attempt.

Cooldown is part of the overall filling process and done during the countdown at T-6 hours. It lasts about two hours.

Comment Re:"again"? (Score 5, Interesting) 98

This mission was originally supposed to launch February 12. I know, because I bought tickets to go see it, and I ended up missing (KSC still makes for a great vacation though).

They got within a week or two of launch, and decided they still weren't happy with the analysis that had been conducted for troubleshooting an issue with the propellant lines that cropped up during Endeavor's STS-126 launch. A valve on a secondary fuel handling line had failed, and while it didn't appear to affect that flight there was concern that it would either result in metal particles from the valve causing issues downstream, or lead to excess hydrogen venting that could cause a fire. They spent the last month testing and quantifying the probability of these concerns, and figuring out additional safeguards to implement for this flight, since making new valves would be an additional two months.

The next possible launch window is about 23:30 after this one, but apparently the expected resolution for the leak is a multi-day process. The launch is now scheduled for no-earlier-than Mar 15 (19:43 EDT), but Mar 16 (19:21 EDT) sounds likely. As I understand it, re-installing the ground support hydrogen line on external tank requires a 30 hour waiting period before applying the final torque to allow the seals to compress...a typical factor when working with torque specs on plastic components. That 30 hours is on top of the time to demate and remate the hydrogen line, do leak checks, and reset to the proper point in the countdown.

Anyway, because they're working against a launch window before the next Soyuz launches to the station, they're losing at least one mission day, and if it slips to the 16th, they'll be losing another day, plus one EVA. That will mean they can get the last solar array installed, but not fully hooked up. I'm not sure if that EVA would be handed off to a future shuttle mission, or if it could be fit into the station crew's schedule. If the launch happens after Mar. 16, they'll have to wait until after the Soyuz mission.

There's a briefing going on regarding all this right now on NASA TV.

Comment More a matter of Orbit vs. Ground (Score 2, Interesting) 325

In a polar orbit like OCO would have been in, the satellite would regularly cover the entire earth's surface. The rovers had an expected range of a few hundred meters. Even the amazing dozen kilometers they've covered over their extended missions leaves each still within the major geological features they landed in.

The insurance policy of having a second rover for moderate (not minimal) cost was one factor. I think it increased the costs by about 25%, and put considerable extra strain on the team to get the second unit built in time for the launch window. Launch cost alone was an extra 10% or so.

The other factor was that a second rover allowed them to conduct similar studies of a much different location on Mars, giving the scientists good comparisons of very different geographies. It turned out to be a good thing, too. Opportunity, which landed second, has arguably accomplished much more than Spirit, in large part due to its location. That's not to say that Spirit hasn't also been extremely successful, but Opportunity has tended to steal the spotlight since day 1.

A second copy of OCO would have been producing nearly identical data as the first. Given that this mission was already under pressure just from politics, spending extra money to build a complete spare was unlikely.

However, NASA still has the design work done. We'll have to see if they decide to build a replacement, or simply settle for data from the related Japanese Greenhouse Gasses Observing Satellite launched last month.

Comment Re:Eleven Years? (Score 3, Interesting) 168

The missions back in those "good old days" of space travel were much simpler both in scope, technical complexity, and duration. The longest of the Mariner missions, for example, was about 8 months, and it was only collecting data for a small fraction of that. We've already learned most of what we can (or at least what we can justify the cost of a launch for) with those simpler missions. This new Europa mission is going to be big. Even in physical size it will dwarf those old transistorized tin pots. NASA calls missions like this "Flagship" class. They are few, far between, and generally bring in floods of new information. This mission is on the scale of Voyager and Cassini.

Even back in the Voyager days, when the rocketry and resources (developed in the lull between Apollo and Shuttle) to launch such a mission were newly available, close visits to any of the planets beyond Mars were completely unprecedented, and NASA was anxious get underway it took five years. Cassini was first proposed 15 years and approved I think 10 years before it launched. Now that there's minimal hurry and a lot of other things to share the annual budget with, so the timeline is more like that for Cassini. The taxpayers don't want to pay out more per year, and besides, Europa isn't expected to go anywhere in the meantime.

As mission complexity and cost grows, getting the most out of it becomes increasingly important. You can't achieve that with a generic bus because it limits the instrumentation you can hang on it. Instead you tailor the bus to the power, thermal, geometric, stabilization, and other needs of all this really expensive and fancy instrumentation. If you need a 3-axis stabilized, nuclear-powered spacecraft with a large contiguous cavity for a big telescope like Cassini, you can't make effective use of a solar-powered spacecraft bus designed to be spin stabilized and provide a mount for a radar and a long magnetometer boom like Juno.

Instrumentation is another thing. Back in the Mariner days, they were generally taking the best instruments currently coming out of the labs and figuring out how best to use them for the mission. Lately, it's been more typical to examine what you want to know, what technically should be possible, and do the research, development, design and testing of an instrument optimized for its mission. As a result, science package development is often a primary pacing and budgeting concern for exploration missions these days.

Lastly, those ten Mariner probes in ten years were being concurrently developed, not one after the other. I'm not sure how many missions NASA had active or in development at any given time back in the 60's and 70's, or how much money was devoted to them. Right now, however, I'm aware of 13 solar system exploration missions currently operating, and five or six more in development. I'm really not sure how many earth and deep space observing missions there are (Hubble, Spitzer, Chandra, GALEX, WMAP, OCO, JWST, etc). All of these consume (I count 60+ total on NASA's website) consume less than a quarter of NASA's budget. It's rather impressive in the grand scheme of things.

Comment Re:Unlikely that Evergreen will get one (Score 1) 197

Absolutely...I don't think it's at all far-fetched. They genuinely have a great museum, and I'm sure with the addition of the space exhibit hall (new since I've last been there) it's even better. Between that and their active leadership they'll likely end up on the short list of candidates. But my personal opinion is that NASA will ultimately choose museuems with a more direct tie-in to space exploration (Evergreen Aviation itself is just a small air freight company) and more conveniently located for a larger number of people.

Of course, since I live in Portland, I would be ecstatic if Evergreen were granted even Enterprise, much more so for one of the operational orbiters.

Comment Unlikely that Evergreen will get one (Score 3, Informative) 197

I can't find the original information, but I'm pretty sure the allocation of the shuttles won't be soley based on cash, but also on perceived value to the public for receiving one and consistency with the general mission of the museum. Keep in mind, the $42 million is supposedly for refurbishment for display, not to raise additional money. This first of all will mean cleaning up any potential hazards, like residues of hydrazine manuevering fuel. Of course, they get fairly weathered by each launch and re-entry, so there'll be some polishing to be done, and undoubtably ITAR-sensitive or high value equipment like the main engines will be removed and replaced with detailed replicas where applicable.

There's three orbiters surviving (Discovery, Atlantis, and Endeavor). I suspect Kennedy Space Center will keep one and house it near their Saturn V that's on display. This is consistent with another article that says two orbiters and six engine display kits will be made available according to the RFI. With public accessibility being a likely major consideration, the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum is almost guaranteed one of the actual orbiters, to replace the Enterprise aerodynamic test vehicle which is currently housed there.

That's going to make it a tough grab for the remaining orbiter. Because McMinneville is roughly an hour-long drive from the relatively small and aerospace-vacant city of Portland, I think their chances of getting an orbiter are relatively slim, even though they have a great facility and can probably afford it.

The Intrepid Museum in New York Harbor is certainly prominent enough, but they would need to make a rather substantial addition to protect the shuttle from the elements. It probably wouldn't be possible to deliver it to the waterfront an SCA flight to New York, but if they wanted to put it on a barge like the Concorde they have on site, they may be able to float it straight up from Florida that way. I think they're also at a disadvantage because there will already probably be two shuttles on the East Coast (Florida and DC).

I think Johnson Space Center in Houstan and Marshall Spaceflight Center in Huntsville are the two most likely locations not on one of the major coasts. Both of them already host two of the three remaining Saturn V's (the third is at Kennedy). On the west coast, I think the lead option is Boeing's museum of flight, partially because of their accessibility and ability to host a space shuttle, but also because of their involvement with the shuttle program (although that is due to their acquisition of Rockwell).

I would bet one of these three locations will get the third orbiter. That still leaves Enterprise after it leaves the Smithsonian, which only did glider and procedural tests, but would still be a major attraction. Maybe Evergreen has a chance at getting Enterprise, but I think more likely a second of the above three will get her. There is also a ground-test mockup called Pathfinder currently at MSFC in Huntsville that would likely get a new home if one of the orbiters went there, but it's only externally representative of the flight vehicles.

A commenter on another site had a fantastic idea, in my opinion: before sending the last of the orbiters to a musuem, use the SCA to take it on a tour of the US. This would be a great opportunity for millions to see it and the modified 747 together.

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